Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Sonisphere - A detailed preview

One thing I love about festivals getting closer is every time we learn something more about the festival, excitement increases. When I see what bands are playing what stages, I start to make a plan in my head of who I want to see, and who I don’t. One thing I always try to do, amazingly unsuccessfully each time is guess clashes. When the stage times do get released, I plan to the best of my ability what I’ll see and where I’ll see it. I did this for Download and planned to see 16 bands. I didn’t quite see that many but that was due to the size of the arena. Fuck, that was a lot of walking between stages. That won’t be an issue at Sonisphere as the arena is really awesomely laid out so hopefully the plan I have made won’t change too much. The stage times have been announced and along with that, came the last few bands. One major shitter was that One Minute Silence pulled out. I was gutted about that and wondered if there would be a good announcement. And there is one – Ginger Wildheart has been announced in that slot. That is literally (for me anyway) an amazing announcement. I’m seeing Ginger in December at least once, but I cannot wait to see him at Sonisphere. AND! He clashes with The Mars Volta so it’s not like I’m missing a good band! That might get me some shit, but I don’t like them. It’s like Skunk Anansie. People go nuts over them and I just don’t like them. Oh well! This is my plan for Sonisphere.

THURSDAY: Arrive, set up tent. Go and pick up festival shirt from the merchandise market. Possibly nip into Stevenage and buy some beer. Drink said beer. Fairly simple day this one!

FRIDAY: The music for me doesn’t start until 3 in the afternoon or so, which is why I might delay beer buying until the Friday morning. This would make more sense as I’ll have a few hours to kill, and will probably want a Wetherspoons breakfast. I will probably be watching all the Apollo stage bands. I was considering moving about and missing some of the acts, but this day was the main thing which sold me a ticket. After all, it is the Big Fucking Four! Diamond Head will be interesting I think but I don’t know a great deal about them aside from Am I Evil? After Metallica have finished, it’s off to the bohemia stage for Killing Joke and definitely Hayseed Dixie. Music running until 1.30 in the morning is awesome, especially at a UK festival where it has to end usually around 11.

SATURDAY: The 2nd day of music for me kicks off at early doors, watching Sylosis and then all the bands on the main stages until Cavalera Conspiracy. After them, I will nip off to the Jagermeister stage for Panic Cell. Back to the main stages for Bad Religion and Sum 41, then off to the Red Bull stage to watch Revoker. Don’t know an awful lot by them but listening on Spotify suggests good things and to be perfectly honest, they have to be better than You Me At Six! It is then visiting Bohemia for Pulled Apart By Horses and heading back to the main stages for All Time Low and Weezer. I wouldn’t normally want to cut Weezer’s set short, but I will be doing so to get a spot in the tent for Ginger and staying there for Gojira. After a slight music break, I’ll be heading off to the Red Bull stage to take in some black metal in the form of Watain and finish the day off with a bit of Black Spiders. I said a while ago that if something better than Biffy Clyro is on, I will go and watch it. I can’t say for sure whether these bands are better than Biffy or not, but considering I will be seeing Biffy support Foo Fighters, I am not really interested in seeing them play again for 30mins longer.

SUNDAY: Sunday starts off in an awesome way – Volbeat opening the main stage. It is the main stages until after House of Pain then it is off to the Bohemia stage for some Kylesa, InMe and then some comedy. Jason John Whitehead and Jason Rouse seem pretty funny. I will be leaving towards the end of Jason Rouse to catch Airbourne and then heading off to catch Motorhead. What an amazing back to back selection of bands. After that, it is back to the tent for Cancer Bats and Alestorm. Now, this does mean missing Limp Bizkit, but that’s alright because they weren’t amazing in 2009, and their new album isn’t anything special either. Then, it is the mother of all bastards when it comes to clashes. I had been getting away with clashes all weekend and then BANG! Bill Bailey is clashing with Fozzy. What a horrible, nasty, vicious clash. Damn you Sonisphere bookers! (I mean that in the nicest way as they have in fact booked an amazing lineup). I honestly cannot decide what to do. I’ve seen Bill Bailey before, so I am tempted to go and see Fozzy based on that alone. However, it goes without saying that this gig will not be like others when it comes to Bill Bailey. I do want to see Fozzy though, and they are in London the weekend after Sonisphere (final date of their European tour as it happens). I think I will make a decision tomorrow based on that, but just know, it is a nasty decision to make. Of course the main stage headliner that day will be watched which is Slipknot. Their setlists haven’t been amazing this time out. I would have hoped for My Plague, Gematria, I Am Hated, Get This and others. One song off the latest album as well. I know I should be grateful that we even have Slipknot and indeed I am.

