- By Mitch Mansfield
- BBC Newsbeat
“Rock is not as culturally relevant as it used to be – that is a fact.”
Straight talking from Bob Vylan frontman Bobby, but it’s a view that’s shared by some fans.
It’s also something that’s arguably been reflected in major festival line-ups over recent years, as they opt for more pop and hip-hop acts.
But that didn’t stop a sold-out crowd of about 100,000 people gathering at Donington Park over the weekend for the 20th anniversary of the UK’s biggest rock and metal event.
So what do the next two decades look and sound like for alternative music?
“The scene, the genre, the subculture and the people within it have done a great job at killing it,” Bobby tells BBC Newsbeat from backstage at Download Festival.
“They’re closing doors,” agrees drummer Bobbie, who’s calling for “fresh blood” to be given more opportunities in the industry.
Bob Vylan – whose music combines punk rock and grime – were named best alternative music act at the 2022 Mobo Awards, after picking up the prize for best album at the Kerrang! Awards.
“What we’ve done has been hailed so much because we’ve kind of forced our way through,” says Bobbie.
“That shouldn’t be the way it has to be. Having bands from the 80s headlining two days at a festival this big doesn’t help.”
He’s referring to Metallica closing the main stage on Thursday and Saturday at Download.
“Obviously you’ve got to have a huge headliner to pull people in,” adds Bobby – who says Metallica are “great… but why are they playing two sets? Give them one.”
Newsbeat has reached out to the Download organisers for a response.
But Bobby believes “it’s only natural things will change”, warning the scene will become less popular – like disco – if it doesn’t.
“In order for Download to be here for another 20 years, it will have to change [and] diversify.”
Other bands, though, are more positive about progress the scene is making.
“It will only continue to expand in the next 20 years,” predicts Creeper keyboardist and vocalist Hannah Greenwood.
“There are more women being represented at festivals than when I first started in 2015.
“The main thing is getting more women into music, but we’re getting there.”
Hannah also points to the role social media is playing as a gateway for a new generation of fans.
“With things like TikTok, people that shunned rock and metalheads are now like ‘oh, actually, sick’.
“It’s always been an inclusive scene but I think people outside of it are now seeing it in a different light.”
But Hannah insists the Southampton rock band are so far resisting the temptation, and at times the pressure, to chase views and clicks.
Blowing up on TikTok is something that Lorna Shore can relate to.
The deathcore band’s vocalist Will Ramos has become one of the bright young stars of modern metal after videos of his vocal techniques went viral, leading to clips of fans trying to copy them.
“Social media is the best marketing technique anybody could possibly want,” Will tells Newsbeat after their main stage debut at Download.
And the New Jersey band’s rise has even caught the attention of some of the biggest names in metal.
“They’re killing it,” Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall says, after himself watching Lorna Shore become “arguably, probably, the heaviest band that’s ever been on the main stage”.
Parkway Drive later co-headlined the final night of the festival, after returning from a touring break.
“It was probably the most valuable thing we’ve ever done,” says Winston.
“Luckily we realised that’s what we needed, after 17 years of just driving ourselves to survive within the music industry.
“If any band would ever ask me now ‘hey, what’s the key to success?’, take care of your mental health.”
Winston believes the positive response they received to talking openly about the issue is a reflection of the rock and metal culture becoming less macho.
“When we chose to be that open with it, we saw the platform that we had as a band, and were like, if we can take anything out of this situation, let’s pay it forward – let’s be open, so we can set an example.”
The Australian band’s hiatus came after the “major challenge” of the Covid pandemic, but Winston says “it’s awesome to see how strong it [Download] has come back”.
“It’s so good to see the thirst and the appetite for alternative and extreme music.”
And that “appetite” is something all bands agree on.
“The fans are ready [for change and new music],” says Bobbie.
“I reckon Bob Vylan will headline the main stage way before the 40th anniversary.”
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