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FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download 2019 – Saturday


Despite the weather-related camping challenges at this year’s Download, a decent sized crowd have woken up early and amassed at the Avalanche Stage to watch Parting Gift open the stage on day two. Since we last saw the quintet in action, vocalist Zac Vernon has had a significant portion of his hair cut away, and this seemingly minor personal adjustment has had a huge effect on the band’s stage presence. In previous shows Vernon’s flowing locks have provided a barrier between him and the crowd, with his face fully hidden from view. With this shroud of introversion removed, Vernon is forced to greet the crowd head on and it results in the best performance we’ve seen to date by the band. Their recent EP Ensom showcases some excellent songwriting in the form of Pale, Without Sin and Ensom with the only quibble being some particularly muddy production. Here at the Avalanche Stage the mix is absolutely perfect, presenting the band’s brooding post-hardcore in crystal clarity making this set a true demonstration of the EP’s quality. This is a band on the rise and with the power of Vernon’s note-perfect vocals, combined with his ever growing confidence as a front man, it won’t be long before they’re regularly commanding audiences of this size. 8/10 MJ

Playing Download is a pretty special experience for any band, but for Sydney’s Yours Truly, it’s something they’ll definitely never forget. Taking to the stage to a packed out tent on a Saturday morning isn’t an easy feat in its own right, but for a band performing their international debut, it’s even more damn impressive. Among those assembled to watch are scores of die-hard fans, who’ve already got the lyrics mastered to the likes of closing number High Hopes, despite the fact that this lot are so far away from home. These guys are so bloody catchy, so if you’re not on the Yours Truly train yet, you soon will be. 7/10 CLS

They’re practically newbies on the scene as well as on the live circuit, but Hot Milk are simply keeping things fresh and offering up something to fans that they’ve clearly been craving. With both charm and ingenuity, this Northern lot blow us away with their resounding hooks and undeniable presence on the stage. They’ve been kicking up quite the storm of late and rightly so; today’s set shows well and truly that they’re a band that can hold their own up on the live stage. 8/10 CLS

Instrumental powerhouse Animals as Leaders walk out to a rapturous reception at the Zippo Encore Stage. For a festival dominated by vocal groups, it’s great to see such a huge crowd for the tech-metal trio and they hold their attention with a set of mind-bending rhythms, guitar wizardry and all round musical prowess. The dichotomy between Tosin Abasi‘s unbelievably complex guitar patterns and the sheer ease with which he plays his instrument needs to be seen to be believed and while the entire audience looks on calculating how such notes can flow from one man’s fingers, Abasi simply stands stoically on stage soaking up the rare atmosphere of a sunny spell at Download. Abasi’s iconic guitar skills may be a primary attraction of the band, but he’s in danger of being overshadowed today by drummer Matt Garstka, who blends breathtakingly metronomic timekeeping with unbelievable feats of drumming skill. When the three members lock into a heavy groove, mosh pits erupt at the front of the stage, and either side of these moments, onlookers simply stare in amazement at the level of individual skill on show. Animals As Leaders do a fantastic job flying the flag for instrumental music; long may it continue to find airtime at Download. 8/10 MJ

Three Days Grace are hardly unknown, but they’re arguably underrated here in the UK. Their hard-rock vibes are as American as they come, but today, that’s not putting off onlookers in large numbers. Their set comes in pockets; the songs everyone remembers from their angsty teen years (I Hate Everything About You, anyone?), and then those the majority seem unfamiliar with. No matter, there’s enough energy from the frontman, Matt Walst, to draw in even the least dedicated fans in the crowd. 8/10 CLS

Emo-rapper Joe Mulherin, better know as nothing, nowhere. brings a refreshingly different energy to the Avalanche Stage, to the delight of his passionate fans. Mulherin is the closest thing this sub-genre has to a figurehead; his ability to merge emotionally tinged vocals, with electronics, rap and deeply personal lyrics has acted as a catalyst to this steadily rising movement, and this assured and moving performance proves why he’s such a popular figure. Mulherin’s vocals – whether uttering spoken word, rapping, or projecting a soaring, full-voiced melody – drip with emotion, transmitting the full meaning of his lyrics to the entire audience, who are powerless to resist the impact on their souls. Mulherin was forced to cancel shows last year due to crippling anxiety, and takes the time to update the crowd on his improved mental health, as well as offering advice to those feeling the same way, urging people to seek the help of those around them when they need it. Through the power of his songs, and an ability to unite a crowd, Mulherin reduces the atmosphere of a large festival tent to that of an intimate, secluded set, binding his fans together with an excellent sense of community. As he leaps the barrier to share set closer Nevermore with his fans, you can’t help but feel this sub-genre is in very good hands.  8/10 MJ

Collectively, Simple Creatures are no strangers to massive festivals like Download, but in their current incarnation, you could say they have something to prove. Whether you’re here because you’re curious or you just love to party, Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth are anything but disappointing. It doesn’t matter what you think of their respective bands (Blink 182 and All Time Low, in case you’ve been living under a rock), the duo offer something entirely new and mesmerising, and it well and truly steals the show. There’s covers, there’s unicorns (don’t ask) and more importantly, plenty of opportunities for bopping along. 9/10 CLS

If you were at Download but you didn’t see Slipknot, you’ll regret that choice forevermore. There was absolutely no doubt prior to their headline slot that the Iowa natives could still command absolutely gigantic crowds, which they prove in abundance this evening as the sun finally goes down on Donington. Complete with new masks and new songs, one of the world’s biggest bands in every sense of the word are back after a three year absence, but when it comes to their cohesiveness on stage, the time apart certainly never shows. Playing a festival set to this many people can be like balancing on a fine line: it’s impossible to please everyone. But if you know Slipknot, you’ll know they love a challenge, so that’s exactly what they’re setting out to do. Apparently they almost didn’t even make it tonight, but as they play now-classics like Before I Forget, Duality, Psychosocial and Vermilion in between a multitude of newer bangers, we’re so proud of the efforts they made (and of everything they’ve become). Every muddy boot stomps, every tired face stares, and every drunken, hoarse voice screams along. This. THIS… is what Download is all about. 10/10 CLS

Written By: Mark Johnson (MJ) and Claire Louise Sheridan (CLS)