An Epic Weekend Of Mud And Moshing At Download Festival 

Liquid Death Presents Download Festival returned for its twenty-first instalment, and we trudged our way through the mud to catch as many bands on this epic lineup as we could. Here’s what we managed to see.

Friday

People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024

People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

With all the talk before the festival about this year’s lineup being the most diverse of its twenty-one-year history, it feels fitting to start my day watching Frozemode. The London-based alternative-rap trio are not what you would consider a traditional Download band, but the early risers who pack out the Dogtooth Stage give them their seal of approval.

Frozemode @ Download Festival 2024

Frozemode @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Frozemode @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Before the day is out, we also find American mathcore outfit The Callous Daoboys on the Dogtooth Stage and catch headliners, New York hardcore legends Biohazard.

Biohazard @ Download Festival 2024

Biohazard @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Biohazard @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Welsh hard rockers Those Damn Crows are no strangers to this festival, and make their second appearance on the Apex Stage. Kicking off with brand new track Let’s Go Psycho, they have to battle the elements as much as the fans. Indeed, during Man On Fire, the pyro looks dangerously close to actually setting them on fire as the wind and rain wreak havoc. This will be a theme that carries on over the weekend!

Other early acts that feature on the Apex Stage include blues-rock duo The Blue Stones, the flamboyant rock of The Struts, and the prog-rock of Polyphia.

The Blue Stones @ Download Festival 2024

The Blue Stones @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
The Blue Stones @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

The fans at Download have always embraced Black Stone Cherry, propelling them to arena-level status whenever they visit these shores. So, it’s no surprise to see the biggest crowd of the day so far gather to watch a career-spanning set of Southern Rock greatness. Me And Mary JaneWhite Trash Millionaire and Lonely Train have us all head-banging along and counting down the days to their UK tour later this year.

Black Stone Cherry @ Download Festival 2024

Black Stone Cherry @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Black Stone Cherry @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

The Opus Stage brings a wide range of genres. From the Japanese Harajuku Core of Hanabie, punk-rock duo Soft Play, the Mike Patton fronted Mr Bungle and the ritualistic Heilung, it certainly offers something for everyone.

Hanabie @ Download Festival 2024

Hanabie @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Hanabie @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

The Avalanche Stage may be smaller, but being under canvas the artists here ironically benefit from fans looking to stay dry. Emo was the theme of the day with sets from DeathByRomyCharlotte Sands and Silverstein among others.

Death by ROMY @ Download Festival 2024

Death by ROMY @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Death by ROMY @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Charlotte Sands @ Download Festival 2024

Charlotte Sands @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Charlotte Sands @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

After going viral at their disdain at the Radio One Big Weekend crowd last year, Royal Blood are on much safer ground on the Apex Stage. They have to battle a few technical problems, but the Brighton duo give a storming performance on this weekend of stormy weather.

One of the most controversial bookings (on the subject of “are they a Download band?” at least) was Busted. Most definitely closer to pop than rock, talk amongst festival goers billed them as a Marmite band. You love them or hate them. Wheatus precede them and have filled the tent at the Avalanche Stage on their own. If you weren’t already in there to catch the iconic Teenage Dirtbag, there was no chance of being inside to bounce around to Busted and songs most of us proclaimed we were too cool to love back in the day. Given the numbers outside, it feels like half the festival is trying to cram into the tent for this headline performance. An hour of fun featuring their biggest hits such as What I Go To School For and Year 3000 go down an absolute treat for those that would have used Busted as a gateway band to heavier bands in their youth.

Wheatus @ Download Festival 2024

Wheatus @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Wheatus @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Busted @ Download Festival 2024

Busted @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Busted @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Queens Of The Stone Age were also a controversial booking. Many, including myself, questioned whether they were a suitable band to headline Download and I have to say… they don’t prove me wrong. For a festival with a history of flamboyant and dramatic headliners – think KissIron Maiden and last year’s incredible performance by Bring Me The Horizon – this is just too middle of the road for me. It feels like a set that preaches to the converted rather than trying to win over any new fans. Other than No One Knows, they lack the mainstream, radio-friendly, club night anthems that would please non-hardcore fans. It’s a struggle to keep the attention of a crowd who have battled with the bad weather and many take the opportunity to make an early trip back to their tents or catch an alternative headline. Whilst I applaud Download for taking a chance, the small crowd left by the end indicates this just didn’t work.

