One of Europe's best rock and metal festivals returned to its home at Donnington Park last weekend and it's safe to say, once again, that Download smashed it. With a range of bands from Kiss, Motley Crue, Billy Idol, Rise Against, Parkway Drive, We Are Harlot and more all booked to play, there was something for everyone at the festival, and that was one of the most noticeable highlights. 

Download Festival

Despite the torrential rain pouring down during Slipknot's set, they pulled off one of the best shows to date on Friday and set an extremely high standard for the rest of the headliners. Playing hits like 'Psychosocial', 'Devil In I', 'Spit It Out' and 'Custer', and attempting to break the Download record for the most amount of people all jumping up at the same time they certainly went all out. 

Muse were considered to be a controversial band to have booked, but all concerns were quickly dashed as soon as they hit the stage on Saturday. Matt Bellamy's vocal abilities were on top form as the band belted out tracks from their newly released album 'Drones' as well as well-known hits like 'Supermassive Black Hole' and 'Plug In Baby'. Even those who were indifferent or somewhat disliked Muse couldn't deny that they put on the show of a lifetime complete with dancing lights, pyrotechnics, confetti and inflatable balls. 

Sunday bought an abundance of Harley Davidsons, Slash hats and Kiss face-paint to Donnington Park this year, and it was Kiss who headlined the main stage. Complete with a zip-wire going across the crowd and lots of wild, long-tongued antics from the 70s rockers, they blew up the night with fire and fireworks. 

Further highlights on the main stage were Download veterans Five Finger Death Punch, Motley Crue (with their last ever festival slot which included a flame thrower - need we say more?) and Judas Priest. Parkway Drive are also worth a mention from the main stage. A band that hadn't toured for three years blew the Park away with their tight and meticulous set - we can't wait for their new album due in September and hope for a long tour after it is released. 

Moving over to the Zippo Encore Stage and we find a big rival for the main stage this year. With Marilyn Manson, Enter Shikari and Black Stone Cherry all headlining respectively, it's no surprise that people were running back and forth between the stages in order to catch a glimpse of everyone. Zippo have hosted a stage at Download for a number of years alongside their tent which sold exclusive Download 2015 Zippo lighters plus other accessories and all things Zippo. But this wasn't the only involvement Zippo had at Download this year. The company ran a competition in line with this year's zombie-themed Kerrang! Awards where contestants had to design a lighter to win 2 VIP guest tickets to Download plus £600 worth of accommodation and travel. Well, it's safe to say we're looking forward to what else they can pull out of the bag for next year. 

Modestep were an interesting addition to this year's line-up on the Zippo stage, but once again, they proved doubters wrong and provided an alternative listen for people who wanted to hear something a little different. Lamb of God, In Flames and Godsmack are also all worth a mention as they showed us exactly why they are loved by so many - and created some of the biggest circle pits of the weekend. 

One disappointment of the weekend, however, was We Are Harlot with their debut UK performance. Whether it was simply a sound problem, or the band just weren't committed to putting on a Download-worthy show, everything that could've gone wrong went wrong. Even so, Danny Worsnop's remarkable voice still managed to cut through the rain and the technical with songs such as 'Dancing On Nails' and more. 

The smaller stages were just as intriguing as the larger stages. The most notable performances include Baby Metal gate-crashing the weekend and jumping on stage with Dragon Force, Hands Like Houses and Trash Boat; all of whom impressed those who saw them, whether it was fans or newcomers to their music. 

This year brought an introduction of the cashless payment system 'Dog Tags' and despite a few teething problems on Wednesday and Thursday, when the actual festival began it all appeared to be sorted, and there were barely any queues for food or drink at all. It was quick, easy and you didn't have to carry around bank cards or cash with the fear of them getting lost or stolen. Once your wristband was attached, it was all go from there. 

Food and drink was on point as usual, with a wide range of food fans covering the park at relatively reasonable festival prices. Everything from your usual burgers and pizzas to vegetarian/vegan vans, falafel, Thai, Mexican and Lebanese. In short, everyone was catered for and if you wanted something there was a 90% chance it was going to be there. Also away from the music, fair rides made up a prominent part of the main arena, but up in the Village was where the fun really kicked off. Some would even suggest that the wrestling arena was one of the main highlights of the festival. That and the blow up chapel where you could get 'married'. How many festivals have that? 

Overall, Download Festival was a huge success. They tried something new with the Dog Tag system and, although it didn't work for everyone, it was a triumph for the majority. Organisers took a huge risk putting Muse as a headliner when many thought they would be better suited for a festival such as Reading & Leeds, but once again, the risk paid off. The music was sublime, the food was quick, tasty and there were barely any queues anywhere, and despite the pouring rain, broken tents and bad moods that stemmed from them, it'll be difficult to top next year. We're looking forward to seeing what Download 2016 will bring! 

Sophie Brannon

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