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Busted make history at Download Festival

Metal meets pop at Download 2024 as Busted prove they’re worthy of sharing any stage they want to

“Busted at Download… who f*cking knew?” smirks Matt Willis just minutes after walking onstage, donning a t-shirt with ‘boy bands’ proudly framed in a heart.

Embracing their wildcard status, the trio of 2000s pop heartthrobs know they’re a far cry from the classic Download headliner. With Queens Of The Stone Age prepping to take to the main stage on Friday night, the thought of Busted stepping foot onto the hallowed grounds of Donington filled many with rage when the news was unveiled, but over on the Avalanche Stage – something is happening.

Beach balls are bouncing on heads after Wheatus deliver a mass singalong of their iconic hit ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and exit the stage, then the crowd surges. A sea of metal fans caked in mud from the day’s downpour squeeze in, and within seconds the tent is overflowing. With thousands flocking to the far side of the arena, AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ blares out of the speakers and chants of ‘Thun-der’ are replaced with raucous shouts of ‘Bus-ted’.

A band with countless influences in the heavy music world (just take a listen to any release from Charlie Simpson’s post-hardcore project Fightstar), Busted are ready to prove that this is where they belong. Charging out and launching straight into 2003 hit ‘Air Hostess’, the crowd erupts. Voices at top volume screaming back every word as pyro bursts out from the stage, over two decades on from their initial chart domination, the trio radiate the energy of three teenagers living their dream. Bounding around with grins plastered upon their faces, Matt remarks that they’ve been “so excited for this moment” – and it’s all too easy to believe. 

Barrelling through a greatest hits set of epic proportions, Busted may not deliver the riffs or the breakdowns quite as readily as their Download peers, but that’s not what the gathered masses are here for this evening. Circle pits opening up for ‘What I Go To School For’ and lighters making their way into the air as James Bourne takes centre stage for 2002 ballad ‘Sleeping With The Light Up’, nostalgia is top of the menu tonight. 

Mud churns up beneath feet as countless bodies jump in unison to a joyous cover of Hanson’s ‘MMMBop’ before blokes in studded denim vests ditch the cool facade for a singalong of ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’; it’s everything a pop-rock show should be. Charlie delivering some gnarly screams during ‘3am’, as the trio reach the end of their hour slot – there’s no doubt they’ve earnt this.

A triumphant one-two punch of ‘Crashed The Wedding’ and ‘Year 3000’ rounds out the night – the latter seeing the crowd crouch down and leap up as confetti showers them – and Busted have delivered just what they needed to. Thousands reliving their youths amongst friends, singing at the top of their lungs, it’s the kind of catharsis few bands manage to serve us in such potent doses. Their big finish is met with deafening cheers as Charlie remarks a swift “see you next time”; one thing’s for sure – there are going to be a lot of sore throats waking up on the campsite today. 

Busted are playing UK shows throughout the summer. Find tickets here

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

Photo credit: Marie Ladisch