LIVE: Download Festival 2019 – Saturday

By Gem Rogers

There may be plenty of alternative music festivals all across the globe these days, but Download Festival will forever hold a special place in the hearts of metalheads everywhere – and its reputation as one of the biggest and best events for rock and metal has been well earned over the years.

Of course, being set in the lovely fields of England’s Midlands means that it’s also inevitably on the receiving end of some of our island’s most punishing weather – although increased drainage was installed after 2016, with around two months’ worth of rain arriving at exactly the same time as thousands of campers (of course) this year, there was to be no avoiding the mud. Lots, and lots of mud. With such a stellar line-up, though, it would take a lot more than a bit of dirt and rain to dampen the spirits of most festival goers – it is a metal festival, after all.

The second day on Donington’s now slightly brown-looking fields doesn’t see much relief from the rain, though we are at least treated to a little sunshine in the morning as Mother Nature attempts to lull us into a false sense of security. As if we’d fall for that. Liberally applied straw has come to the rescue in the arena and we are, at least temporarily, rescued from the squelch – though in its place comes an infestation of Maggots (sic)…

Images: Penny Bennett, Words: Gem Rogers [GR], Dave Stewart [DS]

Parting Gift

The first band of Saturday over on the Avalanche stage was Manchester’s Parting Gift. Having the tough early slot at the stage the furthest away from everything can sometimes mean that the crowd will be small, but thankfully this wasn’t the case. Although it may have started small, the tent grew into a brimming, buzzing mass of bodies, all wooed into the tent by their siren-like music. Vocalist Zac Vernon has a phenomenal set of pipes on him, his silky tones filling every inch of the tent, although he seemed somewhat reserved through the majority of the set. The band put on a very tight and together display, full of dynamics and impact – although guitarist Jack Dutton found himself victim to a number of technical issues with his equipment, possibly due to his commitment to putting on an energetic performance. Technical difficulties aside, this was a triumphant set for the band, giving Download Festival a potent dose of what they’re capable of. [DS]

Bad Wolves

If you’re a metalhead and you’ve had The Cranberries legendary hit ‘Zombie’ stuck in your head recently, it’ll probably be because of Bad Wolves. Their hard hitting metal take on the song went global, smashing its way onto charts and spreading their name everywhere. That isn’t the only weapon they have in their arsenal though, and if you swung by the Zippo Encore stage during their set at Download you’d have seen the whole armoury. They put on a storming performance, packed full of power and dominance with a generous dose of fun thrown in for good measure. Anything that front man Tommy Vext wanted from the crowd, he got – mass clapping, headbanging, chants, a sea of people waving their shirts above their head and even a pit re-enactment of the battle for Winterfell from Game Of Thrones. Bad Wolves used their early slot to set the bar high for everyone that followed them, acting as the perfect warm up for the day ahead. [DS]

Yours Truly

Making your international performance debut at Download Festival is surely the most intimidating possible way to introduce yourself to overseas fans, though Aussies Yours Truly seem to handle it relatively well as they start a run of heavily pop-punk influenced acts on Saturday’s Avalanche Stage.  Their inexperience is evident, though, with the set generally lacking any real spark – and although Mikaila Delgado’s vocals are good, she is frequently drowned out by the music, resulting in much of it falling flat. Given a little more experience, Yours Truly show some promise, but they’ll find fierce competition amongst the other fresh faces coming into the genre. [GR]

Hot Milk

Manchester’s Hot Milk may be newcomers, but they’re already no strangers to the festival circuit with appearances at Slam Dunk and Great Escape under their collective belts this year. Their super slick power pop features seemingly endless energy and plenty of natural stage presence, and only the most coldhearted souls could fail to be warmed by dual vocalists Hannah Mee and Jim Shaw. It’s a shame that we seem to lose most of the lead guitar during closer ‘Awful Ever After’ and it sounds a little off as a result, but it’s more than made up for by the relentless positivity of the four on stage in one of the most fun, catchy sets of the weekend. Make no mistake – Hot Milk are here to stay, and we’re very pleased about that. [GR]

Animals As Leaders

If you were a musician at Download and needed to find a guitarist to make a band with, you could’ve found them in large numbers over at the Zippo Encore stage as Animals As Leaders took the stage – an instrumental trio led by the incredible guitar virtuoso Tosin Abasi. Their music on record is complex and musically mind boggling, filling musicians with the curious question “can they do it live?”. It turns out that yes, they absolutely can. If you did a 360 degree turn during their set you would’ve seen open mouths everywhere, completely in disbelief that they were watching human beings perform the music and not robots. Set closer ‘CAFO’ was executed flawlessly and with ease, forcing all the guitarists in the audience to have a long hard think about whether they’d ever be that good. Impeccable technique, unbelievable musicianship and a truly stunning performance. Sadly a short set due to the length of their songs, but a mind blowing short set, without a doubt. [DS]


