Look back at Download Festival 2017: Norfolk’s Oli Brown amongst highlights

Raveneye featuring Norfolk's own Oli Brown who returns to wow the crowds at Download Festival 2017.

Raveneye featuring Norfolk's own Oli Brown who returns to wow the crowds at Download Festival 2017. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

As Norfolk outfit Bad Touch get ready to play at this weekend's Ramblin' Man Fair, Adam Aiken looks back at 2017's other big rock festival, Download, where another local rocker Oli Brown was among the highlights...

Biffy Clyro headlining at Download Festival 2017. Picture: Ben Gibson/Download

Biffy Clyro headlining at Download Festival 2017. Picture: Ben Gibson/Download - Credit: Ben Gibson/Download

FRIDAY

A couple of heavy showers last night have left some of last year's battle-scarred fans looking at the sky with trepidation, but as things get under way there's no repeat of 2016's Drownload and the muddy nightmare it became for many.

Kicking things off are Blackwater Conspiracy. First-time observers might put money on them being from the Deep South, and this Country Tyrone outfit would slot in perfectly alongside ZZ Top.

There are shades of Zeppelin and the Stones, amongst others, in there, and frontman Phil Conalane's bluesy rasping helps gets this festival off to a promising start. The day after the general election, the DUP aren't the only ones from Northern Ireland having a good time.


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Red Sun Rising, from across the water in Ohio, are another band whose singer is blessed with a great voice. It's unlikely there will be a better set of lungs than Mike Protich this weekend until Steven Tyler turns up on Sunday. The backing vocals, and the layered harmonies work brilliantly.

But it's a shame that they give us a cover of Alanis Morrisette's Uninvited when they've got such a short slot in which to play their own songs. Once the flow is interrupted, they never get back to their best again.

Biffy Clyro headlining at Download Festival 2017. Picture: Ben Gibson/Download

Biffy Clyro headlining at Download Festival 2017. Picture: Ben Gibson/Download - Credit: Ben Gibson/Download

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God Damn are just extraordinary. These noisemasters from Wolverhampton make more noise than three people (with just one guitar between them) should be able to. The intensity of the performance leaves everyone shattered, but no more so than frontman Thom Edward, who at times looks like a man possessed. There are bits of Sabbath, Nirvana and Alice in Chains in there, but they've carved out their own niche and this is a staggering performance.

Jeremy Corbyn's overnight performance has left Edward happy, with his JC T-shirt highlighting where his particular beliefs lie. Maybe it spurred them on, but either way this was an absolute triumph.

On the main stage, Five Finger Death Punch are winning the battle of the T-shirts and are presumably raking in the merchandise money. There's a nice nod to the classic-rock roots of this festival with a rendition of Bad Company, but it's a performance that goes down better with the diehards rather than with those waiting to be converted.

This is Good Charlotte's first time at Download, and don't we know it. Joel Madden tells us this every few minutes, and it's fair to say his inter-song banter isn't GC's biggest selling point. Most of the crowd for this lot is of a type - it's like standing in a school disco that been picked up and dropped down again 20 years later. Songs such as Girls & Boys get the crowd bouncing but the best number here is The River.

Sum 41 make this a good double-header for fans of the pop-punk early-2000s era, and the Canadians take it up a notch from Good Charlotte. Deryck Whibley has been through the mill in his personal life, and his proclamations from the stage give the impression of a man who is genuinely happy just to be alive, let alone headlining the second stage at Download. He and his cohorts steam through a set full of hits, although it's not clear why they feel the need to chuck in a cover of We Will Rock You. It feels out of place.

System of a Down close the night on the main stage. The songs are there - more than 30 of them, in fact - as is the stage show, but the band looks bored. They belt through the set and the metal-heads lap it up, knowing this is the only really heavy band amongst this year's headliners, but there's a niggling feeling that SOAD are on autopilot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjJ0qb_BaRQ

SATURDAY

This is Raveneye's second appearance at Download in as many years. In 2016, they were one of only a couple of bands to play before the downpour started. Perhaps they've been moved up to Saturday in a bid to hold back the rain a little longer.

This three-piece, with Norfolk's Oli Brown front and centre, get the chance to play only five songs, but it's great showmanship with a few laughs along the way. Coping with a broken guitar and a malfunctioning mic stand, Raveneye give us their trademark antics alongside a solid chunk of rock 'n' roll.

They are followed by Alestorm, who must be one of the most popular bands to play so early in the day. The place is packed as they tear through beer-themed, tongue-in-cheek set. Pirates and inflatable dolphins take pride of place in the crowd, and it's all great fun, even if they are a one-trick pony.

