Download Festival – Day 3 Report: Finishing With A Flourish

The alt extravaganza comes to a close...

So far, the 2024 edition has been both the best of Downloads, but also the worst of Downloads. We’ve seen lots of rain, mud and general issues around the site, but thankfully we’ve also seen some legendary sets and crowds in great spirits too. Now the final day is here, the sun has arrived, and we’re determined to leave Donington on a high. Here’s all the action from an eventful final day in the muddy fields…

Whilst we finally have a day with no showers forecast, the damage the heavy rain has done to the Donington site is at its worst today. The muddy ground is treacherous everywhere, even after a two-hour delay to the arena opening time so that the organisers can put some hay down on the most affected areas. The schedules are impacted as a result, with all acts running around 45 minutes later than planned. It causes some additional clashes, which means we miss some acts we were planning to see originally (sorry Corey Taylor!).

That said, there’s plenty of great music all day today and we start proceedings with Southampton goth-rockers Creeper on the Apex stage. As expected, the set is full of theatrics, with choreographed, scantily clad vampires dancing in front of fire rockets during opener ‘Cry To Heaven’. “Download, are you down with the devil?” asks frontman Will Gould, before the band blast through cuts from their 2023 album ‘Sanguivore’, like the fast-punk of ‘Sacred Blasphemy’ and operatic anthem, ‘Teenage Sacrifice’. The audience then warms-up their vocal cords for the day with a singalong to ‘Down Below’, before Atreyu guitarist Dan Jacobs joins them for closer ‘Lovers Led Astray’. Despite leaving some fan favourite tracks missing from the setlist like ‘Hiding With Boys’ and ‘Misery’, it’s a strong start to the day.

If you read our Day 1 report, you’ll know we encountered some issues with The Avalanche Stage early doors. After avoiding the stage on Day 2 as a result, we decided to give it another chance by heading over for a short set from genre-bending rockers Noisy. Sad to say, the stage let us down again as Noisy’s set is plagued by awful sound issues, with frontman Cody Matthews’ microphone inaudible for most of the performance. Despite the crowd and band yelling at the sound desk to adjust things multiple times, the levels stay in-balanced with the instruments turned way up and Cody’s vocals almost entirely drowned out.  

It’s a huge testament to the band as a live outfit though that despite this being the case – they still smash their performance. The pulsating dance beats and Cody’s signed instructions get those in the tent moshing around, with the crowd also covering for the quiet vocals by belting out ‘Put A Record On’ and ‘All Of U’. Exiting the stage with the audience bouncing, you can’t help but feel the poor sound has robbed them of a special moment here.

It’s then round to the Opus Stage for the final time, for a quieter than expected crowd for punk icons Zebrahead. The fact that Parkway Drive have rocked up to play a secret set at the same time in an overflowing Dogtooth stage probably has something to do with that. We don’t regret missing out though as Zebrahead put on one of the day’s best shows, coming out to the sounds of Baddiel & Skinner’s ‘Three Lions’, before it switches to ‘America, F*ck Yeah’ from 2004 film, Team America: World Police. 

Singer Ali Tabatabaee begins by explaining it’s one of the security guard’s birthdays who they spoke to before the set. “He said he wants crowd surfers to help him celebrate – let’s give him as many crowd surfers as possible. We need more than one lobster” he says, referencing a guy in a bright red Lobster costume who immediately gets up and over the barrier without needing to be asked twice. Other members of the Download audience then happily oblige, sending wave upon wave as the band rush through fan-favourites ‘Hello Tomorrow’ and ‘Falling Apart’. Zebrahead then return the favour, sending some of their skeleton-playsuit dressed band members on giant inflatable Watermelon slices to surf in the crowd during ‘All My Friends Are Nobodies’. A hoot of a set from start to finish. 

It perfectly sets the tone for the next act on our list, pop-punk heroes Bowling For Soup. They waste absolutely no time at all, starting their set with arguably their three biggest singles in ‘Girl All The Bad Guys Want’, ‘High School Never Ends’ and ‘The Bitch Song’. Soon after, Brendan B Brown of Wheatus joins them on stage for a few bars of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ – making up for those like us who may have missed out on Day 1 due to the enormous crowd at The Avalanche Stage. After ‘Emily’ and ‘Punk Rock 101’ both go down a storm, the other vocalist from Zebrahead, Adrian Estrella, joins the band on stage for a photo opportunity, as Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ plays over the speakers. It’s quite something to see and hear all these hardcore metalheads, dressed head to toe in their black, leather outfits, belting out a bit of Rick Astley.