Queens Of The Stone Age @ Download Festival 2024

Queens Of The Stone Age @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Queens Of The Stone Age @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Saturday 

People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024

People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Download is widely regarded as the most friendly and safe festival, but with all large events trouble can happen. Even Frank Carter the the Rattlesnakes are victims of theft this year, with Frank’s gold chain stolen when he goes into the crowd. Not cool guys.

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes @ Download Festival 2024

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

The weather remains bad and the terrible conditions even interrupt some of the performances. The cult following of Babymetal are left disappointed when the band suddenly leave the stage after their opening song due to a storm warning. As fans rush to any available cover, the big screens apologise for the temporary pause to the show. They do manage to return and end with RATATATA, sadly without Electric Callboy joining them after they pulled out due to illness.

Baby Metal @ Download Festival 2024

Baby Metal @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Baby Metal @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

On the Opus Stage Bleed From Within are joined onstage by comedy duo Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan who are filming for their popular TV programme “Rob and Romesh vs”. They also experience the brutality of Slaughter To Prevail.

Slaughter To Prevail @ Download Festival 2024

Slaughter To Prevail @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Slaughter To Prevail @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Meanwhile, under the protection of canvas, the Dogtooth Stage bring us indie-punk in the shape of Calva Louise and the welcome late addition of Cassyette among others.

Back on the Opus Stage, guitar legend Tom Morello shreds his way through his back catalogue; a mega mix of Rage Against The Machine classics leaving everyone pining for the full band to come out of hiatus. They would be the perfect band to headline the main stage here.

Tom Morello @ Download Festival 2024

Tom Morello @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Tom Morello @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Enter Shikari bring back the sun and rainbows in the stand-out performance of the day. Frontman Rou Reynolds is a natural showman, and spends a lot of time at the barrier, even climbing the huge sound tower during Bloodshot. The highlight however comes when he’s urged to dive into the mud, to huge cheers when he obliges. He’s an artist always connected to the fans but this moment really felt like he was one of us.

Enter Shikari @ Download Festival 2024

Enter Shikari @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Enter Shikari @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

On a lineup featuring so many up-and-coming artists, it’s always good to still have a nostalgia hit. The Offspring’s set dominated by their Americana and Smash albums brings back many happy memories for those of us who had the California punks soundtrack our youth. We don’t get much chance to be Staring At The Sun, but the timeless anthems Want You BadPretty Fly (For a White Guy) and Self Esteem prove why The Offspring are as well-loved as ever.

I hotfoot over to The Avalanche Stage – as quickly as the mud would allow me – to catch Billy Talent. Easily the most underrated band in the punk-rock scene, the tent is full of devotees who feed off the energy of charismatic frontman Benjamin KowalewiczRusted From The Rain feels like a beautifully ironic song for the weekend, whilst a power punch of Red Flag and Fallen Leaves leaves us hyped up for the Main Stage headliners.

Billy Talent @ Download Festival 2024

Billy Talent @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Billy Talent @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

If the Queens Of The Stone Age experiment fell flat, the same cannot be said for Saturday’s headliners Fall Out Boy. An incredibly well-structured setlist takes us on a journey through their whole career, which has led to them finally given the chance to headline this iconic festival. It almost feels like a presentation of “this is why we are here”. From rock night anthems such as Sugar, We’re Going Down and Thnks fr th Mmrs, to the guitar flame throwers during The Phoenix, this is everything a festival headline show should be. To play their most familiar songs so early and to still keep the crowd going “oh yeah we know this one too” should put to bed any arguments that they are not a headline band. Traditional set closer Saturday ends in balloons being sent into the crowd, confetti flying everywhere and fireworks lighting up the sky. This one is a real crowd-pleaser of a show that will surely see them return in future years.