Metalcore fans flocked over to the Avalanche stage to see New Jersey’s export Palisades storm through a few songs. Armed with a whole host of standout tracks from their ever growing back catalogue, they marched onto the stage and immediately got the crowd on side, all of them feeding directly out of vocalist Lou Miceli’s hands. Their performance was the only redeeming feature of the set though, falling a bit flat on the sound front. All the weight and punch that you would’ve expected from them got completely lost in the tent, and caused the whole show to lack weight. Regardless of the sound, their fanbase demonstrated their loyalty and love for the band by seemingly ignoring the sound issues, continuing to lose their minds to every song they were treated to. Set closer ‘Let Down’ was the finest example of that, causing the majority of the tent to burst into action. An energetic and hearty performance that didn’t quite hit the mark. [DS]


Let’s get one thing straight immediately – a festival is not a festival if Skindred don’t make an appearance. That’s just the way it is. Fortunately, Skindred are exactly what Download give us, and the appearance of a handful of torrential downpours matter considerably less in the face of the Welsh group’s bounding, irresistibly catchy reggae-infused metal. Their entrance to The Imperial March tells you all you need to know about this gloriously over-the-top, flamboyant band, with charismatic and consummate showman Benji Webbe leading the charge.  Including a surprise appearance by Reef’s Gary Stringer for last year’s ‘Machine’, Skindred plough through as many of their popular hits as possible in a high-energy 50 minutes, finishing as always with a dash of Newport Helicopter to the tune of ‘Warning’. The sight of thousands of t-shirts and jumpers flying above heads in a whirlwind of chaos never fails to disappoint – just like Skindred themselves. [GR]


Over in the Avalanche tent, today’s poppier line-up doesn’t seem to be getting the greatest of receptions. It may be that the exhausting trek through the worst of the arena’s mud to get there is putting punters off making the trip over, but south coast five-piece ROAM make the most of the crowd they have for a quick dose of classic pop-punk. Vocalist Alex Costello is uncharacteristically off key a few times, fortunately pulling it back quickly – but unfortunately, it’s not the only issue with the set, as much of it is marred by sound that just isn’t quite right and ends up about as muddy as the ground outside. The overall energy can’t be disputed, though, and despite it being far from the best performance we’ve seen from ROAM, the crowd have a grand old time all the same. [GR]


Trivium are without doubt one of the most adored metal bands of our generation – a fact that’s backed up by the gigantic crowd that gathered around the main stage to witness their performance. The sun beaming down onto the muddy grounds was the hottest it had been all weekend, and front man Matt Heafy used the good vibes to his advantage, convincing the crowd to go hard for their entire show. The set was a whistle stop tour through their entire discography, delivered with pure class and finesse. Newer cuts like ‘The Sin and the Sentence’ incited immediate riots, as did powerful renditions of ‘Down From The Sky’ and ‘Strife’. The golden moments of the set were found in towards the end though, with Heafy commanding the birth of “eight or more” mosh pits during ‘Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr’, topping the number they had at their first Download appearance 14 years ago. If that wasn’t enough, it was followed by ‘In Waves’, sounding more monstrous than ever on the big stage. Pyrotechnics, fireworks, giant circle pits and one of metals modern greats. What else could you possibly want from a main stage festival appearance? [DS]


The second instrumental act of the day could be found over on the Dogtooth stage in the form of Intervals. The Canadian quartet have amassed quite a following, a large portion of which crammed themselves into the tent in order to hear every single note in all its glory – only that’s not quite what happened. The sound was a muddy mess, mostly comprising cymbals and high frequencies. The bass was almost non-existent, only really audible when their backing track contained bass drops. The band themselves threw everything they had at the audience, fully taken by the music they were playing and exerting all their energy outward. The crowd did give a lot of that energy back, but those energy levels would’ve been miles higher if the sound had been clearer. A strong setlist dampened by poor sound. [DS]

Trash Boat

With their tantalising blend of punk rock, hardcore, and pop punk, Trash Boat are a welcome sight on any line-up, and today it doesn’t take long for pits to open up under the guidance of chugging riffs and Tobi Duncan’s outstanding, gritty vocals. Where other bands today have struggled to make the most of the space in the huge Avalanche Stage tent, Trash Boat sound crystal clear and project energy right to the back of the crowd; their crossover appeal and huge tracks get heads bobbing everywhere, with passionate joy erupting from the pit at the opening bars of every song. The sky is the limit for this band, and with performances like this, they’re well on their way there. [GR]

nothing, nowhere.

