LIVE: Download Festival Pilot 2021 – Sunday

By Yasmin Brown

It’s been a long, long time since Punktastic have been able to cover live music as we’ve always known it, and to be able to dive back in at the one and only Download Festival is more than we could ever have hoped for.

The crowd was smaller, as was the lineup, but after 15 months away from the pit and even longer away from the fields, this reduced capacity Download was all we could ever have hoped for and more.

Pulling together some of the greatest British talent, not even the rain could bring us down as we threw ourselves happily into muddy mosh pits, screaming until we had no voice left at all. Leaving all the weirdness outside the gates, it wasn’t long at all until it felt as though we’d never been away. And we, among our 10,000 peers, were so happy to be home

Thank you, Download – what a triumphant return this was.

Words: Yasmin Brown; Images: Matt Eachus and James Bridle

Saint Agnes

Kicking off Sunday with a bang, Saint Agnes tap into the classic ‘hair of the dog’ recovery method, inspiring us all to drink away our hangovers and get immediately stuck into the final day of this pilot event. It’s hard for anyone to understand just how we reached Sunday morning so damn quickly, but Saint Agnes refuse to let us waste a second of what’s left of this opportunity as without explicitly asking, their performance demands that we lose ourselves once more in the mass of other music lovers that surround us. It’s a dramatic performance that ends with front woman Kitty A Austen smearing blood over her body while repeatedly and dramatically screaming “repent!” before aggressively smashing her guitar around, knocking over speakers and mic stands in the process. At times, this aggression feels somewhat awkward and insincere but it’s easily forgivable when their heavy rock sound so perfectly suits today’s mood, amping us up for what’s left to come. Regardless of whether Saint Agnes are your cup of tea or not, you can’t help but be left feeling fired up and ready to take on the rest of the day. 


While she may not have been around for long, Cassyette is undoubtedly a firecracker just waiting to explode. Taking to the packed second stage, her presence is immediately felt and it’s clear that it’s only time (and probably Covid) preventing her from being bigger than she currently is. It’s not the first time we’ve witnessed her perform this weekend – her first appearance was with the mighty Frank Carter on Friday night – but there’s something very different and a lot more electrifying about seeing Cassyette play her very own set. She’s confident and bold, and while much of the music plays from a track, it’s still an enchanting, exciting and powerful set from start to finish. Her fierce personality combined with an endlessly intriguing sound means we are very much expecting to see her name appear on every festival lineup moving forwards and we can’t wait to follow her on what will undoubtedly be a successful journey to the top.


Like many other bands on the lineup, Loathe have found themselves in a position wherein they released a (bloody brilliant) album with no hope of performing any of those songs life for the foreseeable future. It makes sense, then, that today’s set would be mostly made up of songs from that album, ‘I Let It In And It Took Everything’, and we couldn’t be more pleased about this decision. Loathe are truly something special, and everything there is to love about them shines through in this performance. From the seamless transitions from dirty to clean vocals, and the way the melodies are sewn carefully into the heaviest aspects of the band’s music, to the obvious humility that defines each member and Loathe as a whole, there is so much to love here. It’s the closing number, however, that really stands out, as technical difficulties see fans gladly standing in to help the band finish off ‘Two-Way Mirror’. This moment forges a connection between the band and the fans in a way that a perfectly executed show could never do, the intimacy of such an experience bonding them for life. While their set may have been cut short, this is far from being the end for Loathe. Expect to see a lot more of them where that came from. 

Lonely the Brave

While it may not be their first Download Festival performance, to some it may still seem like an interesting (if not odd) choice to include them on the lineup. But while their softer, arena rock may not be what you’d expect from this metal fest, it doesn’t take too long for them to prove themselves as being entirely worthy of their Sunday afternoon slot. It’s one of the band’s first performance since appointing Jack Bennett as their front man, and the very first wherein they’ve been able to play material they’ve written and released together. The excitement from both the band and the crowd is palpable. 

Bennett seems a little anxious – not least when technical difficulties arise before ‘Backroads’ and he’s left to fill the silence, shuffling somewhat and nervously fluffing up his hair – but this aside, their performance is truly flawless. Like many others who have taken to the main stage across the weekend, guitarist Mark Trotter notes that he doesn’t “need to tell you how special this is”. And he really doesn’t. We can feel it in every note Bennett easily belts out, every riff, every beat, and in every goosebump that appears on our body. Lonely the Brave don’t rely on heavy thrashing or rapid-fire drumming, but the technical intricacy and pure emotion that is showcased here shows that they don’t need any of that to be one of the best bands on the lineup. This band has always been phenomenal, there’s no doubt about that, but with Jack Bennett at the helm, it’s only ever going to go upwards from here. 

