Europe and others rained off in festival weather chaos
The tenth Download Festival was forced to start two hours late yesterday amid worsening weather conditions that caused traffic chaos and forced organisers to cut bands from the bill.
Headliners The Prodigy closed out the iconic event’s first day following performances by Machine Head, Slash, Nightwish, Little Angels, Terrorvision and many others.
But Europe, Cancer Bats, Rise to Remain and Six Hour Sundown were amongst those to miss their sets – although Cancer Bats managed to make two appearances later in the day.
Rain and road closures led to some fans experiencing five-hour delays on the 20-mile stretch of road between Nottingham and Donington Park in the UK’s midlands.
But the real health and safety risk in the 100,000-capacity arena was high winds, with gusts up to 70mph predicted during the afternoon – similar to those which caused fatal stage collapses across the world during last year’s festival season.
Bosses decided just before noon, when the three-day show was to open, that they’d need to take emergency action to guarantee the public’s safety in the arena. They laid down thousands of bales of straw to absorb deep mud and adjusted or removed banners and flags most at risk of causing injury.
By the time they felt it safe to open at 2pm, a number of bands’ time slots had come and gone.
Six Hour Sundown drummer Olly Smith described his band’s cancellation as a “Spinal Tap moment”. He said: “We were all ready to go. Sound check was awesome. Thirty minutes before we went on we got told the while festival was being opened late. We were like, ‘But we’re on in 30 minutes – are we going to play to no one?’ Our tour manager told us we weren’t playing at all.
“But we’re playing an acoustic set tomorrow and we got half-told we might get brought back next year.”
It was the second blow in a week to the band fronted by Iron Maiden mainman Steve Harris’ daughter Lauren: they’d been forced to cancel a UK tour show earlier in the week due to a problem with her back.
Rise to Remain had been so excited about opening Download’s main stage – dedicated to amplification pioneer Jim Marshall – they’d created a Spotify playlist featuring the best of the weekend’s bands in their view. It had been featured on the online music service’s staff blog.
Cancer Bats managed to swap their canned main stage set with an extra slot on the fourth stage after headliners Gallows. They also made a guest appearance during Billy Talent’s main stage show, playing their track Hail Destroyer. Singer Liam Cormier said: “NOFX gave us a huge shout out too, so I’m kind of stoked – it all worked out pretty good.”
Europe frontman Joey Tempest revealed transport delays had put paid to their second stage appearance, saying: “I live in London so I was already here. But the flight was two-hour delayed from Sweden so the guys were very late. Then we hit traffic on the way here. It was very close but in the end we had to postpone.
“We didn’t want to go on and play one or two songs – we wanted to play a good set. We’re cool with the organisers and we hope we can get a good slot next year. It feels strange not having played today. It’s still a great place to be. I was here as a kid, I saw Aerosmith. It’s legendary.”
Event officials said: “We apologise to everyone at Download and to all local residents.” An insider told Classic Rock: “Rain wasn’t the issue – health and safety required banners and displays to be removed because, at 70mph, they’d just become sails.”
Prodigy keyboard tech Matt Davie reported: “I’ve come down early to make sure nothing’s been blown over. The wind is pretty fierce on stage. It’s making a lot of creaking noises. The mud is a bit of a challenge, getting things across site. But it’s all good.”
A picture of tents pitched in two feet of water was circulated online for most of the day as an example of conditions at Download – but it was actually a photo of the Glastonbury Festival several years ago.