LIVE: Download Festival 2017 – Saturday

Date: June 10th 2017
Venue: Donington Park, Donington
Website: www.downloadfestival.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/downloadfest
Twitter: www.twitter.com/downloadfest

It goes without saying now that Download Festival is one of the most renowned and prestigious rock festivals in the whole world. A performance there, especially a debut, sets a notable milestone in any band or artist’s career, and year after year manages to cater for almost any fan of rock, punk, or metal.

Onto Saturday, the second day of non-stop music and bands across the Download fields, including a main stage headline slot from Scottish alternative rock trio Biffy Clyro, we headed on down to the hallowed Donington grounds to get our fill of riffs, pits, and devil horns.


THE LEMMY (MAIN) STAGE:

HACKTIVIST – 7/10
Opening the main stage at Download isn’t a bad effort for only your third show, as Jot Maxi found out with Hacktivist. The Milton Keynes rap/metal crossover kings waved goodbye to Ben Marvin lately, and now Maxi slots in to ‘False Idols’ and ‘Niggas in Paris’ with ease, controlling the crowd as if he’d been doing it for years. Crowd favourite ‘Elevate’ closes the successful set that’s sure to have the band cementing their thought that they can get back on track now, and fill that potential that they’ve been oozing for years. [MH]

CREEPER – 9/10
Southampton theatrical punk rockers Creeper have deservedly been highlighted as the shining light of the next generation of rock bands, and if their debut record ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’ is anything to go by, you’ll never see this band playing at lunchtime ever again. They kick into ‘Black Rain’ as they begin to play on the biggest stage of their career to date. Vocalist Will Gould commands the catwalk like a frontman that’s been playing Donington for decades when he demands a circle pit during ‘Suzanne’. ‘VCR’ takes us back to the band’s debut EP before stand out slow number ‘Misery’ indulges the field to a tear shedding sing-a-long. ‘Down Below’ emphasises the musical influences that Creeper have adopted to great effect, and ‘I Choose To Live’ separate this band from the rest of the pack as they hit the nail on the head on every track they’ve ever released. This is a big moment for a big band that are going to go on to do great things. [MH]

SIKTH – 7/10
Djent pioneers SikTh have been a great asset to the prog/tech metal scene since their reunion back in 2014, and it’s great to see Download embracing a band as innovatively challenging as the Watford outfit. ‘Golden Cufflinks’ gives new vocalist Joe Messer the opportunity to show that he can have that to and fro catalyst with Mikee Goodman that compliments the insane guitar tones. SikTh have no issues demanding the attention from Donington Park, and the bemused faces that heard ‘Hold My Finger’ at the beginning of the set have turned into smiles by the time ‘Bland Street Bloom’ kicks in to finish things off the set. Even ex-vocalist Justin Hill can’t resist the temptation of main stage at Download as he jumps back in line with the band for a surprise guest slot. Fair play to the festival for taking a chance on a band like SikTh being booked for such a high spot on the bill, and they look so at home up there too. [MH]

OF MICE & MEN – 8/10
Today’s main stage set at Download marks Of Mice & Men’s first ever performance in the UK without now former vocalist Austin Carlile at the helm, and their first on UK soil with Aaron Pauley stepping up to the plate as their new frontman. It’s no new territory for Pauley – he fronted Sacramento outfit Jamie’s Elsewhere before he moved over to Of Mice & Men – and evidently there are very few vocalists in the game that are as strong at both singing and screaming as he is. The likes of ‘Would You Still Be There’, ‘The Depths’, and ‘Public Service Announcement’ sound reinvigorated and fresh. This marks the start of what will no doubt be an exciting new chapter in the band’s career. [ZR]

PIERCE THE VEIL – 7/10
Despite a startling rise in their fanbase over the past few years, today is Pierce The Veil’s first time performing at Download Festival, and they’ve managed to snag a pretty formidable spot on the main stage. Bursting in with a set opening one-two of ‘Texas Is The Reason’ and ‘Bulls In The Bronx’, they manage to get the crowd hyped and screaming from start-to-finish. Vic Fuentes’ voice has also always been an acquired taste, but it’s hard to deny his range alongside his fretboard wizardry alongside Tony Perry, and, though a lot of the fans are surely disappointed that neither Jeremy McKinnon (A Day To Remember) and Kellin Quinn (Sleeping With Sirens) made a quick appearance for ‘Caraphernelia’ or set closer ‘King For A Day’ respectively, their absence proves the songs can easily stand with Pierce the Veil holding their own. [ZR]


