Download Festival – Day 2 Report: Storms, Shikari & Spectacle

The alt extravaganza bounces back...

If we’re being honest, Day 1 of Download was tough. Horrendous weather, a muddy site, rammed tents and disappointing headliners. However on paper Saturday looked to be the best day, and boy did it bring some redemption. Here’s all the highlights from an incredible – albeit still very muddy – Day 2 at Donington…

Entering the arena to start Day 2 and its apparent the weather is once again just not playing ball. The day begins with even more heavy showers and the site has now completely transformed into a mud bath overnight. That said, it’s not stopping us venturing over to The Dogtooth Stage early doors to catch electric Notts duo, ALT BLK ERA

It’s a full tent when we arrive, with some here to catch the band while others are just sheltering from the latest downpour. However, even those just enjoying the cover of the tent will have no doubt been converted by the seismic performance from sisters Nyrobi and Chaya, who made an absolute statement with their first Download set. Wearing gothic dresses and bringing some theatrics to their stage show, the entire half hour is all high energy, making it the perfect wake up call for any sleepy punters still shaking off last night’s hangover. The highlight comes right at the end with the tent bouncing to ‘Jump’, before the day’s first circle pits ensue for the colossal ‘I’m Normally Like This’. Setting an extremely high bar for the rest of the day to follow, ALT BLK ERA are mostly definitely a duo to put on your radar if they’re not already.

Things are then a bit more low key for the next two sets. Rock outfit The Hunna, who are also playing their first ever Download, entertain the quiet crowd gathered in the Apex Stage swamp thanks to songs like ‘Young & Faded’, ‘Can’t Break What’s Broken’ and ‘Trash’. There’s also a surprise guest appearance from New Zealand singer Kelsey Karter for ‘I Don’t Like You…OK’. Then over on the Opus Stage, Aussie prog-metal outfit Karnivool impress with their thunderous drums, rumbling basslines and hypnotic guitar passages, all sewn together to form these towering, meandering epics.

It’s then back over to the Apex Stage for kawaii metal pioneers Babymetal, who have pulled in one of the biggest crowds of the day thus far. The show gets off to a good start, with guitarists in demonic, metallic masks taking to the stage and a voiceover welcoming the crowd into the “Metalverse”. Suametal, Momometal and Moametal then take to the stage for ‘BABYMETAL DEATH’, with their choreography proving to be as mesmerising as ever. 

However, they only get part way through second song ‘Distortion’, when they are forced to evacuate the stage and have their show paused, as an almighty storm suddenly swoops across the Download site. It’s the worst downpour of the day, with what feels like hail at points. It frustratingly stops the show for around 15 minutes, meaning their set is cut short. When the sun begins to beam and they return to the stage though, their intoxicating mix of thrash metal riffs and catchy J-pop melodies bring the party vibes for the time they have left. It’s a shame as when the crowd erupts for recent Electric Callboy collab ‘RATATATA’ at the end, you feel there was still more fun to be had.

Next up on the Apex Stage is St Albans’ finest Enter Shikari. The set comes in the wake of the band helping to force Barclays to pull out as a Download sponsor due to the company’s links to defence firms funding Israel. If Barclays continued as a sponsor, you had to believe Shikari wouldn’t be playing this set at all, which adds an extra emotional element to the whole proceedings. “This is the first festival that ever allowed us to play” explains frontman Rou Reynolds, as a glorious double rainbow appears in the distance and overlooks the stage. If the sun was going to come out for any band, it was going to be them.

As ever the band are in fine form, with a big singalong to ‘Live Outside’ before fire erupts from the stage during ‘Sssnakepit’ and ‘The Jester’. Electro-rock duo Wargasm then join them for a chaotic performance of their collaboration ‘The Void Stares Back’, with both members and Rou running all over the stage and runway. Despite all that though, the highlight of the set comes when Rou gives into temptation during a trip into the crowd, launching himself and bellyflopping straight into the mud bath. He then performs the rest of the set caked head-to-toe in brown sludge, with an emphatic final combo of ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’ and ‘A Kiss For The Whole World’ sending the crowd into a frenzy. A fantastic performance as always and potentially one to bring back as a headliner down the line.

It’s a tough act to follow, but veteran rockers The Offspring prove they are up to the challenge. With new album ‘Supercharged’ due out in October, there was a worry this would be a promotional set – thankfully it’s anything but that. Delivering all the hits with lots of joking around between frontman Dexter and guitarist Noodles during the song breaks, it’s a fantastic crowd-pleasing set that marks one of the highlights of the whole weekend so far. 

There’s an energetic ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ cover, including a guy in a chimp mask storming about the stage with a “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” sign. There’s also giant inflatable-coloured balls that get launched into the crowd during ‘Why Don’t You Get A Job’, creating quite the sight as they bounce around the masses. On top of that, you have Noodles doing his best Freddie Mercury impression, only instead of “Ey-oh” it’s “F**k Yeah”. It’s a fantastic show, with punk-rock classics ‘Want You Bad’, ‘Hit That’, ‘Pretty Fly For A White Guy’ and ‘Self-Esteem’ all getting the crowd joyously moshing and singing along at the top of their lungs.

After a brilliant day, it’s then finally time for the Saturday night headliners. After yesterday’s underwhelming Queens of the Stone Age set, the pressure was on first-time headliners Fall Out Boy to deliver big tonight for the enormous crowd. Thankfully they got the memo, creating an absolute spectacle worthy of headlining any festival stage.

Download punters were treated to Fall Out Boy’s own version of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, with the band starting with tracks from their debut ‘Take This To Your Grave’ all the way through to their most recent effort, ‘So Much (For) Stardust’. Along the way, the band change outfits and stage décor, with the album’s various artwork represented on stage through the likes of animatronic flying sheep (‘Infinity On High’), a giant inflatable Teddy Bear (‘Folie á Deux’) and cheerleaders in star-spangled hockey masks (‘American Beauty/American Psycho’). 

“It’s 10 years since we last played here” explains Pete Wentz to the adoring crowd, who are hanging on the band’s every word and song choice tonight. “I grew up watching Metallica at Donington on old VHS tapes, so this really is a dream come true. We knew we had to play everything, so here’s our massive art project for you.”

And what an art project it is, as besides the album artwork touches, the production is what you would expect to see from a Download festival headliner. There’s pyrotechnics early doors for ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ and ‘Dance, Dance’. Pete Wentz then emerges with a flamethrower bass as countless fire rockets shoot up all over the stage for ‘The Phoenix’ and ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark’ – easily one of the most awe-inspiring moments we’ve ever witnessed during a festival headline set. At another point, Pete is hoisted into the sky carrying a bunch of helium balloons, while still singing too. He then also performs an impromptu gender reveal for a couple in the audience towards the end of the set. It’s basically all the hits with maximum production value, and the crowd rightfully lap up every second of this iconic performance.

The only criticism is such is the nature of the Eras formatted setlist, the peak of the show arrives around the midway mark, with the rest of the set failing to match the energy and elation of the phenomenal first hour. That said, the one-two combo of ‘Centuries’ and ‘Saturday’ at the end, complete with fireworks and confetti, send the crowd back to their tents jubilantly happy and fully blown away by what they have just witnessed.

Overall, Download recovered from a rocky first day, as well as more heavy mud and rain today, to deliver 12 hours packed full of memorable moments and truly astonishing live performances. None more so than headliners Fall Out Boy, who proved the new era of Download festival is now well and truly underway. 

Roll on Sunday!

Words: Karl Blakesley
Photography: Andrew Whitton / Todd Owyoung

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