So another yearly weekend of slushy mud, painful wellies and warm lager comes to an end. With reported amounts of rain set to be a Donington Park record, it would be all too easy to dismiss Download Festival 2016 as a muddy, unpleasant mess. However, despite the cold conditions and endless amounts of discarded socks, a large selection of bands managed to maintain their sunshine; with only one or two exceptions to what was otherwise a stellar set of performances. Whilst the lineup may well have been one of the weaker selections in recent memory, security may have left a lot to be desired and even if the rain caused me and so many others to miss bands they’d planned to catch, Live Nation still managed to pull off a weekend that was nothing less than superb. So, without further adieu, here’s my review for Download 2016, starting with, of course, Friday.
Alien Ant Farm
Kicking off our weekend with a relatively audible bang, early 2000’s nu-metal darlings Alien Ant Farm, making their Download debut no less. Playing to a strong crowd relatively early in the day, the band made the most of their short thirty minutes with a tight performance and genuine enthusiasm. Whilst it’s true that a band can only have so many iconic tracks, the four-piece stretched moments like Movies and Smooth Criminal effectively over the set, helping some of the duller sections along when they were lingering just ever so slightly too long. It seems that for these boys, nostalgia really did prevail.
With a mammoth crowd, one could say Babymetal had the potential to blow the doors off their set on the mainstage last Friday, but unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. Having had their set postponed for a lengthy thirty minutes due to the weekend’s first (and certainly not last) downpour, the girls finally hit the stage to crank out a selection of material from both records, leaning annoyingly toward their self titled effort rather than focus on the more impressive Metal Resistance, albeit with better sound than their recent Wembley headline show. Rain had led several people to abandon plans to watch the band as the wait droned on, but the remaining lapped up every second as the group conquered the rain with gusto, proving both their stage time and slot were clearly not enough for these girls. Next time, you can reliably expect Babymetal topping the second stage and beyond.
This is really an aside as we were venturing around the arena whilst the band were beginning, but from what we could hear Killswitch Engage took the weather and truly kicked it to the curb with fire and intensity, knocking out hits left right and centre as they put on a performance strong enough to stop our group in it’s tracks several times just to hear the spectacle on the main stage. A band truly deserving of the high slot they were given, a second stage headline slot surely cannot be far behind.
Zippo Encore Stage
As we approached the second stage for the first time during the festival, I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about Glassjaw’s return to UK festival grounds. Playing a relatively coveted slot in the open air, the band had the potential to get lost amongst the size and scope of the crowd and stage they were catering to. Sadly, my fears were realised as I was completely right, with the band receiving the smallest crowd of the weekend. With a band like Glassjaw, a third stage slot higher in the day would have paid dividends, whereas the material really failed to capture any of the intensity and grit out in the open air. Looking like they’d rather be anywhere but Donington Park, we were left disappointed by this set, as we chose to leave early to secure a better spot for the next band.
Ah, Korn. As a glorified Download house band, Korn never, ever fail to hit Donington Park every other year. Due to this, their inclusion on the bill was met with disdain from myself in particular. Whilst I am a big fan of the band, I was yet to see them convince me outdoors. However, I can happily report that on Friday Korn commanded that main stage in a way only a headliner can. Playing to the biggest crowd of the day, the boys cranked out a setlist that can only be described as criminally strong, sounding just as massive as the stage they were standing on, with set staples such as Blind and Right Now being joined by the radio-unfriendly Y’all Want A Single. With the heavy showers adding a thick atmosphere to proceedings, Korn managed to take the crown for the most surprising performance of the weekend, walking away as one of the best bands of the entire weekend.
Lemmy Stage, Headliner
Yes! No! Rammstein! As the German titans hit the main stage, I can admit I was feeling appropriately miserable. Rain had soaked me through to the core of my bones, and in just a t-shirt, jeans and some broken shoes, I was in no mood to fuck around. However, this lasted nowhere past the curtain drop of everyone’s favourite sadomasochists. To describe the Rammstein live experience would be a disservice to it’s true majesty, but what I will say is that there isn’t a single second that hasn’t been contemplated within the band’s truly insane live show. From exploding vests to angel wings, from flamethrowers to fireworks, this was a career best show from the masters of the art. To say the music was the highlight would be an absolute fib, but to ignore the quality of music on display along with the visuals would be a crime, with cuts such as the band’s cover of Stripped taking the crown for one of the finest moments of the evening. Hell, I’ll even forgive them for omitting Amerika a second time around. Fighting through minor sound issues, Download Festival was treated to it’s best set in recent memory, and without a doubt the set of the weekend. Yes! No! Rammstein!
Check Back Tomorrow For Reviews Of Black Sabbath, Deftones and More!