Download Festival 2024 review: despite all odds, a promising step in a new direction

Donington Park, June 14-16: despite tumultuous weather, threats of boycott and more, the Derby festival delivers one of its most promising editions in recent memory

It comes as no secret that this year’s edition of Download Festival began as one set to divide fans. In its 21-year history, this feels like the first time that the go-to monsters of rock have taken a step back from the bill, and an intentional push has been made to bring newer talent into the forefront. No KISS, no Ozzy, no Metallica or Judas Priest in sight, and the biggest names on the line-up have been plucked from the world of ‘00s pop-punk, rather than the eras that came before it.

“To be here is so fucking special,” Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz tells the audience during their career-spanning performance on Saturday (June 15), under no illusion that their headline set wasn’t the conventional choice fans were expecting. “If you’ve got a dream like that, if you make art like that, keep making that fucking art. You’ll end up here maybe.” With that statement, he couldn’t have captured the atmosphere in the crowd better – delivering a message that not only is rock more than its ‘70s and ‘80s godfathers, but there is a hunger to welcome in the next wave of festival headliners.

It’s a theme that runs at the core of the entire three days, with the likes of Sum 41, Wheatus, Bowling For Soup and Busted taking on huge slots across the stages, and the latter jokingly acknowledging that it’s a new era for the site. “Busted at Download… who fucking knew?’ Matt Willis quips during their set, while bandmate Charlie Simpson expresses his confidence that this isn’t a one-off, and he’ll be seeing the crowd again “next time”, too.

Of course, it’s hard to gauge the atmosphere of the 2024 edition without acknowledging the underlying political tension that surrounds it. In the run-up, Download became the latest festival to face pressure due to its sponsorship from Barclays, who have reportedly invested in arms companies supplying to Israel. Just weeks before it kicked off, The Great Escape had seen over 150 artists arrange a mass boycott in solidarity with Palestine for the same reason. Then in the days leading up to Download, a number of bands started dropping out including Pest Control, Scowl, Speed and Zulu, while eyes turned to those still on the bill for indication about what could come next.


Busted at Download 2024.
Busted at Download 2024. CREDIT: Matt Higgs

It’s only as the festival kicks off that our minds are put at ease, with Barclays withdrawing from sponsoring Download – as well as Latitude and Isle Of Wight – and the scheduled performances taking place as planned. That being said, there is still a political charge running prevalent: both Tom Morello and Enter Shikari share how they put pressure on the festival organisers to drop the sponsorship, while Bambie Thug delivers a fitting rendition of The Cranberries’ hit ‘Zombie’ toward the end of their set while holding the Palestinian flag.

Yes, there are still some of the go-to rock veterans featured on this year’s line-up – namely Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor and the reformed version of Pantera – yet neither take to the Apex stage, which instead serves as a platform for rising talent. It’s a decision which pays off, with artists including Wargasm and Pinkshift delivering energy and vigour in their respective sets. Now is their chance to prove to the Download crowd that they have earned their spots on this stage, and they don’t hold back any punches.


Enter Shikari first performed at Donington back in 2006, yet this is their first time on the main stage (barring the post-COVID pilot edition). “This is the first festival that ever allowed us to play,” frontman Rou Reynolds explains during the set, gesturing to the double rainbow that reveals itself as the storm clouds finally part ways. The performance establishes the band as one of the most electrifying of the entire weekend, and leaves those next on stage, The Offspring, with a tough act to follow.

Enter Shikari at Dwonload 2024.
Enter Shikari at Dwonload 2024. CREDIT: Andrew Whitton

At the end of Day One, Queens Of The Stone Age set the bar high by breaking out a groove-orientated set that spans their 25-year catalogue, yet fellow headliners Fall Out Boy and Avenged Sevenfold go on to take this one step further. While Patrick Stump and Co. deliver a mammoth set on Saturday, for Avenged, the Sunday slot marks their first UK show since the release of their experimental album ‘Life Is But A Dream…’. They prove that they still know how to command their crowd, 10 years after they first took on the headline slot.

At first glance, Download 2024 seemed to be marred by a range of factors that could have signalled its downfall – even festival boss Andy Copping admitted that it was the “hardest year” to secure a line-up and the team approached over “21 bands” to find headliners. Pair that with the threat of boycott in retaliation against the Barclays sponsorship and news that this year could be the wettest in a century, and the hopes of it coming out smoothly began to waver. Yet, against the odds the festival delivers one of its most promising editions in recent memory, and proves that it is one of the main events leading the way when it comes to creating opportunities for the next generation of headliners.

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