MONDAY: Go home :(

That is my Sonisphere in a nutshell at the moment. Of course this will change based on any number of different things that could occur. I cannot wait though to finally get there, get set up and be back at Knebworth. It is going to be a good one.

Was that too long? Well based on what I normally write, probably not. Here is a list of the bands I intend to see, with their times and stages as well. Isn’t that helpful of me? Oh, not really...

Friday Diamond Head 15.15-15.45 Apollo
Friday Anthrax 16.00-16.45 Apollo
Friday Megadeth 17.15-18.15 Apollo
Friday Slayer 18.45-19.45 Apollo
Friday Metallica 20.30-22.30 Apollo
Friday Killing Joke 23.00-00.00 Bohemia
Friday Hayseed Dixie 00.30-01.30 Bohemia

Saturday Sylosis 11.00-11.30 Apollo
Saturday Richard Cheese 11.35-12.05 Saturn
Saturday Architects 12.10-12.40 Apollo
Saturday Gallows 12.45-13.20 Saturn
Saturday Cavalera Conspiracy 13.25-14.10 Apollo
Saturday Panic Cell 14.00-14.30 Jagermeister
Saturday Bad Religion 15.00-15.45 Apollo
Saturday Sum 41 15.50-16.30 Saturn
Saturday Revoker 16.30-17.00 Red Bull
Saturday Pulled Apart By Horses 17.20-17.50 Bohemia
Saturday All Time Low 17.40-18.25 Saturn
Saturday Weezer 18.30-19.30 Apollo
Saturday Ginger Wildheart 19.25-20.15 Bohemia
Saturday Gojira 20.30-21.15 Bohemia
Saturday Watain 21.45-22.30 Red Bull
Saturday Black Spiders 22.15-23.00 Jagermeister

Sunday Volbeat 11.00-11.30 Apollo
Sunday Black Tide 11.35-12.05 Saturn
Sunday Arch Enemy 12.10-12.40 Apollo
Sunday House of Pain 12.45-13.15 Saturn
Sunday Kylesa 13.20-13.50 Bohemia
Sunday InMe 14.10-14.40 Bohemia
Sunday Jason John Whitehead 15.00-15.25 Bohemia
Sunday Jason Rouse 15.25-15.55 Bohemia
Sunday Airbourne 15.55-16.40 Saturn
Sunday Motorhead 16.45-17.45 Apollo
Sunday Cancer Bats 18.10-18.50 Bohemia
Sunday Alestorm 19.10-19.40 Bohemia
Sunday Fozzy 20.00-20.45 Jagermeister
Sunday Slipknot 21.00-22.30 Apollo

Friday, 24 June 2011

Gig Going

One thing which I love about Download is the amount of gigs and tours that get announced following it. It happens after Sonisphere as well but not to the same extent. I guess this is due to Download being booked by Live Nation. The one thing I don’t love about it is working out how I’m going to afford all the gigs I want to go to. Some of the tours you see advertised at Download (they had a number of walls by stages and in random places in the arena covered in posters) and some others get announced via the various music press following the festival. The first action I’ve taken on this front is booking a ticket to go and see Alter Bridge in Manchester. It is essentially a co-headliner tour with Black Stone Cherry with Theory of a Deadman supporting. It has the potential to be a superb gig and I am really looking forward to it. Surprisingly, the ticket just arrived for that! I have also just bought tickets for Rise Against and The Answer. Rise Against are playing Reading but I’ve wanted to see them for a long time, so as they are just down the road, meh why not! As for The Answer, they are playing the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth. Last time they played the Pyramids, which is over double the size of the Wedge. I don’t know why they are playing the smaller room this time around but I am damn pleased they are. The other gigs that have been announced I am waiting on to buy tickets. They are:

