After three years without the full Download Festival experience (with much love to the Download Pilot), Rock Sins joined the assembled thousands flocking back to Donington for Download 2022.
As always, the main musical entertainment was spread across Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the festival, but there was a huge amount of extra entertainment on the Wednesday and Thursday this year. Our team arrived too late to cover The Boardie Takeover on the Wednesday, but reports indicate Sertraline, Fury and Red Method among others were all on top form.
The first taste of the action in the flesh for Team Rock Sins came in the form of Punk Rock Factory (7) on Thursday night. The covers quartet have been thrust into the spotlight over the last year or so with their entertaining covers of Disney tracks, pop punk songs and TV theme tunes amassing millions of views and streams. In the flesh, the guys are just as enjoyable as they are on record.
There was just one problem – it was just too quiet for the enormous amount of people who turned out to watch them at The Doghouse Stage in the village. Chants of “Turn It Up! Turn It Up!” could be heard from many. If one got close enough to the front to hear them properly, it was a really good time, with huge sing-a-longs to everything from Bowling For Soup’s 1985 to the Power Rangers theme tune to Moana’s You’re Welcome and How Far I’ll Go. On this evidence, have them back, but turn it up next time please Team Download! JG
Onto Friday. It’s 1 O’Clock, The Dogtooth Tent is 90% full with more streaming in by the minute, and there are BOOMING chants of “HERIOT, HERIOT” before the UK’s newest favourite extreme metal band have even walked on stage. When Debbie Gough and the boys do arrive, Heriot (8) proceed to tear the place apart with the likes of Carrion and Coalescence causing thunderous reactions. If anyone was still wondering if Heriot were worth the hype, let us answer that right now. Yes, yes they are, and then some. It is hard to think of a festival opening band making such an impression at Download for many years as Heriot do today. JG
Elsewhere, with a liberal amount of sun cream applied owing to the unusually hot yellow thing in the sky, it is time for Theory (of A Deadman) (7.5) who are just kicking things off with Low Life on the Apex (Main) Stage. The Canadian four piece’s country fried brand of hard rock goes down well with their seemingly ever growing audience. With lead singer Tyler Connolly beaming from ear to ear, they cheer the band on through a short but energetic set.
They let their foot off the gas only briefly to tease us with a quick medley of Paradise City and Walk. Tipping the hat to those who have graced the main stage here at Donington before, much to the crowds delight. Then finish things off with the raucous hit single Bad Girlfriend, leaving everyone suitably fired up for the rest of the day ahead! HL
From one UK female metal powerhouse in the shape of Heriot’s Debbie Gough to another, As Everything Unfolds (10) proceed to unleash the first utterly flawless performance of the 2022 Download Festival over on The Avalanche Stage. Everything about this thirty minute set is perfect; The setlist, the sound balance, the lighting are all absolutely razor sharp. Charlie Rolfe has the capacity crowd in the palm of her hand, showcasing her full range on Take Me There and making the place go off with Hiding From Myself.
A dedication of Greyscale to recently departed friend of the band (and UK alt scene in general) Ryan Chisholm understandably gives the song even more power and feeling behind it than usual. By the closing On The Inside, the crowd need no encouragement from Charlie to “bounce, bounce, bounce bounce bounce”, they were in full flow already. A perfect final show for As Everything Unfold’s departing guitarist Owen Hill to finish on. JG
Back over at The Apex, Bury Tomorrow (8) are taking no prisoners from the outset today. Whipping the audience into a frenzy with a blistering rendition of Choke that causes the first circle pits of the day to erupt in front of the main stage. The metalcore outfit from Southampton clearly have not come to play around, with guitarists Ed Hartwell and Kristian Dawson dropping riff after bludgeoning riff, all perfectly backed up by the attack of Adam Jackson’s fearsome double kick drums.
The band even treats fans to the live debuts of their latest singles, Life and Death which slip in seamlessly around old favourite Earthbound. In the end it feels like it’s all over too soon when it’s time for them to wrap things up with Cannibal, but even so it’s clear Bury Tomorrow have left a mark on more than a few happy Downloaders by the time things are all said and done! HL
Time to check out Myles Kennedy (6) over on the second stage; where despite pulling a sizable crowd, things are getting off to a bit of a rocky start for the Alter Bridge front man. Unfortunately, having one of the best voices in rock can’t save you from the wind, which affects the sound a great deal and washes away the impact of the first couple of songs for those of us not right on the barrier.
