Liquid Death Presents Download 2024: the highlights

The best of the fest, from Fall Out Boy's career-spanning headline slot to Enter Shikari embracing the mud at Donington Park

Boasting its most eclectic line-up to date, featuring some of the finest acts in pop-rock, death metal, and everything in between, this year’s Download Festival was one for the books. Here are our highlights.

Scene Queen brings ‘bimbocore’ to the masses

Friday afternoon brought a little bit of rain (…), and by the time Scene Queen took to the Opus Stage the ground was already boggy. Strutting onstage to a rave remix of Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’, the Californian musician was greeted by a swarm of pink cowboy hats ready to open the ‘twerkle pit’. A vision in pink instructing the afternoon crowds to “shake their ass”, with riffs and breakdowns aplenty, it’s difficult to understand how she’s become such a maligned figure in the metal community. Encouraging girl-only pits, calling out scene abusers on ‘18+’, and shouting out the incredible women on this weekend’s line-up, it’s an equal marriage of empowerment and sheer, unapologetic fun. It’s the highest Scene Queen has ever sat on a festival bill – with a sound and style that’s unafraid to embrace femininity and celebrate our differences – get ready to see her soar.

Polyphia set fire to the Apex Stage

Sandwiched between two classic rock heavyweights in Derbyshire’s The Struts and scene titans Black Stone Cherry, genre-bending instrumentalists Polyphia stuck out as outliers on Friday’s main stage bill. The sun was peeking through the clouds and shining on the festival site by the time they make their way onstage – they may be a wildcard act for those less acquainted with their sound, but with trap-tinged bangers and sky-scraping harmonies, they owned it. Drummer Clay Aeschliman’s metallic purple kit dazzled in the newly-appeared rays, pyro flared out as crowd surfers piled over the barrier to the sound of the band’s stunning instrumental flourishes. A collective who certainly don’t slack on the groove, fingers danced along strings as guitarist Scott LePage riled up the increasingly feverish crowd, joining forces with fellow guitarist Tim Henson to deliver some of the most electrifying melodies this stage has ever seen. Even a shower of rain during almighty 2022 track ‘Genesis’ couldn’t break spirits, with arms shoved through waterproof poncho sleeves to cheer. 

The Callous Daoboys bring the biggest party to Download’s smallest stage

With all manner of sounds on this year’s line-up – from pop royalty Busted to groove metal titans Pantera, no one act is quite so ferociously eclectic as The Callous Daoboys. Smashing genres together in chaotic style, at times they’re heavy enough to split eardrums and other times they’re melodic enough to start a conga line. The seven members of the mathcore outfit just about squeezed onto the Dogtooth Stage, and they didn’t have time to mess around. With vocalist Carson “Big Animal” Pace informed the crowd that he intended to catch experimental rock kings Mr. Bungle playing just ten minutes after he was due offstage, he was in frenzied form. Likely the only time during the weekend where anyone saw a violin played alongside blood curdling screams, after teasing Metallica’s ‘Fuel’ before a ripping rendition of ‘Violent Astrology’, they had everyone onside. With the early evening circle pits opening, their set may have been cut short due to timing issues, but The Callous Daoboys reigned victorious at their Download debut.

Busted prove that they can stand side by side with metal royalty

There were a lot of doubters when Busted were announced for this year’s festival. Questions were raised as to whether boy bands truly had a place at the home of British heavy music, but the trio more than rose to the occasion. Delivering a set of greatest hits to a tent overflowing with bodies, anthemic tunes such as ‘What I Go To School For’ and ‘Crashed The Wedding’ were met with sheer joy from the thousands keen to relive their childhood years. Throwing in a cover of Hanson’s ‘MMMBop’ for good measure, there’s no doubt that fun was top of the agenda for Busted. Pyro, confetti, and plenty of stage banter carrying them through their hour-long set, by the time ‘Year 3000’ climaxed in an epic ‘big finish’ moment, they proved that their singalong pop-rock classics are more than worthy of sharing stages with the riffs and riots of their heavier counterparts. 

