Thursday – Journey up to Knebworth was fairly painless. Before setting off we had decided making two trips from the car would make more sense as we had a fair amount of stuff between us all. The queue was a bit nuts but I guess that is to be expected, first day of a festival and all. The first trip was fairly uneventful, as was the setup of the campsite. Had a decent spot which wasn’t that far from the arena so that is always handy (granted it will take something special for a festival to be able to top the distance I was away from the RaR festival arena entrance – and people were further away!) The second walk however wasn’t a great deal of fun. It emerged that despite having wristbands, we’d need to queue again with people who had just arrived – there was no wristband entrance. This seemed to be a bit shit. Considering the amount of time they’ve had to plan this festival, something simple like that being overlooked wasn’t great. This second journey as well was coupled with carrying odds and sods, which meant dragging a trolley which couldn’t be balanced properly across bumpy ground led to an interesting journey. However, the day improved vastly when this was all dropped back at the campsite because it just meant we could sit back and relax. Went on a brief explore during this time to a burger van we passed on the way in. Considering the reputation festival food has, it wasn’t bad at all.
Friday – Ah, the first time waking up at Sonisphere, at 6am no less. My body clock and I had some disagreements over the course of the weekend. We had discussed the idea of a jaunt into Stevenage to grab a decent breakfast. This is what we did by stopping into the local Wetherspoons – The Standard Bearer (continuing the stereotype that if not all then most Wetherspoons have their toilets upstairs). Rock solid eggs aside, it was a good breakfast. Mosied around Stevenage for a short while before heading into Tesco to grab the last few bits required for the campsite. Things had improved when we returned to the festival in that they had a fast pass queue for wristband wearers. The next 4 or so hours were a continuation of the night before – sitting down enjoying the weather with beer. It was during this stage that a man, covered in red paint ran through our campsite with great pace, but connected with Paul’s knee and ended up on the floor. All credit to him, he got straight back up and carried running like crazy. Actually missed a bit of the first band I wanted to see as I was still at the campsite, but oh well. The walk to the arena, despite being hilly, was a decent walk away so that was good. I’d resolved (not knowing the time) that I would miss the first band I wanted to see, and therefore would just wait for Little London to come on stage. However, having decided a drink was in order, I walked from Jager stage and saw the first band I wanted to see on stage.
DELAIN – 7. Didn’t see much of their set unfortunately, but what I did see was really very good. Hopefully this band will do a full UK tour at some point.
LITTLE LONDON – 6. I didn’t hang around for the entire set as they were clashing with Turisas. However what I did see was good. It’s been a while since I’ve seen LL and I like what they’ve done with the song Love Reaction.
TURISAS – 7. Turisas are always good fun live. Better in a smaller environment I’d say but they do have the stage presence to justify them being on the Saturn stage. Interestingly they gave facts about Rasputin while the accordion player played the opening riff and then declared that Rasputin is dead. Is this the end of them playing it live? Perhaps. I wouldn’t be heartbroken if that happened – though it could end up them shooting themselves in the foot as a fair few people nearby after the set seemed confused they didn’t play it. However, a Black Sabbath cover was a welcome addition to the set.
EUROPE – 10. Stunning. I did not expect to enjoy them half as much as I did but they were fantastic. Obviously the best parts of the set included Rock the Night and, of course, The Final Countdown. There are not many bands that I’ve seen play a festival that received as good of a reaction to a song than that. Literally it looked like from the front row to the very back of the crowd people raised their arms, singing, dancing etc. One of the moments of the festival for me. Rock The Night also included a jam of Heaven and Hell in tribute to Dio, which was awesome. Joey Tempest still has it.
GARY NUMAN – 9. Fantastic performance from Gary Numan. He proved he still had it at the o2 arena when he guested with NIN. Since then I’ve always wanted to see his own show. This was probably the closest I’ll get to see it. It was a great show with a really good setlist. Cars and Are Friends Electric being the highlights. Would have liked him to do “Metal” but other than that omission, it was really very good.
ALICE COOPER – 10. Superb. The Theatre of Death stage show is one which needs to be seen to be believed. Alice Cooper has still got it and can offer a very valuable lesson to other bands in how to do a show. 24 song setlist with Schools Out being played twice (but whatever, it’s awesome). The set on the whole was awesome and I can’t think of one of his songs that I wanted to see that he didn’t play. I’m really tempted to go see his Halloween show in London on the back of this performance. If you didn’t see Alice Cooper, you missed out.
Despite the awesomeness of Alice Cooper, the Friday night campsite activities were limited due to tiredness having won over, and me needing to get some sleep. Great opening day to a festival.
Best Band of the Day: Alice Cooper
Moment of the Day: Europe - The Final Countdown
Worst Band of the Day: I didn’t see a band that could be considered for this.
