Is Download 2016 the Demise of Donington?

Download 2016's 3 main headliners have been announced this week alongside the fact that they will be travelling to Paris with the festival. Could this be the start of the demise of the Donington festival?

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Rammstein, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden have been announced as 2016's main stage headline acts for Download Festival.

2014's festival saw first-time headliners Avenged Sevenfold tear up the main stage on Friday with their first ever UK festival headline slot, whilst 2015's festival saw Muse conquer the main stage on Saturday for their first ever Download performance.

This year sees three returning headliners front the festival in the form of Friday's Rammstein (their last headline in 2013), Saturday's Black Sabbath (1992 MoR, 1994 MoR, 2005, 2012) and Sunday's Iron Maiden (1988 MoR, 1992 MoR, 1996 MoR, 2003, 2007, 2013).

With Black Sabbath declaring Download 2016 will be their final Donington appearance, and Iron Maiden headlining Donington for the 7th time, it begs the question... Are we suffering from a serious lack of headlining material for alternative music festivals?

I saw Black Sabbath in 2012 at Download on the Sunday and in all honesty, aside from my general grouchy mood from being covered in shit the entire weekend from the rain, their performance was not the best. We have all known that Ozzy has not been at his best for years and that Iommi was recovering from cancer - but was their backing track-esque performance really worthy of a major headline slot at the UK's biggest rock festival?

Similarly, Iron Maiden's performance at Donington the following year certainly left something to be desired. The highlight of their set for me was their opener, "Aces High," which commenced with a WW2 Spitfire flying over the main stage to open up their set. In terms of their performance, the music was dire. The sound quality was poor and as a band, they were sloppy. Bruce gives every show his all and you can really tell this with their performance, but from a musical perspective - is it really up to standard for a festival of 80,000 people with admission prices of £200?

Naturally, bands such as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden that have headlined in recent years (and will no doubt headline in future years, too) have truly earned their status as rock and roll "big hitters" with festivals. As pioneers of the genre, their position is cemented and their bands will go down in history.

However, is it not time that fresh headliners are given a chance to prove themselves on the big stage?

With all three of this year's headliners already headlining Donington in the past 3 years, I can't help feeling that the festival is becoming a little repetitive.

Rammstein bring an energetic and exciting set to the festival, and their slot on Friday has been well and truly earned. The case is the same for bands such as Slipknot, who have headlined several times over the years and bring a set fit for a fresh, lively Friday night opener at a festival.

We're seeing a very saturated industry for rock music at the moment, but aside from just a handful of big bands, the question, really, is how many bands will there be left to front such a huge festival once rock and roll royalty of the past generation hang up their boots?

In my opinion, it's time to give more modern bands a chance at taking on headline slots at festivals.

As mentioned before, 2014 saw Avenged Sevenfold take on Download as the main stage headliner for the very first time, attracting a whole new crowd to Donington and taking them a step further with their career. They coined Download 2014 as a major step forwards in their career, after appearing at the festival lower down the bill on other occasions. In general, reviews for their performance were very positive. They took to the stage with confidence and made it their own. They brought something different to a festival that it had not seen in years- a band wanting to prove a point.

Don't get me wrong - I love my classic rock. But I believe, for festivals at least, older bands have had their day. Newer bands should be given a chance to enhance their career and take their music to the next level with bigger slots at festivals.

I am looking forward to seeing Rammstein return, but I believe that headliners should not be recycled so quickly. Less is more. I'd rather a band make one historic appearance over 20 years than several monotonous appearances over the same amount of time.

Who do you think deserves a headline slot at Download 2016, and why? Post your comments below.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I think it's mainly down to our desperately uninterested taste. Bands like Korn were Headlining in Europe for years and never got the high slot in England; In Flames headlined many of the Sonisphere shows a few years back but could only get a 3pm 50 minutes in the UK on the same tour. Megadeth easily have 2 hours of great songs, but there they are, 3 places down the 2016 list. The truth is, that people want AC/DC; they want Aerosmith and the want Biffy Clyro. Alternative rock became a market-driven enterprise and no promoter will ever take a risk of having anything other than safe, business as usual headliners. People are consumers of music now and they don't want to be tested whilst they're trying to have fun. They want to feel familiar and jump up and down to a burnt out cover version of Paradise City with 'Axl Rose and friends'. If you want alternative sounds, you will not find them at the mainstream festivals in England. We just don't have it in us to be challenged by music any more. We want safe, familiar, tone-wood, that reminds us of our childhoods. - We're practically broken already.
    Been thinking the exact same thoughts for a few years now, and I've been to the last 7 Download Festivals. The problem is that the bands that pioneered the genre are still around to headline. In the end the promoters just want to sell as many tickets as possible. It terms of ticket sales and who represents the lowest risk, Would you prefer A7x or Metallica? BMTH or Iron Maiden? Royal Blood or Black Sabbath? Its a case of the big hitters still bringing in more money, until these guys retire, the next few years could be quite samey! Great article though! Also 2017 will be Guns n Roses with Slash and Duff to play Appetite For Destruction in its entirety for the 30th anniversary. You heard it here first
    this is my first article so I appreciate the kind words. I've been attending Download since 2008, and I have seen several bands headline at least twice in the time I've been going. I always have a good time, but when I saw Avenged Sevenfold take to the stage with a point to prove, you could really feel the energy in their performance. It was something entirely different to what I was used to in DL headliners. However, I dread the day when the bands I've enjoyed growing up become as old and tired as the bands who are currently being placed at the top of the roster. I would much rather remember my idols in the peak, than trekking to watch them at a festival when they can barely remember their own lyrics. and that's a very fair shout. I'd like to see that. It wouldn't be very good, but I would like to see it nonetheless.
    It's because there are so few big rock acts capable of headlining AND being financially viable for the festival. You have to remember, festivals are privately run, not publicly funded arts events which exist to promote new material. We've had a lot of acts good for second, or third on the bill appear, but barely anything headlining, compare that to other genres of music, where acts that have been established for a few years can headline. What you have to remember, is almost all (there are exceptions, yes) bands that headline rock festivals today were mainstream, and the popular music of their time, hence they were able to create that legacy. And the main problem with hard rock/metal, there is so little fresh material, most of it is attempts at some sort of classic rock revival, or self indulgent technical metal that only other guitarists or drummers really listen to, and doesn't have a wider appeal. Yeah, people can talk about how much you hate the mainstream all they want, but you have to remember, that's where financially viable headliners come from. And before someone suggests it, no, your favourite deathcore/technical metal band isn't headline material for download.
    this only further elaborates my point. It's a real shame that this is the way the music we love is heading. Like you said, there is a distinct lack of originality and concreted headline material. Go back 30 or 40 years and the music that's being recycled at festivals nowadays was new, exciting, and strangely- topping charts. I guess this article is only the tip of the iceberg. Download 2016 is no more the demise of the classic Donington festival more than 2015's festival, or 2014's, 2013's, etc. There's been glimpses of hope, (I mentioned Avenged Sevenfold, but the likes of Black Stone Cherry and Alter Bridge are amongst others I may place in the same category) but other than that, there hasn't been a revolutionary and exciting Download for far too long. Perhaps the article should have been- Download and Donington Heritage: where did it all go wrong?