System Of A Down – Download 2011, Donington

By Tom Aylott


Unfortunately, an overturned car and some other transport issues left us missing a fair chunk of Friday, but we have it on rather good authority that YOUNG GUNS, JAPANESE VOYEURS and DON BROCO laid waste to the early hours of the festival.

Our first venture out was to watch the practically unstoppable BRING ME THE HORIZON, who seem to be going from strength to strength of late. Following up on last year’s ‘There is a Hell…’, the band have been assaulting festivals this summer already and gave the second stage crowd at Download exactly what they expected. The sound wasn’t doing them a huge amount of favours, but if there was any doubt about them earning their place on that stage, they’ve dissolved by the end of a rampant set.

THE DARKNESS, however, weren’t anything as exciting. The hits were all present and correct, and played with all the gusto in the world, but outside of that, it’s a little evident that the Darkness may not be able to keep this re-emergence going unless they up their game. The new material fell a little flat and album tracks even flatter, and there’s a big air of indifference from a large majority of the crowd, which is a shame considering how brilliant the musicianship is within the band.

KORN are one of the masters of the darker ends of “nu” metal, and despite a bit of an awkward billing, they keep the evening alive with some fabulously over the top performances. The band are doing better than most in updating their sound to keep with the times, and there’s plenty of love and respect for them throughout this, a solid performance at a festival they’re proud to be at.

DEF LEPPARD close the night off on the main stage with a performance that not only show their years, but also much of the crowd’s, but that said – it’s very hard not to respect the amount of hard work the band have put in over the years, and just how many songs you’d recognise no matter what age you are.


More than a few of the early risers at Download on the Saturday were greeted with the powerhouse metalcore outfit THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, and though it’s not particularly the cup of tea of many here, the band can’t be denied credit for brilliant performance. It may be a little silly and over the top, but it’s a solid start to the day and dusts off the cobwebs nicely.

RISE TO REMAIN were up shortly on the second stage and manage to pull off one of the most impressive performances of the weekend. It’s really just up and up for these guys, and with a few more high profile performances like this, it’s easy to imagine them steaming up the billings over the next year or so.

On the Pepsi Max stage, there’s a set of bands that basically end up owning the afternoon. LETLIVE’s already infamous Security Scuffle ends up being one of the moments of the weekend, and there’s plenty of big moments ahead for them in the UK this year. YOUR DEMISE and TRASH TALK, well, we’ve spoken about those guys before, but the carnage was just unrelenting on that side of the festival for a massive portion of the day.

SKINDRED‘s festival performances are basically, year in year out, a massive highlight, and Benji rarely even breaks a sweat rousing a rabble. The ridiculous dance moves and massive breakdowns are synonymous with the band, and they basically sum up what a festival set should be: pure entertainment.

Because of that particularly adventurous approach to main stage performance, we only managed to catch a small part of BLITZ KIDS, but both them and HEIGHTS that followed represented with great style on the Red Bull Stage.

FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND had one of the most unfortunate billings of the weekend, and we must admit that we were swayed towards the main stage and away from the band for the most part at Download, but of what we saw – the tent was rammed and the band were doing exactly what they do best.

And that clash, well, it was THE set of the weekend for us here at Punktastic, and SYSTEM OF A DOWN really didn’t dissapoint. Twenty two songs of absolute off-the-walls carnage, and by the end of it, the entire crowd was begging for more. However, they didn’t get it, and the band just left us to heading back to the nearest alcohol outlet, but for an hour and a bit, System of A Down were back in the UK, and it was brilliant.


On the last day of Download, the rain that had been predicted for the weekend finally arrived. And arrived in a way could be described as biblical.

Early in the day between many hot drinks, FRANK TURNER made an appearance backstage to perform a few numbers, and though it was all a bit awkward, everyone was glad to be under cover and within a few feet of an urn.

BIOHAZARD and MADINA LAKE were the first two bands that we caught on the main stage, and whilst the rain continued to put the dampeners on the day, both put on great performances that got awfully close to turning those sodden frowns upside down.

BOWLING FOR SOUP, however, lifted more than a few spirits diung what they do best, and put a smile or twelve on everyone’s faces. At a glance it’s a bit of an odd billing, but then Bowling For Soup are such an institution at the festival that it makes all kinds of sense. The band were never the “biggest” of their ilk, but they’re certainly up there with the most consistent live performers, and on the on-stage antics (though they really should by now) never get old.

THE PRETTY RECKLESS were up next, and though it’s all a bit Britney Spears doing “I Love Rock And Roll” in places, they’re absolutely note perfect, and you can’t really say fairer than that. No second guess on who everyone’s paying attention to though.

ACODA put down a great effort over at Red Bull, and though there’s maybe a few sticking their head in to avoid the rain, they do more than enough to pick up a host of fans this weekend, and it’s great to see the metal outfit get some well-deserved attention.

By this point, THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM are staring out at a pretty sparse crowd, and despite absolutely valiant attempts to keep everyone in the mood, it’s got to the point where the wind is sapping the energies of everyone involved, and there’s more than a few debating calling it a day towards the end of their set.

Thankfully, we weren’t going anywhere, and it was the turn of DEAF HAVANA to entertain. The band are right on the edge of exploding, and you can see the tension that brings when they’re on stage – there’s a few stuttery moments, and the sound is making things a little difficult in places, but it’s far more than forgivable, and actually endearing to see a band giving such a shit. The set is well put together, and hopefully they ‘ll be back next year after the album drops for a even more singalongs.

At this point, team Punktastic had to take a sit down before we fell down, and returned only to finish off our weekend with another nasty clash. FRANK TURNER, again, had a massive crowd and appeared to be laying waste to the Pepsi Max stage, but we ventured out to the now rain-free outside to conclude our evening. Compared to System of A Down previously, and perhaps due to the state of the site earlier in the day, the atmosphere for LINKIN PARK really wasn’t particularly electric, and the band didn’t do themselves too many favours by opting for a setlist that left big gaps between the “hits”. Their new material is by no means dull, but the difference in style between recent records and earlier material is almost so large to make them feel a different band. The classics do all arrive eventually, but it’s a bit of a non-starter of a headline set, and one that matched the general mood of the day.

Overall, the weekend was a blast (the lesser said about the post-band activities the better), but the rain literally put a dampener on Sunday, and it never quite recovered. Hopefully next year the weather will be kinder, because when Download’s on form, it’s a riot.