FestivalsLive Reviews

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download Festival 2017

Now in its 15th year at the Donington site, Download Festival has become a highlight in the rock calendar for many. With this year featuring main stage headline performances from System of A Down, unexpected headliners Biffy Clyro and performing their final UK show the legendary Aerosmith. After last year’s mudfest we were all crossing fingers for a sunnier weekend full of memorable musical performances, and it definitely delivered!


Our weekend at Download Festival started with a ferocious set by Northlane over on the Lemmy Stage. The fiery performance from the Australian metalcore outfit was packed with many tracks from new album Mesmer released earlier this year. We definitely feel like an important mention goes to their phenomenal on-stage camera overlays; Northlane opened up the mainstage in style for 2017. 7/10

Following on we made our way over to the Avalanche Stage to check out Welsh outfit Astroid Boys, and with a jam-packed tent their unique sound fitted into Download’s vibe a treat. Pledging their allegiance to the “year of the dragon” in front of the Welsh flag they’re a force to be reckoned with, not just in Wales but across the UK.  6/10

On day one we were making sure that we got a taste of what each stage had to offer, and rising stars Holding Absence took us to the Dogtooth Stage. They may not be a household name just yet, but the crowd they reared was impressive and their performance was even more so. Set highlight was awarded to Dream of Me, getting their intense sound stuck our head for the rest of the day. We had a chat with the band after their set, keep your eyes open for it on BTN soon! 7/10

At the Zippo Encore stage, we witnessed rapper Machine Gun Kelly making his Download debut with his jaw dropping set. His erm, interesting cover of Oasis‘ Wonderwall made for one of Friday’s best crowd moments; a little out of time and quite unexpected but a moment that the crowd came together in song. Bad Things got people up on their feet as MGK thanked the supportive fans down the front who were singing and bouncing along to every word. He may be new to the festival circuit, but MGK pulled it off with ease providing one of our favourite sets of the whole weekend. 8/10

Despite having two sets in one day, Four Year Strong didn’t compromise or lack energy with their set on the Avalanche stage, the tent filled with overjoyed fans, most of whom had two doses of their favourite band in one day. FYS are undeniably one of the best live pop punk bands, with ten years of experience behind them they didn’t disappoint, bringing smiles to fan’s faces with favourites including Wasting Time and It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now (considering the sizeable crowd and crowd surfers galore we admit it probably didn’t suck to be them!) 7/10

The Avalanche Stage is home to many of the pop-punk bands on the lineup and the transition from FYS to State Champs meant many fans remained to witness both sets. It’s safe to say that State Champs are a band with songs that you can’t help but sing along and finger point to, alongside phenomenal stage presence led by Derek DiScanio bounding across the stage. From the sultry Perfect Score which you instantly found yourself dancing along to, to closing anthem Secrets, State Champs are THE festival band and we can’t wait to watch them rise up the bill in the coming years, especially with this being their first Download Festival.  8/10

Having announced an autumn tour the morning prior to their Zippo Encore set, it was no surprise the varying-aged crowd spanned far and wide for Good Charlotte. There’s always a hint of nostalgia when watching GC, and this set saw fan favourites including Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous, The River and Girls and Boys. Their Download debut saw the crowd lapping up each and every moment of their sharp, slick live performance. A classic band performing a classic set. 8/10

Headlining the Zippo Encore stage was Sum41 who put up a valiant effort and gained a significant sized crowd, even with System Of A Down over on the nearby main stage. It’s extremely hard to not have a smile on your face from the moment they step onto the stage. Following on from last years release 13 Voices, the band are back full steam with a live set proving that they might have had a few blips along the way, but are back with a vengeance. Performing Fake My Own Death and Goddamn I’m Dead Again from their 2017 release, Sum41 reveal the alt-rock twang to their pop punk sound. The energy of the crowd during their set was incomparable to any previously seen during the day with moshing, crowd surfing and arms flying everywhere in delightful chaos; but the best was saved ’til last closing with the power duo In Too Deep and Fat Lip, which everyone was waiting eagerly to hear. Sum 41 closed the Zippo Encore stage in remarkable style and as  their triumphant set came to an end, we along with many others, made our way to the main stage to see System Of A Down round off day one. 8/10

