The press releases suggested it wasn’t the sort of place that you’d like to take your mother, but well more than 90,000 fans per day shrugged off the occasional downpour to celebrate 30 years of ear-splitting rock at Donnington.
Although the festival started only seven years ago, the 30th anniversary dates back to Monsters Of Rock, its fabled forerunner that was staged on the same site.
This year, the two main stages were renamed as a tribute to Monsters Of Rock founder Maurice Jones and rocker Ronnie James Dio, who was a regular on Donnington bills. Both died recently.
It was raining when the gates opened and fans walked on the site to see two main stages plonked side by side, one for the exclusive use of Friday-night headliners AC/DC.
“This allowed the Anglo-Australian hard-rock veterans to mount their full special-effects spectacular, which included a life-sized steam train, a phalanx of phallic cannons and a 50-foot-tall inflatable woman with gargantuan breasts. Subtlety is not their forte,” as The Times observed.
The sheer size of the event, an annual homage to heavy rock excess, sets the benchmark for the much newer Sonisphere Festival that’s happening for the second time at Knebworth Park near London in August.
It will be an interesting test of whether the UK rock market can support two massive metal bashes. The total three-day attendance for Download was only a little shy of 285,000.
Live Nation chief ops officer John Probyn said there were no more than the run-of-the mill problems associated with running an event of this size – in Europe only Glastonbury Festival is likely to have more people per day. Probyn was pleased the new Download wristband foiled the touts and forgers.
“A few of them came up to me and said I was taking away their livelihoods,” he told Pollstar. “I couldn’t stop laughing. It was so pleasing to piss off so many of them in such a short time. The police banned them from the area for five days. One came back but he was soon nicked.”
The worst of the weather came late on Sunday afternoon when Download became Downpour. Probyn wondered if even the legendary hardiness and durability of heavy rock fans would be enough to see the crowd to stick it out.
“I saw people packing up their stuff and taking it to their cars, but when they’d done that they came back to the arena and stayed with us and got soaked. It looked nearly as full as it was when there were 100,000 there on the Friday night.”
The other acts helping Download put down another milestone for British heavy rock heritage June 11-13 included Aerosmith, Rage Against The Machine, Deftones, Stone Temple Pilots, Megadeth, Motorhead, Billy Idol, Lamb Of God, Slash, Them Crooked Vultures, Saxon, Bullet For My Valentine, Thirty Seconds To Mars, Coheed And Cambria and HIM.