Sonisphere 2011

It was epic!

More you say? Fair enough. As this could turn into quite a long blog post [edit – it was still pretty fucking long], I thought I’d streamline it a little into The Good, The Bad and The Bands, which will be simple opinions about the acts.

The Good

  • The entire festival had a rather feel good attitude from the few people that I spoke to. Most were very happy and friendly.
  • The food. The selection was pretty great, ranging from greasy burgers all the way to things such as Argentinian steaks, Mexican and Japanese. Yes, it could be considered expensive, but the prices never really bothered me (and I’m broke as a joke). £7 for a larger meal, £4 for Bacon roll, etc, was good. The only price that pissed me off was £2 for a bottle of water.
  • The bands. I’m not a metal snob, I like a bit of everything, music wise, eclectic as they say. There was a great choice of bands from heavy thrash metal to “pop-punk”.
  • The stalls. Most of the shopping stalls were top notch, with friendly staff and great items on sale.

The Bad (There are more of these, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a superb time)

  • Rubbish. More bins next year please. When you can’t find a 4ft square of grass to sit in for discarded rubbish, noodles, piss, then it’s going to get tiring. The bins that were there weren’t being emptied fast enough. If you’re going to offer a cup redemption, then offer one for plastic bottles and you’ll see about 25% of that rubbish disappear.
  • Throwing stuff. I know that throwing cups and empty plastic bottles are part of the “fun” of a metal festival, but when it goes beyond that it becomes dangerous. Full bottles of coke, cups filled to the brim, smoke grenades, apples are all things I saw being thrown and actually hit someone. It’s hard to control, of course, but a higher police presence in the actual arena may have helped. [Also, during Slipknot I saw a knotted Tesco bag fly into the mosh pits… Upon reading the forums it turns out someone had taken a shit in it.]
  • Arena layout. Next year, add alleyways to the smaller stages to allow people to get to them through the crowds. Having to push through 40,000 people at the Saturn stage in order to get to Bohemia is silly.
  • The toilets. Again, another no brainer for a festival, surely? There weren’t enough which resulted in people pissing on the walls around the arena and angering the owners of the food stalls nearby. Also, if you’re going to use open air urinals, some screens would be nice. I don’t want to look another guy in his eye while I have my tackle in my hand. Oh, and empty them more often to save the overflow river of piss in the field.
  • The sound on the Saturn stage. It was pretty crap for the whole festival but at it’s worse for Bill Bailey. We actually gave up watching him in the end because the jokes couldn’t really be heard. Whoever the sound guy was needs a slap, considering Bill was one of the main headliners.
  • The fun fair. What a pile of crap. Expensive (£3 per ride) rides that were only designed to make you puke. Also, when the bands are playing on Jager (right opposite the rides) turn the fucking shitty music off on the rides.

The Bands

Diamond Head – I’ve never really listened too much Diamond Head, but the singer got the crowd pretty pumped and opened the festival very well. It was only a half hour set, but it seemed that the band had a blast and that always makes a gig better.

Lower Than Atlantis – These guys played in the rather packed Bohemia stage/tent but absolutely killed it. The sound was a little muddy (the vocals weren’t coming through well) but it didn’t really matter as the crowd were so good that they elevated the gig tremendously well. They played the top songs and many people seemed happy about it, including me.

Megadeth – Nowhere near loud enough. For practically every gig we were near the front, just behind the pits, but Megadeth never really got loud enough. The setlist was decent though and they played their better known stuff… which was good as I’m rusty on some of the Megadeth stuff.

Metallica – What can I say? Wow. Metallica brought it all; epic riffs, drum solos, fireworks, pyro, crowd interaction… everything you need from an amazing gig. It was a setlist that spanned most of their albums, which was great as it didn’t rely on just the main hits. The encore with the Big 4 (Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth came on stage) was fantastic. Plenty of on stage banter and epic music. One of the highlights of the weekend.

Richard Cheese – Some light relief came in the form of Richard Cheese, the man who transforms metal songs into lounge performances. His band were great and really feeling the crowd, Cheese was on point and funny as hell. His interactions with the audience made for some great memories, too. Particularly his insistence on the security joining in with a can-can line to which only one guard joined in. 294! 294! 294! Great set, played plenty of covers that people knew and it was a great way to start the Saturday.

Kids in Glass Houses – As I said, I’m not a metal snob and am quite happy with the poppier stuff. I love KiGH anyway and they didn’t disappoint when playing live. The singer had the crowd in his hand and gave an epic performance, even poking fun at themselves “The gayest band on the lineup!”. Great set, brilliant use of the stage, too.

Kids in Glass Houses (Acoustic) – While we were waiting in the crowd for another band, we heard that KiGH were performing a “secret gig” of acoustic material. So we dashed down there and caught a great close up gig. We were at the rail and were only 4 feet from the band. It was a great moment and we got to hear some of the new album, too.

Bad Religion – I hadn’t heard any of Bad Religions stuff before the gig. We wandered down purely because it was a small crowd and we got close in. The band were so good that the minute I got home I began listening to more of their stuff… which blatantly influenced Green Day.

Sum 41 – I haven’t listened to Sum 41 for quite some time, so I was only there for the “big” songs. They didn’t disappoint throughout the whole set. It was a little slow as the band kept interacting with the crowd for long periods of time which cut down on the music. However, the moment that Fat Lip and In too Deep dropped, the crowd erupted. In fact by the end of the allotted time, they hadn’t finished their setlist and refused to leave the stage, leaving Sonisphere to pull the power on them, which created quite the reaction.

