All the action from Thursday of Download's 20th anniversary edition
The fishnets are out, the merch queue is long, and the ears are very much ringing. Download festival 2023 is well underway after Metallica took to the stage yesterday (Thursday 8 June) to top a raucous day that saw the likes of Jinjer, Halestorm, Mom Jeans. and many more help open the metal and rock institution’s 20th anniversary.
As we get amongst it again for day 2, here’s a play-by-play of how it went down.
It’s so good to be back, Downloaders! Here’s our Thursday highlights 🔥 pic.twitter.com/63S2xEBvyL— Download Festival (@DownloadFest) June 9, 2023
The Opus Stage, the festival’s second biggest, feels the full force of the sun this afternoon, but crowds continue to amass early on. It’d be hot spot anyway, with some of the festival’s punk and post-hardcore billing to be found here, such as The Bronx, who bring a slice of Los Angeles energy to Donington. Frontman Matt Caughthran knows the deal; this 4PM slot can propel everyone into the evening or usher in a lull to go find some food. Ensuring his band help with the former, the serrated jabs of ‘Knifeman’ have only just begun and he’s in the crowd opening up a pit and getting amongst it with a commanding force. Somehow his microphone survives.
The pits continue, albeit with a few more moments of hand-on-heart sentimentality for the recently returned Hundred Reasons, who are probably one of the ‘lighter’ bands of the weekend yet still manage to wedge in some distorted grooves on the likes of ‘Stories With Unhappy Endings’ and euphoric closer ‘If I Could’. A few of the stage security let slip that they’re fans, mouthing a few lyrics to themselves before coming to and looking discerning again. Thanks to them for frequently keeping us hydrated – it’s needed.
Over on the Apex Stage it’s a poignant one as Ukraine’s Jinjer take to the stage with a peace sign as their backdrop. Singer and screamer Tatiana Shmailyuk is fierce and dynamic, and is clearly moved at times as she thanks the crowds for their support and solidarity. There’s comic relief in the form of a flag that reads – mum look away – “Putin w*nks on all fours”.
Pensylvannia’s Halestorm bring some glitz and glam to their huge sounding rock, which sounds even huger than usual thanks to a busy afternoon slot on the main stage. This band are out-and-out performers, with drum solos and panoramic stage runs making the likes of ‘The Steeple’ and ‘Back From The Dead’ all the more dazzling.
Things begin to get weird, very weird, as Maynard James Keenan lands on The Apex Stage looking for alien life forms with his group of part-mannequins, part-band members, Puscifer. The Tool frontman made headlines last month for dressing in drag in defiance of Florida’s new anti-drag laws, but today he looks more like a character from Men In Black meets The Addams Family meets LazyTown. Everything is off-kilter and glitchy, and the sideways funk of ‘Fake Affront’ leaves some bemused, but it’s just what the day needs.
Those who found Puscifer all too heady could scream their emo hearts out over at the big top Avalanche Stage, as California band Mom Jeans seem to be having the time of their lives. There’s a palpable buzz on closer ‘*Sobs Quietly*’, with bassist throwing his guitar in the air. I really didn’t expect to hear an Ozzy Osbourne cover (‘Crazy Train’) back-to-back with a Chilis cover (‘Can’t Stop’) either.
Newport nu-metal fusion band Skindred are Download veterans, as the many tees and wavy Hawaiian shirts donning their name prove. But while their unfettered energy is normally harnessed to keep things moving during the afternoon, their set tonight closing off the Apex Stage feels more of a headline performance as they bring the boom.
Besides their immediate practical use of projecting sound and on-stage visuals, the speaker/screen satellites that encircle the Apex Stage give it an epic, out-of-this-world feeling. It adds to the suspense as Metallica, the first headliner of Download ’23, prepare to play the first of their double-header headline slots. Ennio Morricone’s ‘The Ecstacy Of Gold’ adds the cinema this occasion demands. Boy is it loud as James Hetfield roars on the thrashy opener ‘Creeping Death’ with seasoned ease.
He’s full of modest lines to the crowd tonight, acknowledging at one point the vocal talent on this stage that’s come before him. “I’m just practicing, practice with me!” Oh, they know how to work a crowd. Kirk Hammet shreds like he’s summoning an ancient beast, while Lars Ulrich keeps it tight while somehow moving around his kit restlessly.
After Hetfield tees us up for what feels like the night’s closing number, an especially ripping and menacing ‘Seek & Destroy’ bangs straight into their magnum opus, ‘Master Of Puppets’. Bring on Saturday for Metallica round two. Check out the full Metallica Download review here.