October 20th 2016
Ever since my first time back in 2008, the annual pilgrimage to various music festivals for a weekend of amazing bands, fun people and all-round great times has been a defining element of my life. There really isn’t any time of year that I don’t have festivals in the back of my mind, but the upcoming couple of months is a notably exciting time – second only to the summer, of course – as promoters begin to reveal the line-ups for next years events and the hype train starts building momentum.
In recent years the initial announcements for Download have come in November, so it seems reasonable to assume that the first unveiling of acts for the 2017 edition of the enduring Donington stronghold of rock, metal, punk and alternative music will come within the next six weeks or so. As always I have some specific hopes and expectations regarding who will be there, and I’ve put together a list of fifteen bands that I think would be particularly tremendous and appropriate bookings. Some are regular, reliable crowd-favourites that are due for a return two or three years on from their most recent appearance, whereas others are rarities that would bring freshness, variety and intrigue to the bill. Most have new albums to promote and should be active and touring next year, meaning they are fairly realistic and likely candidates for festival performances, and all would certainly provide something to get excited about as the road to next summer gets underway.
Arguably among the most iconic punk bands of the 21st century, Against Me! were one of the biggest talking points coming out of Download 2014 with their third-stage performance drawing widespread acclaim. Unfortunately I did not catch the show myself, although I was present for their set at Reading the following year and was thoroughly impressed by an infectiously spirited display on the main stage. They seem to be steadily turning heads and spreading their reputation, a trend that will surely persist with the recent release of new album Shape Shift With Me, and would make a fine addition to Download once again in 2017.
A solid, respectable band that you can always count on for an energetic and entertaining set, Airbourne have made three appearances at Download in the past – most recently in 2013. Having only ever played on the second stage, perhaps this time a mid-afternoon slot on the main stage would be an ideal position for the Australian hard rockers to showcase new material from Breakin’ Outta Hell alongside their classic older tracks.
For my money one of the absolute best rock bands of the century so far, both live and on record.
In particular the incredible guitar work of Mark Tremonti and extraordinary vocals from Myles Kennedy have always been outstanding, and this remains the case on the brilliant new album The Last Hero. Like clockwork, every single album release from the band has led to a Download performance the following year and I fully expect this pattern to continue in 2017. With another arena tour coming up very soon – now their third album cycle playing in such large venues – they would make a very strong main stage sub-headliner, or could even potentially take the last step up to full-blown headliner status.
Black Stone Cherry
A band that has experienced strong growth in popularity, Black Stone Cherry have ascended from support act to headliner in arena venues over the last five years. Although perceived by some as overexposed both at Download and in the UK in general, their powerful brand of southern hard rock has actually been absent from the festival main stage since 2011, with subsequent appearances on the second stage drawing limited crowds due to clashes with metal titans Slipknot, and a third stage secret set in 2014 confined to a tent far too small for a band of their stature. A main stage sub-headliner opportunity this time around would be a fitting platform to deliver their dependably warm and engaging live show, while also solidifying their prospects of reaching the top of the bill in the near future.
Following the recruitment of Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba last year, the release of sensational new album California this summer reinvigorated the band and reignited their fanbase, fortifying a back-catalogue already abundant in seminal hits with a collection of instant classics, and proving that the new line-up is as effective and enthralling as ever. A limited number of intimate shows have been their only UK appearances since – nowhere near enough to satisfy demand – and the band have never played Donington at all before. If their touring plans will allow it, Download 2017 would be a excellent time to make their debut.
Possibly the best up-and-coming band in the country right now, Creeper have been rapidly expanding their cult-like following and setting the British rock scene ablaze with energetic, emotional songs featuring massive choruses and inescapable hooks, all wrapped up in a dark, enigmatic aesthetic. With debut album Eternity, In Your Arms confirmed for release in March, Creeper will certainly be one to watch in 2017, and an essential booking for Download.
