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Download / Airbourne serve their wild majestry at Donington

The sun is out, and the temperature high from the heat of 110,000 rockers all living for the music. It can only mean one thing – Download 2022 festival has arrived, and Donington is alive with Heavy Metal, as Airbourne prove.

Download 2022 – Airbourne

Words: Monty Sewell

With the weekend looking to be an unforgettable one, our first meet and greet of this crazy ride was with Airbourne. Back over from Australia for their World Tour, I got the chance to sit down with them a few hours before their set on the Opus stage.

The main question is, how does it feel to be back at Download?

“Ah, it fucking feels great,” Joel O’Keeffe told MetalTalk. “I mean, there’s no way to explain it, but it’s also like it never stopped. Everyone’s here, everyone’s the same. But there’s a different level of it. You know, everyone’s happy, everyone’s happy backstage, all smiles. Because before the doors used to be shut backstage, but now all the doors are open, and everyone’s all, ‘how the fuck have you been? You survived!’ So it’s a different vibe.”

There is a lightness around the place. You can spill someone’s drink by accident, and it’s still all love, and Airbourne are back and enjoying it. “It’s all good,” Joel agrees, “and free beer.”

Ryan O’Keeffe is here fresh from the announcement last week of a partnership with British Drums Co, and his custom cherry red kit will be gracing the stage later today. “It’s a very beautiful drum kit,” Ryan says, “and an amazing sounding drum kit.”

Is there a particular reason behind the Gibson SG finish? “Well, I just remember Joel opening up his first SG,” Ryan says. “He wanted that guitar so bad, and dad made him paint the house for two summers or something. This big effort and Joel finally got to open the guitar box, and I just remember the smell and the experience.”

“I love it that I did all the effort to paint the house,” Joel says.

“Yeah, and now I have this kit, but it’s a very, very good-looking drum kit,” Ryan says.

Ryan went to visit the factory in Manchester and to see everything in action. “I’d been there twice,” he says, “and it’s all hands-on. Everything about the drums is made there in Manchester. I had photos texted to me, too, seeing them build it when I was in Australia. Mahogany wood and all the laser cutting they do is in-house. When I first went there, by the end of the tour, I’d made my mind up instantly and just told them I was 100% in.”

Is Joel allowed a go on it? “I’m not allowed, mate,” he laughs. “I’m not even allowed to look at it. It’s like Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap.”

In the light of Spinal Tap, will Airbourne be chucking the amps up to 11 today? “Look, you’re gonna see four blokes who have been waiting two years to come out here and play,” Joel says. “We’re that hungry. Gonna hit ’em hard, real hard. It’s like four pit balls onstage, just fully out of that cage.”

With such a great back catalogue, Ryan says that there will be “something from everything, I think.”

“Well, that’s why we called it the World Tour,” Joel says, “because we’re not a nostalgic band – yet – but we do have five albums, so we’re like ‘what do we call this thing?’ Because when the Boneshaker thing stopped because everyone had the bat flu… you know.”

As for the future, Joel says there will be another album out soon. “We’ve also got the end of the year tour, which we’ll announce today, and a couple of dates with Blues Pills in London and Manchester.”

Though it’s only the first day, I think it’s safe to say Airbourne then produced one of the most memorable shows of the weekend.

A rip-roaring extravaganza that saw beer thrown, sweat dripped, and an unfathomable abundance of energy shot out from the stage. The O’Keeffe brothers were served to us in equal measures of wild majestry whilst Justin Street and Jarrad Morrice give themselves to the show entirely, never dropping a beat or turbine speed head-bang.

Airbourne brought the long-running favourites out: Girls In Black, Breakin’ Outta Hell and Boneshaker before finishing up with Live It Up and Runnin’ Wild. The former invoked jitters of anticipation as Ryan revved up an air raid siren on stage before Joel appeared on top of the stacks to give us a solo intro with all his guts and glory.

Great show, great guys.


MetalTalk Download 2022 coverage can be found at MetalTalk.net/tag/download-2022

Download 2023 will see the festival celebrate its 20th anniversary with an additional day, meaning four days of live music in total. Limited early bird tickets are on sale now at  downloadfestival.co.uk

Highlights of this year’s Download Festival will be broadcast on SKY ARTS on 9th and 10th July at 9pm.

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