FESTIVAL REVIEW: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL 2018 Live at Donington Park, UK – Day 2 (Saturday)
Following the previous day’s action which featured Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet for My Valentine, You Me at Six, Bad Religion, Volbeat and a plethora of others taking to the festival’s four stages, it was now time for Saturday to get underway – featuring performances from a wide variety of bands including headliners Guns n’ Roses in addition to Black Stone Cherry, Babymetal, Parkway Drive, Thy Art is Murder and various others.
The first band that I saw on the second day of Download Festival was British pop/alternative rock newcomers Tigress, fresh off a summer 2017 slot playing with Green Day and a tour with Billy Talent. Despite Tigress not having released any full-length studio albums yet, and with only a handful of EPs and singles so far to their name, the attendance in the tent they performed in was relatively healthy, again an accomplishment given the early stage time they received. In the context of the festival in general, it was a decent but forgettable performance, but it’s still very early days for Tigress so here’s hoping that the future is particularly bright for them.
And now for one of the most enjoyable performances of not just the Saturday but the entire weekend, courtesy of UK-comedy thrashers Lawnmower Deth. Comedy acts in rock and metal can be very hit and miss, as some manage to nail the balance between entertaining hijinks and well-crafted songwriting and musicianship, whereas others well, don’t. Lawnmower Deth are a fine example of the former, with a surprisingly large crowd for an early-second stage act and with a variety of genuinely amusing on-stage charades that perfectly accompanied the songs instead of feeling like a deliberately implemented distraction. With the exception of Municipal Waste, Lawnmower Deth is the best example of a heavy metal band incorporating humour into their live performances, bar none.
Bury Tomorrow, over the course of the last decade, have without a doubt proven themselves to be one of the key bands in metalcore when it comes to the 2010s, and their performance at Download was a clear signifier of that. It’s easier than it appears to tell when a band turns up and plays to a home crowd, and this was exactly the situation that Bury Tomorrow found themselves in. Despite not bashing out their perhaps biggest song “Lionheart” and instead opting to focus on new material ahead of their upcoming record ‘Black Flame’, Bury Tomorrow was an absolute success and going to see them with 36 Crazyfists and Cane Hill in the UK at the end of the year should be a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.
Rolo Tomassi and Asking Alexandria followed, albeit on different stages. Despite Tomassi having opened for Jane’s Addiction, The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Bronx throughout their time as a band, the tent for their performance did feel slightly empty, but those in attendance who were familiar with the band made up for the crowd turnout with undeniable enthusiasm. Asking Alexandria, on the other hand, drew a much bigger crowd, but odd setlist choices (for example, choosing to dominate the performance with songs from their more recent albums as opposed to what made them to begin with) did make Asking Alexandria’s comeback performance at Download perhaps not what it could’ve been, or should’ve been, depending on your own opinion.
Tucked away on the festival’s smallest stage for the next hour or two was plenty of hardcore, out of the path of most festival goers who would be drawn to the event’s bigger stages and top-level performances. A one-two of Malevolence and Knocked Loose turning up to absolutely destroy in every sense of the word was one of the best periods of the entire festival. Malevolence, despite being homegrown, could’ve had a bit more energy from the crowd despite it being suitably rowdy. To me at least, it did feel a bit quiet even at the best of times. Knocked Loose, on the other hand, tore Download a new one and played exactly the sort of setlist that cemented their position as one of their genre’s most vibrant new bands. With plenty of material from their debut ‘Laugh Tracks’ as well as the best of the rest of their discography, and a crowd so relentlessly aggressive that I believe security almost had to ask them to stop performing at one point, Knocked Loose showed everyone how it’s done, and long may it continue.
By this point, 2nd stage headliners Parkway Drive were already 3 or 4 songs into their hour-long stint on stage, so I was fortunate enough to catch a significant portion of their time on stage as well. With two big consecutive London shows both sold out in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and with the prospect of arena shows on the horizons (no pun intended), Parkway brought the pyro in appropriate measure. Some old-school fans would be disappointed by the absence of “Boneyards” and “Romance is Dead”, but nonetheless “Idols and Anchors” made it into the setlist alongside a wealth of tracks from their newer records ‘Ire’ and ‘Reverence’, leading to the closing track “Bottom Feeder” paving the way for the sort of joint-musical and on-stage spectacle people can expect to see when they return to play in the UK at the beginning of 2019.
As Guns n’ Roses took to Donington for the first time in many moons, over on the fourth stage Australian deathcore favourites Thy Art is Murder played to a tent so packed it was almost impossible for me to squeeze inside. With a good bunch of tracks from their latest record ‘Dear Desolation’ plus some older material and a cover of Rammstein’s “Du-Hast”, Thy Art is Murder definitely cemented themselves to be a band with a solid enough discography as well as staying power to justify headlining one of the stages at Download, even if their set was shorter than most 4th stage headlining acts at this festival.
Considered by some to be the best UK pop-punk band ever, Neck Deep meanwhile over on the 3rd stage also positioned themselves as a legitimate force to be reckoned with when it comes to live performance. A 60-minute set composed of material largely from 2015’s ‘Life’s Not Out to Get You’ and 2017’s ‘The Peace and the Panic’, Neck Deep had, surprisingly perhaps, one of the most feverish and rabid crowd responses of any band I saw across the entire weekend. A mighty job well done.
Headline act Guns n’ Roses insistence on a three and a half hour set time meant that both diehard and casual fans got plenty to enjoy from Axl, Slash, and co. With homages to Pink Floyd, Soundgarden, Misfits, Velvet Revolver and more, as well as “It’s So Easy”, “You Could Be Mine”, “Welcome to the Jungle” and all the other standout tracks, Guns n’ Roses’ headline set at Download 2018 proved that they’re one of the few bands of their ilk that are still capable of providing an incredibly memorable performance if they truly are invested in it. And this time, it definitely felt like they were.
With day 2 of Download Festival drawing to a close as the sun set as Guns n’ Roses played on, the prospect of the final day of music loomed in everybody’s minds as did the performances of the last 48 hours. The fact that bands across the board irrespective of age, genre, legacy etc put on worthwhile performances is a testament to the quality of the festival in general.