Download Pilot 2021

June 24, 2021

It’s been 21 months since my last festival so not only was last weekends Download Pilot event much needed for me personally it was also a step in the right direction to try and get live music events happening again! With COVID all gigs, festivals, shows, events were cancelled last year so the industry has taken a huge hit. We had already bought our 2020 Download Festival tickets, we had splurged for our 30th birthday celebrations and gone RIP (Downloads version of VIP), anyway we carried our tickets over to this year and again to 2022. 

Due to already having tickets for 2022 we were able to get pre-sale tickets for the Pilot event which took place as one of the governments ERP (events research program), once tickets were secured we started planning the weekend in just a few weeks. 

Download, Ticketmaster & Festival Republic made sure we were all in loop with information about the event, things we needed to do prior and kept the announcements coming. Andy Cooping, Downloads lead booker managed to get the acts signed up in a weeks time which is absolutely crazy but it seems all the bands were on board and excited to play a show. 

Before the weekend we had to take a PCR test and post this off on either Thursday evening or Friday morning then take a lateral flow test before travelling to the event; this had to show a negative result to gain entry to the pilot event. We are also required to take another another PCR test 5 days after the event for the research to be conducted. Me and my festival pals were all negative and set off for the event early Friday morning, traffic was minimal and we arrived around 11am where people where already heading through the check-in points. 

Face coverings were required to be worn throughout the check-in process, the first point was to show your negative LFT results and your photo ID then to check-in to the event using the NHS track and trace app. Next up was a bag security check, they had a limit on alcohol so were checking this here as well, once through security it was time to get our tickets scanned and a wristband on. I was so happy we had wristbands, its always something else to keep from the festival. That was it then, we were in the event; social distancing and face coverings were not required and we was basically free for the weekend! 

We managed to get a close camping spot on one of the red camps, this was the closest we have ever camped to the car so there wasn’t any lugging our gear for miles! Set up was seamless even in the rain which started 15 minutes before we arrived at the car park; standard for Download weekend! 

As this was a pilot event with 90% less attendees than a regular Download festival, everything was in one area; campsites, arena, showers/toilets, food vendors, merch stands and some small shops; this was so much smaller than we were used too. I got to admit it was so strange being around people again in groups and crowds but once the bands started and the evening went on it just felt normal again. Everything that had been put in place prior to the event including testing made me feel at ease too and after so long without any live music it was worth the anxiety I felt when arriving. 

Friday was the shortest day for bands as this was the day we were arriving to the pilot event, bands started playing at 5pm on the second stage which was a marquee style tent so open sides but covered roof; ‘Death Blooms’ kicked off the event followed by ‘Hot Milk’ on the main stage at 5.30pm. Hot Milk were amazing and really set the scene for the evening plus their from Manchester so I’m a little biased. We stayed at the main stage for ‘Boston Manor’ another northern band but this time from Blackpool, we’d watched them before and always enjoy seeing them at festivals. We picked up some merch from the official merch stand which was stocked up with lots of Pilot event exclusive styles plus other Download and band merch, you can still buy some of the items on Download’s shop website

Since we were camped so close to everything we popped back to the tent for some tea, threw some burgers on the BBQ then headed back to the stages ready for ‘Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes’ who was headlining on the Friday. If you haven’t seen Frank Carter before then your missing out and if this was your first time seeing them then I’m sure you had an amazing time! He is full of energy and passion plus he engages with the audience a lot; he also brought out some guest including IDOLES lead singer and Cassyette. 

Saturday was the biggest day for me and my pals, it was the first full day of bands which started at 11.30am and we had a lot to fit in but managed to have a chilled morning with a sausage breakfast and a rest before a busy day. We headed to the arena to catch ‘Wargasm’ who wasn’t my usual vibe but they performed well and had lots of energy on the stage, next up was ‘A’ followed by ‘Yonaka’ who I was super excited to see. I headed down towards the front and stood on the barrier in the middle, after a little sound error they brought the place down and everyone was enjoying themselves. Later we caught ‘Twin Atlantic’ before heading for our tea at the tent, we saved a lot of money by eating at the tent instead of buying food in the arena. 

Creeper were playing at 8.15pm on the second stage and this was my main band to see on Saturday, I got a good spot near one of the posts inside the tent so I had space if I needed it but I was so comfortable and just jumped, sang and loved every minute of their theatrical set. Closing the Saturday night, ‘Enter Shikari’ played on the main stage with their electric set with lots of bass and lights flashing across the arena. Perfect end to an amazing day! 

Last day is always the hardest as we know its nearly over but we still had a blast. First off was breakfast at the tent then packing up as we were leaving Sunday night after Bullet, of course the rain was here again which did make packing up a bit inconvenient but the short walk to the car was a win. Arena time and we had a quiet morning in terms of bands we wanted to watch so hung out at the ‘Rocktail Cocktail’ bar who had DJ’s on all weekend playing all sorts of music, it was fantastic! I hope they keep this attraction for future Downloads. 

We strolled around the arena, caught a bit of ; ‘Lonely the Brave’, ‘Massive Wagons and ‘Elvana’ who were all on form! Since we had packed up we ate in the arena so opted for the popular ‘Yorkie Pud’ stand which was delicious; massive square Yorkshire pudding with pulled pork, stuffing, mash potatoe, sausage and gravy! 

‘Skindred’ where hitting up the main stage just after 7pm, we always watch ‘Skindred’ when they play, they are one of our whole groups favourites and Benji and the band put on a great show. The second stage last band was ‘Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls’ who were a wild card in my opinion and actually rock harder than I thought! Bullet for my Valentine closed the weekend and the pilot event massively, with an amazing show, perfect set list, the whole band was on form, happy and excited to just play a show! Honestly couldn’t of been a better end to the weekend. 

I think this weekend was much needed for a lot of people and Download did amazing at setting this event up in around 4 weeks, you guys ROCK!!! I hope the statistics from this research are as positive as I think they will be and we can get live music back again!

Checkout all the photos and videos from the weekend on my Instagram & TikTok.

See you in 2022 Download Festival RIP style. ‘Horns up’ 

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