Although nowhere near as big as they once were, I suspect the former headliners and their ubiquitous hit singles are still familiar enough to the masses to draw a solid crowd and prove a popular choice at the festival. Their suitably bright, sunny music is perfect for drinking and dancing to with friends on a summer afternoon… even if the typical Download weather doesn’t quite match.
These nineties alternative icons are long overdue for a return to the UK festival scene, having been absent for quite some time. Their current sound is as consistent and recognizable as ever, and hypnotic new album Strange Little Birds has garnered largely positive reviews despite seemingly slipping somewhat under the radar with only modest fanfare. While probably now considered too irrelevant for slots at trendier, youth-oriented festivals (looking at you, Reading and Leeds), Garbage would still fit right in as treasured relics at Download.
Jimmy Eat World
Emo heroes Jimmy Eat World are back with new release Integrity Blues, and their flawlessly esteemed reputation suggests it’ll be another rock solid collection of heartfelt, captivating tunes. Of course, their discography is already overflowing with vintage anthems such as Sweetness, Big Casino and Work that are guaranteed to inject energy and inspire waves of joyous nostalgia – perfect for a festival setting.
The quintessential festival headliners, Metallica always bring a ‘big event’ feel, draw massive crowds and generate colossal excitement with their festival shows, even if they do occur a little too frequently. Only once in the last ten years have they appeared at Download though – their 2012 performance, featuring the legendary Black Album in full – and a Donington homecoming would undoubtedly be well-received. They never fail to deliver an incredible live show, and upcoming album Hardwired… To Self Destruct – their first in eight years – is set to thrust the band back into the spotlight and re-establish their status as heavyweight champions of the rock world.
Contentious and polarizing, the band are either seen as a gloriously hilarious tribute to 80s glam metal or a juvenile, gimmicky one-trick-pony depending on your perspective – however, they’ve proved successful nonetheless, garnering widespread attention and attracting hordes of fans both at festivals and their own arena shows. They owe a lot of their success in the UK to Download, where they established their hype and notoriety with a breakout performance on the third stage in 2009, and have since been repeatedly invited back in more and more prominent positions on the bill. With new album Lower The Bar on the way, their presence at Donington once more in 2017 seems inevitable.
System Of A Down
A rarity in the UK these days, System Of A Down have played just four shows in the country since their reunion in 2011. The most recent, a one-night special at London’s famous Wembley Arena, sold out instantaneously, leaving many fans frustratingly unable to acquire tickets and proving that the popularity and pulling power of the band are as great as ever. With European festival appearances already confirmed around the same time as Download they must be considered frontrunners among the list of potential headliners, and at this juncture to fumble such a golden opportunity to secure the eccentric alternative metal superstars for the festival would have to be seen as a disappointing failure on the part of the organisers.
After a three-year hiatus, the post-hardcore rockers resurfaced in 2015 and before too long released stunning comeback album To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere – arguably the strongest release of their illustrious career – offering a refined, dynamic development to their existing style. Absent from Download since the inaugural event back in 2003, a long-awaited return in 2017 would assuredly be welcomed and celebrated.
Immediately recognizable by their unique, addictive fusion of metal, punk and rockabilly, this is another band that found prosperity in Britain thanks to substantial exposure at Download – three second stage slots across a five-year period laid the foundation for promotion to a relatively high-profile main stage opportunity in 2014. If their momentum continues they may yet emulate the remarkable success they’ve had across mainland Europe, and another festival appearance could propel them in the right direction.
The weird and whimsical – but always phenomenal – performances of Weezer have been few and far between in the UK, restricted to just a handful of academy dates and festival shows within the last ten years, and not once have they ever visited the fields of Donington. The demand wildly outstrips this supply, and excitement would skyrocket at their addition to the Download line-up as their multitude of fans jump at the rare chance to see the legendary alternative group perform classics such as Buddy Holly, Island In The Sun and El Scorcho as well as material from the newly-released, highly-rated White Album.
The official line-up announcements and ticket sales should be starting soon – check back in for my reactions and other festival features, build-up and previews as we head into summer 2017.