Volbeat – This one is a bit of a mystery. A smallish tour was announced which included a Saturday London date. I was sold completely and would definitely be going. The day of the presales though, the gigs were removed from all ticket agencies websites. I wonder if they were announced too early. If those dates were right and it does get announced, I’m all over it. I can’t wait to see Volbeat at Sonisphere, but still want to see them at their own headline show. I am a bit annoyed they had a Portsmouth date on the cancelled tour which at the moment doesn’t look like it will be reinstated, but London on a Saturday will do just nicely! Roll on more information on this one!

Rammstein – Another mystery surrounds this gig/tour. A Manchester date was announced by Ticketmaster and hastily taken down. The band then announced the “Made in Germany 1995-2011 – Greatest Hits” and announced Germany and mainland Europe dates. Nothing for the UK just yet but this is exactly how they did it last time, so I am confident they will be announced. The ticket price is slightly more, but for a whole new show and a best of setlist, I am very happy with this news. I can’t wait to get this confirmed and booked.

Death From Above 1979 – Truth be told, I hadn’t heard of this band until about 3 months ago. They announced a few gigs and people went apeshit over the news. I saw they got announced for Reading and decided that if clashes worked out; I will go and see them. As it transpires, they will work out so I will see them there. I have decided if they are genius at Reading, then I will get a ticket for the London gig. It’s a Friday I think as well, which helps matters.

Kvelertak – I wanted to see this band at Sonisphere last year. I honestly can’t remember why I missed them but I did. They then sort of dropped off my radar until a day festival in Nottingham had them playing and I almost went (Cancer Bats played it as well). I decided if they tour the UK, I will go. Well, they are touring the UK and the ticket is £10. I will buy one, but I am waiting for the strength of their live performance at Wacken first.

So, to summarise, from now, I will either be going, or potentially going to the following

Foo Fighters @ MK Bowl (Confirmed)
Sonisphere (Confirmed)
Wacken (Confirmed)
Reading (Confirmed)
36 Crazyfists (Confirmed)
Death From Above 1979 (???)
The Answer (Confirmed)
Volbeat (???)
Rise Against (Confirmed)
Alter Bridge/Black Stone Cherry (Confirmed)
Kvelertak (???)
Ginger (Confirmed)
Rammstein (???)

Pass the ear plugs please...

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Review: Download Festival 2011 - System of a Down Saturday

I pitched up at Cosham station at 5.50am, ready to make the jaunt up the country to Donington Park for the first time since 2007. The journey itself was fairly painless (although the only opportunity of sleep was ruined by a guard needing to check my ticket en route to Derby). There was a slight moment of stress for me as the train stopped at Eastleigh for about 10minutes without any given reason (I had to change at Winchester for the train to Derby, so a lengthy stay at Eastleigh was not my idea of fun). One aspect of the journey that I really liked was the shuttle bus ride from Derby to Donington as it enabled me to revisit good memories from previous Download festivals. The village, Castle Donington, has not changed much (if at all). The bus got us close to Donington Park and kicked us out. What I didn’t count on was how long the walk would be from the bus stop to the arena. It was a good mile, perhaps longer. I had read people discussing the walk from the campsite to the arena and I can now see what they mean. One thing which pleased me was that the weather seemed like it was going to be quite nice. Anyway, got into the arena before any bands I wanted to see had started. The Devil Wears Prada had started on main stage but I just heard them as I went over to the second stage. Band ratings in brackets will be out of 10.


Pretty lively and loud way to start of my day at Download. I didn’t know a great deal of their set as I’d only listened to bits and pieces on Spotify. When they finished I decided to go get a decent spot for the next band. They didn’t draw a massive crowd but the first few bands don’t tend to – as it is usually hangovers that are being tended to.