Credit: Matt Eachus

AFI – 9/10
Having just completed a triumphant run across the UK supporting Deftones, AFI take their place on the main stage for the first time in their career, and, if this performance is anything to go by, it surely won’t be their last.  With the opening bars to ‘Girl’s Not Grey’ met with a sea of screams, vocalist Davey Havok stalks round the stage with the surefire confidence of a man who knows he’s got his audience in the palm of his hand. Hit after hit follows; ’17 Crime’ runs smoothly into ‘Aurelia’, and ‘The Leaving Song Pt. II’ into ‘I Hope You Suffer’. There seems to be a huge chunk of the crowd who’ve never been lucky enough to see AFI live before, and so there’s a sense of exhilaration in the air that they’ve finally been able to witness the band in action. A definite high of the weekend, and surely across the field fingers are crossed that they’ll be back sooner rather than later. [ES]


Credit: Sarah Koury

A DAY TO REMEMBER – 9/10
Florida pop-punkcore heroes A Day To Remember are slowly creeping up the Download bill, and have been promoted to sub-headliners this year. They open up with ‘All I Want’ and ‘I’m Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?’, and despite a couple of complications early on, frontman Jeremy McKinnon finally looks at ease when ‘2nd Sucks’ kicks in and flames appear from the stage, and transitioning from this to ‘Right Back At It Again’ shows why they’re on this stage so late in the day. One punter is so impressed that he’s even taken to crowdsurfing in his camping chair.

‘Homesick’ still stands as the band’s best received record, and ‘My Highway’s Thinking About The End’ incites carnage in the front pit during the infamous “Disrespect your surroundings!” breakdown at the end doing the most damage. Some slow ballads that tug heartstrings also make an appearance, most notably excellence of ‘If It Means A Lot To You’ that leads up to the crescendo of the full band joining the two acoustic guitars for a few la-la-las. Evidently, they can pull out a 70-minute long set of bangers with ease. Will they be pushed up to grab that headliner spot? Let’s hope so. [MH]


Credit: Ben Gibson

BIFFY CLYRO – 10/10
It’s sad to think that we live in a world where people doubt that Biffy Clyro are eligible to headline a rock festival like Download. The Scottish trio first played the Donington Park festival back in 2004, and have since sold one and 1,500,000 albums, 400,00 singles, headlined Reading/Leeds and Sonisphere, and cemented themselves as one of the UK’s biggest and best rock acts. However, the scepticism over a band that are played on the radio and are nominated for BRIT Awards are deemed by some as not worthy to close the main stage, despite their performance subbing Metallica here 5 years ago and having 2 number one albums since. The hairy mob won’t let that hinder them and they take to stage which is framed by 4 large squares that descend in size towards the back of the stage, and stand in position while their entrance music plays out – all topless, of course.

Blue and white streamers then explode out of the stage as Simon Neil hits the riff for ‘Wolves Of Winter’ before following it up with ‘Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies’, but not without having a tongue in cheek pop at Steve Tyler during the bridge by singing ‘Walk This Way’ in a high pitched voice. ‘Sounds Like Balloons’ and ‘Biblical’ embrace the fuzzy yet fresh sound that Biffy bring to the table that still harbours the melody, and certainly entices and encourages a sing-a-long but nothing like the sound of the tight and simple yet so inventively brilliant ‘Who’s Got A Match?’.
 