Disappointing moment of the day: Turisas not playing Rasputin
Rain at a festival is never fun, especially when it wakes you up before 6am. We decided that going into town would be a good idea again so this was the plan. Trundled down to the shuttle bus stop. We were the only ones there which is never a good sign. We waited for over an hour before a bus showed up. 2 of the people we were with had decided it wasn’t worth the wait which in retrospect, it probably wasn’t. Anyway, the pilgrimage to Stevenage this time was a lot shorter, and involved a trip to The Standard Bearer and Tesco. Couldn’t spend too long in the town as the bands started a lot earlier. Ended up getting a taxi back to the festival (£10 split between 4 isn’t bad). A brief stop at the campsite happened and then I set off for the arena.
EVILE – 7. The subject of the worst clash of the weekend for me. Lacuna Coil on the main stage or Evile in the Bohemia tent. I went for Evile and they were really good. 3rd time seeing them and they don’t disappoint live. Quite liked their setlist (decent balance of 1st/2nd album). Only gripe is that I’ve seen them 3 times now, and still not seen Armoured Assault live!
SOULFLY – 8. Much the same as Evile really, they never disappoint live. Really quite liked the setlist as well. Again the slight disappointment for me with regards to their setlist was the lack of Probot’s song, Red War. I guess I was spoiled at the Pyramids when they played that. Still, they had a 30min set and they were great.
ANTHRAX – 10. Superb. From the start of their set right through to the end of it they were on. I never saw Anthrax with Jon Bush so it is hard to make comparisons between the two versions of Anthrax. Joey Belladonna was on form though for this set and that made it for me. Only played 7 songs but one of those I was dying to hear live (their cover of Antisocial) and they also worked in a bit of Heaven and Hell into their song Indians, which was awesome.
FEAR FACTORY – 6. I liked this band and their set, but there did seem to be something missing which I can’t really put my finger on. I would have liked to have heard Linchpin live, but I already have so that not the end of the world. Good set, but something missing.
PAPA ROACH – 4. Slightly unfair me rating these really as I was listening to them sitting by the Saturn stage. However, Last Resort and Between Angels and Insects were good, as was Hollywood Whore. Those songs being good pushed the rating up to a 4 because the rest sounded like a bag of wank
I was sat by the Saturn stage, thinking I could legitimately have time to watch some Apocalyptica and then head over to the Bohemia stage calmly and watch Tim Minchin. However the crowd heading into the tent looked quite large so I decided reluctantly to move on to the tent. In doing so, I caught all the preceding comedy.
JARRED CHRISTMAS – 5. Jarred Christmas was very funny, but this opening set was word for word his set from Mock the Week, which was a touch disappointing.
ANDREW O’NEIL – 8. The Heavy Metal Comic! He was really good. Some of his material was quite good, and he stage dived at the end of his set. That was cool. He recommended staying about and seeing the band which followed the comedy, which was sound advice (I’m not sure if that counts as a pun or not....not intended either way)
TIM MINCHIN – 10. Simply put, hilarious. As expected the tent was crammed for this set. My memory is a complete let down for this set. I recall him singing a song about clashing with Good Charlotte (seems odd there wouldn’t be a band on clashing with him....oh), Only a Ginger & Rock and Roll Nerd. I know there was more, but I don’t remember it. Regardless, he was very funny and for those going to his tour, just know I am jealous!
SICK OF IT ALL – 9. I wanted to see this band off the back of hearing the song “Scratch the Surface”. This set was awesome. Packed from start to finish with awesome songs and closing with the aforementioned “Scratch the Surface”. Had to listen to that song outside though due to needing to leave the tent so when they finished, I could head to the Jagermeister stage. SOIA gained a new fan in me because of this set.
MALEFICE – 9. This band seemingly can’t go wrong live. Seen them twice at the Wedge, once in London and now at Sonisphere and each time they have been great. Tight, aggressive live band with seemingly limitless abilities to master a stage. Hatred Justified from the new album a particular highlight. The band seemed genuinely shocked at the size crowd they received, and got us all to give the main stage the finger as Placebo were on there. Quite entertaining, and actually just, considering.
PLACEBO – 4. Malefice finished before Placebo, therefore I decided to sit by Saturn, much like I did for Papa Roach, and listen to Placebo. The middle finger earlier given was justified. They did one song I liked, and the rest of the set was just whiney and poor. Excellent call by me I feel by not actually heading over to that stage.
