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DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL 20TH ANNIVERSARY REVIEW

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

This year the UK's biggest rock/metal festival, Download, celebrated it's 20th Anniversary in incredible style. The event was extended over 4 days headlined by 3 of the worlds biggest acts to date: Metallica, Bring Me The Horizon and Slipknot with Metallica performing twice on Thursday and Saturday night.

I have been attending Download Festival since 2018, so I am nowhere near being a Download veteran, but I do feel like I am now part of the community. Even with other festivals such as Glastonbury, Bloodstock and even Read/Leeds grabbing my attention with some of the acts performing on the bill, I always have gone back to Download simply because of the atmosphere and it has always been an awesome experience each year that I have attended so far.


Of course, like most festivals, Download has its ups and downs, but for me atleast it's never been a terrible experience, I always leave the grounds in positive spirits after being blown away by those performing at the hallowed grounds of Donington.


In this review I will be talking about my experience of Download as a whole aswell as some reviews for individual bands that truly made my weekend worthwhile. I'll also be discussing some of the negatives that I do feel the festival organisers need to take into consideration.


*Please note, some of the videos I recorded are not the best quality due to me having to keep a distance from crowds due to medical reasons, I will try my best to find the best footage I have. Some footage I've taken from YouTube and the original creator will be credited for it*


Travel and Setting Up


As with every year of Download Fest, traffic is always a nightmare. For us, it was like any other year but this may also have something to do with the fact we was camping in the Disabled Access camp so it is possible we had a bit of an easier time, but with that, we queued for around 2 hours when we finally got near to Donington Park but again this was like any other year that we had attended so far.


We did read over the weekend that some attendees had been sitting in queues for hours upon hours due to issues on the motorway and some poor planning on Downloads part, but this is also a festival that has just sold out for the first time in years and sold every single type of ticket for the first time ever. Over 100,000 people were expected to attend this years event including day ticket holders.


Getting into the campsite was fairly simple for us, thankfully we didn't have to endure the walk that those camping in general camping had to experience. Security were friendly, although we only had a sniffer dog round our car, no actual physical searches like they did in 2018 but I suppose if they did queues would've been quite extreme. The Oxfam team on our site were brilliant, they helped us get the tent secure and was very clear on instructions on what to do after we're all set up. Getting our wristbands was a breeze unlike 2021 when there was a huge wait due to slow internet and with some peoples tickets not being able to load due to signal issues. We must've been sorted within 5-10minutes.


The village from our camp was just a 10minute walk across the car park, and with the location of the village remaining on the concrete rather than it's old location of the field, it was a much easier walk. The access camp did have access to a shuttle but due to me not being in as much pain that weekend we didn't end up using them.

The Village


The village had everything you'd need to keep yourself entertained outside of the Arena and your campsite. Plenty of food vendors, the prices where... not on the low side, but doable if you prepared enough for the weekend, many clothing stools, an Oxfam stall that sold second hand band merch but I must admit, £40 for a second hand tee, I'm good thanks.


It also had the Co-Op that was open until 2am, sold the usual foods and drinks but it wasn't usual co-op prices, my friend spent £4 on 1 sandwhich. If you had your Co-Op card though things were much cheaper, it's a bit cheeky I know but it's worth getting one even if you're just gonna use it at Download Fest, plus if you rack up those points you'll get freebies on the app. At one point the DJ inside the tent (Yeah, they had a DJ!), announced anyone with a Co-Op card currently being served at a till was getting their entire order for FREE! We was just one person behind which was a wee bit annoying but we lived...


Finally, the Village also had a comedy tent, we didn't end up going to any of the sets although my friend did go to the Rock Workout on Thursday which they thoroughly enjoyed.


The Weekend of Tunes!


Download weekend was insane, plenty of artists for everybody, but there was one key artist that I was looking forward too, and that was I Prevail. I first saw them perform in 2019 at Download, their slot was early in the morning and after their set I said they need a later set as they absoloutely smashed it, low and behold, 2023 rolls around and they played 1 before the Subheadliner and absoloutely tore up the main stage! Would happily see them again.


Of course, I Prevail was not the only band I saw perform, the first day we witnessed the almighty Jinjer and oh my god did they perform! Tatiana's vocals are like no other, and like I said about I Prevail, they need a much higher slot in the day. Too damn good to be playing that early. I took a video of their performance of I Speak Astronomy (excuse the quality):



Even though my phones audio quality ain't the best, you can hear the insane talents that those guys have to try to contain within. Absoloute 10/10 performance, but as I said, later slot please Andy Copping!


Straight after Jinjers insanity, Halestorm graced the stage with their presence. I've seen Lzzy and the gang perform live 3 times now and each time has always been incredible. Unfortunately, during the performance we had someone directly behind us having a very loud conversation about guitars, don't get me wrong I learnt a thing or two but I would've liked to hear Halestorm ahaha!


