What happened when Parkway Drive surprised Download Festival 2024

The secret’s out! Parkway Drive decimate the Dogtooth Stage at Download for one of the greatest surprise sets in the festival’s history…

What happened when Parkway Drive surprised Download Festival 2024
Luke Morton
Andy Ford

It’s the question that has been dominating the more metal corners of social media for weeks, ‘Who is the secret set at Download?’ Sleuths on TikTok jumped through hoops and fell down rabbit holes in search of answers, with names like My Chemical Romance, Paramore and Foo Fighters being bandied around, but when the time came – and if you were looking at Instagram hours earlier, you knew the answer already – the surfboard with the letters PWD duct-taped to it on the back of the stage gave the game away. And absolutely nobody is disappointed.

The Dogtooth Stage has been full for quite some time, with fans standing 10 rows deep outside the smallest tent at the festival to try and grab a glimpse of Australia’s finest wrecking crew. Looking every bit like a man who hasn’t spent the past four days slumming it in the mud, the dictionary definition of charisma Winston McCall strolls out in a Persil-white tank top and a grin so wide it threatens the integrity of his cheeks. He knows, as much as ever-growing horde does, the next 30 minutes are going down in Donington history.

As the braying crowd swells and surges forward like a writhing mass of battered flesh, it’s bedlam from the first strains of Glitch, with bodies piling over the barricade, fist-bumping Winston as he hurls himself round the stage, barking into the audience with every ounce of energy and adrenaline his muscular frame can muster. And the momentum never stops, with a punishing Prey almost causing a small earthquake across the East Midlands, as circle pits rev into gear and a deafening chorus engulfs the marquee.

After last year’s dominant display on the main stage, proving they are more than worthy to headline this thing one day, today’s performance underlines just how much power and ferocity is contained within the Byron Bay bruisers under smaller, more rough-and-ready circumstances. The chant-along riff of Vice Grip is just one of a multitude of reminders that Parkway are one the greatest heavy bands going today, with an ability to not just write monster hooks but back them up with monolithic heft and brawling aggression. “I need fucking more!” screams Winston as more bodies are forced over the barricade for Bottom Feeder, with thousands of Downloaders snapping their necks in unison.

A cacophony of whoas and screams bring this dream set to its visceral conclusion with Wild Eyes, complete with Cheshire Cat smiles etched on the faces of everyone onstage and off. In what feels like the blink of an eye, the deed is done, history has been made, and Parkway Drive have pretty much won the entire weekend. Don’t expect to see them in a space this cramped anytime soon…

Read this: The big review: Download Festival 2024

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