Download Festival 2024 - The Review

Download overcomes challenges to produce another rock spectacle

By Luke Seagrave | Published: Fri 21st Jun 2024

Download Festival 2024 - around the site
Photo credit: Luke Seagrave

Download Festival 2024

Wednesday 12th to Sunday 16th June 2024
Donington Park, Donington, Derbyshire, DE74 2RP, England MAP
Currently £322 for adults (weekend with 5 night general camping)
Daily capacity: 111,000

Download Festival returned to Donington Park for its 21st anniversary. Boasting one of the best line ups of any festival in the UK with two brand new main stage headliners with Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) and Fall Out Boy having to uphold headlining duties for the first time alongside previous headliners Avenged Sevenfold.

This should have been a wonderful weekend of music. However, criticism for the festival started way before the event even started, with people complaining about the headliners that were announced not being ‘rock’ such as Busted.

Then there was the issue of bands pulling out (Pest Control, Ithaca) due to the sponsorship from Barclay Card.

Then to add to the growing list of concerns, doubt was cast over Corey Taylors appearance due to him being ill just a few days before Download and Electric Callboy cancelling due to illness.

All of this before the proceedings had officially started. As a music fan, I’m impressed that the Download organisers managed to deal with these issues to ensure that the show must go on so to speak.

Unfortunately, the one thing the organisers have no control over is the weather, and mother nature clearly decided to play havoc with this weekend’s festivities, by letting the heavens open up and provide us with a thorough drenching on the opening day.

As someone who attends a lot of UK festivals, I am fully aware to be prepared for any weather, and even though I had my weatherproof walking boots and jacket, However the chaos that the weather caused was incredible. In no time at all the main arena was just a sea of mud. People were having to walk so carefully, and some not so fortunate were falling over in the mud.

This made walking anywhere in the arena a lot harder than it needed to be, for some people this would be energy sapping after walking from the car park to the arena which seemed to be at best a 20-minute walk if you had a quick pace.

Then there was the obligatory queue to get into the arena, some of the more fortunate people only had to queue for 45 minutes to get in. For other people it was easily over an hour before getting in. I imagine this was due to bag searches. Which was a nightmare, security were adamant that only a bag the size of A4 paper could be allowed in, although when security were spotted waving through some ladies with huge rucksacks. Security were not impressed when challenged about not being consistent with bag sizes.

Once inside the arena, there was plenty of places to grab some food and drinks, although £2.90 for a can of fizzy drink and £16.50 for a Yorkshire pudding, even though it was extortionate, it is somewhat expected at these types of festivals.

One of the main stage bands that did catch my attention were Polyphia, they had managed to draw a fairly big crowd and impressed a lot of people with their progressive instrumental style of rock. Their guitarist Tim Henson is probably one of the most talented guitarists to grace the stage at Download, his laser beam precision of hitting the notes was an incredible sight and a real sensory attack on the ears.

Royal Blood never disappoint, and this is no exception, hard to believe it’s been ten years since their last appearance at Download. With so many great songs, they just let their music do the talking. well, apart from the huge pauses to sort some technical issues. Technical difficulties aside, from the set opener “Out of the Black” this was a non-stop blast through their popular tracks such as “Little Monster” and “Lights Out”. Probably the first band of the day to make punters feel like coping with the mud and rain was worth it after all.

Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA) had their fair share of criticism for being selected as the headliner with people saying they aren’t the type of band that should be headlining Download. Regardless of weather you agree if they should or shouldn’t be headlining, Josh Homme and co brought their A game and delivered the goods with an 18 song setlist. Opening with ‘Little Sister’ and delivering unlimited amounts of riffage from start to set closer “A Song for the Dead”. This was no thrills show, just letting their music do the talking.

Without a doubt, they were worthy headliners, and this hopefully will open the doors for other bands to headline who might not be considered ‘rock enough’ for Download.

There were numerous highlights throughout the weekend, the secret set from Parkway Drive is certainly worthy of a mention. The size of the crowd around the tent for the “secret” band was just a fraction shorter than when Metallica did their surprise set at Download in 2003. The Callous Daoboys were another unexpected delight with their mathcore style of music, they were energetic and unapologetic with their assault on the ears.

My favourite performance of the weekend was Limp Bizkit, belting out most of their older hits such as ‘Rollin’ and ‘Faith’ and completely missing out their new material from the most recent album “Still Sucks”. Seeing Fred wearing what appeared to be a fishermen’s hat instead of the red cap and hiding is face behind very long beard perhaps was a visual indication of how times are changing with music. Hard to believe that it was twenty four years ago since their most well-known album “Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water” was released. Regardless of how long ago it was, currently when Fred Drust is on form paired with Wes Borlands guitar playing there is no band that can even come close to matching the energy that Limp Bizkit create on stage.

Unfortunately, I did not stay to see Avenged Sevenfold headline as I wanted to avoid any car parking chaos that has often occurred in previous years. Thankfully this year driving in and out was no issue at all, so whatever they have put in place appears to be working.

Weather aside and bands cancelling (which are beyond the organisers control) this felt like a different Download to previous years due to the variety of music on offer, and even though I would be lying if I said I liked all the bands on the line up. The good thing was there were so many other bands to go and catch if there was a band I didn’t like and stumble across some hidden gems that I might not have otherwise heard.

This year’s Download Festival was an energy sapping muddy drenched affair and after attending every Download Festival since it began, the conditions this year made me think about not attending anymore. However, when the conditions are good, there is no other festival to match Download.

review by: Luke Seagrave

photos by: Luke Seagrave

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