Who will headline Download Festival 2017?

A photograph of a mystery guitarist representing who might headline Download in 2017
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Update: The headliners have been announced and the Download Festival 2017 Line-up is taking shape!

Well, that was quite a weekend! Having scraped the mud from our boots and with our bruised and battered bodies slowly recovering from the excesses of this year’s Download festivities, we’re already looking ahead to next summer’s activities at Donington Park. With Black Sabbath’s imminent retirement, the metal festival circuit is losing one solid gold headline attraction, but looking forward there’s every reason to be hopeful that Download 2017 could be the best yet. Here’s our list of 10 bands who could slay the East Midlands’ site next year, and are bound to feature in Download Festival 2017 rumours.

Read our Download 2016 reviews: Day One | Day Two | Day Three

Guns N’ Roses

An absolute no-brainer. If Axl, Slash and Duff (and the other fellas) can refrain from killing one another on the upcoming Not In This Lifetime tour, the Gunners will surely be at the top of DL head honcho Andy Copping’s wish-list for 2017, which will be the 30th anniversary of their first Donington appearance. Indeed the fact that Copping was hanging out with Slash and Duff backstage at the Axl/DC show in London the other weekend suggests to us that negotiations may already be underway. Axl killed it with AC/DC this summer - doing wonders for his own reputation in the process - so this prospect pleases us greatly.


The safest of safe bets. Barely a summer goes by without Metallica headlining a UK festival (or self-standing stadium show) and with their long-awaited tenth studio album set to arrive later in the year, there’s no way they won’t be in Europe again next summer. James Hetfield’s band have already headlined Download three times, and now that Lars has ticked headlining Glastonbury off his ‘If U2 can do it, we can fokking do it!’ bucket-list, there’s no reason the San Franciscan ‘bangers shouldn’t return to a festival they’ve supported from day one (remember that killer secret show in 2003?). Gn’R vs Metallica 25 years on from their legendary/infamous US co-headline tour has a pleasing symmetry to it too…


Back in 2006, the names in the largest type on the DL festival poster were Tool, Metallica and Guns N’ Roses: could we see a repeat of that killer combination next year? Tool have been trolling their own devoted fan-base for years now by withholding a follow-up to 10,000 Days, but as the wait approaches Chinese Democracy-levels of faffing, surely there’s an end in sight? One thing is certain: absence has only made hearts grow fonder in Tool’s case, and few bands would be more welcome back at Download. Probably best you don’t put your life-savings on it, mind.

Bring Me The Horizon

That booking this country’s biggest metal band this side of Iron Maiden to headline Download would cause a shit-storm of unimaginable proportions is both hilarious and embarrassing in equal measure, but if not now, when? This Autumn Oli Sykes’ band will play two nights at the 20,000 capacity 02 Arena in London, and if that isn’t the final step towards securing a festival headline slot then it’s hard to imagine what more the Sheffield band can do. It’d be a divisive booking for sure - the That’s Not Metulz brigade would cry-wank themselves into oceans of despair - but it’d also be an unmissable spectacle that would go down in Download history. Download needs bands such as BMTH in order to survive, this could be their time.

Bon Jovi

2017 will mark the 30th anniversary of Bon Jovi’s only headline appearance at Donington Park, atop a Monsters Of Rock bill which featured Dio, Metallica and Anthrax among others. The New Jersey band’s popularity has barely dipped at all in the ensuing three decades, so one can only imagine that there’s a perception that JBJ’s band are a bit too ‘hen party’ for the Download crowd. This is nonsense: if bands as middle-of-the-road as modern-day Aerosmith, Kiss and Def Leppard can sit proudly at the summit of a Download bill, then there’s no way Bon Jovi couldn’t pull this off. Livin’ On A Prayer, You Give Love A Bad Name and Bad Medicine back-to-back on a summer night? Just imagine the scenes…

Foo Fighters

Back in 1998, when Foo Fighters were booked to play the UK Ozzfest alongside the likes of Sabbath, Slayer and Pantera, Dave Grohl’s band were painfully out of their depth, and ultimately got upstaged by a bored audience chucking paper cups back-and-forth. The Foos have grown up a lot since then though, and are undeniably now one of the world’s biggest, and most capable, rock bands. As with Bon Jovi, there’d be the usual tools whining that the Foos aren’t heavy enough for the hallowed turf of Donington, but Grohl is a canny operator, and you just know he’d pull together a killer set (and special guests) that would win over the cynics. White Limo to open, Dave, and we’re all yours.

Queens Of The Stone Age

In truth, QOTSA haven’t exactly blown away the Download faithful on their previous appearance at Donington Park, but then when you play main support to AC/DC and Iron Maiden, as Josh Homme’s band did in 2010 and 2013 respectively, you’re only ever going to be a footnote on the day. Since the release of …Like Clockwork, members of Queens have been tooling around with the likes of Iggy Pop, Eagles of Death Metal and Gone Is Gone, but they’re set to re-group to record a seventh studio album later this year, so timing-wise a step up to headliner status in 2017 would make sense. If they truly want to be numbered among the greatest rock bands of the past 20 years, here’s their opportunity.

Van Halen

One of rock’s most enduring soap operas, it’s never easy to second guess Van Halen: as successful as the band’s reformation with original vocalist David Lee Roth has proved, rumours that Sammy Hagar might yet return to front the group next time out continue to swirl. Whatever, VH have been on Andy Copping’s Download wish-list for years, and few bands can boast such an iconic reputation and golden back catalogue. A DLR-fronted Van Halen lighting up the Donington sky next June would be one hell of a party.

Biffy Clyro

Set to co-headline Reading/Leeds in August, the Scottish trio are long-time Donington favourites, and played main support to Metallica back in 2012 on their fourth appearance at Download. With their triumphant headline appearance at Sonisphere in 2011, Simon Neil’s band proved that they have the songs, the skills and the balls to headline a metal festival, and with new album Ellipsis imminent they’re perfectly placed for a summer ’17 headline slot. Don’t bet against it.

Nine Inch Nails

“New NIN coming in 2016. Other stuff, too” tweeted Trent Reznor in December 2015, since when we’ve seen or heard bugger all from Nine Inch Nails. Reznor has been kinda busy admittedly, what with his key role in launching Apple Music, but if NIN are to release a follow-up album to 2013’s Hesitation Marks later this year, then they’ll definitely leap straight to the top of every festival promoter’s ‘Most Wanted’ list. Curiously, Nine Inch Nails have never played Download: rectifying that in 2017 would be one hell of a way to announce the band’s return.

Download: The TeamRock Archive

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.