MOTLEY CRUE – 6. This band was the 2nd best band of Download 2007, kept from the top spot by Iron Maiden. I was excited to see them again, but did not have high hopes for a number of reasons. Firstly, they were to be followed by Rammstein and that for me was a distraction. Secondly, I didn’t feel them playing open air would be as special as them playing in a tent. This transpired to be true. I think the vocals were disappointing to say the very least. Vince Neil did not seem to be on form at times. There were also a bundle of technical difficulties (at parts, Mick Mars looked like a dear in the headlights). However, when things were good, they were really good. They did not play Saints of Los Angeles – bastards
RAMMSTEIN – 10. Everything about this band live is fantastic. The stage show is one which can’t be topped (even when it’s on a slightly smaller scale – they were able to replicate 99% of it at Sonisphere, but there were some slight differences. One which comes to mind involves exploding babies).The setlist was slightly shorter than their earlier arena tour, but it was still awesome. There was a different song in the set replacing a new album track. Du Riechst So Gut was very much a welcome addition to the setlist. Of course I’d like to see them play Buck Dich, Mutter, Mein Herz Brennt and others, but that doesn’t take away from their awesomeness. Musically and artistically awesome. Rammstein owned that main stage in a way in which no other band managed to over the course of the whole weekend.
The intent was to go and see Therapy? perform Troublegum and then catch Renegades as well. However as we left the main arena, the tent appeared to be packed for Therapy? Therefore, we decided to give it a miss and head back to the campsite. This lead to another visit to that burger van from Thursday, and a word association game which ended up with a fair amount of alcohol being consumed. Probably the most fun I had at the campsite over the course of the weekend (and no I’m not saying that purely for the hilarity of seeing someone fall into their tent). An excellent day was had.
Best Band of the Day: Rammstein
Comedian of the Day: Tim Minchin
Moment of the Day: 4-5k people singing the chorus to Rock And Roll Nerd while Ol Drake from Evile came on stage to help with the song.
Worst Band of the Day: Either Placebo or Papa Roach. May not have seen the whole thing but that doesn’t change the fact they sounded like bags of wank.
Disappointing moment of the day: Motley Crue. Technical difficulties and vocal difficulties it seems meant they could not recreate the awesomeness of their Download 2007 set.
Sunday – A wondrous lie in was had, what all Sunday mornings should contain. I say lie in, it was 7am when I woke up, but that was a vast improvement on the 6am wakes of the two days previous. No visit to Stevenage today as I wanted to be in the arena early to make sure I was in a decent spot for the first act. Left the campsite really too early though as I was able to get in the arena but not the Bohemia tent. It was shut until 10.45am. Very strange.
HENRY ROLLINS – 10. This man combines perfectly comedy with serious thought to make his spoken word set genius. Discussing meeting and “flipping off” Than Shwe, the American reaction to Obama and how he differs from Bush and spreading the music of The Stooges and others to middle Sri Lanka, Rollins made me laugh but also made me believe I could help inspire change. I won’t lie, that feeling did slightly disappear when I left the tent, but it was great at the time! He is well worth seeing, and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending his spoken word show to anyone.
CKY – 6. Missed the beginning of this set which sucked as they played Rio Bravo early. I saw them do 3 or 4 songs (I don’t recall) and they were good. Nothing spectacular though, I think they might have been better served having a higher spot on one of the smaller stages. Headlining Bohemia or something. They did attract a decent size crowd though, so perhaps I’m wrong.
THE DEFILED – 7. Didn’t catch an awful lot of them (a friend was using the cash point and they were by the Bohemia stage so I had a listen. I predict that had I gone in the tent and watched the whole set, the rating would be much higher. They sounded tight with a lot of energy (and the music wasn’t bad either)
THE FAB BEATLES – 5. The novelty band was just that, a novelty. They were a pretty decent Beatles cover band (not entirely sure I was enamoured with the idea of them calling each other “Paul” or “John” – I know they are a tribute band but that just came across as a bit douchey). The music they played was fine but I’m pretty sure there are better Beatles tribute bands out there. I missed them playing Run to the Hills, which might have increased the review score, but neither the less, they were ok.
SKINDRED – 10. For me, this was one of the bands I was looking forward to the most. I loved headline set at the Wedge and couldn’t wait to see them at Sonisphere. They didn’t let me down. Seeing them, especially down the front, was just one big party. They pretty much did a best of the 3 albums, so that was good as well. Definitely a dominating live act that destroyed the Apollo Stage.
SLAYER – 9. Very impressed with how good Slayer were. Download 2007 they were boring and I watched them with Jon who, if memory serves, said that they weren’t all that special at Reading 2006. However they were great. Sounded really good live and played a damn good setlist (Angel of Death being a plus for me as they didn’t play it at DL07). Would have liked to hear New Faith & Disciple but that doesn’t take away from how good they were.
JARRED CHRISTMAS – 7. Served as a great MC this time. I’ve read that he actually did a full set but I wasn’t there for that. He used material I hadn’t heard before which was quite good. Seems to be very good at crowd work as well. Very good.