Any band who play a 30 song set deserve their slot as headliners on mainstage, and System Of A Down perform the duty with ease. After a day of glorious sunshine, a sunburnt yet still energetic crowd stand in a grassy green field to see the first of this year’s headliners. The heavy metal outfit might not have released new material for 12 years, but that doesn’t stop them delighting the crowd with a setlist spanning across their discography. Undeniably the rowdiest set of the day, lead vocalist Serj Tankian domineered the stage as a ringleader, setting the stage alight performing fan favourites including Chop Suey and BYOB. With such a long set and the pressure riding on their shoulders, they didn’t let anyone down; however there was a spark missing throughout, maybe it was the predictable onstage behaviour which just detracted from the memorability of their set, maybe the sun had taken out some of the band’s energy, but as headlining sets go we couldn’t help but wonder how Saturday and Sunday’s would compare. 7/10


A new day, some fuzzy heads and an exciting day of music lined up. We started our Saturday over at the Avalanche Stage with Swedish band Normandie, and despite those still sleeping off the night before they managed to draw in an impressive crowd. Performing tracks from debut album Inguz, as well as new single Ghost, their performance matched up to the melodic, vocal-led tracks on the release and translated onstage into the perfect day opener for many. 7/10

Greywind’s set was one we were highly anticipating, following on from their whirlwind journey which had led them to Download 2017. Very deservedly packing out the tent, Irish sibling duo Steph and Paul O’Sullivan don’t let this phase them as they perform an awe-inspiring set. Their dark, emotive sound echoes around the tent as Steph’s vocals soar above the rocked up musical backing. Greywind are going places, get involved. 7/10

Over on mainstage we manage to catch Southampton’s Creeper performing to their cult of fans. Tracks such as Hiding With Boys and Down Below from debut album Eternity, In Your Arms are performed with a theatrical edge, and without a touch of nerves despite the huge adoring crowd in front of them. Will Gould, before closing track I Choose To Live, reminds everyone of the horrible situation surrounding the world right now and why it’s important not to be terrified by this world around us, leaving us with food for thought as they leave the stage. 9/10

Injecting some pop punk into our day is Trash Boat, and having announced a tour at the festival there was a definite sense of excitement from the band during their set. Their gritty tones are well received by the clued up crowd, with crowd surfers playing a large role in the set. Having released their debut album Nothing I Write You Can Change What You’ve Been Through not too long ago, Trash Boat have had the opportunity to perfect their live set, and their confidence glimmers through on this successful Avalanche Stage performance. 7/10

Download Festival debuts are a recurring theme and despite us being pretty certain that they’ve played before As It Is set the record straight (proving us wrong in the process). Andy Westhead takes time during the set to give a shout out to his cousin who couldn’t be there due to undergoing chemotherapy. This personal insight results in the crowd having even more fun in his honour as they bounced about to tracks including Hey Rachel, Soap and Cheap Shots and Setbacks. Patty Walters is an onstage firework, bouncing here, there and everywhere, and Ben Langford-Biss rivals his energy making them the power duo as the crowd overpowers them singing along to closing track Dial Tones. 8/10

Heading back to the mainstage we take our spot to see A Day To Remember perform a set of a lifetime. Nobody can deny the legendary status which these guys have gained over their career, their festival friendly heavy rock with a twist of pop-punk suits this weekend’s vibe perfectly. If It Means A Lot To You offers a moment of relaxation from the chaos, as bursts of group dancing and an acoustic guitar made a well-loved appearance. ADTR aren’t a band who feel the need to rely heavily on special effects, or spending a lot of time talking during their set to become filler and not killer; however, we can’t help but feel their set is a bit too predictable, from the setlist to how each song performance feels regimented, losing that bit of personality that they needed to make this a hugely memorable set. The predictability is forgotten however, as the band end with The Downfall Of Us All for a final dose of mayhem. 8/10

