The first Download Festival took place at Leicestershire’s Donington Park – the UK’s spiritual home of rock and metal – in 2003.
In its inaugural year, Iron Maiden and Audioslave headlined the two-day, two-stage bash. Since then, it’s grown into something of a monster. This year, Slipknot, Muse and Kiss head the three-day bash across its five stages.
Over its 13 year history, there’ve been hundreds of jaw dropping moments. To recount them all would take hundreds of hours. So we called upon the help of Download boss Andy Copping to describe the festival’s 10 best moments. Within hours, he delivered the following list – there’s no order of hierarchy, because that would be impossible – but asked us to write about these pivotal events because he had a festival to run or something…
**THE PRODIGY’S SECOND STAGE HEADLINE SET (2006) **It has long been the case that metal fans who have not heard a Prodigy album or seen a Prodigy show shudder at the thought of them. It has also long been the case that, once they have done either – but particularly the latter – they change that view pretty quickly. It was a chain of events that repeated itself in 2006 when The Prodigy were announced as second stage headliners and festival-goers looking for an excuse to be outraged found the perfect thing for the job. The pissing and moaning, however, was somewhat drowned out when the band’s set of hammering beats, righteous aggression and full on fury erupted to prove that, once again, The Prodigy kick arse no matter the setting. That rock ‘n’ roll royalty Guns N’ Roses were headlining the main stage at the time – and in the process of being bottled, walking off, throwing instruments at cameramen and generally being arseholes – while the upstarts were owning the second stage made things all the sweeter for The Prodge.
The Prodigy’s Keith Flint: Photoshot/Hulton Archive
**KORN’S ALL-STAR VOCAL LINE-UP (2006) **It’s the sets that are out of the ordinary that shine the brightest. Bands tour the European festival circuit for much of the summer, playing the same set over and over again. Often it leads to polish but not something genuinely memorable. When Korn singer Jonathan Davis was admitted to a London hospital with a blood disorder shortly before Download, the sensible thing would have been to cancel and say sorry. Everyone would have understood. Instead, though, the show went on with guests like Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows, Trivium’s Matt Heafy and Skindred’s Benji Webbe filling in for Davis superbly. Everyone who saw it will remember it forever: a lot longer, perhaps, than they might have done had it just been a normal gig.
Korn 2006: David Silveria, Fieldy and Munky and right, Fieldy with Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows Photos: Nigel Crane/Redferns
LINKIN PARK PERFORMING HYBRID THEORY IN FULL (2014) By 2014, Linkin Park had moved so far away from their roots that the thought of them delivering juddering nu metal riffs to a festival crowd seemed as likely as them playing naked. After a couple of albums of drum loop-inspired nonsense and noodlings, their days as multi-platinum deliverers of polished angst and field-wide moshpits seemed long gone. So when they rolled into Download that year and played the whole of their Hybrid Theory debut, it was as if the past 14 years had not happened. Those who had experienced it the first time, experienced it again in its full glory. Those who were too young first time round and thought Linkin Park was simply beard-scratching musos who had long since embarked on a mission to the centre of their bumholes suddenly discovered what all the fuss was about.
Linkin Park’s 2000 album, ‘Hybrid Theory’ and right, Chester Bennington Photo: Ollie Millington/WireImage
COREY TAYLOR BEING COMPLETELY STARSTUCK AT MEETING FAITH NO MORE (2009) Slipknot’s Saturday night set at Download in 2009 was their first ever UK festival headline performance and one that meant the world to them: brilliant, monstrous and magnificent it would live with almost all of them forever. But it was not what their singer Corey Taylor would take home from the day. Faith No More had marked a particularly traumatic moment in his life – shortly after a suicide attempt as a teenager, he had watched the band perform Epic live on MTV and found it so mesmerising that it gave him hope for his future. FNM were the headliners on Friday night in 2009 and played their own brilliant set too, but for Taylor, meeting the band for the first time backstage was mind-melting. It was that he remembered far more than his own band’s triumph.
**Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Faith No More’s Mike Patton **Photos: Mick Hutson and Gary Wolstenholme (Redferns)
**RAMMSTEIN’S HEADLINE SET (2013) **There are those bands who wander out onstage apologetically, embarrassed by the clamour. There are those who prefer to let their music do the talking, letting nothing distract from the songs. And then there are bands who announce their arrival with a salvo of rockets, whose singer descends from the roof of the stage on a spark-spewing platform in pink fluffy coat and who then punctuate an immaculate greatest hits set with flamethrowers, simulated sodomy and enough fire to burn down California. Slipknot had been the Friday night headliners in 2013 and were brilliant. A Spitfire flypast marked Iron Maiden’s classic Saturday night headline slot. Yet nobody could shut up about Rammstein after Sunday night. That’s how good they were.
**TRIVIUM OPENING THE MAIN STAGE (2005) **Nobody knew a thing about Trivium when they opened the main stage on Saturday in 2005. They had had a few songs on MTV, done a couple of small interviews in the rock press, and that was about it. By the time they finished their set half an hour later, they were being touted as the heirs to Metallica’s throne. That was how impressive it was. There was something about the time, the moment, the songs that simply made everything come together: four brash kids beating out their thrash-influenced metalcore in front of a crowd which grew and grew the more it heard what was going on. Afterwards, Trivium were simply the hottest band in metal. “Yeah, that set went OK I guess,” said singer Matt Heafy afterwards, with considerable understatement.
Trivium’s Matt Heafy at Download 2005 Photo: Rowen Lawrence/WireImage
METALLICA’S SECRET SET IN A RELATIVELY SMALL TENT (2003) In Download’s first year, 2003, there was a late logistical issue when Limp Bizkit pulled out as the Sunday night headliners. A call was swiftly put in to Metallica’s management to see if they might step in. Impossible, came the reply, as the band were headlining Reading and Leeds that year and contracts demanded they did not headline another UK festival. But… there was nothing in those contracts about playing anywhere else on the bill. So it was that, between The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster and Real McKenzies, the biggest metal band in the world played a tent in the middle of the afternoon and blew its roof off. As a consequence, at some point at each Download, a rumour goes round the site that they are to do the same again – only for a bunch of very disappointed people to wander into one of the smaller tents and have to watch Zebrahead instead.
Metallica give an in-tents performance at Download 2003 Photo: Mick Hutson/Redferns
TONY IOMMI RETURNING TO THE STAGE (2012) In January 2012, Black Sabbath’s guitarist Tony Iommi was diagnosed with lymphoma. They had recently reformed (without drummer Bill Ward) following the end of hostilities between the band and singer Ozzy Osbourne. The subsequent European tour they had booked for much of 2012 seemed a celebration of the gang (nearly all) getting back together again. But the news about Iommi stopped all that in its tracks. So when they cancelled every single date except Download, Lollapalooza and an indoor show in Birmingham, it meant their performance at Donington was likely to be very special indeed. It was exactly that. Though Ozzy’s voice had seen better days, the star of the show was Iommi, who proved – cancer schmancer – that he was still very much one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.
**AC/DC’S GIGANTIC STAGE (2010) **It takes a band with some serious clout to do what AC/DC did in 2010. The Download stage has been good enough for just about everyone who is anyone: Metallica, Black Sabbath, KISS, Aerosmith, Rage Against The Machine … the list goes on. Not AC/DC though. They brought their own, said nobody else could use it, then waited for every other band in the entire festival to finish playing before they came on on the Friday night. Monstrous ego? Or simply the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world ensuring the paying punters got to see their full stadium set without any other distractions. The reaction made it pretty clear that, for the fans at least, it was the latter.
**AC/DC own the stage – literally – at Download 2010 **Photos: Neil Lupin/Redferns
**JOEY JORDISON PLAYING DRUMS FOR METALLICA (2004) **There had been rumours something was up for most of the day. Metallica were due to headline the festival but there were whispers, later proven to be true, that Lars Ulrich was not with his band. He’s never really explained why either: his excuse that he just needed to “kind of chill out” was never an entirely convincing reason for missing a headline slot at the home of metal. Would Metallica play? The answer came when, from a non-descript backstage tent, a band who sounded an awful lot like Metallica began cranking out their songs. It turned out to be Slipknot’s then drummer Joey Jordison, Ulrich’s drum tech Flemming Larsen and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo practising to fill in. The results were the most memorable show in Download history: Metallica playing without Ulrich for the first time and sounding – harsh as it might be to say – a whole lot better for it.
**Joey Jordison behind the kit for Metallica at Download 2004 with James Hetfield **Photo: Mick Hutson/Redferns
Download takes place at Donington Park from June 12–14, 2015. For more information, click here.