Download 2022: the highlights

From flamethrowers and Facetime to circle pits and zip-wires – Download '22 definitely didn’t disappoint

Download knows how to go big. Back this year with one of the best line-ups in Donnington history, 65,000 fans descended on the sun-baked Leicestershire tarmac last weekend to see the world’s best rock, metal and punk acts shake the midlands into dust.  

Tickets are already on sale for next year’s festival, but if you need a reminder of what you might be missing out on, here are our own highlights from Download 2022…

Bury Tomorrow try to break a world record

Bury Tomorrow
Credit: Abbie Shipperley

There are two thankless jobs at Download – the foot masseurs in the RIP area, and the security team who have to deal with all the crowd surfers. After trying to start the world’s biggest circle pit, then the world’s biggest wall of death, south coast metalcore band Bury Tomorrow went for a record in “most people over the barrier”. The look on the steward’s faces was almost as priceless as the joy on lead singer Daniel Winter-Bates’ when dozens of metalheads started riding the crowd during ‘Black Flame’. PB

Skindred’s “Newport Helicopter”

Credit: Sam McMahon

It’s always a given at a Skindred gig, but the sight of tens of thousands of people whirling their shirts above their heads at the same time is pretty special. Named in honour of their Welsh hometown, Benji Webbe summoned the Newport Helicopter halfway through his mainstage set on Friday afternoon, but the crowd carried on doing it throughout anyway. PB

Frank Carter is Frank Carter

Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes
Credit: Abbie Shipperley

“Trust me, this will be a lot easier if you let me walk on your shoulders” laughs Frank Carter, somewhere in the middle of the crowd as he attempts to walk (not surf) his way around the heads of the audience. Holding a moment’s silence (“for all the other bands we’ve just killed”), starting a female only circle (“if you’re a cis man, get the f**k out the way”), the highlight comes when he Facetime’s his mum on stage, gets everyone to wave hello, and then props her up by the drumkit for the rest of the set. PB

Paul Stanley learns to fly 

Credit: Matt Eachus

Kiss know how to put on a show. Everyone else on the mainstage let off a few fireworks and Kiss came along with fire-breathing panthers, exploding UFOs and Gene Simmons spitting blood from a platform 30ft in the air. Saving their best gimmick for the end of their very last ever UK performance, Paul Stanley mounted a zipwire from the stage and flew over the crowd to play ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ on top of the sound deck. What better way to end your own retirement party? PB

Bruce Dickson wields a flamethrower

Iron Maiden

Not to be outdone by their old rivals, Iron Maiden brought the full circus of their Legacy Of The Beast tour to Download on Saturday night – with Bruce Dickinson bouncing off the walls firing two flamethrowers during ‘Flight Of Icarus’. The giant inflatable Satan head and life-sized flying Spitfire were arguably more impressive later on in the Maiden set, but Dickinson’s mad energy paid off like the biggest special effect of the whole festival (especially when he was shooting jets of fire out of his arms). PB

Rise Against take a stance 

Rise Against

Anyone who’s ever seen Chicago punks Rise Against live will know the band are fiercely political. Kicking off their set with ‘Prayer Of The Refugee’ off their 2006 record The Sufferer & The Witness was particularly poignant on what frontman Tim McIlrath dubbed “Political Sunday”. His wielding megaphone shined as a symbol of the solidarity that can be felt throughout the band’s set. “We sing songs about revolution. There is no racism in revolution.” He proclaims, and it seemed by the end of their set Download had gained a renewed sense of fighting for what’s right. ML

Mastodon drown out Deftones


An ugly clash was mostly avoided on the two main stages for the subs on Saturday night, with a longer running Deftones set overlapping Mastodon for long enough for most fans to catch both. For a time though, two of the loudest bands in the world were competing for the same airspace, with each easily deafening the other depending on where you stood. Mastodon’s bruising set (opening with ‘Pain With An Anchor’, ending on ‘Blood And Thunder’) held up perfectly next to the Californians playing around the corner (the shift from ‘Change’ to ‘Ohms’ was perfect), and Chino Moreno even found time for a shout out. PB

RuPaul’s Drag Race goes rock


Season 2 contestant Bimini brought her stunning live show to Download on Sunday afternoon. Her first ever festival performance, she had many fans calling for more drag acts at Download 2023 by the end of her set. Dressed in gorgeous pearls and a black dress with Princess Diana adorned on her chest, Bimini and her all-queer band delivered original songs and iconic covers of Britney Spears, Soft Cell and more. One of the many acts over the weekend to showcase a more inclusive scene, Bimini set the bar high for drag acts at festivals. ML

Spiritbox prove they’re ready to headline 

Credit: Matt Higgs

A band that can draw a crowd that big (one of the biggest crowds at the Avalanche stage all weekend), is bound to play the last set on the main stage in the very near future. The tent was overflowing, quite literally, with fans dying to see Spiritbox making their UK live debut following their critically acclaimed debut record Eternal Blue. It was a Download set for the history books and one that will cement the band’s status as the hottest act in metal for the foreseeable. ML

Biffy Clyro closes the party

Biffy Clyro

Scottish rock trio Biffy Clyro closed out what was the first full scale Download festival in three years – and they did it with a bang. Opening with tracks off their latest record A Celebration Of Endings and ripping through one hour and forty minutes of their best work, Biffy proved once again why they belong on the big stages of the world, and why they still are one of the UK’s best live bands. Headlining Download for the second time, their set felt like coming home, in the most incredible and ferocious sense. Sparks were flying. ML

Tickets for Download 2023 are on sale now here, including RIP packages.