LIVE: Download Festival 2017 – Saturday

By Penny Bennett

Download Festival is arguably the biggest and best heavy metal festival in the UK. The hallowed grounds of Donnington have seen just about every band ever grace it over the years. And this year was no different with some huge headliners, debut and last ever appearances alike, and on top of it all the rain actually held off for the entire weekend.

The Punktastic team headed up to the Donnington Castle site to check it out.

Words: Rhian Wilkinson, Christopher Lee, Becky Mount / Photos: Penny Bennett

Irish Duo Greywind are the breath of fresh air one needs on the second day of the festival. Pulling in another huge crowd at the Avalanche stage which has seen an array of talent so far, the piercing vocals of Steph O’Sullivan resonate throughout the tent. Their brand of alternative rock is a refreshing break from the mosh pits and break downs seen here so far. Their ability to craft some incredible songs of depth and meaning is only matched by their obvious love for what they do, it’s impossible not be drawn in completely to their live performance which only goes to explain their deserved meteoric rise. [CL]

It takes all of half a song before it becomes very apparent that Creeper will be saying goodbye to those midday slots soon enough. But you already knew that, right? It’s hard to compare their insurmountable rise to frankly anything but when you see the six piece play one of the standout sets of the weekend so early in the day. Smashing through a surprisingly hefty archive for a band so young, the likes of ‘VCR’ and ‘Suzanne’ go down a treat. But it’s the likes of ‘Misery’ and ‘I Choose To Live’ where the real magic happens. They are haunting, comforting reminders that Creeper are a very important band and once again we feel part of something truly special. [BM]

It always felt like a huge injustice that SikTh slipped under the radar in their infancy, so their return to the scene in 2014 was more than welcomed. With so many young djent bands playing the very same weekend, the influence and importance of SikTh – intentional or not – is hard to avoid. ‘Hold My Finger’ may have been released on their debut 14 years ago, but it sounds just as brutal and just as fresh as ‘Philistine Philosophies’ says it all, really. Whatever sub genre label you want to throw at them, SikTh feel perfectly at home at Download and we’re forever grateful for their second coming. [BM]

Fresh off the back of the release of their debut album, London outfit The One Hundred can’t really be slotted into any one genre easily. What they do guarantee however is bringing an unrelenting sound with them wherever they may go, so here they are at Download. Vocalist Jacob Field uses the backdrop of an almost nu metal sound to lay down some expert raps. With the undoubted success of the grime scene in the uk at the moment it’s great to see that an aspect of this genre has made it to Donnington. And much in the same way that Astroid Boys did on this very same stage on Friday, The One Hundred cause chaos from start to finish. [CL]

Bristol post punk outfit Idles hit the Dogtooth stage and bring with them all of the riffs. Vocalist Joe Talbot takes to the stage and quickly hands his phone to a crew member “Expecting a baby any minute” he tells the half full tent to a chorus of cheers. By the second song ‘Mother’ the tent is packed as their almost infectious riffs draw in the masses. Bands like this are why festivals like Download are about so much more than just the huge acts on the main stage. Take a short stroll across the site and gems like these are what you’ll be treated to. Intimate sets from some of the UK’s best up and coming rock bands, and that’s exactly what Idles are. [CL]

‘If I Could Find The Words’ gets the crowd singing, but it all just feels a little bit low energy from Of Mice & Men. The band looks like they’re thinking through every chord, you want it to be good, but they just seem to be going through the motions rather than actually enjoying it.
The unfortunate thing about giant screens is that you can see the crowds faces projected at huge scale, and when they don’t look stoked, it’s a bit of a bummer. There is a mosh pit, and the people in it are having a great time, but everyone around them looks like they’re just holding down their spot. One of the guitarist’s looks was more akin to the guy who sells you petrol at a service station at the end of an 8 hour shift. You’re on the main stage at Download, at least try to look happy about it!
Maybe I’m too used to seeing bands who are excited to be on stage, but when only one member of the band can actually crack a smile, it’s just not quite as fun. The set stops and starts, and there isn’t really any chemistry between new frontman (long-time bassist) Aaron Pauley and the crowd.
To be fair, they’re playing to the click and it sounds good, it’s just lacking the atmosphere you expect a main stage band to bring. [RW]

What says Download more than 4 guitarists and a Shirtless man in an owl mask? Kvelertak are essentially the embodiment of the festival, it’s a bit shocking if you’re not used to it, but if you know it, you love it. There aren’t many discernible words, being that the vocals are all in Norwegian, but there are riffs abound. Sound quality may be to blame, but this is the least metal I’ve heard Kvelertak sound, it’s a lot more of a rock vibe, which is actually perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon. The first few songs are very easily consumable – heads are banging and air guitars are thrown about. The band then switches up a bit to a super fast vocal heavy track that gets the mosh pit raging, and things are on a roll from here on out. It’s an enjoyable show, and it’s easy to see why they’ll be accompanying Metallica on their stadium tour later this year. They have the ability to hold a big stage, and the riffs to back it up. Plus, there’s an owl that has its own passport. [RW]

