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WPGM Reviews: Download Festival 2023

Marking the 20th anniversary of Download Festival, going all out with the likes of headliners Bring Me The Horizon, Slipknot and Metallica for two nights of the festival, attendees were in for a treat. For the very first time, Download Festival was completely sold out and for everyone who was lucky enough to get tickets were in for some of the best few days of the festival season. We Plug Good Music were there for the three out of the four days and here is a rundown of what went down in Donington.

Nova Twins – Apex Stage

It wasn’t a surprise to see Nova Twins up on the main stage. This is where they were meant to be. With all that energy they have throughout their set, what better to let go than in front of thousands of people and with all the space they could ask for. From their outfits, stage presence, setlist choice and the messages they convey through their music, Nova Twins know how it’s done.

Everything works perfectly. The dynamic duo of Bassist Georgia South and Vocalist/guitarist Amy Love feed off each other and the passion they both have is genuine. “Choose Your Fighter” was just one of the songs through their set that had everyone jumping up and down, with well deserved cheers and applause. Looking into the crowd and evidently ecstatic at the amount of people who were there for them did not go unnoticed.

Nova Twins left the people of Download wanting more and that’s truly a sign of a standout set and quality musicians. There are no signs of Nova Twins slowing down as they continue to provide the rock scene with a sense of community, immersive and thrilling live shows.

Neck Deep – Apex Stage

Perfect for the pop punk sound, and the overall vibe, the sun was shining down on the crowd who gathered around to see Wrexham’s finest, Neck Deep. As always, they were on top form. Everyone there was there to have a good time. With songs like “Can’t Kick Up the Roots” and “Gold Steps”, it isn’t possible for it to not feel like one giant party when Neck Deep are around.

From witnessing them play tiny venues around the UK in 2014, to now nearly 10 years later up on the main stage of Download, this shows the dedication Neck Deep continue to showcase. Encouraging mosgipits for their set and mosh pits are exactly what they got.

There were no frowns in sight. Neck Deep brought nostalgia through the songs on the setlist. Their set was everything festival goers could ask for. High energy songs, crowd surfers, mosh pits and just an overall good time.

Crawlers – The Avalanche Stage

The anticipation was over as Crawlers made their way to the stage. Greeted with cheers and screams, they were ready to kick off their Download debut with a bang! The crowd didn’t hold back when it came to their excitement and neither did the band themselves. With smiles all around, Crawlers were there to have a fun time with their fans.

As they belted the chorus’ back of songs including “Messiah” and “I Don’t Want It”, the electricity in the room continued. The connection that the band have with their fans is genuine and as a band who encourage their fans to be themselves, they provide a community and a safe place to do just that. It felt like one big family when Crawlers were up on stage.

Audience participation was a Don is always a big part of their set. This allowed for their fans to feel even closer to the band and worked the other way round too. High energy, raw lyrics, and stage presence that kept the crowd wanting more, Crawlers captivated everyone in the room and it was a beautiful scene to witness.

Asking Alexandria – Opus Stage

The crowd erupted as Asking Alexandria greeted the people of Download. Being one of the biggest bands in the scene in the mid 2000s and were potentially one of the bands that were an introduction to rock music to many of their longtime fans, the legion of screaming fans were still by their side.

The excitement was in the air as the band proceeded to put on a masterclass of a setlist consisting of fan favourites “The Final Episode”, “Into the Fire” and “Dark Void”. They sang with passion and fed off the audience’s reaction after every song.

The band hyped up the crowd and they were loving every second of it. The love for Asking Alexandria is still apparent here in the UK and that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. A staple in the rock scene who continue to grow stronger and reminded the people of Donington what they were and still are all about.

Architects – Apex Stage

The stage presence of Architects from the very second they stepped foot onto the stage was powerful. From the very first song, they were able to command the audience and have them in the palm of their hands. Singer Sam Carter repeatedly states his appreciation for the band’s fan base and how they have managed to make it to a place like Download for the festival’s anniversary.

With dynamic songs ready for every sized venue and stage, the audience are ready, waiting and raring to go. Mosh pit after mosh pit, crowd surfer after crowd surfer. This showed no sign of slowing down. Looking out to the sea of people who were there for their set, smiles shone on the faces of every single member.

They had no issues in making the most of the space they had on stage. They prove that they belong in this scene and everyone who was there to witness them at Download and match their energy thinks so too.

Bring Me The Horizon – Apex Stage

Their production was on another level. Flames, bright colours, projections on the screen with a story to tell from the band themselves, Bring Me The Horizon had the audience in the palm of their hands even before they took to the stage. The wait was finally over as the band were greeted with the loudest screams and cheers from their adoring fans.

