LIVE: Download Festival 2022 – Friday

By Ellie Odurny

It’s been three long years since we’ve been able to grace Download Festival at its full capacity, and we are delighted to finally have it back in 2022. All four stages, countless amazing bands, beautiful sunshine and tens of thousands of eager, smiley, energetic and ever-so-slightly drunk rock and metal fans are all here to make up for lost time, and we are overjoyed to be a part of this reunion. With three jam-packed days of incredible music to explore, we made sure that we went well over our daily step count to indulge in as much live music as we possibly could and experience everything that rock’s spiritual home has to offer. It feels AMAZING to be back.

Words: Ellie Odurny; Images: Penny Bennett


The gates of the arena haven’t yet been open an hour, yet a few of the crowd assembled in the Avalanche stage for Pengshui seem to have been on the breakfast beers, already throwing themselves around to the sing/shout-along chorus of ‘Break The Law’. For those not quite as awake yet, the thundering bass and infectious energy from the genre-crossing trio quickly spreads throughout the tent, with even the stragglers around the edges nodding in agreement when MC Illaman asks, “Ain’t it nice to be back in a field with loud music?”. By the time we get to penultimate track ‘Nobody Cares’, the circle pit erupts with fervour, peppered with additional percussion from Illaman smashing the microphone against his head. If every band on the bill over the next three days brings this level of enthusiastic, filthy noise, we’re all in for a treat.

Bury Tomorrow

Instantly aggressive, Southampton metalcore outfit Bury Tomorrow waste no time making their presence known, opening with the brutal onslaught of ‘Choke’ and ‘The Grey (VIXI)’ from 2020 album ‘Cannibal’. Perhaps luckily for the throng of energetic fans, the melodic moments of keyboardist Tom Prendergast’s clean vocals in both tracks give everyone a chance to breathe, soaking up the relentless heat of the early afternoon sun. Lead vocalist Dani Winter-Bates tells the crowd “I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long fucking time” and the sense of pride, relief and excitement to perform from the whole band is palpable. With both Prendergast and rhythm guitarist Ed Hartwell being new additions to the band, replacing Jason Cameron last year, today gives us the first live rendition of recent single ‘DEATH (Ever Colder)’, complete with flames bursting from the front of the stage. The contrast of screaming and clean vocals throughout is brilliantly balanced, always underpinned by savage beats, crushing basslines and slick guitar licks. With some huge circle pits and more crowd-surfers than you can shake a fist at, it’s clear that Bury Tomorrow can deliver an impressive main stage set, and it can’t be long until they’re climbing up the bill for an ever-growing fanbase of the metal masses.

Black Veil Brides

Black Veil Brides arrive on stage in a puff of smoke and leap straight into the thundering riff of 2014’s ‘Faithless’. The smoke and lights don’t do quite enough to distract from the fact that the sound isn’t great, however, and the slightly sparse crowd don’t seem to be blown away by the opening minutes of the set. Vocalist Andy Biersack seems as comfortable as ever though, donned in dark sunglasses, chewing gum and striding across the stage, addressing the crowd in his unmistakeable Californian drawl. Despite the overarching lukewarm reception, the die-fans still scream with joy for favourites ‘Rebel Love Song’ and ‘Knives and Pens’, and the earlier sound troubles seem to improve throughout the set. Guitarists Jinxx and Jake Pitts frequently meet centre-stage, adopting the characteristic back-to-back rock stance to showcase their strumming and picking talent, and by the end of the set, a few more heads are nodding along with closing classics ‘Fallen Angels’ and ‘In The End’. From a shaky beginning, Black Veil Brides finish on a high, leaving smiles on faces of glam metal-loving, black-clad revellers.

Meet Me @ The Altar

US east coast trio Meet Me @ The Altar bring their energetic brand of pop punk to a small but dedicated crowd at the Avalanche stage. With steadily growing popularity since releasing 2021 EP ‘Model Citizen’, their Download debut is full of enthusiasm, positivity and confidence. The tuning isn’t always on point, but the reaction to their popular mash up of covers ‘Sweetness’, ‘My Friends Over You’, ‘Break Stuff’ and ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ more than makes up for any vocal wobbles. With an album scheduled for release in 2023, Meet Me @ The Altar have plenty of time to keep spreading their 21st century take on pop punk across the world, and there’s no doubt that this is exactly what they intend to do.


The huge crowd gathered for Skindred on the Apex stage is testament to a band whose reputation for putting on a stonking live show precedes them. Arriving on stage to the sound of The Imperial March, vocalist Benji Webbe’s enormous stage presence blasts across the site as the band launch into ‘Under Attack’. He interacts with the crowd seamlessly throughout the set, simultaneously exuding the charisma of a total rockstar and accessibility of a Newport local. There are few front men who manage to display such unbridled magnetism without a hefty side dose of over-inflated ego, but Webbe somehow nails it – time after time. Skindred are a band who are impossible to pigeon-hole into one specific genre and this diversity continues with the live debut of new track ‘Smile Please’. The chilled, reggae-influenced beat and singalong chorus of “L-O-V-E, Love” are a departure from the heavier riffs but the catchy and upbeat tune has great sync potential and goes down a treat with the sun-drenched masses. The quartet deliver a set packed with hits like ‘Pressure’ and ‘Kill the Power’ and by the time we reach closer ‘Warning’, the majority of the crowd are already grinning from ear to ear and spinning various items of clothing above their heads for the legendary “Newport Helicopter”. Skindred have perfected the art of putting on an impeccably fun show that’s particularly suited to a festival atmosphere and today is no exception.