Read our full review of Busted at Download 2024 here.

Funeral For A Friend enlist Holding Absence’s Lucas Woodland for a mighty celebration of Welsh rock

With founding vocalist Matt Davies-Kreye announcing his departure in 2023, Holding Absence frontman Lucas Woodland was holding the mic for the Welsh post-hardcore legends. A last-minute addition to the line-up – replacing Bad Omens who recently cancelled all summer shows due to ‘extreme burnout’ – Funeral For A Friend were closing out the Opus Stage on a drizzly Friday night. 

Only receiving the call two weeks before, they might not have had a long time to prepare, but it certainly didn’t show. A collision of two generations of the Welsh alternative scene, it was arguably the best they’ve ever sounded; Woodland’s soaring vocals injecting a vibrant dose of energy into the rest of the band. Charlie Simpson rushed over from Busted’s set on the Avalanche Stage to deliver some killer vocals on 2005 track ‘All The Rage’ before the iconic dial tone intro of ‘Streetcar’ awakened something deep inside the hearts of all former emo kids; the fresh take on the much-loved tracks was undoubtedly special. Heading up a band of his childhood heroes, it was a big moment for Woodland that he took confidently in his stride, and with Holding Absence set to dominate The Avalanche Stage on Saturday evening – it wasn’t the last we saw of him.

Queens Of The Stone Age deliver a killer headline set filed with attitude

Queens Of The Stone Age aren’t the type of band that deal in half measures. Fronted by swaggering guitarist Josh Homme, they’re the kind of rock legends who know just how bloody good they are. Confrontingly loud and serving up rock ‘n’ roll attitude in hearty doses, their headline set was part rock show, part dazzling light spectacular. A career-spanning set with all the hits; melodic hard-hitter ‘Go With The Flow’ and the chunky blues strut of 2023 album closer ‘Straight Jacket Fitting’ served as clear highlights. With soaring anthemic cut ‘The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret’ sparking bolshy singalongs before a savage final bow of ‘No One Knows’ and ‘A Song For The Dead’, by the end of their 18-song-set QOTSA squashed any doubts that they’re a worthy Download festival headliner. Closing out night one in style as muddied feet disperse from the main stage and prepare for a good night’s sleep (should the roaring sounds of arrivals and departures into nearby East Midlands Parkway allow it), Homme and co. made Donington their own.

NOAHFINNCE raises spirits in a soggy Avalanche tent

With sets cut short due to weather concerns, everyone stood watching Babymetal’s main stage chaos was suddenly seeking refuge. The heavens opened as wellies sloshed through mud trying to find shelter, with the safety of the Avalanche Stage tent seeming more inviting than ever. Ready to greet them is NOAHFINNCE, bounding onstage to warm up the shivering crowd with some lively pop-punk ragers. Showcasing his debut album Growing Up On The Internet, it’s the injection of energy Download needed. Urgent cuts ‘3 Day Headache’ and ‘Life’s A Bit’ were wickedly vibrant, whilst ‘Lovely Ladies’ and ‘Scumbag’ delivered a swift middle finger retort to the swirling anti-trans rhetoric that’s rife currently. Delightfully infectious songs delivered with a healthy serving of angst, as Busted’s Matt Willis watches on from the side stage he can be sure that the future of pop-rock is in great hands.

Enter Shikari bring colour to the Donington skies

“I’m so tempted,” smirks Rou Reynolds, staring at a pool of mud before him. Shrugging before flopping into it, a fresh coat of mud caked the frontman, laughs roaring from the crowd. With the world feeling more and more divided, a band like Enter Shikari have never felt so important. Taking to the main stage as a double rainbow breaks out in the skies overhead, despite the underlying sense of dread we all sometimes feel, they’re here to spread a bit of much-needed hope. Now a quintessential festival band, known for their raucous performances and the antics of vocalist Reynolds, they returned here to the place where it all began: the site where they played their first festival back in 2006. They’ve come a long way since then, but their songs of political defiance and community still feel remarkably pertinent. Ripping through a set of hits as fire bursts out from the stage and an epic light show dazzles around them, Reynolds put the Duracell Bunny to shame. Zipping around onstage and off, clambering onto any platform available to him, he was a bundle of furious energy. With added guest vocals from WARGASM on ‘The Void Stares Back’ and a euphoric singalong of 2023 single ‘A Kiss For The Whole World x’ to close out proceedings, this was a set to remember.