Another band who I didn’t know a great deal by but they really impressed me. I didn’t stick around for the entirety of their set, but I was there for most of it and it was really good. I ventured back to the second stage to see a band who I’ve managed to miss so many times.


Nepotism can only get you so far in life. I have no doubt in my mind that the reason Rise To Remain got their break was due to the fact the lead singer, Austin Dickinson, has a pretty famous father called Bruce (much in the same way we know who the Lauren Harris band is due to Steve Harris). However, the reason why they will become an important band in the metalcore scene is due to performances such as this one – they were superb. Austin said that he couldn’t believe how many people had come to check them out as well. This was a remark which confused me at first as when they started, I walked to the barrier at the front without issue to take photos. However I turned around in my new position and saw what he meant. There was a big crowd which saw an awesome performance.


I intended to go and watch Escape the Fate at this point, however they had already started by the time Rise To Remain finished and I decided to stroll over to the third stage to see whoever was on. It turned out to be Straight Line Stitch making their debut UK appearance. They were fairly entertaining and I enjoyed what I heard. I entertained the thought before the festival of seeing them but picked EtF as I figured I would enjoy them more. I have no idea now if that is so, but at least the band I chose weren’t shit.


This will sound strange considering the score I’ve given them, but this is probably ranks 4th out of the 4 times I’ve seen Skindred live. The two wedge gigs were insane and the set at Sonisphere last year just had something extra which I can’t quite put my finger on. I was pleased with the setlist as I had to miss the encore at this year’s wedge gig and they played all 4 of the songs from that encore. However there was no Bruises, which was a shame. I would have preferred that to Cut Dem to be perfectly honest but no matter. They were still awesome but I’ve seen them put on a completely mind-blowing set/gig – which this set didn’t quite match.


I didn’t hang round for their whole set due to another band on the second stage who I hoped to catch. However what I saw of Hollywood Undead was pretty damn good. Opening with my favourite song of theirs, Undead was a fantastic way to start. One thing which I couldn’t put my finger on is why they switch so frequently between rap metal and pop-punk almost. Very strange meshing of styles by one band. Whatever though, they were good. One thing which did surprise me was that they unmasked themselves fairly early on. I don’t know if this is something they do every time or not, but it something I did not expect.


There wasn’t a massive amount of crowd interaction from Clutch, which is usually a killer for me. In this instance though it wasn’t, as Clutch came on stage and held a pretty large second stage crowd (myself included) in the palms of their hands. It was the 3rd time I’d seen Clutch and by far the best. Once Clutch finished their set, which came by seemingly quite fast, I headed back over to the main stage, where the next band on had already begun.

DOWN (10)

The second best band of the day were Down. From the moment I strolled over to the main stage right through until they finished their set – they were just on. I can’t name a weak moment. A set mostly made up from the first two (and in my opinion, better) albums, Down blasted through their classics with a very talkative Phil Anselmo addressing the crowd in-between every song. A personal highlight for me was the tribute to Dimebag Darrell, Anselmo’s former band mate in Pantera, by playing a bit of Walk. I’ve heard this song covered before but never live with Anselmo singing. It was a massive moment for me, especially as they launched into Lifer following Walk, which is my favourite Down song. A superb moment in a superb set.

DAN REED (3) – So dull. I actually left the Jagermeister stage, where I planned to see the band after him as I just couldn’t stand him. He wasn’t bad; he was just really really dull. I decided to take a walk over to the second stage.

MR BIG (8) – I only stayed for two songs of their set while trying to decide where to head next following Dan Reed. Mr Big were really good from what I heard. Fit in very well with the almost classic rock/rock and roll genres of the second stage to conclude the Saturday. I wish I’d seen more of them. I decided to head over to the third stage, knowing that there was a band on which I was going to miss in favour of Bowling For Soup acoustic. I was quite pleased when I walked in and saw the Evile banner hanging over the stage.


