FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download Festival 2018
When it comes to all things alternative in the UK, there’s really nothing bigger or better than Download Festival. It’s got it all – the Gods of Rock, up-and-coming bands, and everything from the WWE NXT to sideshows in between. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a heavy music fan, this is the pilgrimage that you absolutely have to make at some point in your lifetime. We were at this year’s event and it did not disappoint.
There was a whole lot of running around throughout the weekend, but even capturing just the essence of this festival is enough to keep you coming back year upon year.
Kicking off our festival weekend in style, Nothing More ironically bring plenty more to the table than their name suggests. Drawing an impressive crowd for the time of day, the band make their way through an eight-song set that is full of passion and their sophistication sets them apart from other post-emo artist’s shows. Jenny goes down particularly well, as does the Skrillex cover of First of the Year (Equinox) at the end.
When you spend your formative years staring up at American men every time you happen to be looking at a stage, there’s something empowering about the turning of the tables that’s been happening of late, and Marmozets are 100% part of that movement. The spirit of feminism is embodied during this Yorkshire five-piece’s set by a young girl (no older than eight) staring transfixed, unable to move her eyes from what she’s seeing (because yeah, representation matters). Frontwoman Becca Macintyre isn’t trying to be something she’s not – she’s a woman, and she’s talented, and that’s that. Complete with bright pink jeans, she manages to own – or as the band themselves may say, captivate – the main stage with eleven of the band’s most polished hits. Marmozets are back with a vengeance after a bit of a forced hiatus, but it hasn’t done them any harm. Old favourites like Move, Shake, Hide work effortlessly with newer bangers like Major System Error, which rounds off the set.
There was a time where you would be forgiven for thinking that Bullet For My Valentine would have only brought out metalheads in their droves – but they’ve proven themselves as the incredible artists that they always were, bringing their reach to a packed out and diverse crowd at the main stage. The 70-minute set has both fans and casual observers alike singing, dancing, and screaming along – all while the band on stage look cool AF. Pyrotechnics and even fashion may well have found their way into the scene of late, but it’s the soaring vocals, on-point harmonies, and those insane guitars which rightfully steal the show at the end of the day. For a band that have progressed so much over the years, it’s great to see their now classics like 4 Words (To Choke Upon) and the incredible Tears Don’t Fall still stand the test of time.
You Me At Six are a band that emerged from a saturated scene several years ago only to well and truly demonstrate their supreme staying power. Having seen them play the smallest of venues in the way of support slots over a decade ago, there’s a point in their set where you just have to nod, raise a glass and say “fair play!” Perhaps then a band of their nature wouldn’t have been appreciated playing so high up the bill, but now it seems that Download crowds recognise talent – even when it’s less heavy – for what it is. This Friday night set is as triumphant as their careers, full of the hits but also full of appreciation for where they are today – they even thank festival booker Andy Copping by name. We have to admit to singing along to Stay With Me, Underdog and their breakout song, Save It For the Bedroom, and even a little Killers-cover outro that the band likes to throw in as a treat. By the time they announce a set of UK tour dates later in the year, that’s it – the crowd are well and truly jubilantly wild. Deserved, so deserved.
While we don’t catch the entirety of Avenged Sevenfold’s set, this is a band that won’t have been missing us at all – they know how to just get on with things! While they admittedly draw the smallest main stage crowd of the weekend, this is to be expected, and is no reflection on their performance. The set takes an emotive turn prior to their surprise rendition of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, in a haunting nod to the recent spate of high-profile suicides. As for the rest of the set, it’s as experimental and exploratory as you’d expect. While the sound unfortunately cuts in and out in parts, there’s absolutely nothing missing when it comes to production. Sixteen songs later – including a three-song encore – and we’re guessing there’s not a single fan heading back to their tents disappointed.
It’s a shame that Tigress appear so early on Saturday’s bill, but that doesn’t stop us from popping our heads in to check them out. The British band – headed up by none other than Katy Jackson – are highly charged and there’s an energy that exudes from them on stage. Unfortunately, they’re not without their critics. But to the “haters” (Katy’s own words), the band send a message in their own way – by being absolutely flawless.
