FESTIVAL REVIEW: DOWNLOAD PILOT FESTIVAL 2021 Live at Donington Park, UK – Day 2 (Saturday)
As Saturday dawns on day two of the Download Festival Pilot, the ever-present rain seems to have finally eased up. Despite that, it’s going to be a struggle for many of the ten thousand fans to make it down to the arena after a long night of drinking and partying.
Luckily today’s first band Lotus Eater are just the right people to lure in the crowds and get them moving again. Glasgow’s hardcore masters turn up the brutality. All but the most delicate feeling of the crowd are soon headbanging to the lurching breakdowns and crushing rhythms. The intensity only lets up when vocalist Paul Collins gives a tribute to his late father, the teary and poignant moment bringing home to many the losses of the past couple of years. Lotus Eater has already caught the attention of some prominent people, including Oli Sykes. This morning, they’ve shown that they’re a band you need to be paying attention to.
Conjurer were already near the top of my list of bands to see for the weekend, having grabbed my attention all the way back in 2018 with their debut album Mire. Combining sludgy as hell riffs with a liberal dosing of black, death and progressive metal, they don’t disappoint, summoning a maelstrom of noise that admittedly seemed like it might have been a bit overwhelming for some in the crowd less familiar with the more extreme side of metal. As a fan seeing them for the first time live, I thought they nailed it, filling the arena with a hypnotic sound unlike anything else on the bill this weekend.
Having not heard of As Everything Unfolds before and arriving only after gorging myself on an extremely expensive and disappointing burger, I didn’t know what to expect. My first impression was that they sounded a lot like Halestorm, but that thought was soon dashed as vocalist Charlie Rolfe launched into the kind of guttural screaming that would make even the most seasoned death metal fans jaw drop. With my disappointing choice in sustenance now overshadowed by the regret of missing the first half of As Everything Unfold’s set, the rest of the show passed all too quickly. I mentally added them to my “listen to later” list.
Bleed From Within seemed to be on an upwards trajectory back in 2013, releasing their monstrous third album “Uprising”. A five-year gap before their next album saw them fall behind their contemporaries in popularity. Added to that, their inability to tour their fantastic fifth album ‘Fracture’, which released last year during the pandemic, was hugely disappointing. Hearing them live again shows that they’re a band deserving of greater recognition, with classics such as “Alive” standing strong next to never played before tracks off “Fracture”.
Next, we have Hara, playing their first-ever festival and biggest show to date. Despite vocalist Josh Taylor admitting he was “shitting his pants” before coming on stage, they ooze confidence and energy. They’re tight, catchy and obviously ecstatic to be there, a feeling mirrored by the crowd.
Wargasm, aside from having an awesome name, are absolutely explosive on stage. Their schizophrenic melding of electronic nu-metal feels fresh in 2021. Their spot on the bill, despite their lack of a full album release, feels justified. Bass and co-vocalist Milkie Way is a force to be reckoned with, exuding the confidence of a seasoned rock star and the charisma to match it.
Tigercub seem like they got lost out of the way of a business meeting in their suits, but however they ended up here, they’re very welcome. With an arsenal of tracks that evoke reminders of everything from Queens of the Stone Age to Rival Sons and Pearl Jam, they’re a brilliant change of pace. I happened to hear a conversation in between songs that went, “Who are these guys!?”, “I have no idea, but they’re fucking awesome!”. I second that; Tigercub are absolutely brilliant, and you need to be listening to them.
Despite A apparently having played Download eight times before and that I’ve attended almost every festival for the past decade or so, I’d never seen or heard of them before. Or maybe I had, and I’d simply forgotten it. Ironically their song, “Nothing”, is the only song that I found interesting enough to mention due to its extremely catchy sing-along chorus. While not a bad show by any means, it was sadly forgettable apart from some amusing quips from frontman Jason Perry. If they’re back for a tenth time, I doubt I’ll bother to see them again.
Vuvoki prove more memorable with a mix of big filthy riffs and tracks that lend themselves more to dancing than headbanging. The packed tent is a writhing mass of humanity as circle pits, walls of death and crowd surfing erupt all over the place. After a couple of more relaxed show, Vuvoki are just the band to release all the pent up energy, while Janine Shilstone is the perfect frontwomen to take full advantage of the psyched-up crowd.
How Yonaka managed to pull off the show they did despite the sound issues plaguing their set is something of a miracle. Usually, a band having most of their sound inaudible during part of their set would lose all momentum. Nevertheless, they somewhat manage to pull things around, especially during “Rockstar”, which sees an impressive chunk of the crowd singing along. Still, they deserved better, but problems are sometimes unavoidable, and they handled it with grace.
Those Damn Crows seem like a band that should be filling out arenas. Perhaps the day of goliath rock bands taking over the world is no longer. Still, the band are a brilliant bunch of songwriters, and as the afternoon draws on, they’re a great band to bring us some straight-up rock and roll belters. When frontman Shane Greenhall asks, “Do you know how lucky we are to be here” I can’t disagree with the sentiment.
This might get me crucified in the comments, but I’ve never really liked Twin Atlantic. It’s hard for me to point out why; my mind simply wanders off whenever I listen to them. Their live show was no different. Still, most of the crowd seem to be enjoying it, so I’ll leave this one to other writers who can give them a fairer chance.
Stone Broken are another band I hadn’t heard before this weekend; initially, I thought they were playing a Nickelback cover. While frontman Rich Moss is one hell of a vocalist, the lack of any hook or rough edges in their radio rock sound didn’t do a lot for me. Looking at the diminishing crowd, it seems I wasn’t the only one. They’ve certainly got enough talent that I wouldn’t be surprised if I turn on the radio in a few years and hear them again. Still, personally, Stone Broken aren’t my cup of tea.
While She Sleeps have slowly worked their way up the circuit to become one of the UK’s most prominent modern acts. Wasting no time with frenetic opener “Sleeps Society” While She Sleeps immediately dominate and never let up. Frontman Loz Taylor has the energy of a madman, climbing up the sound stage and pushing into the crowd with reckless abandon. Closing a show with new songs is a risky business, but “Nervous” and “Systematic” go down a treat and show that While She Sleeps aren’t done climbing yet.
When I listened to Creeper for the first time, I can’t say it was love at first sight. Despite this, I’ve seen them get more and more popular over the last year or two, and my interest has increased. I was pleasantly surprised by their set. While the influence of bands such as AFI and My Chemical Romance can still be clearly heard, their new tracks are more uniquely Creeper. Perhaps more importantly, they’re just fun live. Will Gould and Hannah Greenwood are performers in a way that’s become increasingly uncommon since the days of David Bowie or even Marilyn Manson. It’s always a good time to go into a show unsure about a band and come out convinced; Creeper managed just that.
Enter Shikari are headlining tonight, fifteen years after they first set foot on one of Donnington’s stage early on a Friday afternoon. It’s one hell of an achievement, and you can see and hear the emotion of every band member as they look out over the nearly ten thousand strong crowds in front of them tonight. The atmosphere tonight is genuinely electric. As they blast through their set, the crowds split between rapturous adoration and chaotic moshing, dancing and screaming. It’s impressive how the new song “The Dreamers Hotel” can stand shoulder to shoulder with well over a decade of massive hits. This year’s Download Festival has been a testament to British music, and there can be no doubt that Enter Shikari are one of the crown jewels.
Day two of the Download Pilot festival was a tour de force for the British rock and metal scene. From the smaller upper and comers to the arena-filling rock gods, the amount of good music on display today was truly impressive.