Download Festival is just around the corner, bringing fans in their droves to Leicestershire’s Donington Park for what is effectively a rock fan’s idea of Christmas. While any regular Downloader will tell you that every year at Download is special, 2023’s edition is set to be something else. This year, it’s going even bigger, stretching across four days rather than the usual three in celebration of the festival’s 20th anniversary.
With even more bands to see (and more pesky clashes), you might be wondering who is worth making the lengthy trek from the campsite to the arena to see. We’ve picked out a few of the most exciting names set to be starting mosh pits at Download this year.
Bring Me The Horizon
Download fans have been crying out for the festival to book a fresh new first-time headliner for a significant while. Fittingly for its 20th anniversary, Download answered the call by booking one of the UK’s most important and forward-thinking alternative bands of their generation. Having already pulled off a blazing set at Reading Festival last year (during which they were audacious enough to bring out Ed Sheeran as their guest for a reprise of their ‘Bad Habits’ BRITs collaboration), Bring Me The Horizon will easily find themselves at home in Friday’s headline slot. It certainly helps that the former RSUK cover stars have two huge new songs – ‘LosT’ and Lil Uzi Vert/Daryl Palumbo collaboration ‘AmEN’ – to play, as well as an illustrious back catalogue of bangers to get a huge cross section of fans running for the pit.
When are they on? Friday, Apex Stage, 9:20pm
Nova Twins are shaping up to be UK rock’s brightest new prospects with their genre-bending sound and messages of inclusion and empowerment, and despite only being two albums deep, they already appear to have wedged open the door to the mainstream. They’ve been nominated for the Mercury Prize and two BRIT Awards – realms where bands of their ilk rarely get a look-in – but they’re just as celebrated on their home turf. The London duo’s first appearance on the main stage therefore feels hugely deserved, not least because they’re a fantastic live band – they always look like they’re having the best time when they get on stage, and every sound they make comes not from synths, but from their guitars (with a secret set-up of pedals). Above all, you’ll come away from their show feeling like a boss bitch.
When are they on? Friday, Apex Stage, 2pm
After Five Finger Death Punch dropped out due to frontman Ivan Moody suffering complications from hernia surgery, Download called in a favour from a band who’s become a regular fixture at Donington Park. A lean, mean ragga-metal machine of a band, there’s a reason Skindred always draw a huge crowd at festivals, arguably the realm to which their raucous live shows are best suited thanks to their hulking riffs and frontman Benji Webbe’s loud, charismatic yet warm personality. As headliners of the second stage, they’ve got a deservedly large stage from which to command their crowd to do the classic Newport Helicopter. Get that shirt swinging round your head…
When are they on? Thursday, Opus Stage, 7:35pm
Hot Milk have all the hallmarks of an essential festival band – boundless energy, meaty, genre-fluid tunes, huge personalities and endless love for their fans. Earning their first ever slot on Download’s main stage, they’ve got a bigger platform than ever to extend the tight-knit Hot Milk family they’ve been building over the last few years, whether at their own shows or opening for Foo Fighters on numerous occasions. It’s especially impressive for a band whose debut album isn’t out yet, but if you like what you hear, you’ll also catch them on the main stage at Reading and Leeds later this summer. If it’s good enough for Dave Grohl, it’s good enough for us.
When are they on? Friday, Apex Stage, 3:05pm
Bob Vylan represent a disruptive force in alternative music right now, with their recent album The Price Of Life making history as the first self-released, self-produced and self-mixed release to crack the UK Top 20. Their potent, witty protest songs bite even harder at their incendiary live shows, which they are set to bring to Download’s third stage for the first time. It’s the only point in the festival that you’ll see a band start a show with “a bit of light exercise and meditation” and end it by encouraging the crowd to pile onto the stage – it’s even more fun than it sounds.
When are they on? Saturday, Avalanche Stage, 5:20pm
It’s been a hot minute since Sweden’s finest pop-metal provocateurs set foot on Leicestershire soil – they were last booked to play Download in 2016, but had to pull out due to illness. Ghost are returning, however, as arena-conquering rock favourites, with a flamboyant sense of theatricality (Papa Emeritus IV is practically guaranteed to wear a particularly opulent outfit), a wicked sense of fun and a fully-loaded arsenal of crowd-pleasing bangers – maybe even including one of their genius covers from their recent Phantomime EP. There are far worse ways to bring a festival weekend to an (almost) close than with what some fans have termed ‘spooky Abba’ songs.
When are they on? Sunday, Opus Stage, 8pm