Devin Townsend Project deliver a blistering set - prog rock at its best. Townsend's huge vocal range is supported by a powerful and tight band, and we are treated to a raft of songs that display power, emotion, subtlety and brute force all at once.

System of a Down who took to the stage at Download Festival 2017. Picture: Ben Gibson/Download

System of a Down who took to the stage at Download Festival 2017. Picture: Ben Gibson/Download - Credit: Ben Gibson/Download

Townsend's self-deprecating humour between songs endears him to the crowd still further, and this really is a set to behold.

With some festival-goers deciding (unfairly, as it turns out) that Biffy Clyro are not worthy main-stage headliners of this rock event, Rob Zombie on the second stage gets a huge turnout at the end of the night. His industrial pomp, heavy riffs and natural showmanship are complemented by the dramatic stage show and big-screen videos.

For the second night running, the second-stage closers dilute their set with unnecessary covers - this time it's the Ramones and Alice Cooper - but earlier songs such as Living Dead Girl and House of 1000 Corpses make this a set to remember.

SUNDAY

The final day of this year's festival has more of a classic-rock feel to it.

Final night headliners veteran rockers Aerosmith rolled back the years at Download Festival. Picture

Final night headliners veteran rockers Aerosmith rolled back the years at Download Festival. Picture: Submitted - Credit: Archant

The Dead Daisies - whose Waterfront appearance last November was one of the best shows Norwich has seen in recent months - are criminally-low down the list, playing at 12.30pm on the second stage.

This is a supergroup that's much greater than the sum of its parts. Doug Aldridge is rock-star personified, oozing coolness, and ex-Motley Crue singer John Corabi is the consummate frontman. It's only a shame they get so little time to show off their stuff.

On the main stage, the Cadillac Three make a return to Download, with a higher profile than they had a couple of years ago. They straddle the line perfectly between Southern blues and singalong ditties, and last song The South deserves to be a regular on rock compilations for years to come.

Airbourne, on the other hand, are anything but original, although there's no pretence from these Aussies that they are anything more than the wayward sons of AC/DC. It's the right place for foot-to-the-floor rock 'n' roll, that's for sure, but once you've heard one song then you've heard them all.

That said, Breakin' Outta Hell is the standout track, but this main-stage slot would have been better suited to the Dead Daisies. Maybe next year…

Back on the second stage, Ministry are unleashing hell. Along with Nine Inch Nails, this mob were at the forefront of industrial metal long before the likes of Rammstein, and they have blazed a trail for the genre.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So4bifPVNUQ

Al Jourgensen is not the most gregarious of chaps, and when he asks 'Where are we?' it's not clear if he's being ironic or serious. But flagship anthem NWO and new track Antifa (debuted just a few days earlier) are belters, and it's good to see that Jourgnesen & Co are still going strong.

Steel Panther are another one-trick pony. Yes, they're funny, but when you've seen them once, there's nothing more to expect. The songs are half-decent in themselves, but it's curious as to why they are so far high up the hill on the final day of such a major rock festival.

The choreography is great and it's all a good laugh but it's another programming error by the organisers.

Not so with Alter Bridge, however, who must surely be on the verge of headlining here soon. Myles Kennedy and friends can play it a bit safe, but his stunning voice and a battery of great tunes make this is a solid – if unspectacular – performance.

And then it's left to Aerosmith to wrap things up. These bona fide legends haven't produced any new music since their last appearance here in 2014, and there's a question mark over whether it'll be their last show here.

The Boston boys are on their 'Aero Vederci Baby' tour (geddit?) but there are mixed messages about how final it'll be.

Final night headliners Aerosmith on stage at 2017's Download Festival. Picture: Ben Gibson/Download

Final night headliners Aerosmith on stage at 2017's Download Festival. Picture: Ben Gibson/Download - Credit: Ben Gibson/Download

A pre-show interview threatened to open up old internal wounds within the band once again – Steven Tyler telling Planet Rock magazine that his bandmates are in it just for the money and are jealous of him – but on stage they are as tight as they've been here since their Donington debut in 1990.

Let the Music Do the Talking opens things up – a song that hasn't seen the light of day for years – and deep cut Young Lust is a nice nod to the past – it was the first song they ever played here, more than a quarter of a century ago.

As well as all the usual hits (Love in an Elevator, Sweet Emotion and Cryin'), there are four songs that haven't been heard here before, and a cover of Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well is a highlight.

Dude (Looks Like A Lady) closes the main set before an encore of Dream On and Walk This Way sees the festival close in triumphant style.

Will we see Aerosmith again here? Don't bet against it.

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