The world premier rock and metal event took place as 100,000 descended to the hallowed grounds of Donington Park, Leicester across the weekend for the 16th annual Download Festival. The capacity crowds witnessed the triumphant return of Guns N’ Roses with the full ‘Not In This Lifetime’ show as living legends Axl Rose, Slash and Duff Mckagen delivered an unforgettable hits filled set. Stadium smashers Avenged Sevenfold cemented their status as one of the biggest forces in the rock world and the Prince Of Darkness himself and midlands native Ozzy Osbourne closed the festival with panache on his first ever solo appearance at the festival as the only UK date on his ‘No More Tours’ farewell tour.
With the sun shining throughout the weekend, the atmosphere was electric as waves of fans once again lived up to the moniker of what is widely regarded as the UK friendliest festival, celebrating inclusivity, self-expression and displaying a lot of headbanging.
With early birds arriving on Wednesday, taking full advantage of a whole host of entertainment and activities before the main festival opened including the Side Splitter Comedy Tent, Lords Of Lightening, silent disco and annual official Air Guitar contest winner will be flown out to Sweden to compete in the world final. A standout success was the incredibly popular Do.om Yoga, a slow yoga session practiced to sludgy doom metal – with demand outweighing capacity for the heavy metal twist on the trend was perfect to warm up the mindfulness fans for the weekend ahead. No one was caught short as the festival opened the first full-scale Co-op on site making sure essentials were at hand for all and the debut of Co-op‘s reverse recycling’ vending machines, where revellers could earn cash by recycling their plastic.
Download has been awarded the Gold Level of Attitude Is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice, only the 2nd festival of over 80,000 capacity to have done so.
Gideon Feldman said:
“The commitment Download have shown to accessibility and inclusion clearly sits at the heart of the festival, from the amazing viewing platforms to the campsite provision and in 2018 the addition of British Sign Language performance interpreting for 18 bands across the weekend and an on request service, Download deserves to be recognised for the outstanding work they have shown this year and over the past years”
The first full day of music on Friday saw home-grown heroes You Me At Six deliver a stunning second stage headline performance – as they announced their new album at the festival. UK metal torch-bearers Bullet For My Valentine roared through rock-club anthems ‘Tears Don’t Fall’, ‘Scream Aim Fire’ and new hits ‘Letting You Go’ more as they march toward album number six ‘Gravity’. Andrew WK brought the party in signature style. Punk Legends Bad Religion smashed through punk masterclass and tech metal front-runners Tesseract headlined the dogtooth stage and of course the much loved festival mascot the Download Dog was out in full force enjoying the festivities with the Download family.
Avenged Sevenfold made their welcome return to the sacred grounds on Donnington to make a huge statement that they belong in the upper echelon of world dominating bands and they delivered. With a massive production and a two hour set delving into their extensive bat catalogue with hits ‘City Of Evil’, the number 1 selling ‘Hail To The King’ and latest surprise album ‘The Stage’. A7X paid service to their oldest fans, going all the way back to 2005 classic ‘Unholy confessions’, the Californian group proved that they are here to stay as festival headliners.
Throughout the weekend, WWE NXT provided non-stop high impact action in their full-size wrestling arena. Capacity crowds were amazed with displays of skill, athleticism and high-flying manoeuvres as the most electrifying names in sports entertainment delivered the full NXT experience to Donington Park.
With Guns N’ Roses set to hit the stage in on Saturday evening anticipation was in the air, it was a family affair with bassist Duff McKagen’s daughter Grace McKagen opening the main stage in her own band The Pink Slips. Second stage headliners Parkway Drive could never be shown up. Having long been touted as future headliners, this was a watershed moment which saw the aussies shine (not just due to the amount of fire and pyro on stage) as incredibly powerful live force ticking every box. Japanese idols BABYMETAL received a hero’s welcome with their infectious mix of J-pop and furiously fast metal. The crowd roared through sets from grunge legends L7, Neck Deep and Thunder who appeared on the very first ‘Monsters Of Rock’ bill. Hard-rocking titans Black Stone Cherry pulled out all the stops, with chunky riffs and singalongs a plenty.
Exactly one minute early the rock icons that had been on the tip of everyone’s tongues Guns N’ Roses came on to stage to a deafening roar and delivered a rock and roll masterclass. Ripping through crowd pleasing, ‘It’s So Easy’, ‘Night train’ ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, ‘You Could Be Mine’, no stone was left unturned. Filled with surprises and nods to missing friends including Velvet Revolver ‘Slither’ and Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’ and of course eternal ‘Sweet Child O Mine’ ‘Paradise City’ and ‘November Rain’, Guns N Roses delivered a set that will go down in history for all the right reasons.
Duff McKagen tweeted to his 1.9 million followers
“Yo @DownloadFest…I am utterly speechless. Thank you guys…you’ve been there from the very beginning. F#CK!!”
Download celebrated the success of the first ever Eco Campsite sponsored by Greenpeace which was filled to capacity. Campers agreed to uphold a set of principles including: respecting the natural environment and fellow campers, being responsible for rubbish and taking all camping equipment home.
This Sunday morning fans were no less energetic bounding in the arena as the sun continued to shine down on the famous grounds, which in 2018 was the largest single site festival in the UK. Alexisonfire provided huge servings of nostalgia with emo anthems ‘Young Cardinals,’ ‘Rough Hands’ and more , festival favourites The Hives delivered a powerhouse set with front man Howlin Pelle Almqvist raising the roof engaging every single member of the crowd with his trademark charm and unstoppable energy. Rise Against led a politically charged punk call to action with a relentless performance. Body Count ft. Ice T wasted no time, opening with a bombastic cover of Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ and rallying against the system of flying through hardcore anthems ‘Institutionalised’ and ‘No Lives Matter’. Grammy nominees Baroness left a lasting impression with their polished hard hitting Dogtooth headline set. Shock rock pioneer Marylin Manson did not disappoint, with the sardonic dark lord of rock club smashers and live spectacle the ‘God Of Fuck’ knows how shock and awe flying through ‘Disposable Teens’, ‘Beautiful People’, ‘This Is The New Shit’ and ‘Kill 4 Me’ on incredible form.
With Ozzy Osbourne due to close tonight’s proceedings in what will be a very special performance for the midlands native – as he makes his solo debut as Download Festival headliner. Often credited with inventing heavy metal fans will be treated to a whole host of Ozzy and Black Sabbath classics including the ‘Bark At the Moon’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘Crazy Train’, ‘Paranoid’. With Sharon and Kelly Osbourne on site for support the local legend and godfather of metal will provide a weight and fitting end to what has been one of Download’s most successful years yet.
Download Festival next year takes place on 14, 15, 16 June 2019.
Highlights of the 16th Download Festival will be broadcast on SKY ARTS on 29th and 30th June.