Here's their performance of Love Bites:

Even just from this small snippet of their live performance at DL 2023, Halestorm 100% deserve a main stage headliner spot. It's been a long time coming and they 100% deserve it!


Due to my medical conditions I unfortunately had to bail for Skindred and Alter Bridge performances on Thursday night, but I did manage to get myself to go and witness the legendary Metallica! I didn't get any video footage due to my pain levels but as expected, they put on one hell of a show and after this performance, I had officially seen all 4 of the big 4 bands.


On Friday 9th June, I finally ticked off a band from my live music bucket list. I have been wanting to see Pendulum since I was a kid and I finally got to see them performing at my favourite music festival and they totally smashed it!


Here they are performing their remix of Blood Sugar / Voodoo People and it was mental! I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

On our way out of the Arena Pendulum performed 'Halo' which is a single they collaborated with Bullet For My Valentine, during this performance the bands lead vocalist Matt Tuck joined Pendulum on stage and it was awesome! The track has quickly become one of my favourite singles by Pendulum, most likely due to my love for Bullet but Pendulum on their own is just something else. I'm not usually a fan of electro music but Pendulum just hits me in the right spot, I'd happily go and see them again.


Due to my medical issues I missed out on the remainder of Friday, which includes Bring Me The Horizon and from what I've seen they put on a hell of a performance. I need them to come back ASAP!


Saturday kicked off with a bang, I got to see Polaris for the first time, I've been listening to them for years and have received PR for them in the past. This band really knows how to perform live, their live performance is top quality, I can definitely see them getting a higher spot at DL in the future.


Here's a video of them performing 'Inhumane':

Polaris also performed my favourite track by them called 'The Remedy', if it weren't for the fact my body didn't like the fact I was moving about, I'd of been in the crowd losing my sh*t!

Most certainly one of my highlights of the weekend.


After Polaris we stayed around to catch Ice Nine Kills, now I was sceptical about seeing them again as I was so hyped up for them in 2022 but I felt a bit let down, it may have just been where I was stood but I didn't really enjoy their performance last year. However, this year, INK slaughtered the main stage and is now a band I'd happily go and see again.


I recorded them performing 'IT Is the End' which was absolutely NUTS! Spencers screams are deathly and pulls off being creepy very well. Wasn't a fan of the back-up vocalist's screams, did kinda sound like he needed a soothers, wasn't terrible by all means, I can't scream for sh*t, but that's my only negative review on INKs performance. If INK was given a later slot and the ability to add even more theatrics to their live shows, I believe it'll be one of the best live shows I've ever seen.


Everything about this performance blew me away, the theatrics, the costumes, EVERYTHING. I'm so happy that this years performance was so much better than 2022, I will certainly be keeping a look out for INK tickets when they tour the UK next.


OH WA AH AH AH, WE SAW DISTURBED! Silly me forgot to even record anything during their performance as I was just enjoying myself far too much. I've been listening to Disturbed since I was in secondary school and have always wanted to see them live and I can finally say that I have and that I f*cking loved it!


I found some footage on YouTube uploaded from another user Michał Koszela who recorded them performing Down With The Sickness, Draimans vocals have never ceased to amaze me, epic band to see live!


On Saturday I was meant to go and see two of my favourite acts, Motionless In White and Three Days Grace, but as mentioned above I was having some medical issues so I unfortunately had to miss out, I heard them from the camp and they sounded mint and I wish I was their to witness it. I am determined to do 2024 without ANY hiccups even if it kills me!


I managed to drag myself into the arena for Metallica, like hell was I going to miss another performance on Saturday. Metallica once more put on a show like no other and they performed some of my favourite tracks, but one stood out amongst the rest, and that has to be Wherever I May Roam. My all time favourite 'Tallica track. I struggled to contain myself from the minute Lars kicked those drums into gear.


Finally, we get on to Sunday. The first act of the day for us was Avatar, I saw them for the first time in 2018 by accident. We was getting lunch from the infamous Easy Cheesey stall, sat down and they began to perform. I had no clue who Avatar was, I wasn't even paying attention at first until I heard them perform The Eagle Has Landed, I instantly recognised it from when I used to play Guitar Hero, I had no clue it was them that created the song. It immediately grabbed my attention and now I am a huge fan of Avatar.


I recorded them performing the track 'Smells Like A Freakshow', we had a pretty crap view of the stage but I didn't care at this point I just wanted to actually make it to a band I wanted to see! They did exactly what they did in 2018, put on an epic performance and gave it their all. Although, I do think they should've been kept on the main stage.


Next up, is the band that I purposely bought the tickets for. Obviously, there was a ton of other acts that I was looking forward too, but I Prevail are my all time favourite band at this point. I love every single track from their latest album 'True Power' and I'm pretty sure I know all the lyrics by now. Even spent £80 on a hoodie just because it had the lyrics from Self-Destruction, which if you haven't guessed, is my favourite song by I Prevail, but I do have to say, 'Come and Get It' from their Lifelines album is still up there.


