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Download Festival Diaries: Biffy Clyro


After 15 years of playing Download Festival, working their way up through the ranks as their reputation has grown, finally resulting in them being donned the colossal title of Britain’s best band, it seems only fitting that the jewel in their crown would be a headline slot on the prestigious Main Stage to close the Saturday with a rock show of biblical proportions!
Despite the unwelcome return of the icy rain showers, a mammoth crowd assembled around the main stage, tired legs and tired eyes forgotten as the clock ticked down the remaining minutes until the finale of the day would begin. Then, in a sudden explosion of blue and white streamers, and with a crash and wallop of guitars, the Scottish trio exploded onto the stage, firing up with new single ‘Wolves of Winter’, from their latest album ‘Ellipsis’. The response from the crowd was nothing short of deafening, as the anthemic choruses of ‘Wolves of Winter’ gave way to the humming swarm of the opening to ‘Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies’, breaking down into the brittle guitar tones and relentlessly tense bass (with an impromptu addition of a little of Aerosmith’s ‘Walk this Way’ thrown in for good measure!), swinging through the melodic choral harmonies and into the low, grungy but smooth melodies that Biffy have built their towering, monolithic sound upon. ‘Biblical’s road trip-ready melody and hymn-like, ethereal synths fused into the crunching guitars, grumbling bass and contrastingly silky-smooth vocals of ‘57’. The heartbeat-esque drums and inspiring, far-gazing aura of ‘Friends and Enemies’ sat  wonderfully alongside the soft, acoustic ‘Medicine’, during which friends, lovers and those who walked the line somewhere in between pulled their loved ones a little closer against the biting wind, basking in the warm glow with faded smiles curving at the edges of their lips. All of old suggestive groove and smouldering charisma of rock and roll flowed in steamy waves from the lyrics of ‘Animal Style’, only a matter of circumstance away from being served on a silver tray with a sly grin and a glass of whiskey, before the solemn, dark brooding opening to ‘9/15ths’ flipped the atmosphere on its head, with the hauntingly sinister refrain ‘We’re on a hellslide, help us, help us’ boring its way into your brain, illustrating the daringly expressionistic side of these raucous Scotsmen! Swooping and diving through their entire discography, Biffy showed off the soaring highs and the bruising lows of their sound, the deliciously pleasing classic rock intertwined with the wonderfully left-field imagery and experimental sounds, all tied together by their commanding stage presence that made it impossible to tear your eyes away, and their idiosyncratic broad Scottish accents that added a sense of humanity to the imposing figures that they cast, framed by the lights of Download’s Main Stage.
The highlights of the set have to be the two classics that everybody, no matter what genre of music you enjoy most, is simply born knowing the words to: the grandiose, uplifting radio hit ‘Mountains’, and the iconic track whose power and impact on record is one thing, but live it simply defies description: it can only be ‘Many of Horror’. All across Donington voices rang out in perfect harmony, from the packed out barrier all the way to the drizzle-soaked hill on which we now stood, gazing down at the flickering lights of the crowd below us, the faces of my friends illuminated by the glistening stage lights, with the ferris wheel twinkling like a slow burning Catherine wheel in the distance. The gravity of that moment cannot be overstated- it was a truly breath-taking display of the power of rock music- the unity, the driving force for love and for rebellion and the awe-inspiring supremacy it possesses over all other forms of self-expression. And the fireworks that burst upwards into the inky black sky as the final earth-shattering chords rang out were the perfect catharsis, as in unison we all lifted our arms into the air and screamed in pure delight.
What a set. What a band. What a festival. Download 2017- you were bloody brilliant.

author avatar
Glenn van den Bosch