LIVE REVIEW: Download Pilot – Saturday (19/06/2021)

Credit: James Bridle / Download Pilot 2021

Date: June 19th 2021
Venue: Donington Park, Donington
Support: N/A


It goes without saying that the past 15 months have been difficult for everyone in different ways and in difference degrees, but few industries have suffered as much as music and live events. Though the return of live music is still uncertain for the moment, a brief moment of reprieve is upon us in the form of Download Pilot – a sort of mini-Download Festival signed off to go ahead as part of the UK Government’s Event Research Programme, aiming to offer a clearer view of when and how live events can return once more.

Stripped down to just two stages of exclusively UK based talent across the three day event, and minimised to a maximum capacity of 10,000 instead of the usual 111,000, attendees were required to take a test and produce a negative result with proof shortly before arriving at the site to gain access.

On day two, Enter Shikari are handed the main stage headliner baton, where the quartet are finally given the chance to showcase songs from their new record ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’ to an IRL audience.

The past few months have seen a lot of change with Lotus Eater, who’ve had a complete line-up overhaul with only drummer Cameron Murphy remaining to rebuild the band from scratch. Today sees the live re-introduction of the band and this new era.

Delivering absolute chaos for breakfast, songs like ‘Break It’ and ‘Second To None’ sound revitalised with this formation, with newly enlisted vocalist Paul Collins (ex-MTXS) sounding absolutely savage, whilst newer numbers ‘Narco’ and ‘Vermin’ should surely awake and coax anyone from their tents who are still sleeping. That’s before we even mention the Megatron replicating, ribcage rattling and blackhole forming sub drops that swallow the Second Stage to start the day.

Arguably grasping the title of the heaviest band at Download Pilot, Conjurer have seen quite the upgrade in stage size since their last set at Donington Park in 2019 on the considerably smaller Dogtooth Stage.

Their bleak and cataclysmic numbers continue the punishment already set in motion for the day from the Second Stage. The band’s mammoth riffs and chords are delivered with the weight of a freight train during ‘Retch’ and ‘Choke’, and few out there can compete with bassist Conor Marshall‘s whirlwind head banging skills and endurance. Be confident that with album two there’ll be more aural turmoil incoming.

We’re still in the first half of 2021, but it feels like post-hardcore upstarts As Everything Unfolds have already achieved so much this year. Securing literally millions of streams of their debut album, which is just a few months old right now, it’s only today that the band are able to let them all loose unto the world where they belong.

Sticking solely to new album material shows the band’s confidence in their new material, and rightly so. ‘Wallow’ is a post-hardcore classic-to-be, ‘Hiding From Myself’ is as catchy as it is anthemic, and vocalist Charlie Rolfe flexes her angelic cleans and demonic screams on ‘Take Me There’. By the time we approach closer ‘On The Inside’, it’s pretty much a certainty that 2021 still has a lot more rewards in store for As Everything Unfolds.

WARGASM – 6/10
They’ve only been a band for a little under two years, but today Wargasm achieve something that no other band at Download Pilot does – they’re the only band to perform on the Main Stage and not have an album or even an EP. Whether you’re a fan or not, that’s something that you can’t take away from them.

Guitarist Sam Matlock and bassist Milkie Way execute their tag team vocals with ease throughout their set whilst running around the stage at any opportunity that they get. The nu-metal tinged ‘Spit’ gets pits in motion, ‘Backyard Bastards’ is undeniably fun, and their cover of ‘Lapdance’ by N*E*R*D sees the set out with a crowd clearly eager to see what’s next to come from the world of Wargasm. Once they have a more extensive catalogue to flex their potential, it’s easy to imagine the duo climbing festival bills in the next few years.

Metalcore maestros While She Sleeps have been steadily approaching the lofty heights of their British genre peers Architects and Bring Me The Horizon over the past few years. Based off of today’s monumental Main Stage set, they’re basically standing toe-to-toe against those two contemporaries.

‘Sleeps Society’ sounds absolutely gigantic as it sparks circle pits across the Donington field before them, ‘The Guilty Party’ is the musical form of a direct injection of adrenaline into the veins, whilst ‘You Are We’ and ‘Brainwashed’ both tower higher than the stage that they’re being performed on. At one point, vocalist Loz Taylor sprints from the stage through the crowd and climbs the soundboard tower, just because he can, before we’re ploughed one final time with set closer ‘Systematic’.

CREEPER – 9/10
Bursting with anticipation, Creeper have climbed up the festival line-up ladder with ease, and this evening’s set feels like second nature to them. Their cult fanbase packs out the tent as the band walk onto the stage, with sparks literally flying and frontman Will Gould draped with the American flag before their hour long set begins with ‘Hiding With Boys’.

From here, their goth punk meets new wave sound is tantalising and full of fanfare. Their gothic The Cure-esque ballad ‘Poisoned Heart’ gets hips swinging, ‘Born Cold’ has the crowd singing their hearts out, there’s a Meat Loaf vibe to new single ‘Midnight’, and old school fans get a throwback to their AFI style punk stomp of the early days with ‘Astral Rejection’.

Despite only having an hour to work with, the smaller stage, and the short turnaround between the festival being announced and going ahead, Creeper do what they can to bring theatrics and grandeur to their ever ambitious concepts and visions. Depicting the character Annabelle and dressed in a wedding gown and veil, keyboardist/vocalist Hannah Greenwood takes centre stage for the solemn ‘Crickets’, and this along with the one-two closer of ‘Misery’ and ‘Annabelle’ is indisputable proof that Creeper have only great within their sights and within their reach.

Enter Shikari‘s career long ethos also happens to be one of the things that we’re now able to celebrate for a few days here at Download Pilot without restriction or danger: community and solidarity. It’s absolutely no surprise that the band’s set is one that celebrates an occasion that we can all share as one once more with our inhibition and instincts taking control once again.

Their stage production has been consuming the stage to some degree for the majority of the day, but when they come to life it’s truly something to behold. After a fanfare-laced trumpet-ised version of ‘Live Outside’ plays over the speakers, bright lights shimmer as the St. Albans quartet dive into ‘The Great Unknown’, and it’s pretty clear already from this moment that we’re experiencing something truly special today.

The band are finally able to allow cuts from their latest album, ‘Nothing Is True & Everything Is Possible’, to stretch their legs and display their colourful feathers. ‘satellites**’ is a beautiful celebration of love no matter its form, ‘{ The Dreamer’s Hotel }’ is literally impossible to stand still to, and the closing call-to-arms of ‘Modern Living…’ is a tongue-in-cheek stab at ourselves at how we deal with hardships, and one that is sang loud and proud across the Donington field this evening.

Still, it’s with the older and more recognised numbers where Enter Shikari illuminate and radiate with the crowd here. ‘Juggernaughts’ and ‘The Paddington Frisk’ are overloaded with energy, the latter of the two getting a restart just a few seconds in to pump everyone up, frontman Rou Reynolds offers a heartfelt dedication of ‘Anaesthetist’ to NHS and care staff who have “been let down by our government time and time” again through one of the worst crisis’ they’ve ever faced, and you truly will never find as many people clapping along in unison as you do with ‘Sorry, You’re Not A Winner’.

Without question, Enter Shikari prove time and time again why they’re one of the greatest and most important bands in the UK right now, delivering a set that celebrates happiness, acceptance, and life.