Holding Absence deliver an emotional gut-punch to the early evening crowd

Frontman Lucas Woodland pulled double duty at this year’s Download. Following an incredible performance with his hometown heroes Funeral For A Friend, he was back for Holding Absence’s fifth appearance at the festival. Kicking off Saturday evening with powerhouse vocals, haunting melodies, and enough emotion to bring a tear to the eye of even the hardest of heavy metal fans, the Welsh band were on top form. The words of opener ‘Like A Shadow’ belted back towards the stage by a sea of dedicated fans, Woodland’s screams were so ferocious that it was hard to believe his lung capacity is that of a human being. Churning out some of the biggest choruses in modern rock, the whole band played as if their life depends on it. With Alpha Wolf’s Lochie Keough lending a hand with some ear-ringing vocals on the visceral ‘Aching Longing’, the quartet utilised every minute of their set to its full potential. The Avalanche Stage’s tent was rammed – despite clashes with both pop-punk legends The Offspring and post-hardcore heavyweights While She Sleeps – so expect to see these guys much further up the line-up next time they swing by Donington Park.

The Offspring bring punk rock singalongs to the Apex Stage

Taking to the main stage shortly before Fall Out Boy deliver their career-spanning headline set, The Offspring clearly understood the assignment. Rocking up to the festival with a set full of hits at the ready, the So-Cal punk legends got a damp and shivering Download Festival warmed up nicely. Vocalist Dexter Holland donned a pair of sunglasses despite a distinct lack of sunshine anywhere in sight – his spiked-up bleached hair barely altered since the band’s early 2000s domination of the pop-punk scene. Rattling through the hits, ‘Pretty Fly For A White Guy’, ‘You’re Gonna Go Far Kid’, and ‘Original Prankster’ got a roaring reaction, whilst relentless punk rager ‘Bad Habit’ and singalong sparker ‘Want You Bad’ continued the party. Tasked with reigniting the energy amongst a sea of fans beginning to feel the effects of the weather, The Offspring delivered in spades, cooly asserting their position as punk icons.

Fall Out Boy offer up their own ‘Eras Tour’

A set commencing with frontman Patrick Stump lying in a hospital bed, Fall Out Boy’s first outing as Download headliners was one to remember. Charging through hits from their discography in release order, cuts from 2005’s From Under The Cork Tree and 2007’ Infinity On High went down an absolute storm; voices hitting max volume for emo anthem ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ and sinister string-backed single ‘Thnks fr the Mmrs’. An impressive stage show featured everything from giant bears to flying sheep, throughout the evening the screens around Donington showed snapshots of the band’s history. With outfit changes, instrument swaps, and backdrops to represent each era of the Chicagoan’s careers, it was an impressive statement from a band many doubted could take on the headline spot. The neck of Pete Wentz’s bass holding a flamethrower for part of their set, shooting out fiery blasts as he plays, they committed to the spectacle. From dancing with masked cheerleaders to doing fan’s gender reveals (“It will be a Fall Out Boy or a Fall Out Girl”), Fall Out Boy’s first Download headliner had it all and more. 

Read our full review of Fall Out Boy at Download 2024 here.

