LIVE: Download Festival 2017 – Sunday

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

A west-coast hip hop influenced hardcore band named after a gang in a video game – playing second on the most isolated stage on the Download site, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. But the Grove Street Families set is a staggering success. The chorus of “GSF ain’t nothin’ to fuck with” promotes the kind of crowd participation that cannot be denied. It’s groovy and has people off their feet. And better than that, you can see the row of mum’s on the barrier, in OG GSF merch, so immensely proud of what is happening on stage. The crowd is made up of a 50/50 split, it’s half new fans, probably spurned by curiosity on their name. Then half hardcore fans, looking to throw down to one of the most legit projects coming out of London right now. It’s a full on two-stepping, windmilling moshpit, and it’s exciting to see Download willing to accept, and be passionate about young bands from alternative scenes. [RW]

Kicking off the third and final day of the festival are Leeds outfit Fizzy Blood who’s enthusiasm is the perfect hangover cure for those in the crowd struggling through their third day straight of blistering performances. The lads short but sweet set is everything that’s great about them, energetic, melodic, fast and infectious. Drawing in an almost full Dogtooth stage they encapsulate the crowd in a bubble of riffs and melodies that ensure anyone new to the band won’t be forgetting them for a while. Credit to the band for also coming up with the best catchphrase of the weekend“Strong & Stable Rock & Roll” however going on this performance Fizzy Blood are so much more. [CL]

Everything starts off loud and rosy, it seems to be going fantastically. But suddenly, the Set stops two songs in. We’re told it’s for a public service announcement; that announcement is this: “We’re Swedish and we love beer, so this is like the spinal tap moment right?” Lead singer Anders Fridén has ducked off stage to grab one of the smallest beer coolers known to man. Its small size only exasperated by the fact that it’s being held up on a very large stage, by a very large man.
The tiny cooler sits centre stage for the remainder of the set. A reminder that being a rockstar isn’t all it’s made out to be. At one point, Anders even sits on aforementioned tiny cooler to deliver a chorus with the kind of ease that almost shouldn’t be possible. It’s a strong set, and they’re clearly enjoying themselves despite the lack of beer. It’s the kind of big riff metal you expect from a guitarist with tiger stripes tattooed down his arm. Basically, all boxes were ticked by In Flames at Download 2017, including sassing the organisers lack of thirst consideration. [RW]

The Avalanche Stage at this years Download Festival may have a lineup designated to shake things up but actually it’s turned out to have one of the biggest draws of the weekend. And (Download) festival newcomers Touché Amoré are a shining example of that. Excuse us for the cliche, but their performance is nothing short of cathartic. Last album ‘Stage Four’ may be painful to listen to at the best of times, but every single song is a brutally honest insight to, well, anyone. With musical prowess – which is near enough faultless – the almost uncomfortable emotions that come with each and every Touché Amoré song set them worlds apart from their contemporaries. Every time we see this band it feels just as electric as the first and we don’t see that magic dying any time soon. [BM]

Heading into the final few hours of the weekend and American hard rockers Clutch bring with them the perfect Sunday afternoon rock vibes. Playing to a huge crowd on the Zippo Encore stage they power through track after track as the crowd nod their heads. It does however seem that a lot of the crowd are holding back in anticipation of Opeth & Slayer who close this stage later tonight. Although the lack of fan favorite track ‘Electric Worry’ is a little disappointing, this doesn’t take away from the bands performance which is technically as spot on as usual and Neil Fallon’s vocals almost deliver the deep south of America directly to the Donington site. [CL]

Who would have thought that Basement were capable of having a mosh pit throw down harder than security were prepared for? Despite having tweeted ahead of the show: “If you thought Code Orange was heavy at download, u wait til the end of earl grey. See you tomorrow!” No one seemed to be expecting the crowd response, even the band. Supposedly the only band across the weekend to call for a wall of death, Basement delivered the sad boy mosh that dreams are made of. With more crowd surfers than security could handle, people were coming over the barrier thick and fast, and one or two went down in the process. Every Basement set is chock-full of bangers, and the crowd sang along to every song. Anyone who said Basement weren’t heavy enough to play Download was totally wrong. They smashed it. More so, they proved themselves as the future of the alternative music scene. Basement were like the antidote to Steel Panther, whose set they slightly overlapped with. It’s music that is saying no to the objectification of women, and promoting a positive vibe instead. In their words: “Get consent from the person next to you, then hug them.” [RW]

The penultimate band of the weekend on the main stage are Orlando metalheads Alter Bridge. It’s always nice to have the guys around and with their various continued projects such as Myles Kennedy with Slash and Mark Tremonti’s solo material you’d be forgiven for forgetting just how technically great they are as a band. Kennedy’s vocals are unmistakable and set against the expert riffs of Tremonti they carve through a career spanning set list, the highlight of which comes in the shape of ‘Metalingus’ and ‘Show Me a Leader’ back to back. There’s also a fun moment where Kennedy and Tremonti go head to head in a guitar solo face off but we couldn’t possibly pick a winner between the two. The set does however get the main stage crowd well and truly riled up for what is sure to be a once in a lifetime performance from the mighty Aerosmith. [CL]

Slayer were good. That’s about all that needs to be said about Slayer really. It’s hard to put into words the kind of appreciation a crowd has for one of its most iconic bands. It would have been more befitting for them to have headlined the Saturday, and for Biffy Clyro to have taken the second stage headline space on the Sunday. Slayer clearly love what they do, love their fans, and love Download. Slayer were better than good. The end. [RW]

“There’ll be another just like you”, actually Sunshine The Werewolf got it wrong; there is never going to be another band like The Dillinger Escape Plan. Everything feels like a build up to their headline slot on The Avalanche Stage and their last UK performance – that alone should be warning enough because of course they absolutely decimated the place. It’s everything you could want from a Dillinger set, something to soften the blow of losing them. It’s a violent, frantic, perfectly executed performance with each and every song blowing our minds and reminding us simply that no one does it better. With tracks from their latest release slotting in perfectly next to genre defining classics like Panasonic Youth and Sugar Coated Sour, it’s a bittersweet reminder that it’s better to burn out than fade away. No we’re not crying, you are. [BM]

Now for the Download Festival 2017 grand finale, the stage is set, the crowd wait in anticipation for what is the last ever UK appearances of one of the world’s greatest ever rock bands. With all the build up one would expect from such an occasion the huge screens play through a video detailing the Boston bands ridiculously incredible career. As the video ends the band take to the stage to a huge roar as the ever fabulous Steve Tyler appears covered in more sequins then seems humanly possible. As ever his stage presence is unmistakable and his vocals are as spectacular as ever. The two hour set includes every hit you could imagine ‘Love In an Elevator’, ‘Walk This Way’ and everything in between. The middle of the set does come across as a little prolonged as the band indulge themselves with a few blues numbers and a couple of Fleetwood Mac covers. This in no way takes away from what is an all-round incredible display of just why this band are so loved, and equally why they’ll be missed so much after tonight. Thanks for the memories Aersomith. [CL]