Casey take to the Dogtooth Stage and prove, once again, what all the fuss is about. There is an ingenuity with Casey, with their raw spoken word approach clashing perfectly against those crushing riffs and woozy melodies. And yet they somehow sound like an amalgamation of all your favourite sad bands. They draw an impressive crowd and is it any wonder? ‘Love Is Not Enough’ may not even have reached its first birthday but it’s still breaking all our hearts and today’s performance is as beautiful and devastating as ever. [BM]

Davey Havok’s voice is just on another level. Everything about AFI is perfection. Throughout the whole performance there is so much energy. From standing on the amp stack just to dance and jump off, to running up and down the catwalk, Havok is incomparable as a frontman.The new songs sound just as big as the bangers from more than a decade ago, ‘Snow Cats’ even had a full crowd singalong.
Playing ‘Silver and Cold’ into ‘Miss Murder’ is a hell of a high to end a set on, and I think everyone could have done with more than an hour. Though admittedly it was a disappointing turnout for a band that has been so influential in so many other bands’ sounds. [RW]

It really wouldn’t be a heavy metal festival without one of the Cavalera brothers featuring in one way or the other. Luckily this year we get them both, returning to the iconic Sepultura album ‘Roots’ the huge crowd gathered at the festivals second stage are in for treat. Exploding into life with the inevitable ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ arguably one of the greatest metal tracks ever created, queue some of the biggest and most furious circle pits the festival will likely see all weekend. Unfortunately timing prevent the guys from playing the album in full but they do manage to get half way through before closing the set with a brutal cover of Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades,’ the Brazilian masters of metal at their best truly is a sight to behold. [CL]

Now to head straight back over to the Avalanche stage, where we spent the majority of our weekend. The tent fills up with wave after wave of people all here to witness the phenomenon that is an Every Time I Die live set. Not many bands over the weekend will put as much energy, blood, sweat and tears into a show like the Buffalo rockers do. From first to last song the middle of the tent is transformed into a sea of pits, crowd surfers and just utter chaos in every direction. Their raw, unadulterated sound just adds fuel to the fire and in their own words “You may not know us but you will remember us” describes their set perfectly which comes and goes in a blur of furious energy. There’s even time for the band to get every child in the crowd on their parents shoulders, thus ensuring the next generation of Every Time I Die fans. That’s how you play a festival! [CL]

Florida pop punk giants A Day To Remember return to the Donnington main stage for the second time in three years and bring with them all the fun, pyros, fire and even some huge giant bouncing balls. Hitting the stage to ‘Flight of the Valkyrie’ they waste no time in delivering an energetic but also refreshingly light hearted set as always. Jeremy McKinnon seems to master any stage he’s put on but over the years the guys have become used to playing the big ones to perfection. There are fan favourites and hits galore throughout as McKinnon directs the huge crowd through an even better performance than the last time they were here. The crowd duly responds in kind with sing a longs, mosh pits, clapping and bouncing in the sun. But the Ocala punks clearly don’t think it’s quite warm enough as you can feel the heat from their towers of flame from the back of the crowd. Surely it’s only a matter of time until A Day To Remember headline one of these festivals… [CL]

If you’re at Download and you’re choosing Biffy Clyro over Rob Zombie, you’re probably in the wrong place. Decked out in a tasselled jacket and what look to be sequin bell bottom flares, Rob Zombie is the epitome of what you would expect a disco zombie to look like. Whilst the dancing naked lady shadow art was a bit bad taste, the rest of the production value was above and beyond. British summer sunsets are so late that light shows are almost null and void before 10pm, it just doesn’t have the same impact.
The threat of rain sets in for the first time during the Rob Zombie set, and whilst you would think the sprinkling would dampen spirits, Download is so used to being wet, it’s really just a return to normalcy after an unusually dry two days. Thankfully, the weather blows over, because as Rob Zombie says; “We didn’t fly here  all the way from the USA to watch TV, we came to fucking party.” [RW]

The second headliner of the weekend are none other than Biffy Clyro, arguably the UK’s biggest rock band. Returning to Download festival for a mammoth seventh time, something only a handful of bands have ever managed. The Kilmarnock rockers last graced the main stage back in 2012 when they played second fiddle to the mighty Metallica. This time around though they’re the kings of the stage and they have no intentions of delivering anything other than a monumental show. With a headline set you might be forgiven to think the guys would throw in a few of the older tracks and be a little self-indulgent but they choose to stick with what they know. The set isn’t too indifferent from previous headline sets at festivals such as Reading & Leeds but they do deliver perfection and a show that any band would be proud of. What’s beautiful to see is that no matter how big Biffy Clyro get they seem constantly humble and thankful for having made it to the pinnacle of what they love, and this was yet another huge performance to cross off the list. [CL]