A late scheduling shuffle means that Skindred are right in the middle of entertaining the hordes gathered down the hill when Bokassa take to the stage in the Dogtooth tent. The Norwegian stoner-punks still have a decent sized, slightly older audience present, who are gently headbanging along to some old-school heavy riffs and fuzzy bass. There’s maybe not as much amusing chatter from vocalist Jørn Kaarstad as fans of the band might have expected but that could be because the mic doesn’t seem to be turned up nearly high enough. It’s a shame, as what we could hear sounded great, but with a set list packed full of potential, Bokassa weren’t sounding their best today.

Sleep Token

For a band who essentially never interact with their audience, Sleep Token have mastered the art of captivating a crowd through their music alone. With the tent at the Avalanche stage full to the brim, they appear in their typical black gowns and masks, opening with 2021’s ‘Alkaline’, the fans singing along in impressive harmony. Given that Sleep Token are heavily reliant on mystery and atmosphere, one wonders how they might have fared on a larger stage in the blazing evening sunshine but here in the shade of the tent, the light show does its job as the band hypnotise everyone with their ambient, heavy riffs. The bass on ‘Jaws’ is huge, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the raw emotion of ‘Mine’ and ‘Higher’. The band have been performing their “rituals” for long enough now that it’s clear none of their style is a mere gimmick. As they close out the set with favourite ‘Offering’, it’s clear that fans will continue to flock to worship the deity “Sleep” for as long as Sleep Token continue to deliver their unique style of poignant, heavy, industrial-infused metal.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Festival favourites Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes bring their charismatic punk energy to close the Opus stage on Friday Evening. A respectable sized crowd is immediately bopping and singing along, hitting colourful beach balls in the air and being covered with an explosion of ticker tape even before opening song ‘My Town’ has come to an end. Always a big fan of a bit of chatter, Carter gives a promo speech for his Hoxton tattoo studio Rose of Mercy before playing ‘Go Get a Tattoo’, and later describes track ‘Cupid’s Arrow’ as an ode to Hoxton. There’s the ever-popular “ladies only” mosh pit, Carter’s propensity to walk out onto the shoulders of the crowd, touching moments during slower numbers like ‘Angel Wings’, and a cover of The Distiller’s track ‘Drain The Blood’ – a tribute to the slot that the LA band were due to play before postponing all European dates earlier in the year. With the amusing sight of thousands of merry people still singing “I hate you and I wish you would die”, they announce that there’s time for one more song and end the set triumphantly with the toe tapping rock’n’roll ‘Crowbar’. It might not have been the slickest set, but the variety of hits and a sense of passion and infectious vitality mean the punk rock party spirit lingers on as the festival goers gradually disperse.


If you believe them this time, tonight’s headline performance from rock stalwarts Kiss is to be their last at Donington, the band having announced their imminent retirement after this “farewell” tour. With giant statues of the band flanking the stage, the theatrics begin as the curtain drops and Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer are lowered to the stage on individual platforms, with drummer Eric Singer bashing out the opening beats on a levitating drum riser. Still looking great for a band who are all over 60, they open with classic pairing of ‘Detroit Rock City’ and ‘Shout It Out Loud’. Perhaps they’ve not quite warmed up properly, or maybe it’s the mellowing effect of the last of the summer evening daylight, but the opening part of the set doesn’t seem to pack the punch that you might expect from these veterans’ last hurrah. The hits are delivered with skill, it’s all in tune and on time, but the magic just isn’t quite there. The band are incredibly good at playing to the camera, and this level of performance saves the solos from becoming entirely self-indulgent and devoid of entertainment value, with comedy moments carefully curated to elicit cheers and chuckles from those in the crowd who are still paying attention.

It seems that as the light fades, the energy increases and by the time we’re into the latter part of the show, it’s all guns blazing for the theatrical Kiss spectacle. Simmons’ infamous blood drool serves as a precursor to the massive ‘God of Thunder’, and a 70-year-old Stanley still wows the punters by ziplining over to the sound tent to perform hits ‘Love Gun’ and ‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You’ to a now backwards-facing crowd. By the time we get to the triple-threat encore of ‘Beth’, ‘Do You Love Me?’ – complete with scores of giant white “Kiss” balloons launched into the crowd – and ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’, everyone is singing along in great spirits. It’s been a farewell show thankfully light on sentimentality and heavy on hits, with the showmanship and crowd interaction improving steadily over the course of the two hour set. Leaving with a flourish of fireworks, confetti and a message on the screens simply saying “Kiss loves you Donington”, the Friday night headliners close on a high, a fitting send-off for these illustrious flamboyant rockers.