Live Review: Holding Absence @ Download Festival, Donington

The Mic's Live Editor Jodie Averis pens her thoughts on Holding Absence's acoustic performance at Download Festival.

Whispers buzz around the various stages and tents of Donington's beloved metal haven on Saturday 11th June; "It's Holding Absence tonight", "Holding Absence are doing the secret set". One of the (many) charms of Download festival is the 'secret set' feature that they include after dark on each of the days, which typically features a name from that day's line up performing an intimate set in the festival's Village site. Away from the main arena and tucked away on a small concrete strip by some shipping containers, Download's Side Split Stage offers a unique opportunity to witness our favourite heavy bands perform a stripped back set, up close and personal. At 11pm, after watching metal juggernauts Iron Maiden close the Apex Stage, I ventured over to the Village. Lo and behold, Welsh quartet Holding Absence were indeed gracing the Side Split Stage.

Following the release of their stellar sophomore album The Greatest Mistake of My Life in 2021, Holding Absence have cemented themselves as one of the most prominent figures of the British alt-rock scene. After European and Australian tours, and touring with the likes of Creeper, they were welcomed back to Download festival with open arms and ears. After delivering an electrifying set to a packed tent at the Avalanche Stage earlier on in the afternoon, hopes were very high to see the band again perform all of our favourites with an acoustic twist.

"Simply put: Woodland has a voice that can send shivers down any spine."

Charismatic frontman Lucas Woodland simply does not miss. Despite having bellowed his lungs out merely hours before, Woodland's voice sounded as fresh and strong as it did before. Acoustic sets like these gracefully command one's attention, and the crowd was transfixed by Woodland's unwavering voice reverberating around the small but attentive crowd at an impressive power and volume. The beauty of this set was how small it was; intimacy like no other. Woodland, beaming, expressed his genuine and profound gratitude to the onlooking festival-goers, who had braved a day of intense metal to then follow the group back to their set as it approached midnight. The band took requests from the crowd who chanted their favourite tracks, and they settled on Saint Cecilia, which was released in 2017.

Simply put: Woodland has a voice that can send shivers down any spine. Holding Absence's performance on this stage was an emotionally charged one, with the tender, acoustic renditions of their emo-tinged anthems really pulling on heartstrings. Highlights of their short but sweet set include Like a Shadow, which showcases Woodland's incredible ability to hold a long and powerful note, as well as tearjerker Wilt. Wilt provided a moment of serenity, with the closing verse being sung back to Woodland from many fans sat on shoulders. Truly a performance that will stick with many, the opportunity to have seen Holding Absence in such a small, personal environment is not one that should be forgotten.

Jodie Averis


Edited by: Jodie Averis

Cover image courtesy of Kerrang!