Music / Review

Five things we learned at Download Festival Melbourne

Returning to Melbourne bigger and better in its second year, Download Festival brought sun, sweat, and absolute chaos to Flemington Racecourse. There were many memories made, but these are our top five takeaways from the day.

Photos by Bree Wallace @ Download Festival Sydney

The success of Download Festival Australia’s second year has well and truly proven the strength of heavy music festivals – and the community of diehard fans that they attract – in the Australian calendar. Here are the top five things we took away from the weekend:

If you didn’t get down early, you missed out

With a lineup boasting the likes of Slayer, Ghost, Halestorm, and Sum 41 after the sun went down, it’s easy to hype up the end of the day. But a lot of Download’s strength was highlighted in the quality of acts on show right from gates opening. From Tassie heroes Luca Brasi, to Perth pop-metal force Voyager, or even Detroit post-hardcore outfit I Prevail – there was a lot to sink your teeth into well before lunchtime. Because we haven’t quite figured out time travel yet, we can’t take you back to enjoy the sets you missed, but just know if you missed any part of Download, you missed out on a real good time.

Our Aussie contingent holds their own amongst the big guns

While the top end of the lineup was stacked with some of the biggest international names in heavy music, we can truly attest that our own heavy music heroes well and truly hold their own. Off the back of their most ambitious album yet The Amity Affliction blew their mainstage crowd away, Thy Art Is Murder created the biggest (and most enthusiastic) pit circle of the day, and Polaris further cemented their place as the future of heavy music in this country (and the world). If you were worried about Australia’s place in the heavy music scene, rest assured, it’s in safe hands.

It’s more than just metal – Download’s diversity rules

On the international stage, Download sits among the pinnacle of metal festivals – and rightly so, it attracts some of the biggest names in the genre. But what made Download 2019 so great was the diversity of sound across the lineup. There was more than just metal on show, and the punk contingent definitely showed up to party. Brit two-piece and (self-professed) boy band Slaves blew their early crowd away with their ferocious set and hip hop-punk-activists Fever 333 put on a masterclass in stage presence – whether they were climbing up the scaffolding or climbing into the crowd, they ensured their set was one not easily forgotten. Nearly two decades on and Rise Against can still throw it down, the exact same can be said for Sum 41 who had some of the biggest throwback singalongs of the entire day.

Women to the front 

There are many very important conversations still happening about the number of women and non-binary musicians featured across lineups right across the musical spectrum, and heavy music holds a lot of that focus. While there are still massive strides to be taken in terms of evening up the representation, it must be said that the women on the Download lineup absolutely slayed. In their only Australian shows Pennsylvanian rockers Halestorm were on fire, as were the Ashley Costello-fronted powerhouse of New Years Day. High Tension delivered the power we’ve come to expect and love from them, while newcomers Eat Your Heart Out gave us a nice look into the future of Aussie pop-punk. Not to be outdone, Code Orange’s Reba Meyers is a true shredding icon.

Metal titans on show

Okay, so we actually can’t go past the headliners, because getting the chance to see some of the biggest bands in the world, on one bill, in one day, is an opportunity we don’t take lightly. There are a slew of accolades and a mountain of destruction in their combined paths and the united power of Slayer, Ghost, Judas Priest, and Alice In Chains proved exactly why they have ruled the heavy music scene for decades. We had to go for a little run to catch both Slayer and Ghost, but even the extra exercise wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits. Truly iconic stuff.

Community

Maybe all the headbanging has made us lose our ability to count properly, but we can’t finish this trip down memory lane without pointing out the all-around good vibes that filled Flemington Racecourse. It’s days like this that highlight just how strong the sense of community is within Australia’s heavy music scene. Post Soundwave and Warped Tour, we weren’t sure if we’d get another chance to enjoy a full day of heavy music, but the strength of Download Year Two has definitely cemented the fact that heavy music still has a place here. Cheers to all the hi-fives we received, cheers to the speed in which people who fell down in the pit were picked up, and cheers to all the singalong love we spotted being shared.

And with that, another year of Download is wrapped up. See you next year!

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