Jamie Lenman

Download and Jamie Lenman go waaaay back, and it’s clear from the moment he steps on stage that this is exactly where he belongs, chatting away and reeling through his nine song setlist with total ease. While extremely talented in his own right – and it’s never more clear than it is right now with him standing in front of us – Lenman thrives off giving others a platform, and chooses to open his set with a surprise appearance from Saturday performers Wargasm. It’s an electric way to open his set and goes down a treat with the crowd (although Lenman does later accuse them of being polite cricket spectators…), leading seamlessly into hits such as ‘Popeye’ and ‘All of England is a City’ which receive a similarly excitable reception. With final shout outs to Lonely the Brave (yes!) and Saint Agnes (also yes!), Lenman soon closes his set with a Reuben cover, a little disappointing perhaps for those hoping for more original Lenman content, but smart in that it undeniably left us wanting more. Luckily our wish is Lenman’s demand as not only is Lenman heading off on his headline tour in July, but he’ll be right back here at Donington Park next year. And we’ll be damned if we’re not right back here with him. 

Trash Boat

Could there be a more appropriate way to return to the stage than blasting ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ by Thin Lizzy? No, we don’t think so either and neither, it seems, do Trash Boat, as this is exactly how they choose to introduce themselves today. It’s not long into their ferocious set before front man Tobi Duncan reiterates the sentiment of the weekend, stating with a certain level of disbelief, “I cannot tell you how at home I feel right now”. And for the hundredth time this weekend, we could not agree more. Sprinkled with some of the band’s newer, heavier material, Trash boat predominantly pull from their older catalogue and are met with sheer excitement and delight throughout. While the older stuff receives the greatest reception, however, the band showcase just how much they’ve grown musically since their inception, and by the end of the set, we couldn’t be more ready to step into this new era of Trash Boat that is now almost within reach. As is now more than expected, bodies fly in all directions, voices break through the force with which fans scream the lyrics, and again, we can all agree when Duncan tells us this is all he wants to do for the rest of his life. The longer, 50-minute set means we’re also treated to a cover of Linkin Park’s ‘Given Up’, much to everyone’s delight, and at this point, any tears you’ve been holding back will surely fall as we all remember Chester Benington and the monumental impact he and his bandmates had on the music industry. Undeniably one of the best sets of the weekend, we cannot wait to see what’s on the horizon for this incredible band.  


Ah, Skindred – our favourite reggae / metal band. Actually, they may well be the only reggae / metal band, but even if the industry were saturated with such a combination, we’re still absolutely convinced that they would still be our favourites. How could they not be? The sun is finally shining and it really does feel like Benji Webbe and co have personally plucked the clouds from the sky and pulled down the rays to warm our souls just as much as their music does. This outrageous set arguably receives one of the best crowd reactions of the weekend and it’s easy to see why when Webbe, complete with sequin jacket, commands the stage so easily, bringing joy to all in attendance while still acknowledging the reason we’re all here today. He’s funny and charismatic which only further highlights the talent he and his bandmates have brought to the stage today and you simply cannot help but love them. Throw in a token AC/DC cover and a tiny child in giant headphones being carried across the stage and Skindred really have given us everything we could have asked for as we near the end of our weekend. The bittersweet feeling may be sinking in, but the bitter is held off just a little bit longer with this magnificent performance – one we’ll remember long after we leave the hallowed grounds of Download Festival. 

Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls

You may be asking yourself how a folk rock singer like Frank Turner got along at a heavy rock and metal festival, and we get it, we weren’t really sure how this one would pan out, either. As it turns out, though, Frank Turner is loved by almost everyone, regardless of their usual taste. It’s Sunday evening now and there’s just one band to go after this; people should be tired and grumpy and ready to sleep in their own bed but somehow, the incredible Frank T has provided us with our final wind and this set is, to put it simply, fucking phenomenal. Take one short look around and as he bounces up and down with his acoustic guitar, all you will see is a sea of toothy grins as fans struggle to keep their composure. It doesn’t matter that there hasn’t been another acoustic guitar in sight all weekend, because as Frank says, somehow all competition between bands has gone out of the window, and the same seems to be the case for fans, too. Who cares that this performance isn’t even close to being metal because we’re alive and we’re here and we’re having the absolute most fun we could possibly having anywhere in the world. As he makes his way through each song, he’s met with fans singing back every word, and as the sun shines on the screens and a conga line that spans the width of the tent forms, Turner mirrors this sentiment through gratitude to us and to his band (who he introduces individually by name), and to the music industry in general. As he closes off the set with ‘Four Simple Words’, those previously on the outskirts disappear into the pit with the understanding that this could be their last real chance to dance in a long time, and it really is the perfect way to close off the second stage.