A short set from Evile saw 2 songs from their first album, one from the second album and 2 from the new album. The new songs sound really good and make me excited for the album. I was moderately excited for Infected Nations, but Five Serpent’s Teeth already sounds better. The songs from the first album did not include Enter the Grave, which surprised me as they’ve always played that when I’ve seen them. They played First Blood and Thrasher. They finished up strong with the song Infected Nation. Another great set from Evile, but still no Armoured Assault!


Instead of going to the main stage to see Skunk Anansie, I decided to walk off to get some dinner and head back to the third stage to see Sevendust. When I saw them at the wedge, they were superb so I was really happy to get to see them again. They were alright, but their setlist seemed quite short for the time they had allotted. I was hoping for much more of the stuff I knew from them which didn’t quite happen. Slight disappointment as they could have been much better. I was wondering if something blew up on stage as there was a period of no music and the band just talking which seemed to take quite a while. No matter.


I’m not a massive fan of Avenged Sevenfold. I haven’t really liked their last two albums that much and thought when I saw them in 2008 twice (Twickenham and Wacken) that they were dire live. I had planned to see Twisted Sister instead of A7X, however when I got out of the third stage after Sevendust, I saw the crowd and decided to give them a listen. They were really good. I heard one song which I knew well (Unholy Confessions) and the rest I heard was all new to me (probably heard it before but didn’t remember it). The song “God Hates Us” was probably the highlight for me out of the songs I heard. One thing which warrants a mention as well is how cool their stage show was. 3 gates on the stage with the A 7 and X on, lots of fire and quite a few fireworks as well. This band will be a festival headliner soon, and based on this performance it will be well deserved. However, it was time for the day’s main stage headliner, and indeed the reason why I was at the festival.


I had two major concerns about SOAD. The first concern I had was about the crowd and how nuts it was going to get. I generally get that concern when down the front at a festival so this wasn’t a major concern. The major concern for me was how many people had said SOAD were shit live. This was a pretty serious concern for me as I’d be gutted if it transpired that they were terrible live. However I guess it is down to individual opinion sometimes. I read reviews that they were terrible at Rock AM Ring. I watched that set and couldn’t disagree more. Anyway, after the rig was sorted, a curtain dropped down covering the main stage from view. They kicked into Prison Song from behind the curtain and when it dropped, the crowd (myself included) went nuts. All fears I had about their live performance were quickly eliminated as they were superb. There was some crowd interaction, but they would finish a song and straight away start into another one before giving the crowd chance to catch their breath. It was an intense set and packed with almost everything I love about System of a Down. The set was:
1. Prison Song
2. Soldier Side – Intro
4. I-E-A-I-A-I-O
5. Needles
6. Deer Dance
7. Radio/Video
8. Hypnotize
9. Question!
10. Suggestions
11. Psycho
12. Chop Suey!
13. Lonely Day
14. Bounce
15. Kill Rock ‘n Roll
16. Lost In Hollywood
17. Forest
18. Science
19. Holy Mountains
20. Aerials
21. Tentative
22. Cigaro
23. Suite-Pee
24. War?
25. Toxicity
26. Sugar
Almost the perfect setlist for me. I would have loved to have heard some extra songs but honestly cannot think of what to take out to fit them in. I would have liked to have heard Violent Pornography. Boom!, ATWA, Darts (which was played at Rock AM Ring), Shimmy, Chic ‘N’ Stu, and Fuck the System. I am so happy with the setlist we got though as I’ve seen the one from a few nights ago and a lot got cut from that list. The crowd throughout the gig was pretty lively, including being caught in the middle of 3 circle pits (with a few people who looked petrified heh). All in all, I am so happy with how good SOAD were, how good the setlist was and generally how good the day at Download was. I would have probably felt cheated if SOAD weren’t good, but thankfully this isn’t something I have to consider as they were great. If they play the UK again (within reason), I will definitely go see them again.