BRIAN POSEHN – 7. His material seemed to be based on him looking scary, and how he’d scare off an intruder with a samurai sword while naked. I’ve reviewed that in a very simplistic manner, but it was funny. I reckon he’d be great having had a longer set.
SEAN HUGHES – 9. Fantastic 30mins by this guy. Everything he talked about was hilarious, covering religion and being Irish. The joke about drug takers and U2 was really very good (and actually worked on someone, which made it funnier). The crowd cheered every time he said “cunt” which was really entertaining to everyone, Sean included by the looks.
JIM JEFFERIES – 9. Didn’t see the whole set but what I saw was hysterical. His humour is very blunt which is great. Jokes about relationships, the virtues of being gay and lesbians which really didn’t appeal to the lesbian security guard at the front. An awkward situation dealt excellently by Jefferies. Well worth a watch if you have the chance.
THE CULT – 7. Was looking forward to seeing The Cult. They were very good and had a decent set from what I saw. I missed their bigger hits though as I was heading towards the Apollo Stage to get a good position for Pendulum/Iron Maiden. Enjoyable, but not enough to keep me glued to the stage while they were on.
PENDULUM – 10. Their set at Rock Am Ring in 2008 was the only time I’ve seen them before this festival. That set was in a small tent with a fantastic light show with the only hiccup being the PA blowing up. I was looking forward to their set for two reasons. The first being to see whether they could replicate this amazing RaR set on a bigger, open air stage. The second being since 2008, they’ve continued to release good music. Their show was phenomenal at Sonisphere. Literally the energy, performance and atmosphere created were perfect. The guest appearance from the In Flames singer worked really well also. A fantastic live act, proving the doubters that not only can they sub-headline to Iron Maiden at a Rock/Metal festival, but that they should be in that position. Download and Sonisphere have now both booked Pendulum in previous years. Download have also booked The Prodigy as well. Could The Prodigy headline one of these festivals one day with Pendulum sub headlining again? Easily. With the Sonisphere model, it could work very well on the Friday.
IRON MAIDEN – 10. What can I say about Iron Maiden’s performance which hasn’t already been said by other forms of media? The performance was fantastic and coupled with a fantastic setlist. On the internet there are always people that will literally find anything to bitch about. Of course, the Maiden setlist was always going to attract interest from those people who want Maiden to turn into a cabaret Vegas act playing their best of and nothing else. I actually saw someone write “Can you imagine Iron Maiden playing a best of setlist...I can’t even imagine how great that would be...” You don’t have to; it’s called the Somewhere Back in Time tour! The performance and setlist were both great and it was awesome to hear Bruce Dickinson pay tribute to Dio. Granted, I did prefer their SBIT tour setlist, but this performance was one of the best I’ve seen them do.
The final day at Sonisphere concluded with more beer drinking at the tent and discussions of the inevitable – leaving the next day. Having drunk most of 5 tins of beer (deciding the sensible action would be when reaching nearly the end of the can would be to crush it and toss it over my shoulder. The final day concluded with a large fire, people stampeding through the campsite, stopping police and the fire service getting through and toppling over the fence stopping people accessing the Knebworth House stream. However, I don’t have complete details of this event as I was asleep throughout the whole thing. Pure class
Best Band of the Day: Iron Maiden
Comedian of the Day: Sean Hughes
Moment of the Day: Entire crowd sing-along to Fear of the Dark. It might be the 5th time I’ve done it, but it’s awesome every time!
Worst Band of the Day: The Fab Beatles. They weren’t awful; they just weren’t all that good either
Disappointing moment of the day: Realising the bands were over, and the next day meant going home
Monday – Waking up to see that the fence had pushed over (and one urinal for that matter) was certainly an interesting wake-up call. The morning simply consisted of waking up, packing up the campsite and leaving Knebworth. The saddest of all festival days. Journey home was fairly smooth but also fairly dull as we were all pretty tired.
Overall Thoughts – Sonisphere @ Knebworth is a fantastic festival. I love the layout of the festival (with the only thing I’d change if it could be done would be placing the Saturn stage next to the Apollo stage). If that couldn’t logistically be done then put the band that is on the other stage on the screens and speakers of the one not being used. If that could be done, it would be a fantastic festival all round. Spent some of the festival with a group of pretty awesome people helps matters as well. For the most part, good times all round. Soni is definitely a festival I’d recommend and intend on going back to again someday (maybe in just over 350 days, who knows!)
Bands/Acts seen over the Weekend: 32
Best Band of the Weekend: Rammstein
Honourable Mentions: Iron Maiden, Skindred, Pendulum, Europe, Alice Cooper
Worst Band of the Weekend: Papa Roach
Moment of the Weekend: Probably a tie between Europe – The Final Countdown; Iron Maiden – Fear of the Dark and of course, Paul falling into his tent on the Saturday. Superb moments in their own way.