Next up is a band that we’re more excited for than almost any other on the bill. There’s an energy surrounding The Faim that many bands spend their entire careers trying to harness. Anyone assembling for their early-afternoon Saturday performance will be able to tell you, these Australians have a bright future ahead. We won’t go as far as to say the second coming of The Beatles, but if you were here at this same festival like we were just eleven years before, you may remember a little band called Paramore who went on to do pretty big things – and we want to go on record to say that the atmosphere then was as it is today. Their catchiest song of all, Saints of the Sinners, brings back those 2006 Panic! At The Disco vibes, but the entire set is incredibly slick. Basically what we’re saying (through all this fangirling) is that if you weren’t there, you really missed out.
Do we know what Babymetal are saying? No. Do we need to? Also no. The crowd for this kawaii-metal band spans out far wider than anyone could have expected, so this alone is testament to that fact. Despite the choreography and cute-sy of the entire performance, there’s something still marvellously metal about this set. Despite only playing seven songs, most of our faves were there, like KARATE and Gimme Chocolate!! – but let’s be real, we’re mostly there for the experience, anyway.
Another one we’ve been waiting for all weekend – Mayday Parade have proven their capability to do a lot of things by sticking around in the scene over the years, and one of them is how to absolutely smash out a festival set. Despite its shortness of stature – just eight songs – the Florida outfit sure give the fans what they want to hear. The oldies are the goodies in this case, and Jamie All Over, Black Cat and closing song Jersey highlight this well. However, there’s always room for new blood, and the excitement the band has about their new record Sunnyland translates well to the crowd, and we’re thankful for the two tracks they’ve strategically thrown in.
The evening well and truly belongs to Guns’N’Roses, but we admit to spending our time split between them and Neck Deep. In a nod to the former, the latter opens with a cover of Sweet Child O’ Mine, in addition to setting the stage literally with an altered logo – Neck Deep’s backdrop mirrors G’N’R style for the night. We’re able to catch a lot of the hits from Guns’N’Roses (with a 28 song set from a band that’s been around for year, it’s hard not to), and it’s a pleasant surprise to hear Welcome To The Jungle early on before heading to check out Neck Deep. While this lot will probably never be as big as the 80s rockers, they’re still incredible in their own right. Look, even they know who they’re up against, but they still bring the best of pop-punk and new music to help diversify the festival, and they do it oh so well.
We’re so glad that Alexisonfire haven’t actually gone anywhere but wow, when they vanished for a while, they were seriously missed. Although there’s been no new material of late, the band are capitalising on the nostalgia trend that’s so prevalent of late – and who are we to complain? 40 minutes or so may not seem like a lot, but it’s enough for this band to come along and tear up the Zippo Encore stage.
Over to the main stage, where you can tell Marilyn Manson isn’t British. While we’ve spent the entire day absolutely basking in the Download sun, he’s having none of it. It’s almost as though it physically pains him to have to play an evening set approaching midsummer, meaning that it’s still yet to be hours before the sun goes down. Despite this aversion, we still get everything we wanted from the goth king. This Is The New S***, Disposable Teens and Mobscene get everyone from the colourfully to the colourlessly clothed up on their feet, but it’s the rendition of The Beautiful People to finish that really thrills.
We have to admit – we do love a bit of politics in music. While that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Rise Against are really on the ball and they bring it to their set on this final Download day. There’s hope and there’s positivity amidst the anger which certainly seems to interest the majority of the crowd, but it goes without saying that the big numbers like Savior and Prayer of the Refugee get equally rousing cheers.
And finally, to round off the weekend, it could only be Ozzy Osbourne. We’ll be honest – we weren’t even sure that we were going to stick around for this, but the mark of a true artist is one that makes you sit up and take note of their live performance even when you’re not super familiar with their work. Of course, as veteran Ozzy and his incredible live band launch into their repertoire, we realise that we actually know way more songs than we think and it’s not long before we’re belting out all the words to what truly is an awe-inspiring set. Dressed head-to-toe in black and rocking the eyeliner that was his trademark way before emo was a thing, Osbourne commands the attention of thousands upon thousands from the stage. He’s nearing the end of his career now, so this night takes on a very special meaning indeed. To share in the emotion, there’s fireworks to finish off the night with Changes as a soundtrack. The band take a bow to signify the end of more than just the festival itself, but it’s also a way to perfectly round off the end of an absolutely fantastic weekend.
Written by: Claire Louise Sheridan
Photos by: Nathan Roach