You Me At Six – Another band from the “pop-punk” genre. They played really well and the crowd were having fun, but it was a small audience for the stage they played which left it feeling a little lacking. I enjoyed it as I like the band, but I’m not sure it would convert many others.

Weezer – Unfortunately, we were nearer the back for Weezer to ensure that we got a great spot for Rival Sons. This didn’t stop it from being an amazing gig and one of the highlights. This is probably due to Weezers melodies and the crowd knowing practically every word. Dropping in Teenage Dirtbag went very well, but the crowd seemed to die down when they played a Radiohead cover. Thankfully they tore it up with Buddy Holly at the end which left us all extremely happy. Oh and thankfully the bass player came to the rescue on vocals for one track as the singer was buried in the crowd.

Rival Sons – Easily one of my top 3 gigs of the weekend. I’d discovered Rival Sons a while before the weekend and am really into their album. So, we wanted to get nice and close for the gig, luckily we got there early and got to the front rail. The set was amazing, the singer has the Jim Morrison thing going on and the music is very Kings of Leon, The Doors and Led Zep all in one. After the gig I got to say a quick hello to the drummer and shake his hand. (also, this was on one of the two smallest stages and they could have easily moved up to Bohemia).

Biffy Clyro – The ones who were doubted. Before the weekend, many claimed that Biffy should not be headlining and would be rubbish. Twats. Biffy rocked the main stage pretty fucking hard and what was left was a crowd who left with vocal chords in tatters after singing along. Biffy put on a great show with streamers, bubbles, fireworks, handheld flares, chandeliers and pyro. Truly memorable gig.

Volbeat – Volbeat were a little unknown to many in the crowd it seems as the talk on the forums has been of conversion after their early morning Sunday gig. It started 15 minutes early (which was nice for us as we were early, too) and we got a 45 minute set instead of 30. They played their most well known songs and the singer oozed charisma. Their combination of metal and classic rock and roll went down a treat.

House of Pain – Gah! It pains me to say it, but House of Pain were terrible. Until the inevitable ‘Jump Around’ it was a show that was lacking any energy and the band just weren’t into it. You could tell that the only reason they were on one of the larger stages was because of the crowd they would pull for ‘Jump Around’. Even when they unleashed their best song, it fell a little flat towards the tail end of the song.

InMe – Another band I’d only heard a little of, but they were fantastic live. Again, in the Bohemia tent, the closeness of the gig made it a little more special and the band controlled everything from the crowd to the sound levels brilliantly.

Airbourne – Fucking crazy ozzy bastards! This Australian band were a must see. With mega riffs and great sing-a-long rock tunes, they absolutely commanded the Saturn stage. It was also a must see for the front man who climbed the side of the stage 50 feet into the air and stood on the top playing face melting riffs. He then proceeded to down a bottle of wine and smash beer cans over his head. True old school rock, there. [Note – his encouragement of putting people on your shoulders was great, and I quote “Pick up anyone and get them on your shoulders. Even if you don’t know the cunt, get them up!]

Motorhead – Sorry Lemmy, I love you for your crazy rock antics but you cannot control a festival crowd. Admittedly we were a little further back than I’d have liked, but the crowd was flat throughout the entire gig. Even when they played ‘Ace of Spades’ the crowd roared once at the start and within 30 seconds went back to chatting and drinking. Poor showing. [I forgot that news broke about an old band member passing just before this gig, hence the poor showing]

Limp Bizkit – I’m a little torn on this one. Had an amazing spot in the audience ( a little too close to the circle pits, actually) and when the tunes dropped, each one was a classic that every voice joined in with. However Durst played up to the crowd so much that there could have been a lot more music and a lot less Fred. Yes, he was funny, yes, he encouraged boobies (snigger) but ultimately the crowd wanted more music. Still great though and when Break Stuff and Rollin’ came on you could feel the electricity. (Oh, side note, the bass was too heavy and drowned out the guitar. When i can feel my heart vibrating but can’t hear lead guitar, it’s too damn loud.)

Bill Bailey – As I mentioned above, I didn’t even stick around for much of this. It could have been the weather (massive downpour and wind) but we couldn’t hear where we were standing and most of what we did hear was old material. We moved on to get a good spot for Slipknot.

Slipknot – I was looking forward to Slipknot the most. I know the shock value of the band has depleted, but it doesn’t stop me being a fan. The setlist was amazing and each song brought the crowd to a crescendo of noise. The whole gig was dedicated to the life of their recently passed bass player, Paul Gray and the entire show was very positive. Stand out moments are the show itself; spinning drum kits, pyro, fireworks etc. But, the epic stage dive from the DJ has to get a nod and Corey getting everyone to kneel down for an epic “GET THE FUCK UP”. The gig ended with a touching tribute to Paul Gray as his bass and suit were brought out for the crowd to see and when Joey (the drummer) hugged it there was an audible intake of breath. Moving stuff. Easily the gig of the weekend and a moment I’ll remember forever.

All in all, I had an amazing time. Despite the negatives, the music outweighed it all and provided a seriously awesome time. Mentions have to go to Strumpets with Crumpets for breakfast each day, Delikate for awesome food, the crowd for a chilling two minutes silence for Paul Gray and Defmash for coming along and rocking the fuck out with me!

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