Their setlist consisted of a mixture of songs from their discography, so there was something for everyone. Every BMTH song, regardless of the album, sounds like it was made for a stage as big as the Apex Stage at Download Festival. Not one single person stood still. From mosh pits, to crowd surfers, there was always something going on other than up on the stage.

They brought out special guests Nova Twins for their track “1×1” and Amy Lee for “One Day the Only Butterflies Left Will Be Know Your Chest as You March Towards Your Death” and “Nihilist Blues”. The crowd went crazy, as it brought the already exhilarating set to another level.

Singer Oli Sykes, as always interacted with the crowd as much as possible and made it known that as a band, they were grateful for every single one of their fans for their continued support.

With an encore of “Drown”, “Throne”, and “Can You Feel My Heart”, the band performed these last few songs with such joy, just like they did throughout their memorable set. The setlist, visuals, atmosphere and everything that made Bring Me’s set what it was proved how worthy they were to be one of the bands to headline this year’s Download Festival.

Fever 333 – Apex Stage

Fever 333 know how to put on a show and a show to remember. From their visuals, to the messages that transpire within their music, they are able to portray art that is not only beautiful but relevant to so many people. Fever 333 provides a visceral experience to anyone who has the opportunity to see them live.

Every single member makes the most out of the space and it just shows how perfect they fit up on that very stage. Running up and down the stage and interacting with the photographers and fans, the band knows how to make every single person feel welcome.

It bridges the gap between the band and the crowd. Performing tracks including “Made An America”, and “ONE OF US”, they left the crowd wanting more after every song. Loud cheers and applauses after every song was testament to how Fever 333 put on such a memorable show.

It wouldn’t be a Fever set if singer Jason Aalon Butler isn’t hanging from the rafters or climbing on speakers, adding another element of amazement to their performance. Fever 333 left their mark on the people of Download for all the right reasons.

Beauty School Dropout – The Dogtooth stage

The hard work and passion that Colie, Beepus, Bardo and Michael put into Beauty School Dropout doesn’t go unrecognised. From the outfits, to the high energy, catchy and anthemic songs, they are here to stay. From having supported Maggie Lindemann not too long before heading to Download Festival for the first time, they were made for the festival.

Whether people had seen/heard of them for the first time or were fans already, BSD grabbed the audience’s attention from the very first song. With a setlist including the songs “SEE YOU IN HELL”, “Dying to Be You”, “A$$A$$IN” and “FIGHT MODE”, they had everyone up on their feet.

Not one single person stood still and that is a sign of true musicians who can control the crowd through their music, stage presence and energy. They have created something that is entirely their own, and have put thought into every aspect of what we see onstage. They show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This is just the beginning for Beauty School Dropout.

Three Days Grace – Opus Stage

The anticipation for the Canadian rockers to take to the stage was finally over and they were greeted with a well deserved round of applause and screams from their dedicated fan base. As the band walked out to the sun shining down on the crowd, smiles beamed on every member’s face and it was evident they were happy to be up on that stage singing hits including “Animal I’ve Become” and “I Hate everything about you”.

The crowd sang back every single word which put smiles on everyone’s face. The crowd continued to chant “Three Days Grace” followed by applause. Lead singer Matt Walst introduces the band with confidence in the middle of their set.

Three Days Grace are one of these bands that could get pretty much an entire audience reminiscing back to their childhood and/or to one of the bands that paved their introduction to this very scene. Pure moments of joy on smiles all around, both up on stage and the sea of people who were there to witness these rock legends in all their glory.

Bob Vylan – The Avalanche stage

Bob Vylan were definitely not one to miss. Providing everything a punk show could offer- energy, passion, clear/important messages through their songs and amazing stage presence, what more could the people of Download ask for? They are an important band in this scene, not only for the representation of black people in the rock scene, but the fact they have something to say through their music.

What you see is what you get- Bob Vylan (vocals) and Bobby Vylan (Drums) giving it their all, no gimmicks and an exhilarating show. Bringing out Fever 333’s Jason Aalon Butler for their track “Pulled Pork” was truly a standout moment in their set.

The perfect collaboration for what they both stand for. Crowd interaction is a big part of a Bob Vylan show, tearing apart the separation between band and fans. Bob Vylan are one of the most important and vital bands around that should not be slept on. They always have something to say and you should listen.

Simple Plan – Opus Stage

Simple Plan knew what the fans wanted to hear as their setlist consisted of some of their iconic tracks including “I’m Just a Kid”, “Shut Up” and “Welcome to My Life”, where the entire crowd sang back every word at the top of their lungs to every song.

They are one of a few timeless bands that people think of when they think of pop punk and rightly so. With the sun shining down and smiles all around, what better way to mark festival season than with some of the UK’s favourite songs- “All Star”/“Mr. Bright side” and Oasis’ “Wonderwall”.

