Download Festival has always signified a chance to see some of the top musicians in rock and metal. It includes both the stalwarts of the genres as well as the up and coming less well-known bands. This year’s line-up was no different with three heavy-weight headliners: System of a Down, Biffy Clyro and Aerosmith, and a swathe of brand new music. With my press wristband in hand and booked into a hotel nearby, I was ready for the Download experience.
The event took place in Donnington, West Midlands in June 2017. Year on year, the event is beset by bad weather as the heavens open and turns the fields into muddy vats (although when I have attended in previous years I have been lucky enough to experience a weekend of sunshine and sunburn!) Turns out, this year was a sunny one, and it made all the difference. The event was well-organised with facilities, food stalls and plenty of space for those who wanted to sit, stand or grapple with the mosh pit close to the stage.
I had arrived at lunchtime and there was a struggle to find the right entrance – I was finally advised that I needed to walk two miles around the outskirts of the festival venue in order to reach the guest pass ticket office. As well as campers at Download there are spots for caravans and glamping spots. On my wander around I stopped in the heat by a tall hedgerow; it was a perfect summer day in the countryside and the only thing that gave away the presence of thousands of fans descending and the opening of the Download festival was the sound of a radio playing Aerosmith, enough motivation to get me on my way. Music was vibrating through every corner of the countryside as festival-goers arrived and set up home – it was the moment that brought to my mind the excitement and anticipation I had for the weekend ahead.
One band that surprised me on day one was Prophets of Rage. The band had been called a ‘super group’ and is composed of established and incredibly talented and successful musicians. Their CVs reflect ground-breaking, genre-changing music. They are also one of the most highly politicised bunch to be successful. As well as original music, they also played some of the songs I have danced to innumerable times and never thought I’d get to see played live, including Insane in the Brain (Cypress Hill), and Killing In The Name (Rage Against The Machine). However, the most moving moment of their whole set was when Tom Morello took to the microphone to announce that the Audioslave hit, Like a Stone, was up next. As in other sets across the world, Morello as well as other musicians have paid homage to the life and times of the epic writer and musician Chris Cornell who died suddenly in May. To me, he exemplified musical creativity and his music and band marked the years of growing up in the grunge era. The open mic, the crowd singing the lyrics, the almost cloudless heavens above… it was emotional and I’m so thankful I got to experience it.
The Download experience offered me a whole weekend of wonderful music and in the next articles, I’ll be looking at the headliners and the other bands I got to see.
Featured image courtesy of Paulo Gonçalves