I saw these guys for the first time in 2019, they performed early in the morning which meant they had a smaller set and less people in the crowd. They still put on a show and after that set I've always said they need a higher spot on the bill and I'm so damn happy to see them much higher for 2023.


I also want to mention, before we got into the arena for I Prevail, we walked to the Co-Op, I had to head to the car to get my card and at the time there was nothing on it, we walked back into the Arena, saw I Prevail and after that I packed our tent down as we planned to leave Sunday night after Slipknot. We got to the car, and it was caked in thick dust from I Prevails circle pit, it had traveled across the arena to the access car park. Just shows how mental that pit must've been.


I am so proud of I Prevail, they've come so far in their careers and I hope one day to see them fill one of the headliner spots.



Before I forget! We also saw a band called SiM on the Sunday, travelled all the way from Japan to play their first ever UK show. I had never heard of them before but a friend wanted to see them as they know them from their track 'The Rumbling' which features in the anime series 'Attack on Titan'. SiM is definitely a band that has flown straight under my radar, they're an epic band to see live and their performance of 'The Rumbling' is incredible.


This is a video uploaded by user DENMETA, brilliant quality. I need to seriously get something better to record with. Thought my 14 Pro Max would do the job ahaha


We did miss out on Parkway Drives performance as I said above, we went back to pack up ready to leave after the 'Knot, however, it sounded immense from the camp and we could even feel the floor vibrating as we was packing away. It's a shame to miss them but I got to see them in 2018 so I'm sure their 2023 performance was even more epic!


Slipknot, I also got to see perform in 2019, admitedly back then I wasn't exactly blown away. They'd always been a bucket list act for me but something about their 2019 performance didn't hit the spot for me. Maybe I'm just too critical as I might've been with INK, but the 'Knots 2023 show was INSANE, it's made me fall in love with the band once again and I SO want to see them again.


All I have to say for this video, is CUT CUT CUT ME UP!


And with that, draws a close to my time at Download Festival 2023. There was many other bands I wish I was able to go and see and I will be making damn sure I push through for 2024 so help me god!


These are the bands I was supposed to see but I missed:

Smash Into Pieces

Bloodywood

Asking Alexandria

Motionless In White

Three Days Grace

Kid Bookie

The Blackout

Evanescence

Architects

Alter Bridge

Monuments

Stray From The Path


Some of these acts on the list I've worked with in the past and I am so sorry I wasn't able to make it to your show, but I will be keeping an eye out for shows near me. I really did not want to miss any of these.


The Finale


Overall, despite all the issues I encountered, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Download Festivals 20th Anniversary. I managed to push through to the very end and I was blown away by every single band that I saw over the weekend.


There are a few things that I do believe Download Fest needs to take a look at, the biggest one is making sure there is enough space for people. I know festivals are meant to have alot of people but this year sold out every single ticket option available and it just seemed like they didn't really accomodate for it. The arena was so packed that many people struggled to get about, myself included. There was huge queues for the water points and the merch queues where equality bad. There's always going to be a wait for these things but with a heatwave over the weekend and not many other options, people did struggle. Also providing more shaded areas would be a good shout, the shaded areas available this year where used as toilets by some people so couldn't exactly go and sit down and cool off so you're ready to party again.


Prices this year in my opinion weren't too bad, but we was lucky enough to have a vendor at the end of our campsite, and £12 for a full english brekkie is fair to me as that's a price I'd expect at a cafe, admitedly it didn't have everything you'd usually get but it's a festival, it's gonna be higher.


Whilst I also understand that space is a premium, especially at a sold out event like Download, forcing people to take down gazebos in a heatwave is just asking for problems. I'd get it if someone had a gazebo the size of an 8 man tent taking up tons of space, but we had ours directly outside our tent in a space that we'd need to be able to light a barbeque anyway, but we was forced to take it down or we'd be asked to leave by security, which I thought was a bit much.


Despite these issues, Download Fest was amazing. Every single band that I got to see put on a really good show, most of which went without any issues from what I could tell and most people where enjoying themselves. We've already booked tickets for 2024 and I highly recommend that you attend Download at least once, even if it is for a day. The majority of those that attend are lovely people, I've never once had an issue with anyone, no ones ever been rude, pushed me out the way and even some of the drunks are good to be around.


My predictions for Download 2024 are:

Avenged Sevenfold (New Album)

System Of A Down (Pulled out from last year)

KoRn (New headliner?)


Did you attend Download 2023? Why not share some memories with us via our socials. Whether it be a live band or even some funny moments, like this one:


We actually met the guys who where screaming on the ride, lovely people. Jon, if you're reading this, I hope you had an amazing weekend!





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