Now, with 7 records to choose from, Biffy have a huge back catalogue to work from, and they reach right back into the vault for a nod to the first time they played the festival with ’57’. Neil looks the proper rock star part on stage with his long hair getting in the way of his face and holding his trusty old axe that looks as old as he is, and it’s that guitar that takes us into ‘That Golden Rule’ and THAT incredible finale and it’s joined by a deservedly impressive pyro show. The energy takes a backseat temporarily as Neil reaches for the acoustic guitar. ‘Medicine’ is mesmerising, and the singer takes the opportunity to say what it means to be headlining Download after playing so many times. The rest of the main set runs through like a colossal run that would go toe to toe with any band that have headlined the stage previously: ‘Mountains’, ‘Animal Style’ and ‘Many of Horror’ leave a field full of sore throats but just enough is left for the heavy treat of ‘There’s No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake’ before ‘Stingin’ Belle’ has the honour of introducing the firework display that announces the end of what was a truly remarkable set that silences all doubters. ‘mon the Biff, indeed. [MH]


Credit: Paulo Gonçalves


ZIPPO ENCORE STAGE:

TAX THE HEAT – 7/10
It’s up to Bristol four-piece Tax The Heat to kick Saturday off over on the Zippo Encore stage, and, although the Friday night hangovers are in full swing, so is the party. They play the likes of ‘Devil’s Daughter’ and ‘Fed To The Lions’ to a surprisingly full crowd, the back half of which are admittedly a little subdued, but down at the front there’s a shedload of dancing going on in favour of the band’s bluesy rock ‘n’ roll. Keeping it short and sweet with a half hour set, they pave the way for the rest of the day of rock, punk, and metal. [ES]

ALESTORM – 6/10
There’s no room for hangovers as Alestorm take to the stage to bring their pirate metal party to liven up the Saturday afternoon. If ever there was a cure for a hangover, it would be a swift hair-of-the-dog and partying with Alestorm. The Scottish pirate metallers premiere the title-track of their latest album ‘No Grave But The Sea’ for the first time, and it’s met with roaring approval from the crowd, most of whom appear to be clad in as much pirate garb as the band themselves. As always, Alestorm put up a rambunctious performance, being comedic entertainers as much as they are musicians. For some, their OTT gimmicks may prove to be a little too much for the more serious (or at least seriously hungover) members of the crowd, but for the die-hard fans, they’re the perfect tonic for the day. [ES]

SUICIDE SILENCE – 7/10
California’s Suicide Silence are seriously heavy as balls, and with the pure force that ‘No Pity For A Coward’ has today, it’s almost like they’re enjoying the slap-in-the-face they’re giving the people that turned their back on them for their latest endeavour into less pig-squealing territory. ‘Run’ is taken from the recent self-titled album, but sadly for the band, the Korn styled piece just doesn’t compare to the ability they have to play the deathcore material. Eddie Hermida has the technical ability and stage presence to do it better than anyone else, but sadly that doesn’t transpire during a ballad like ‘Conformity’ compared to set opener ‘You Only Live Once’, but you must admire their courage to finish with the former after all the stick and not so constructive criticism they’ve received this year. [MH]

KVELERTAK – 8/10
Clad in his notorious owl mask, Kvelertak’s Erlend Hjelvik takes to the stage with the intense energy that the band are renowned for. It’s always great to see such a huge turnout for a band whose songs are sung entirely in Norwegian, but the band as a unit are so entertaining and fun to watch, being able to understand the lyrics is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Even the fact that guitarist Maciek Ofstad takes to the stage supported by crutches, it doesn’t stop him from going hell for leather throughout the entire set. Pioneers in their field, the black metal/punk/rock outfit blast their way through ‘1985’ and ‘Blodtorst’, ending on a high with their self titled track, ‘Kvelertak’. [ES]

COHEED & CAMBRIA – 9/10
New Yorkers Coheed & Cambria are currently in the middle of a pretty monumental tour run, performing their critically acclaimed 2005 album ‘Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One’ from front-to-back across Europe and the UK. With a limited slot at Download, we only get a condensed version of the album play through, but straight from opening with their epic opus ‘Welcome Home’ and the unleashing of Claudio Sanchez’s magnificent ‘fro, we’re taken through the greatest epoch of the band’s career, with the solemn ‘Wake Up’ and grandiose ‘Apollo I: The Writing Writer’ being particular stand outs. ‘In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3’ is a deviation from the album and closes things off, and with its call-to-arms refrain of “man your battle stations”, the band safely secure one of the best sets of the entire festival weekend. [ZR]