Undoubtedly one of the most controversial headline acts in Download Festival history was Saturday headliner Biffy Clyro, and because of this they had a lot to prove tonight. The well-loved Scottish trio opened with the explosive Wolves of Winter, making their mark on this year’s mainstage from the word go. Known for their marvellous stage productions there was everything from streamers to mesmerising lights, and when merged with hits including Biblical and That Golden Rule Download Festival attendees were in for a treat. Charging their way through an alt-rock packed set, Friends and Enemies saw friends uniting in arms and the true friendly spirit of Download ran true. The trio have the crowd in the palm of their hands, obeying their every order and singing back without a care in the world; the noise levels at Download reached new levels. Closing Saturday with Stingin’ Belle and an explosive firework display leaving people watching on in awe, the three-piece proved the haters wrong with this mainstage worthy set. Biffy Clyro took their studio sound to new levels and honestly? They might have stolen the crown for our favourite set of Download 2017. 9/10


Day three of festivals usually consist of tired, hungover attendees trying to drag themselves out after the night before, but we made our way to the Dogtooth Stage to see Brutai kicking off Sunday. Their progressive metal sound might have been a bit too intense: Felix Lawrie’s raw vocals were a bit too much to handle so early in the day, but when mixed with his clean vocals this was a well-loved change. 6/10

We’ve written about Dead! a lot at BTN so were looking forward to seeing their Avalanche Stage performance. With the tent filled with many of their Damned Restless Future members, sing-alongs were well underway during fan favourites including Skin and Enough, Enough, Enough. Their hard work cemented them as one of the UK’s most exciting live bands, with Sam Matlock taking this show as his opportunity to show off his new knee floor slide skill (we were impressed, we can’t lie). One thing which did hinder the excitement of the show, however, was that the set was heavily weighted with new tracks, which although enjoyable to hear took away from the sing-along party spirit of the set. 8/10

One band that is receiving a lot of love at the moment is Leeds-based Fizzy Blood, so we wanted to find out why this is the case. The Dogtooth Stage is a packed tent, no doubt full of both fans and those keen to see what the fuss is about too. Their interesting yet scruffy sounds are wildly catchy, making this a great combination. Every festival needs a band that make you get up, have a boogie and watch on in awe with their loveable stage presence; and Fizzy Blood tick all of the right boxes. 8/10

Taking to the stage and immediately bursting into Whole, Basement are met with a tent full of people singing back “lie to me, lie to me make me see”. With three albums under their belt and plenty of live experience, you could see this was a walk in the park show for them, smiling from ear to ear throughout and looking on to a keen crowd. What we love about Basement is their relatable and storytelling lyrics, without any gimmicks. 7/10

It’s been a while since Moose Blood graced UK stages, but their return was one loved by many. Opening with Pastel taken from latest album Blush the crowd loosen up as they bounce, move and sing-along to each and every word. Vocalist Eddy Brewerton has a habit of thanking the crowd pretty much at every given opportunity, something that seems to overwhelm the set and leave little other interaction between the band and the crowd. Fan favourite Bukowski was even more relevant today in the chilly weather “to keep warm I’ll bring a sweater” something a lot of wish we’d done! Closing with Knuckles a wave of crowd surfers sweeps through the tent and give security a run for their money. What a set closer! 8/10

Closing Download Festival and performing what’s set to be their last ever UK performance is the legendary Aerosmith. With this being their last chance to grace a UK stage we had high hopes; but by the time Love In An Elevator kicks in something is missing. Maybe it’s because it’s their last show that the crowd are expecting something more, but from vocal slip-ups from Steven Tyler to a setlist which leaves a lot to be desired the atmosphere is mediocre at best. Yes, when the hits – I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing and Walk This Way – shine through, everyone wakes up a bit more and forgets how cold it really is on Sunday night. The unpopular opinion is that when compared to Friday and Saturday’s night reception the atmosphere is a lot less fun, lacking in energy and pretty underwhelming, even if confetti does fly across Donington as they leave the stage. 6/10

Download Festival 2017; it’s fair to say it was a mixed bag both band and weatherwise – with one of the sunniest weekends the UK has seen in a long time – and after a fantastic weekend of music a lot of sunburnt and sleepy festival goers left the site on Monday morning. One thing we were all left wondering though was just who could headline in 2018?

Written by: Nicola Craig

Photos by: Corinne Cumming

Nicola Craig
Head of Live with an unwavering love for the seaside, live music and writing about others instead of myself. Twitter: @nicolalalalar