Creeper bring the vampire circus to town

With the arena’s opening slightly delayed on Sunday morning, Creeper are one of first bands on the Apex Stage for the final day. Dressed in black, their vampiric make-up felt right at home in Donington Park. Showcasing the monster magic of 2023 album Sanguivore, tracks like ‘Sacred Blasphemy’ felt all the more bloodthirsty, and mosh-pit inducing cut ‘Chapel Gates’ served a glorious purpose, injecting life into the early afternoon crowd. Their set came complete with a drum solo courtesy of Jake Fogarty and a guest appearance from Atreyu’s Dan Jacobs, adding a new dimension to the theatrics of ‘Lovers Led Astray’ – making it clear that Creeper were born to lead crowds of this size. Frontman William Von Ghould announced that they’ll be playing a huge Wembley Arena show with Black Veil Brides on Devil’s Night later this year, so they’re only just getting started. 

Parkway Drive bring the sunshine from down under for a special secret set

With news of a Parkway Drive secret set making its way through the festival, bodies flock to the Dogtooth Stage, which is great news for Texas’ Missio. The electronic duo played to a much larger audience than anticipated, and they made the most of the occasion, but there was no doubt who the punters were really here for. Bringing the sun over from Australia, the metalcore kings continued their ongoing 20th-anniversary celebrations in the UK. A surfboard positioned onstage as they rattled through a six-song set, it was all killer no filler. ‘Prey’ and ‘Vice Grip’ elicited some of the weekend’s biggest singalongs from what is easily the biggest crowd the intimate tent saw all festival, and it was a special moment for a band who’ve risen to the top of their scene over the last decade. With headliner rumblings already making their way through the heavy metal community, this is surely the last time we’ll see Winston McCall and co. on a Download stage this small. 

Sum 41 deliver the hits at their final ever UK festival appearance

Making their last ever festival appearance on UK shores, Sum 41 have come prepared for a mighty goodbye. The Apex Stage crowds stretched further back than the eye could see, and the band delivered one of the finest greatest hits sets Download has ever seen. A celebration of the pop-punk anthems that catapulted them to stardom (‘In Too Deep’ and ‘Motivation’ firing up some of the biggest circle pits) and the heavy metal influence that has guided their evolution, frontman Deryck Whibley took full advantage of a crowd raring to go. At a festival that has long held a sacred place in the band’s hearts, after a mass singalong of ‘Fat Lip’ and ‘Still Waiting’ signalled the end of their hour-long set, it was clear that Download wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye. Whibley hinted that there may well be one last chance to see them in the UK before the year is up, there’ll be a lot of festival goers scrambling for tickets when the time comes. 

Read our full review of Sum 41 at Download 2024 here.

Limp Bizkit host a nostalgic nu-metal party

Fred Durst is dressed in a striped sports jersey and a baby blue bucket hat – at 53-years-old he might not seem like your average party starter, but looks can certainly be deceiving. Over a quarter of a century into Limp Bizkit’s career, the red-capped scene icon is still having the time of his life. With one of the weekend’s biggest crowds, the nu-metal titans delivered a set of stone-cold bangers, including the brilliantly brash ‘My Way’, dancefloor filler ‘Rollin’’, and ‘Break Stuff’ not once, but twice. At times wonderfully composed and at times verging into sheer chaos (a crowd request segment that sees them knock out covers of Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ and Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’ for instance), there’s no band better suited to give the Download crowd one last moment of mayhem. 

Avenged Sevenfold close out Download 2024 with an explosive headline set

Making their third appearance as Download headliners, Avenged Sevenfold are no strangers to this spot. Surveying a packed-out Apex Stage, frontman M. Shadows grined as the California metal kings rattled through cuts from their 2023 experimental album Life Is But A Dream…. Showcasing their bold evolution alongside a hell of a lot of fire, 2007 single ‘Afterlife’ gave thousands of vocal chords one last workout, before a rendition of emotional 2010 track ‘Fiction’ dedicated to late drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan tugged on heartstrings. Mud churned up beneath feet during the thrashing intensity of recent offering ‘Game Over’ and throwback throat-shredder ‘Unholy Confessions’, it was a wicked display from a band with a steadfast refusal to conform. Closing out the festival in style, Download 2025 can’t come soon enough. 

Read our full review of Avenged Sevenfold at Download 2024 here.

Tickets for next year’s Download Festival are on sale now here.

All photo credits: Marie Ladisch