Credit: Sarah Koury

THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT – 6/10
Strapping Young Lad creator Devin Townsend claims that his solo adventure, The Devin Townsend Project, are mid-lower tier prog metal, which may be unfair on the Canadian singer who has packed out the Zippo Encore stage with fans eager to hear tracks from his latest record, ‘Transcendence’, and hits from his now vast solo back-catalogue. The atmospheric ‘Deadhead’ is one for the prog rock fans, but drags on a bit until Townsend unleashes a scream to mix it up. ‘Supercrush!’ is more up to it after the songwriter talks about gibberish inbetween songs; his mid-set ramblings make the whole set more unique and fun, and works as a great juxtaposition to the music. ‘March Of The Poozers’ is hypnotic and borders on crazy at times, and the technical prowess in ‘Kingdom’ shows why Devin is such a big deal for progressive metal, and it even raises a smile from an audience that might normally turn their nose up at this kind of gig. [MH]

ROB ZOMBIE – 9/10
Not that he’s unable to pull in a crowd of his own merit, but it would appear that all the naysayers who weren’t overly keen on the idea of Biffy Clyro headlining the main stage are out in force to catch Rob Zombie on the Zippo Encore stage, and boy did he pull out all the stops for them. In a haze of smoke, pyro techniques, B-movie horror clips, and the sparkliest trousers you’ve ever seen, Zombie and his boys pull out a seemingly never-ending set of absolute mosh worthy classics; ‘Superbeast’ and ‘Living Dead Girl’ thrown into the beginning of the set to really get the crowd going. Throwing in a couple of covers from White Zombie, Alice Cooper, and The Ramones, Rob Zombie is the quintessential rock frontman; his stage show is as aesthetically pleasing to the eyes as it is to the ears, bringing a mix of sleaze and humour with absolutely stellar vocals to boot. What Zombie set would be complete without the legendary ‘Dragula’, and the final song of the night on the Zippo stage is met with a sea of bodies moshing, singing, and dancing until the very last note. [ES]


Credit: Ben Gibson


THE AVALANCHE STAGE:

GREYWIND – 6/10
Irish brother/sister duo Greywind have only been touring properly for about a year or so now, but in that time they’ve already accomplished a lot – a management deal, a label deal, a debut album in ‘Afterthoughts’, and now a set at Download Festival. Accompanied with a full band in tow, Steph and Paul O’Sullivan’s material has a lot more weight and depth in a live environment. Steph’s voice is on perfect form, and they manage to reel in quite a sizeable crowd despite it being the early hours of the day. There’s still some notable work to be done, and the band definitely seem a little nervous, but with the band still being well in their infant years, this is something that’ll only ease out in time. [ZR]

TRASH BOAT – 9/10
With the way that Tobi Duncan has come out of the tracks during ‘How Selfish I Seem’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Trash Boat were a hardcore band as opposed to pop-punk; a testament to the raw and gritty tone that their music forms. The St. Albans band have just returned from a stint with New Found Glory in the States, and are looking and sounding tighter than ever. ‘Tring Quarry’ brings the summer pizza vibes of pop-punk and with one hell of a vocal melody on what seems like the fourth chorus to the song because each section is so catchy. ‘Brave Face’ gives the band a bit of a rest so they can prepare themselves for the pace of ‘Eleven’, but the best pop-punk track of 2016 ‘Strangers’ closes the set and even sees Patty Walters (As It Is) fill in for Soupy Campbell for some bridge cameo action. [MH]

THE ONE HUNDRED – 9/10
Not ones to stick to conventional guidelines and templates for genres, splicing elements of nu-metal, hip-hop, electronica, and even a little bit of R&B in places, London’s The One Hundred are easily one of the more diverse acts on The Avalanche Stage bill today, and to quote their song ‘Monster’, frontman Jacob Field’s near luminous orange attire is “just a little bit out there” too. Kicking off with ‘Kingsmen’, the quartet have the crowd in the palm of their hands pretty much from the get go. There are pits aplenty from here on out through songs like ‘Dark Matters’ and ‘Disengage’, and some masked ghouls from their ‘Monster’ video join them onstage briefly for that very track, all before we come to the triumphant call-to-arms closer of ‘Downfall’. [ZR]


