I couldn’t quite believe I was here yet again, it was 40 years since my first visit then it was one stage and six bands, this year it was four days and four stages packed with the best that rock and metal could provide. The route to Donnington was very busy as a heaving mass of humanity made its way to create a temporary town of 100,000 people in the grounds of the famous racing circuit. The weather was set fair and the madness was about to begin
Main – Apex Stage
The day opened with a set from Mammoth WVH and an already packed crowd infront of the stage couldn’t wait to get going. Their set was a strong start to the day with the American fronted by Wolfgang Van Halen, son of Eddie, keeping the name alive and kicking. Next up Ukrainian band Jinjer fronted the wonderful Tetiana Shmailyuk who certainly knows how to get a crowd eating out of her hand. If you have not managed to see these guys live, then stick it at the top of your bucket list.
Then was the incomparable Halestorm and they absolutely smashed it, Lzzy Hale is an absolute force of nature, strutting and singing her way to the hearts of the Download crowd, which was growing ever larger by the minute. Alter Bridge up next and their set was technically perfect but for me lacked a bit of the passion we usually expect from these guys.
Having witnessed it numerous times, there is still something magical about the sun setting at a festival and the stage lights growing brighter with the main event about to hit the stage. Metallica doing the first of two nights at Download and not seen over here for a good few years they kicked off with Creeping Death and the rest as they say is history. All the way through to finish with Master Of Puppets it was stunning. What a start to the long weekend
Other Highlights – Opus Stage
In his own true eccentric style Maynard James Keenan, known as the lead singer of the bands Tool and A Perfect Circle, gave a captivating performance with his band Puscifer, ably assisted by Wolverhampton’s own Carina Round. The set was part theatre and part rock show but Maynard has a habit of creating something extraordinary and he did with this set.
With Five Finger Death Punch pulling out, the door was left wide open for Skindred to come and finish the day off with a career defining performance. Having just finished supporting Kiss on their English dates they were in top form. Benji Webbe is the perfect frontman and the band cross many genres – ska, reggae, rock – but it all works seamlessly and he has the packed crowd swaying and helicoptering their t-shirts.No wonder they picked up an award for Best UK Live Artist at the Heavy Metal Music Awards a few weeks ago.
Over on the Avalanche Stage, Tigress are certainly a band on the up at the moment and its easy to see why as they performed a really excellent set to a very full tent.
On the Dogtooth Stage Mimi Barks is someone who cuts a striking figure on stage and matches it with a fantastic performance, someone to watch. Leeds rockers Caskets looked like they loved every minute on stage, with front man Matt Flood matching his searing vocals with a really energetic performance. A.A. Williams provided a really toned done set but was amazingly powerful had the Dogtooth crowd captivated.
Review and photographs: Andy Shaw