FestivalsLive Reviews

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Download 2023 – Saturday

Photo Credit: Abbi Draper

Our first Saturday stop saw us take in Fever 333 and as always frontman Jason Butler is never afraid to voice his left-wing opinions on political issues, social injustice and discrimination. There are a hat-trick of new faces in the band too in new guitarist Brandon Davis, April Kae on bass and drummer Thomas Pridgen but there are no chemistry or timing issues and they play as if they have been part of the band for years. A heavy as lead cover version of Blur’s Song 2 is a great and surprise part of the set and giving Song 2 the Fever 333 treatment works well and makes it even better for us. 6/10

We caught Beauty School Dropout by accident which is always one of the best things about Download and any festival – finding new music by being in the right place at the right time. We were walking past the Dogtooth when we were lured in to see what all the fuss was. Beauty School Dropout are an LA based rock made up of Colie Hutzler, Beepus Burdett, and Bardo and they are oozing with charisma, big licks, hooks but also the wild passion and unpredictability of the kind of bands which graced Sunset Strip 30 years ago. Think Guns n’ Roses in their most dangerous and energetic pomp and you get a taste of a Beauty School Dropout live show. An unexpected stop on our magical, mystery Saturday tour but one of our most enjoyable. 8/10

Then in our best Taggart voice….’There’s been a murder!’ The most beloved of all festival mascots, The Download Dog, was the victim of an on-stage homicide in front of a huge Apex Stage gathering for Ice Nine Kills. By now the heat was becoming almost unbearable and our pint was warm before we even bought it. But we’d take this over the muddy banks of 2016 anyday, shudder. More theatrics than a month on Broadway and a who’s who and a what’s what of killer cliches and murderers, Ice Nine Kills packed plenty into their moment in the sun. As good as they are musically, and they are good, their delivery and attention to detail in their live set ups is a masterclass in performing. 7/10

Casey returning to Download, and for some people returning at all, wasn’t something they imagined this year but the post-hardcore band are back. Sell out shows on both sides of the Atlantic in the past year have shown the appetite for the Welsh band who have been so sadly missed since they suddenly and shockingly quit the music world five years earlier. Apparently, the guys are also working on new music in the studio so this may not be a brief return and Casey could be back for good. 6/10

Dressed in a glorious black, PVC outfit complete with headgear and a full face of white makeup, Bambie Thug can’t be missed at Download and why would you want to? Their bass could wake the dead and they are quite different to anything else on the Dogtooth all day long. Taking the best parts of a multitude of genres and then smashing them together to make their own identifiable and unique sound and a performance you can’t take your eyes off at the same time. Bambie is a little bit like Courtney Love with swagger and fearless delivery but they are part metal with sprinklings of poppy melodies at the same time. Their pal Mimi Barks even joined the party on stage and Mimi and Bambie were born to perform side by side. 8/10

Ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah!’ You hear that and you know who’s on stage. Disturbed are in the Donington house and there are not 10,000 fists in the air but more than 100,000 as Download gets Down With The Sickness. And seeing a sea of metallers, Viking dressed, heavy bearded, skull sporting, dyed in the black wool veterans of metal waving their hands and crooning Sound of Silence back is always a sight to behold. 7/10

Set of the day was the worst kept secret in Donington history with Creeper who topped the Dogtooth Stage. A merch post had shown the unannounced Creeper on the back of the official t-shirts which was quickly spotted and thus the Creeper cat was out of the bag days before the festival began. It should come as no surprise then that the Dogtooth Tent is creaking at the seams long before frontman William Van Ghould and his band of doom goth rock heroes are on stage. The entire set is a glorious sing-a-long with the crowd belting back the lyrics with so much gusto and warmth that even Van Ghould can’t resist a smile. It’s a gloriously camp and over the top set and that’s what we love about it. And with an ever-growing arsenal of songs that could fill any arena Creeper are a band on the rise and surely Apex Stage bound next time out. Recent single Cry To Heaven and Cyanide have the crowd bouncing before a first ever live performance of a new track Sacred Blasphemy. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Creeper show without some Misery and their biggest and most beloved track is their set closer and we don’t think the Southampton band, or the Dogtooth loyal, wanted it to be over when it was. 9/10

Metallica fans were spoiled this weekend as the San Fran titans rolled up for their second headline slot in as many days. What more can be said about one of the world’s greatest metal bands that hasn’t been written? Despite playing two full headline sets not a second feels wasted or too much. And they have such a deep trench of songs in their back catalogue that there are plenty we wish they still played. Take Hero of the Day for example. Our favourite Metallica track but one we’ve never heard live despite seeing the band now at least ten times. They have more bangers than you can shake your spiked fist at and here on night two we are treated to the classics Enter Sandman and One as well as rarely played, in recent years at least, Sanitarium and King Nothing. There’s a reason Metallica played twice, they continue to push the boundaries and they continue to be the benchmark for bands of all genres. They are the Download daddies and they remain the standard for bands on the hallowed stage. 8/10

Words By: Eric Mackinnon

Photo Credit: Abbi Draper

Photo gallery features Static Dress, Stray From The Path, Municipal Waste, Blackgold, Casey, Motionless In White, Alexisonfire, Creeper, Metallica.

Eric Mackinnon
Long time journo who sold his soul to newspapers to fund his passion of following rock and metal bands around Europe. A regular gig-goer, tour-traveller and festival scribe who has broken stories of some of the biggest bands in the world and interviewed most. Even had a trifle with Slash once. Lover of bourbon, 80's rock and is a self-confessed tattoo addict.