Credit: Zach Redrup

CROWN THE EMPIRE – 7/10
Over the past year or so, Dallas’ Crown The Empire have been through some turbulence, having dropped from a sextet into a quartet within the space of a year. The latest departure came from long-time co-vocalist and for a short while also rhythm guitarist, Dave Escamilla, shortly before the last time that the band were here in October with Of Mice & Men. They seemed a little sloppy back then, but since then they’ve certainly tightened the bolts in their new refined formation. Andy Leo can switch from towering cleans to outrageous screams with ease, and songs like ‘Voices’ and ‘Hologram’ are monstrous and melodic in equal measure. [ZR]

EVERY TIME I DIE – 10/10
There are very few modern bands that hold a back-catalogue and a live reputation that’s as esteemed, distinguished, and exceptional for such a long period of time as that boasted by Buffalo’s rambunctious Every Time I Die. Today’s set on The Avalanche Stage upholds this consistency with a no holds barred 40-minute long set spanning across their almost 20-year long career. Keith Buckley is a captivating frontman through songs like ‘Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space’, and his brother Jordan jumping into the crowd to surf and riff is just a couple of highlights. Exhilarating performances of songs like ‘Bored Stiff’, ‘It Remembers’, and ‘We’rewolf’ aside, they’re engaging too. Keith calls out a very young fan enjoying the show just a few rows from the front, sat upon a parents’ shoulders, and many around him reach up for a high-five before the band return to inciting pits aplenty. One of the best live bands that you’ll ever see. Period. [ZR]


Credit: Ben Gibson

THE STORY SO FAR – 6/10
With the new age of pop-punk that’s come into popularity over the past few years, in which punk trumps a little more than pop, California’s The Story So Far are one of the bigger names in the scene. Indeed, their bouncy and gruff style of pop-punk is fun and gets bodies moving and singing along from the get go. It’s just all a bit too same in parts, and, though their approach of just writing and performing music that they want to and enjoy is admirable, and set closer ‘Quicksand’ is an undeniably catchy anthem, there’s very little to gain from here that you couldn’t get from any other pop-punk band you might catch across the whole of this year’s Download line-up. [ZR]


THE DOGTOOTH STAGE:

IDLES – 5/10
Bristol rascals Idles are bringing the dirty sound back to indie rock – if you can imagine Slaves playing tracks by The Young Knives, then Idles would be oozing out of the drum kit at the back. ‘1049 Gotho’ is catchy enough and embraces the lairyness that the band are aiming for, and ‘Mother’ is a stomp-friendly track and the snotty ability to be ignorant as possible. ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ is more of a throwback to first wave punk, and the crowd are bobbing along appropriately, but the sad truth is that Donington aren’t ever going to go for this kind of thing. A decent show by Idles, but they may be better suited and received at a more open and, you know, less metal showcase. [MH]


Credit: Sarah Koury

CASEY – 7/10
Melodic hardcore/post-hardcore Welsh boys Casey seem to be playing pretty much every major rock festival across the UK this summer, having wrapped up sets at both Impericon and Slam Dunk already this month, and a set at Reading & Leeds incoming for August. Gearing up for it on the Donington grounds this afternoon, frontman Tom Weaver’s delivery of emotional torment from failed and unreciprocated love through songs like ‘Hell’ and ‘Passionate Flowers’ is captivating. Holding Absence vocalist Lucas Woodland makes a short appearance in the closing moments of ‘Teeth’, and come the closing moments of set ender ‘Little Bird’, Casey are still yet to disappoint. [ZR]

WEDNESDAY 13 – 8/10
Bringing the Dogtooth stage to a dark and ghoulish close on Saturday night is Wednesday 13, with the intro to ‘Last Nites’ ringing through the ears of the crowd as the band take their place onstage.  A veteran in his field, Wednesday 13 provides the perfect appetiser to the Zippo Stage headliner, Rob Zombie. Throughout the duration of the set, the ex-Murderdolls frontman finds himself surrounded by a sea of fans singing the likes of ‘Cadaverous’ and ‘The Ghost Of Vincent Price’ word for word. Joined by the fiery performance of the beautiful Pyrohex dancers, Wednesday 13’s own brand of goth-horror-punk proves to be timeless, and a definite highlight of the weekend. [ES]

Written by Zach Redrup [ZR], Mike Heath [MH], and Emma Stone [ES]

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