The post-bands of the day can be summed up fairly quickly. I had planned to go to the casino in Derby but what I didn’t factor in was the fact I’d be walking on grass, mud and gravel all day. My trousers were a touch dirty by the end of the festival and I figured there was no chance of getting let in. I spent 6 hours at Derby train station, trying to find various bits of comfortable floor to sleep on. This was accomplished in small doses. Managed to sleep about 2.5 hours or so in the station, and another 2 on the way back to London. I feel I am too old now to be sleeping in train stations, but for the right band, I would do it all over again! I got a second wind of being awake when in London, which was quite helpful except it meant I couldn’t sleep on the way back to Fratton. The day at Download was superb. Awesome summer plan one complete. Up next – Foo Fighters at the MK Bowl.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Future of Festivals - Is an overhaul needed?

In 6 days, my summer plans begin. A really long two days means I get to go to Download for the day and remove another band from my bucket list – System of a Down. I am so excited about this it is unreal. Especially considering what I’ve just seen on that they are mixing set lists up so to include some songs not on the first couple of reunion sets. I’m seeing Bounce and IEAIAIO on the setlist from Italy which would be amazing if one or both of these were played at Download. Thinking of other acts that I will be hoping to catch while I am there, there are 16 bands in total I hope to see. Considering one of the main selling points for me about this day was Evile, they are not one of the bands I intend to see. I am really gutted about missing them but I have seen them before and they clash with Bowling for Soup doing an acoustic set. I’ve not seen them and do want to so they are the clear winners. Other bands I hope to see include Twisted Sister, Cheap Trick, Sevendust, Down, Clutch, Hollywood Undead, Skindred, Sacred Mother Tongue and a few others. Considering the whole deal cost me about £120, I think I am getting really good value for my money. I will of course be posting a review blog about my day at Download and everything that goes with it. I will be armed with my camera as well so with any luck it’ll be accompanied with some photos of the day.

This getting close excites me as it means my summer plans are here. Once Download is done, it will soon be time to see Foo Fighters again (along with Biffy Clyro and Jimmy Eat World). Just a short 5 days after that and it will be time for Sonisphere. The amount of bands playing Sonisphere that I want to see is unreal, and helpfully they are spread out over all the stages so I am very fearful of the number of clashes I will have to deal with. I have already earmarked a number of bands that I am refusing to miss. I still am praying (not literally on my knees) that Volbeat and Fozzy do not clash. If they do, I do not know what I’ll do. Anyway, when that is done it is about 3 weeks to wait and then the bags are packed again and I’m off to Germany for Wacken. When getting back from that, it’s again about 3 weeks and then off to Reading festival. This has the potential to be a superb summer full of superb live bands. Excitement level for this weekend and indeed this summer is pretty high right now.

The reason why I started writing this blog though was not as a way to talk about how excited I am about summer. It was inspired by a post I made on a forum about the competition between Sonisphere and Download. The original post was arguing that Sonisphere should go away as it is stopping Download from becoming a “big awesome festival” and that repeat bookings were a nightmare. The original post also argued that headliners would become weaker if there are two festivals to choose between. I said that Download had the opportunity to become a super awesome big super amazing festival in the years 2003-2008 when it was the only rock/metal festival out there. I know Reading/Leeds caters for rock/metal fans but not exclusively. Download had that chance and missed it. I would go so far as to say that the reason there is a Sonisphere festival in this country is because the company that runs it saw a gap in the market that Download wasn’t filling and exploited it. As a result within 3 years, Sonisphere is considered a festival as big as Download. It is actually bigger considering the fact it is a touring festival around Europe but I’m not really considering that. I also argued that repeat bookings are bad but no festival is immune from it. In fact the two in question here, Download and Sonisphere, are guilty of booking a headliner they had headline in 2009. I’ve said a million times though if both want to keep booking Metallica that is a way to draw me to your festival. I can’t imagine I’ll ever tire of seeing them live. It would however be wrong of me to criticise Download for booking Def Leppard without doing the same for Sonisphere for booking Metallica. However, is it because the two festivals are competing with each other that his has happened or is it actually there are not a great deal of headline bands available?

