Is there enough room in the UK for another music festival? You bet! This summer, the people behind the original Monsters of Rock, and the creator of Download the Unholy Alliance and Defenders Of The Faith brought you a brand-new festival. Sonisphere…
Knebworth might be somewhere you have never heard of, but it has had plenty of legendary concerts on this Hallowed Ground. Bands like the all-mighty Thin Lizzy and the breathtaking Queen. Oh yes, little Mooks, Knebworth means business.
For those who had been cursing the long walks at Download this year, your prayers had been answered. The arrangement of the Sonisphere camp was much closer and many of the walks to the stages were normally only 20 minutes. A good idea, since most of the people were seasoned festival-goers and would be a touch put off otherwise.
Sonisphere tried something different – having the two main stages acts staggered. This meant you wouldn’t miss your favourite acts. It also offered two smaller stages catering to smaller acts we hope to see get big.
First act heard on Saturday: Alien Art Farm. You could sense the appropriate timing of their cover of Smooth Criminal up on Main Stage, AKA Apollo.
Back over at the second stage (also known as Saturn), Skindred were glad to be playing a British festival and were letting it be known that they were home… They bashed out some tribal, primal beats and even teased us with a bit of “Under Pressure” in homage to Queen’s previous show on the site.
For all the metal core fans, an upcoming band to check out is Sylosis, who rocked out in the bohemia tent. While thrashing out their technical but heavy tunes, these boys showed a great deal of respect for their elders. Still young, hopefully they will fall into place as the band progresses!
Most bizarre act for this weekend? Bjorn again. And really the whole thing was a spot of genius! Metallica apparently asked them to play – and boy, was it a smart move. Dancing queen, Mamma Mia and a cover of Enter Sandman were just some of the treats offered up by everyone’s favourite Abba cover band and the crowd ate it up. Nothing in life could be more amusing than middle aged men in military jumpsuits leaping with wild abandon to Dancing Queen.
Back to the heavy stuff? No problem. Anthrax gave us that double bass kick goodness we have come to expect from them, the level of crowd insanity increased with every song on their metal-tastic set list. Even with the recent sacking of their vocalist, it was handy for the crowd that John Bush (former vocalist) was on hand to step in (and there are rumours he may return). The pits were the only place to be for these bad boys, and thankfully there were enough of them.
The Used pulled in a large crowd, though not as large as Bert McCracken’s ego one might say. Still, their catchy songs had the crowd with them. And while their suggestion to steal their album from a “proper music store” was a slight dig at downloading, all in all The Used delivered a bouncy well-done set.
Up until this point the weather had been kind to us. But as Airbourne took the Saturn (stage the heavens opened. As front man Joel O’Keeffe put it though,we weren’t about to let a little rain stop us, and the rain storm got some old skool rock and roll to brighten it up. Joel O’Keeffe is, in a word, bonkers. The guitarist/ vocalist climbed up one of the stage rigs – much to the terror of the security crew. After playing his solo up there, just to turn the panic up a notch he swung horrifyingly for a few minutes before descending. Wild and crazy – but, along with the old skool grrr, it lightened up the day.
The announcer called Heaven ‘n’ Hell the ‘godfathers of metal’ before they took the Apollo stage. And rightly so. The four men gave a heartfelt and hellraising performance and stomped their names on the heads of all the young ‘uns present.
Welsh metal dragons Bullet For my Valentine headlined the second stage on Saturday while front man Matt Tuck’s microphone squealed for the first few songs. This was rectified and the rest of the performance went without a hitch. A good solid delivery and a rare treat in the form of a song from their next album.
Linkin Park where billed as the main act of Saturday, and are a hard one to rate. The set itself was wonderful, mixing the correct portions of old classics like In the End and One Step with their more recent hits like Bleed It Out. The only problem seemed to be that halfway through, Chester brought out his side project, Dead By Sunrise. While they were great as a standalone act, the move split the mood of Linkin Park’s set and was ultimately felt to be uncalled-for. Maybe they should have had them on the smaller Bohemia stage, and a longer set could have been given to Linkin Park as the headliner.
Sunday @ Sonisphere
Sleaze was firmly and, er, sleazily brought to the table by Buck Cherry. While Todd’s voice was strained – more than likely from all the gigging they have been up to – the energy more than made up for it.
Paradise Lost had some issues with their mix. But overall it was a solid set.
If you wanted it heavy and loud, you should have been down at Lamb of God. Ridding off the back of their European tour and with the normal guitarist absent (Quick round of applause at Buzz from Unearthed for stepping in), the guys let us all know how thankful they were to be here. Everyone roared when they let the cat out of the bag, who was the ‘Special Guests’…
Yep, and the identity of the Sonisphere ‘special guests’ was the worst-kept secret of the whole weekend. But the excitement could not be contained when the Machine Head banner was raised. And while a ‘F*ck Limp Bizcuit’ chant let the Machine Head Boys know whose side the crowd was on, (even though most of them still went to the Limp Bizcuit set… It was just friendly ribbing…) Rob Flynn gave his thanks to everyone for coming to see them so early in the day, and even with this they gave one of the best performances of the weekend.
I would guess Corey Taylor was good. But I can’t really say, seeing that we couldn’t get into the tent to see him. Obviously, he proved popular.
Closing up the second stage was Avenged Sevenfold. They had taken time out from recording their next album to play Britain’s Sonisphere leg and one date in Ireland. All sporting some rather interesting hair, or in drummer Rev’s case facial hair, they pulled the stops out with a mix of old and new. Some technical issues were present, with the Rev’s vocal mic being to low at the beginning and a broken kick drum. But fortunately these were sorted out in the later half and the boys (who I will confess are my fave band and this isn’t the first time I’ve seen them) had a bunch of laughs with us all and with each other.
The last act needed no introduction… The awesome and great Metallica. I find it hard to say anything about them that hasn’t been said before, they were as good as you would expect if not better. Death Magnetic (their latest album) appeared frequently on the bill, as did the classics such as Nothing Else Matters and Master of Puppets and a cover of Queen. All of this was carefully sliced with film clips and an impressive firework show that really added to the atmosphere of their 2 hour performance. It being frontman James Hetfield’s birthday, a cream cake was brought out and his kids attacked him with silly string in a chucklesome scene that had Rock written all over it. In cream and silly string.
And so that was the first Sonisphere festival. Not bad, eh? Hopefully there will be more with just as impressive line-ups. Everyone I spoke to had an epic time, and it was hard to believe that it came so close to being pulled due to lack of interest.
So this is a message to everyone out there who like music festival like Download but didn’t make it to Sonisphere: You missed out on something amazing. Knebworth is still a great home to Rock Music and let’s keep it that way.