It was like one massive karaoke/beach party with the inflatable giant beach balls thrown into the crowds. Simple Plan knows how to have fun and kept that same energy till the very end of their set. They brought their songs to life and reminded everyone of the very reason they fell in love with them in the first place.

Bloodywood – Apex Stage

The name Bloodywood was one that was floating around the festival until they made their grand entrance opening up the main stage on Sunday. Dressed in traditional Indian attire, Bloodywood were on a mission to leave a lasting impression on the crowd and that’s exactly what they did.

Calling out serious topics including sexual predators, it was important for the band to get the message across about them being serious about what they are there to do. They deliver songs including “Dana- Dan” and “Jee Veerey” with such passion and conviction.

The combination of the electric guitar, flute, and dhol drum brings so many influences and genres together which allows for the band to create the music they enjoyed growing up. Their Indian culture is a big part of everything they stand for and in the rock scene, there isn’t a band like Bloodywood. They did what they came to do and that is commendable.

The Amity Affliction – Opus Stage

Pulling out all the fan favourites including “All My Friends Are Dead”, “Pittsburgh” and “It’s Hell Down Here”, The Amity Affliction had the crowd screaming along to every chorus. The setlist for their set was the perfect mix to highlight the band’s discography.

Known for their anthemic tracks and raw lyrics, while being able to slow things down when needed, there was never a dull moment with them on stage. When is there when pyro is involved? Using every bit of the stage, they were able to create a pleasing atmosphere surrounding the stage.

As the crowd stared in amazement as the Aussie rockers put everything they got into their set, they left a lasting impression on everyone who was there to mark the festival’s anniversary. The love that Amity had for their fans and the festival did not go unnoticed. With some of their most dedicated fans, they were able to prove why The Amity Affliction were a deserving band to mark this special occasion.

I Prevail – Apex Stage

Making their way to the stage, I Prevail were greeted with a loud round of applause/cheers. With songs including “Self Destruction”, “Bad Things” and “Hurricane”, it was evident that they were meant to be up on that very stage to make the anniversary of Download Festival.

From the vocal range of vocalist Brian Burkheiser, the growls of Eric Vanlerberghe and the musicianship of the entire band altogether, their set stood out as one of the best. They made crowd participation a vital part of their set, as well as showing their appreciation to their fans and the people who were there to watch them.

Catchy melodies and brutal breakdowns showcase the band’s versatility and proves they are a force to be reckoned with. As a band who experiment a lot with their sound, they show no signs of slowing down or becoming predictable. I Prevail will continue to surprise the scene with whatever they have planned.

Set It Off – The Avalanche Stage

Always bringing the excitement and energy to the stage, Set It Off had the crowd in the palm of their hands from the very second they stepped onto the stage. With a packed out tent, and the smiles from each member of the band, there was no surprise that the same atmosphere continued throughout their entire set.

With catchy choruses and gripping hooks, their fans were invested in their music, both old and new. As always, the blend of genres throughout their music is what keeps Set It Off’s music fun, fresh and exciting. Playing a mixture of older and newer tracks, including “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”, “Hypnotized” which was performed by the band’s drummer Max Danziger and their latest single “Punching Bag”.

Feeling like one big family, Set It Off made every single person in the tent feel welcome. From old to new fans, SIO put on a live show to be proud of and one that proves that whether playing in tiny venues or a massive festival like Download, they will always show love to the people who helped them get there. Their fans.

Parkway Drive – Apex Stage

The instant smiles on the faces of Parkway Drive said it all. From the very first track “Glitch”, everyone who had taken the time from their day to watch what the Australian rockers had in store for their set were in for a treat. Crowd interaction was a big part of their set, especially as they continually showed their appreciation to their fans over the years.

Their songs were made to sing to a massive crowd like Download, full of heavy riffs and breakdowns, what more could you ask for from Parkway Drive? Massive flames and a violinist, crowd surfers making their way to the front of the stage from every angle. It’s times like these where Parkway Drive continue to make a name for themselves in the metal community. They put 100% into the music they create that is evident when it is brought to the stage.

Slipknot – Apex Stage

What better way to round off this year’s Download Festival than with the legends that are Slipknot. As always, they give the people what they want and that is a memorable, energetic and polished performance.

Whether it is through their visuals, unique stage presence or the genres that they have ventured in throughout their time as a band, there will never be a band like Slipknot. Captivating the audience from the very second they came on stage, all eyes were on them till the very end.

With a setlist consisting of tracks including “Psychosocial”, “The Heretic Anthem” and “Duality”, there was excitement all around as they powered through their catalogue of anthems. Inciting some of the festival’s biggest pits and sing-alongs, they never disappoint. Seeing Slipknot live is an experience in itself and one that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who has seen them multiple times or for the very first time.

Words by Sarah Akomanyi

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