People (myself included) have debated until they are blue in the face whether or not Biffy Clyro are a big enough band to headline a major festival, but I would much rather see a festival give a band like Biffy a chance than continue to book safe choices. I fully expect one or both of these festivals to continue doing this. I expect to see bands like BMFV, A7X + others headlining either Download or Sonisphere (or both). I think booking “weak” headliners has nothing to do with these festivals competing with each other. I think it is more to do with the fact that there are far fewer bands now reaching the size of Metallica and Iron Maiden and other “headline” bands. As for repeat bookings, I think that is inevitable due simply to the availability of bands and how many bands that festivals are trying to put on over a weekend. I do believe festivals are going overkill with the amount of stages they have. I think having 3 stages which are in full use over the whole weekend with one that has acts sporadically over the course of the weekend is fine. However both Download and Sonisphere have booked 5 stages full of bands. Even with the alternating system that Sonisphere has, that is too many stages. It is nice to have an alternative from the main band playing at any given time, but having that many stages I think runs the risk of going for quantity over quality. The original post argued that having two very similar festivals reduces the variety of bands that are on offer over the course of the weekend. I agree to extent. However, both festivals have something unique about them which are selling points. Download has SOADs first UK show since 2005, the return of The Darkness etc. Sonisphere has booked bands which have never made Download line-ups in its 8 years, and bucked the trend so to speak by booking Richard Cheese and Bill Bailey. I think the competition forces these festivals to book bands etc that really trumps the other’s lineup.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think last year’s Sonisphere lineup was better than Downloads. I would say the same about this year as well. Yes I am going to a day of Download and if I was going for the weekend, I’m sure I would find enough to keep me entertained. However the undercard just is not as strong as far as I am concerned. There are a number of bands that are playing Download who I am gutted not to be seeing (Korn, Alter Bridge, Disturbed and Malefice to name a few). The reason though I am not seeing these bands is because there is another festival out there, with similar bands and a similar atmosphere, which is better. I like being able to make a choice. I can’t make a festival decision on atmosphere alone and have never understood why people do that. For me, I’m not spending £200 on a ticket to watch 6 bands but really enjoy the campsite.

Going back to an earlier point about festival headliners – who are going to be future headliners? I think the two I mentioned above, A7X and BFMV will be festival headliners by 2013 and I reckon the first year they headline a festival – the one that takes the plunge and books them will get shit on. It is quite funny really that internet communities and when you speak to people, they will shit on a festival for booking a safe, old favourite like Metallica as a headliner, but then they also get shit on for trying to book a new headliner like Biffy Clyro. I’m looking back at Download’s of years gone passed, trying to see if there are any other headline quality bands out there. This is a list of bands that I will not be surprised to see called upon to either headline or play a major slot at a festival.

Bullet For My Valentine
Avenged Sevenfold
Stone Sour
30 Seconds To Mars.

I don’t really like a lot from that list if I am brutally honest, but I honestly don’t see many new headliners out there. There is of course scope to use previous 1 time headliners (Lostprophets, MCR and Tool spring instantly to mind) but who knows. These bands I have listed are either on the cusp of headlining already, or with another well received album will be there. Most of these bands play fairly big gigs already (Deftones, Trivium and Korn possibly the exception). The second a festival books someone from this list to headline, they will be shit on. I know I have said that already but I am stressing that point as it is the main point of this part of the blog. How can this be avoided? I have a suggestion which is based on how festivals like Wacken work. Sonisphere have already adapted one of the main ways in which Wacken runs by having alternating main stages (they have the stages next to each other at Wacken though, rather than facing each other). Sonisphere have also adapted the idea of the first day being a shorter day that Wacken do. Thursday is the main day for Wacken though with the Night to Remember slot. I’m not focusing on this day though. I will look at what Wacken does when it comes to headliners though, and how this could easily be adapted into a UK festival. For this, I’ll be using the running times of Wacken 2006-2008 for the two main stages. I can’t find them for 2009/10 unfortunately.

Friday – Carnivore, Children of Bodom, Celtic Frost, Ministry. (All 4 bands have 1hr 15min sets. One band on main stages after headliners, playing a 1 hour set).
Saturday – Soulfly, Whitesnake, Emperor, Motorhead, (All 4 bands have 1hr 15min sets. Two bands on main stages after headliners, playing 1 hour sets).