The band play on despite this and play well too, yet it still feels as if there’s an element missing from their performance. There’s a nice surprise for Myles’s more hardcore followers around the halfway mark, when they turn the clock back to 1998 for a rendition of High by The Mayfield Four. However, even this and the requisite Slash cover, complete with a beer bottle slide guitar intro which elicits a hearty cheer of recognition, fails to truly set our world on fire. After a set that was serviceable but slightly anticlimactic at the same time, they draw things to a close with Get Along. It leaves us to wonder what might have been if they’d had their usual momentum behind them. HL
If there’s one band who has been guaranteed to be both a) ultra reliable and b) bring the fun to Download over the years, it’s Skindred (8.5). They could almost be called the Download Festival house band at this point. True to form, Benji Webbe and the boys spend the next hour entertaining the enormous crowd on the Apex Main Stage as only Skindred can. Yes, we’ve heard most of the stage banter before, but when it’s delivered as well as Benji does, it doesn’t matter. The setlist meanwhile is a greatest hits set full of songs that can arguably be now classed as modern classics.
Rat Race, Pressure, Doom Riff and Kill The Power are all present and correct, each going down better than the last. That’s My Jam features a flash mob from The Rockfit crew (videos of which have been doing the rounds on social media). A new song, Smile Please, is a bit lighter than some of their previous and perhaps offers an interesting peak at their upcoming new album – time will tell. Finishing with the hugely crowd pleasing one-two punch of Nobody and Warning – the crowd is even told off tongue in cheek by Benji for starting the Newport Helicopter too early – Skindred’s appeal as a perfect festival band only grows more and more as the years go on. JG
The Ghost Inside (10) have been through a lot in the seven years since they last visited the UK and deservedly, their return to Download Festival is one of the most eagerly awaited sets of the day.
Opening track Avalanche seems incredibly appropriate given that they’re here to close the festivals third stage tonight and as soon as the curtain drops and the booming of Andrew Tkaczyk’s bass drum rings out behind those familiar chords, the entire tent erupts in appreciation.
The metalcore masterclass that follows can only be described as a triumphant return to form for the L.A natives. With them squeezing in sixteen songs into just under an hour, rarely pausing for breath and the crowd loving every minute of it. Every breakdown seems more punishing than the last and the band stomp their way through a setlist of anthems like Dear Youth and Faith or Forgiveness with aplomb, holding absolutely nothing back. With Jonathan Vigil’s command over the audience causing circle pits to spring up all around the stage at every opportunity.
As they take one final victory lap with storming renditions of Engine 45 and Aftermath, it’s clear that The Ghost Inside have set a high bar for anyone that has to follow them on the third stage (or any stage for that matter) this weekend! HL
Friday’s Apex Stage headliners, KISS (9) are getting ready to hang up their leather and platform shoes after this final farewell tour, meaning that sadly, tonight is likely to be the last time they grace UK audiences with their presence.
Anyone expecting a somber goodbye looks set to be sorely mistaken however, as the Detroit rockers start the night off with a hard hitting one-two punch of Detroit Rock City and Shout It Out Loud. Proving that even though this might be their final round here at Donington, they still have plenty of fight left in them!
There are of course moments where their performance feels a little by the numbers, something that can be expected after nearly five decades on the road together. However, these are more than outweighed by the theatrics we’ve come to know and love over the years and no matter how many times you’ve seen Paul Stanley zip line across the crowd, or one of Gene Simmons trademark blood soaked bass solos, it’s still nigh impossible to ignore their charms.
As time goes on the band do seem to loosen a little and find a more natural groove too. With some of that old swagger coming back as they move into their second hour. Which is when they truly come into their own and the quadruple dose of God of Thunder, Love Gun, I Was Made For Lovin’ You and Black Diamond has everyone singing along in unison, horns raised to the sky.
Before long however, it’s time to say one final goodbye to the rock legends, with Rock and Roll All Nite providing the fitting end to their final firework soaked encore at Download. It would be easy to pick fault and say it may not have been an absolutely perfect performance throughout, but there’s still absolutely no doubt the gods of thunder have gone out on a suitably high note tonight. Especially given the number of smiling faces in the arena! HL
The first day proper back on the hallowed Donington turf was better than anyone might have dared hoped for. Download Festival was well and truly back. Stay tuned to Rock Sins for full reviews on days two and three of the festival, plus some special features and multiple interviews with some of the bands who lit up the Download stages!
Reviews by Jamie Giberti (JG) and Hank Leyland (HL). Photos by the Download Festival team except KISS, where photos by Jemma Dodd.