However, there is a missing piece in the Bowling For Soup line-up today, as it’s explained that guitarist Chris Burney had to fly back to the US due to medical issues. “It’s been 10 years since we last played Download, 30 years as a band. This is only the second show I’ve ever done without Chris by my side” shares frontman Jaret Reddick. As the crowd chant “Chris!” before singing along to closing track ‘1985’, you can tell its lifting Jaret’s spirits after not being able to have his friend and bandmate there with him for this moment.

Keeping with the early 00s pop-punk, it’s then time for what’s being billed as Sum 41’s final-ever UK festival show (at least until they inevitably reform in a few years – cynical we know!). “Ladies & Gentlemen – let’s go f*cking crazy” says frontman Deryck Whibley, as they treat the crowd early doors to big hitters ‘Motivation’, ‘The Hell Song’ and ‘Over My Head (Better Off Dead)’. He then channels his inner Freddie Mercury during Underclass Hero, conducting the huge crowd like a pro as inflatable balloons are sent out into the masses. With several circle pits during ‘We’re All To Blame’ and hands waving in the air during ‘Walking Disaster’, the crowd volume goes up another level during ‘In Too Deep’. Deryck then gets his Freddie on for a second time, firing the audience up with an electric punk cover of ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen, complete with some insane guitar solos from Dave “Brownsound” Baksh and Thomas “Brown Tom” Thacker.

“I know a lot of you are thinking this may be your last chance to see us play – but keep your eyes and ears peeled and there may be another chance later this year” hints Deryck, seemingly signalling to a final UK tour announcement sometime soon. They then finish with a bang on iconic singles ‘Fat Lip’ and ‘Still Waiting’, with the crowd expectedly going absolutely nuts.

During the Apex Stage changeover for Limp Bizkit, we spot celebrities Sam Ryder, Paddy Considine and Frank Skinner headed to watch the show from the stage pit. The arena is also insanely full, with every inch of the field packed from front to back. This was one set that promised to be one of the moments of the whole weekend and my word – it did not disappoint.

Walking out to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ sporting a sky-blue bucket hat and a Japan baseball tee, Fred Durst greets the crowd before launching straight into ‘Break Stuff’. It’s immediately cathartic chaos, as the Download faithful are as loud and riotous as they’ve been all weekend. There are pits going off everywhere, endless crowd surfers, the whole arena bouncing and everybody singing/shouting at maximum volume. The rowdiest, most electric set of the weekend by some distance.

“I hope you don’t mind but I brought the sunshine from California with us” jests Fred, before their band DJ spins ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis, causing a mass singalong. It’s an exhilarating jukebox set, with other popular hits like Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne also mixed in following their own tracks ‘Rollin’, ‘My Generation’ and ‘My Way’. There’s space for their famous covers too, with their own renditions of The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and George Michaels’ ‘Faith’ both getting an outing, with ‘Careless Whisper’ also played over the speakers “for all the lovers in the crowd.”

If you’ve seen the Woodstock 99 documentary on Netflix, you know that sometimes Limp Bizkit can get a bad reputation for their dangerous live shows. But today is a good example of how this can be misleading, as Fred Durst makes a point to ensure that the crowd are all looking after each other. He also pauses the show during a performance of ‘Nookie’ after spotting a medical issue in the audience, only continuing once both the security and group in question give him the thumbs up – or in this case, the middle finger. “If everything’s ok, give me the middle finger… I’m seeing a lot of birds down there, so think we’re good to go” Fred says at the restart, showing he’s even entertaining when looking after everyone.

After teasing a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’, guitarist Wes Borland switches it up to “that one that Tom Cruise likes” as ‘Take A Look Around’, their song from the Mission Impossible soundtrack, once again causes an audience eruption of seismic proportions. Just when you think that’s it, we then get ‘Break Stuff’ for an unprecedented second time – and it’s even more biblical than the first. As Fred then invites Download founder Andy Copping onto the stage and embraces him while Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ rings out over the speakers, it’s a glorious ending to the best set of the whole weekend and the perfect way to cap off Download 2024.

Overall, it’s clear Download had its ups and downs this year. The weather can’t be helped, and we think for the most part, the organisers dealt with it as best they could given the circumstances. The festival itself is also clearly working through what their audience wants to see on the bill going forward. This edition was them testing things out, and this inevitably meant that some things worked out and others didn’t. They will get there on the booking side, but one thing we will say they need for next year – more toilets in suitable spots around the main stages.

With all the issues though, it was the music and the Download community that shone through the brightest. With this writer being a first-time visitor to the hallowed grounds of Donington, it became clear pretty quickly why artists love to play there and why rock and metal fans return in their hoards year after year. If this is Download having a so-so year, I honestly can’t wait to see the festival at its absolute best. Fingers crossed for 2025!

Words: Karl Blakesley
Photography: Danny North, Abbie Shipperley, Todd Owyoung

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