nothing, nowhere. mastermind Joe Mulherin went through some difficult times in 2018 that resulted in the cancellation of numerous performances and it is, first and foremost, fantastic to see him back on stage here at Download. Bringing together emo and rap in a unique way, nothing, nowhere. allows Mulherin to express the emotions and experiences that are part and parcel of the anxiety and depression he lives with, and on stage, he shares them with his audience in a stunningly heartfelt way. Pacing the stage in a way that reflects the almost diary-like qualities of his song writing, thoughts spilling out as he walks, the response of the crowd makes clear the deep connection many have with his words. Mulherin states that he’s having vocal problems today, but if that’s the case then it’s barely noticeable in this hypnotisingly powerful set, and as he closes with ‘Nevermore’, it’s to be hoped that it won’t be long before he returns. [GR]

The Wonder Years

Debut Download performances are usually something that happens for the young up and coming bands bursting onto the scene. It’s very rare that a fully fledged powerhouse escapes the grip of the festival, but there’s the odd band here and there that manage to slip through the cracks. One such band is The Wonder Years, and 2019 saw them perform on the hallowed ground of Donington for the first time. The Avalanche stage was full to the brim, and it leapt straight into motion as soon as front man Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell and crew stepped out from behind the curtain. Their set was completely faultless, paced beautifully and full of anthem after anthem. ‘Sister Cities’ immediately set the bar high for their set, and every single song that followed it continued to nudge it ever so slightly higher – they had all their bases covered and delivered a mesmerising performance. By the time set closer ‘Came Out Swinging’ came to an end, the completely crammed tent was hungry for more – but that’s exactly what The Wonder Years do. They put on an incredible show and make you want to keep on coming back to bask in the rays of their beautiful music. [DS]

Simple Creatures

As tough festival slots go, clashing with Slipknot at a metal festival is definitely up there. It’s not too surprising then that, despite the supergroup pairing of Mark Hoppus and Alex Gaskarth, the Avalanche Tent isn’t at its fullest for the festival debut of powerpop duo Simple Creatures. Those who have trundled over to the far corner of Donington, though, are rewarded with a true highlight of the weekend in this bright, poppy set, jammed full of hooks and good humour. It’s not a lengthy set – the duo only have one EP to their name so far – but it feels like the work of both Hoppus and Gaskarth at their absolute best, with vocals and melodies as vibrant as their personalities – and the entrancingly fantastic, borderline psychedelic light displays that complement each track.

Probably more part-comedy set than purely music, with (immature and deeply entertaining) quips flying across the stage in every available interval, it’s important the note that when it does come to the music, there’s really nothing to fault. Alongside tracks from their ‘Strange Love’ EP is new single ‘Special’ – which is also accompanied by a horde of unicorns Gaskarth insists on pulling from the crowd (obviously) – and their own version of the much-covered ‘Personal Jesus’, all delivered with the kind of joy and energy that essentially demands constant shoulder wiggles and head bopping. And maybe a dash of jazz hands. Some may question the pair being given a headline slot, given the lack of releases under their belt, but Simple Creatures have easily proved how deserving they are of this privilege – there’s few better ways to end an evening than with a massive, face-engulfing grin. [GR]


And then came the main event. The band everyone had been waiting for. The band most people bought their ticket for – Slipknot. Everywhere the eye could see was covered with excited faces, like the entire festival had gathered around the main stage to witness the approaching carnage. The atmosphere was one of pure excitement, barely able to contain themselves for what was about to happen. And what happened? Slipknot played a pedal to the metal, no holds barred, heavy as sin set that was equal parts stunning and punishing. The curtain that was covering the stage dropped and as they tore straight into ‘People = Shit’, the ground vibrated with the stampede of feet across the field. Pits opened up immediately, and they stayed open for the entire show.

The pace was relentless as they fired out non-stop heavy hitters, tearing through tracks like ‘Disasterpiece’, ‘Psychosocial’, and golden oldie ‘Prosthetics’, much to the eager and raucous crowd’s approval. Their performance of ‘Custer’ was one of the set highlights, as front man Corey Taylor played with the audience before leading them into a full on aural assault. The new songs sounded beastly too – especially ‘All Out Life’. On record it sounds similar to their ‘IOWA’ days, but in a live setting it feels like an entirely different beast. It feels angrier, more full of pain and angst – something the crowd lapped up and used as energy to further fuel the pits. Closing their set with ‘Spit It Out’ and ‘Surfacing’ was the ultimate ending – the former providing yet another historical record breaking number of greebos sitting down in a field at the same time, and the latter providing those very same greebos with one final opportunity to release every last drop of adrenaline in their systems. Slipknot are a machine built for festivals, and this Download performance was a testament to that. They couldn’t have been more perfect if they tried. [DS]