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Download XXI (Day Three): Sunshine, Secret Set and Headline-Worthy Set from Limp Bizkit [Photos]

Download Festival XXI: Day three saw sunshine, an unforgettable secret set and headline-worthy performances from some of the old guard.

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Avenged Sevenfold
Avenged Sevenfold, photo by Graham Finney Photography

With Sunday poised to be the best day of the weekend for bands, this was unfortunately hit by the news that Electric Callboy had pulled out due to illness. Despite this, the weather had shifted, the sun had come out to play and despite the ground being a swamp, Download Festival punters were in high spirits for the performances to come.

While there was no sign of the terrible weather which had plagued the festival so far, damage done to the site forced a delayed start to open the arena. This delay meant that Euro metal troop Lords of the Lost took to the stage to an empty arena however, a minute into their opening song, the gates opened and with the sight of hundreds of fans poured towards the stage, the band powered through the remainder of their set.

Things took a turn towards the heavier side of rock next as US metallic hardcore favourites Code Orange smashed their way onto the Apex Stage with a savage set. Vocalist Jami Morgan was in particularly raging form leaping about the stage and the walkway as the first of the day’s huge circle pits opened up on the floor for the Pittsburgh mob.

Now, whereas Download up to now had been largely led by the new breed of rock, day three saw a raft of the classics taking to the various stages. First up was iconic metal guitarist Kerry King who brought his new, post-Slayer band to the UK for the first time and, joined by the likes of Phil Demmel, played a set which, while undeniable crushing, probably did nothing to dampen any opinions that King should just sort things out and “get Slayer back together”.

For days gossip had been swirling around the internet and the Download Festival site about who the secret act would be. With everyone from Foo Fighters to Green Day to Paramore currently in the UK, there was plenty of excitement, especially as Download main man Andy Copping had promised someone huge. Well, it was none of the aforementioned with the confirmation that Aussie metalcore titans Parkway Drive would be blitzing through a set on the Dogtooth stage. Sadly, a clash with Bowling For Soup and the walk to the stage became more lethal as the day progressed we skipped what was surely one of the highlights of the day.

With the sad news that Chris Van Malmsteen had been taken ill and returned to the US, Bowling for Soup opted to play as a three-piece. Utilising every opportunity to shout out to their down, but not out band mate, they had fans eating out of the palm of their hands during their eleven-song set of absolute bangers intercut with that signature joking about humour the band is well known for.

Joining them on stage for a cover of “Teenage Dirtbag” (which saw Rob Felicetti donning a bucket hat) was Wheatus frontman Brandan B. Brown much to the rambunctious joy of the crowd. Following this, Jaret Reddick took the opportunity to inform the audience that Bowling for Soup would be back in the UK next year alongside Wheatus for a tour much to the joy of attendees.

Now, it would not be a Bowling for Soup show without the obligatory mid-“Punk Rock 1O1” photo op, this time with Adrian Estrella of Zebrahead joining them on stage.

With Limp Bizkit warming up the crowd for Avenged Sevenfold, there were consistent murmurs throughout asking the questing why are they not a headliner. Well, the answer is simple; they deserve to be, but let’s face it, Avenged Sevenfold are a well-established Download headliner, still Limp Bizkit deserve the chance to take the top spot and if this performance was anything to go by, this assertion is well founded!

The largest crowd the Apex stage had seen all weekend, Limp Bizkit entered the stage to the sound of southern favourite, “Sweet Home Alabama” before steamrolling full power into “Break Stuff” followed by the Ministry cover of “Thieves”. Download Festival is in full party mode and anyone that had been defeated by the inconsistent weather over the weekend found their second wind!

Intercut throughout their set, DJ Lethal inserted the most random of musical interludes first with Oasis favourites, “Wonderwall”, “Crazy Train” by Ozzy and “Careless Whisper” near the end of the set giving the crowd the heads up they were about to have a little “Faith”!

Other moments of note include bringing a red-capped fan on stage and thrusting a mic into their hands for “Nookie” (with Fred Durst declaring “much to popular belief, I did not do it all for the nookie”) to ceasing mid-way through “Full Nelson” having noticed some trouble in the crowd. Refusing to continue until the crowd gave him the middle finger to indicate all was good to thunderous applause from the crowd. This was a set that was one of Limp Bizkit’s finest for the UK, at least that’s how it felt at the time.

The classics continued and despite Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor clashing with Limp Bizkit, it was over to Bay Area heavy-hitters Machine Head to close out the second stage for the weekend and if ever a band was going to show the kids how it was done then Robb Flynn and co were that band. With the old guard throughout the weekend from Sum 41 to Limp Bizkit all bringing their A-Game, Machine Head came along and wiped the floor with the competition. A brutal set kicked off with a fire-drenched “Imperium” with the band obliterating anyone who was left standing with a set that gave Download one last dose of blood, sweat and beers.

Closing out the weekend was Avenged Sevenfold; the expectations were high. Avenged has headlined before and delivered a career-defining show that tonight would be compared to.

Alas, the show sadly fell a little flat and while they sounded incredible, the show sadly felt underwhelming. This could be attributed to the expectations held, but by the midpoint of the show, I found myself questioning why I had seen no fire or fireworks! Fall Out Boy had an outstanding stage production but Avenged Sevenfold appeared to rely on AI visuals on the screens rather than any practical magic. This made the performance feel like a glorified music video rather than a live show. It looked great but did not go down well with fans.

Although the hits were present, with M Shadows dedicating “Hail to the King” to all the dads in the audience for Father’s day, the lack of that ‘wow’ factor failed to keep my attention. This sentiment was echoed by others around me as well. Surely the finale would be something special?

Things only got worse as during “Nightmare” the sound cut and the stage went dark. Even from a distance the frustration of the band and this was all too obvious. The crowd, however, did their part finishing the song off acappella, but this sadly still did not detract from the lacklustre show-up until this point.

Finally, the power was restored, and the band blasted right into “Unholy Confessions”. It sounded louder; it had more power behind it and, although close to the end, hope returned that something special was brewing. Avenged Sevenfold closed their set with “Cosmic” and the confused look of fans said it all, this did not feel like the track to close out Download Festival with. Whist a great tune, the crowd wanted to go out with a real bang! This though, did not happen as the tune came to a close and the band exited the stage, the audience was left standing there in bemusement.

This could not be the end, could it? Not just to their set, but to the festival! Where was the fireworks? Where was the fire? It became clear this was it as the departure messages appeared on the screens. Still, fans could hardly believe it and stood there waiting and hoping. This could not be it! But it was! Avenged Sevenfold went out with a whimper rather than a band and this followed an already underwhelming set.

This year’s Download Festival had a lot of ups, but with two out of three headliners failing to fully deliver, and bands withdrawing due to controversy and illness, the downs of this year were all too obvious and impossible to ignore.

All festivals have their troubles, and nothing ever goes to plan. Credit where credit is due, the organisers kept things afloat delivering some great moments, but bad news and controversy tend to be remembered more and I fear this year will go down in Downloads history as a swing and a miss.

Read our coverage of Day One and Day Two here. Download Festival returns in 2025 and you can pre-order tickets from the Official Festival Website.

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