Fall Out Boy @ Download Festival 2024

Fall Out Boy @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Fall Out Boy @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Sunday

People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024

People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Speculation was rife before the festival about a much-heralded secret set, and on Sunday morning it was revealed it would be delivered by Parkway Drive. I squeeze my way into the Dogtooth Stage whilst Missio play before them. If you didn’t, you were destined to be one or the thousands left outside. The Australian Metalcore band treat those of us inside to a blistering six-song set of GlitchPreyVice GripIdols and AnchorsBottom Feeder and Wild Eyes – and they look incredibly happy to play in this relatively intimate setting. Vocalist Winston McCall climbs the stage rigging and the fans sing back every word in this special “I was there” moment. The Dogtooth Stage also saw performances from the modern day hardcore Split Chain and the metalcore of Fit For A King.

Parkway Drive @ Download Festival 2024

Parkway Drive @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Parkway Drive @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Bowling For Soup bring feel-good vibes to the Apex Stage with a typically comedic performance. They are joined at one point by Wheatus frontman Brendan B Brown to cover Teenage Dirtbag, promoting their joint tour next year. There’s sometimes a bit too much on-stage banter but with a back catalogue of some of the best pop-punk anthems like Punk Rock 1011985 and Girls All The Bad Guys Want, Bowling For Soup make it a really fun hour. It helps that Sunday is mercifully dry and sunny at last.

Bowling For Soup @ Download Festival 2024

Bowling For Soup @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Bowling For Soup @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

It’s a shame to see Sum 41 retiring next year as they are the perfect festival band. Download has been billed as their last ever UK Festival performance and if it is, they go out in style. So many recognisable anthems such as MotivationIn Too Deep and Fat Lip have the crowd bouncing around in the now treacherous mud. It may have stopped raining, but it’s too late for the ground.

Sum 41 @ Download Festival 2024

Sum 41 @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Sum 41 @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Nu Metal icons Limp Bizkit steal the weekend for me with a performance that left festival booker Andy Copping saying they need to headline next time and I couldn’t agree more. Although Fred Durst is more Dad Vibes these days, more relaxed and jovial than back in their wild Woodstock 99 heyday, he still knows how to whip up the crowd. They choose to ignore their most recent material and treat us to a throwback set. The familiar riff of Break Stuff make mosh pits open en masse, as the fans go wild for a run of classic hits such as Hot DogRollin’My Generation and My Way. Fred stops the show a couple of times to check on people who had fallen or were injured in the mosh pits, but the crowd-pleasing set continues with a covers medley featuring Come As You AreMaster of Puppets and Sweet Child O Mine, and of course their cover of George Michael’s FaithTake A Look Around – “that weird song Tom Cruise likes” – and a second performance of Break Stuff brings this hour of greatness to a close.

Limp Bizkit @ Download Festival 2024

Limp Bizkit @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Limp Bizkit @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

One of the most unforgiving clashes was Limp Bizkit and Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor. Touring his solo material, he plays to a smaller crowd than he would usually draw on the Opus Stage. The highlight of his set is the always emotional Snuff.

Drawing the shortest of all straws are Hoobastank on the Avalanche Stage. Clashing with both Limp Bizkit and Corey Taylor, they deserve a much bigger crowd. Performing The Reason album in full, they would later play to many more people, delivering an acoustic set in District X. The Avalanche Stage also saw Brighton three-piece Tigercub, plus metalcore mainstays Of Mice And Men and Atreyu among others.

Atreyu @ Download Festival 2024

Atreyu @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Atreyu @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

The weekend is brought to a close by the mighty Avenged Sevenfold. Unquestionably a Download band, this is their third time headlining the main stage. Although their new material is a bit inconsistent, the show picks up the pace with old favourites such as Afterlife and Hail To The King, which is dedicated to all the dads for Father’s Day. Some technical gremlins occur which leave the crowd finishing Nightmare, but the high point was the cult classic necrophilia anthem A Little Piece Of Heaven. It’s a triumphant set to bring an end to yet another incredible weekend at Donington Park. Download Festival is unquestionably the home of rock, and undoubtedly the best festival in the UK.

Avenged Sevenfold @ Download Festival 2024

Avenged Sevenfold @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
Avenged Sevenfold @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

As we scrub our boots, wash and rewash all our clothes, and perhaps condemn our tents; we still only have one thought in our heads – we can’t wait to do it all again next year!

People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024

People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)
People and Atmosphere @ Download Festival 2024 (Simon Reed)

Review of Download Festival 2024 by Will Maxwell. Photography by Simon Reed.

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