Download Festival Diaries: A Day to Remember
The stage was set, with huge drapes bearing the bands’ initials and signature eagle logo, lights scanning over the heads of the crowd and up into the slowly darkening sky, and the blanket of grey cloud which was starting to gather there. A few minutes before the band was due to take to the stage, the first few drops of ice cold rain began to fall, but not even the great British summer weather could dampen the spirits of the chanting, chattering crowd! And as soon as the Floridian quintet- made up of vocalist Jeremy McKinnon, rhythm guitarist Neil Westfall, bassist Joshua Woodard, percussion and drummer Alex Shelnutt and lead guitarist Kevin Skaff- took to the stage, the fire and intensity with which they exploded from the start gate seemed to chase away the rain all on its own! With mosh pits that were guaranteed to give you multiple bruises and possibly a concussion to go with it, crowdsurfers of every imaginable shape, size, gender and ethnicity (including a couple of crowdwalkers and one guy who managed to get all the way over the barrier by surfing in his camping chair, regaled the whole way by woops and cheers!) and a whopping arsenal of explosions, fireworks and kick-ass songs, both old and new, this wasn’t just a rock show- this was an explosion of everything that makes rock shows both insane and awesome!
Bursting forth with ‘All I Want’, A Day to Remember snatched the attention of the crowd instantly, and never relinquished it for a single second, dragging us all along on a rollercoaster ride through practically their entire discography! From the chaotic screams and pounding drums of the uniquely titled ‘I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?’ to the ebb and flow of the altogether more melodic ‘Have Faith in Me’, bursting with emotion from every note that, given recent events, it was impossible not to feel deeply moved by. Careering through the lively guitar lines of the decade old gem ‘The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle’, it was clear to see that what made A Day to Remember great in the early days has only grown and matured with time, and their new material fits seamlessly in with the old, as exemplified by the dagger sharp intent of the wasp-like hum of the higher tuned guitar and the kick-you-in-the-teeth grit of the vocals on ‘Paranoia’, as well as the altogether different but still infectiously raucous pop-punk style track ‘Naivety’, both taken from the band’s latest release, 2016’s ‘Bad Vibrations’. The crunching guitars and driving drum line coupled with universally relatable lyrics on ‘Right Back at It Again’ set the entire crowd on fire, whipping the circle pits up into a tornado-like state bordering on hysteria that tumbled down into a wild frenzy with the drop of the crushing breakdown. In amongst all of this raucous energy, however, A Day to Remember still find time to pause for breath, leading into the closing stages of their set with the beautiful flickering flame that is the acoustic ‘If It Means A Lot to You’. In a heart-warming show of solidarity, and yet another example of the uniting effect of music, those lining the edge of the circle pit, myself included, threw their arms around their neighbour’s shoulders without conscious thought, swaying as one, and as many people were lifted into the air on the shoulders of friends and strangers alike, and it was impossible not to feel a lump forming in your throat at the genuine affection and sense of community between people who, just minutes before had been slamming into each other in the pits like steamrollers! This being a metal festival and all though, it wouldn’t be right not to go out with a bang, and A Day to Remember delivered just that. ‘All Signs Point to Lauderdale’, the band’s landmark single, has become an anthem for all those who feel trapped by the confines of our crappy home towns, and it showed in the potency with which the audience screamed the lyrics back up at the stage as the pit reignited once more with supersonic ferocity! However, that energy was dwarfed by the earth-shattering finale ‘Downfall Of Us All’, which was a hectic blur of bodies and screams as crowdsurfers leapt up into the air, crashing down on top of each other, a smeared streak of colour in my vision, as all of a sudden I found myself in their midst, being launched up into the air over the heads of the crowd, screaming along from the bottom of my lungs as the fireworks exploded over my head and the final notes came raining down like bullets onto the anarchic crowd.
There’s no doubt about it- this is a set that will live on in my memory forever. Not only was it a masterclass in metal, post hardcore, pop punk and everything in between, but the addition of those poignant moments of unity and reflection, as well as unimaginably fierce mosh pits and a roaring crowd who bellowed back every line made it utterly magical to be a part of. And above all, simply the memory of crowd surfing at the main stage in the legendary Donington Park, and being thrown up into the air to see the crowd filling the park, rippling and bouncing in unison will be one I’ll never forget. A huge piece of rock history was made there that day, but just as important was the tiny piece of rock history that I made for myself, one golden moment of pure adrenaline and blinding happiness that will stay with me forever. I am ashamed of how long I have slept on this band for, but that changes right here right now. Never have I seen a band with a name so highly appropriate. Absolutely legendary.
Review by Charlotte Hardman