Friday – Blind Guardian, Dimmu Borgir, Iced Earth (BG have 1.5hr set, other two have 1hr 15mins. One band after headliners have 1 hour set).
Saturday – Rage, Destruction, Type O Negative, Immortal, In Flames (All 5 bands have 1hr 15min sets. Two bands after headliners have 1 hour sets).

Friday – Children of Bodom, Corvus Corax, Avantasia (CoB have 1.5hr set. Other two bands have 1hr 15mins. One band after headliners playing 1 hour set).
Saturday – Carcass, Killswitch Engage, At The Gates, Nightwish, Kreator (Nightwish have 1.5hr set, Other 4 bands have 1hr 15min sets. One band after headliners playing 1 hour set).

So, 8 headliners in all 3 years and the main headliner, if there is one, not playing last. These are all things that could be adopted to a UK festival. Have 3 headliners on your main stages playing equal sets or very similar sets and that way having “weak” headliners might not be a problem as such. This works so well for Wacken as the music continues until 3am which might provide a major issue for a UK festival – but everything else could happen. The festival that adopts this plan will be doing something different. I am going to do a hypothetical Sonisphere lineup for 2012 just headliners with the way their stages work. One major thing to remember is this is hypothetical, but it is just to show how this system could work.

Friday – Aerosmith (1.5hrs) All other bands (1hr)
Saturday – Muse, Korn, Tool, Bullet for My Valentine, (Muse 1.5hrs, all other bands 1hr 15mins)
Sunday – Stone Sour, Trivium, Deftones, MCR (all bands 1hr 15mins).

Like I said, this is completely hypothetical but could easily work at Sonisphere and at Download. It would stop people whining about “weak” headliners. It would allow bands to step up and fill the headliner spot comfortably and confidently. It would make UK festivals stronger to adopt this system. The current system is relying too heavily on bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Linkin Park. Feelings towards these bands aside, they are reliable headliners because they will shift tickets. But when they are gone, there are very few bands that festival organisers can turn to in the rock/metal world. Changing the system now could lead to the festival in question getting a new lease of life – and staying on the calendar for years after Metallica and Maiden have retired.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Thank You

"Convers Sports Initiatives have completed the purchase of Portsmouth Football Club from Sports Holdings (Asia) LTD"

Despite all the negativity that has surrounded the previous takeovers of Portsmouth FC; I can't help but be excited about this news. Stories have suggested they intend to repay our clubs debts and invest in the team, so if all of this materialises then this is good news. I would personally like to thank Balu and Deepak Chanrai and Levi Kushnir for taking control of our team in a time of serious need, despite not wanting to. They may not have been the owners that pumped millions into club and got us back into the Premiership on the first time of asking, but what they did do was rescue the club we know as Portsmouth FC. To me, they went beyond and above their duties towards the football club they acquired due to horrific management from Ali Al Mirage.

Despite this, it is amazing to me how some fans of this football club have such selective memory. On the local papers website, there is a story where the old owners predict a bright future for Portsmouth FC and in the comment section, the first two comments are:

Kenwright: "Thanks and Cheerio"
B_army: "Good riddance to them as well"

REALLY?! Oh fuck me! Let me spell this out bluntly - WITHOUT THEM THERE WOULD BE NO PORTSMOUTH FOOTBALL CLUB. They kept this club afloat and fought so hard to keep us alive when it looked likely we would go out of business. How on earth can real fans of this club forget that?!

I hope great things from the new owners of Portsmouth FC, but I would like to genuinely thank the previous owners again for keeping the football club I love alive. Not since Milan Mandaric have we had an owner who has done more for this club than Balu, Deepak and Levi. I include the FA cup win and Europe, which was the beginning of the shitstorm for this club. Knowing what I know now, I would happily give the FA cup back, and the European football to have not gone through the bullshit we went through!

To the future!

Bank Holiday Business

Bank Holiday weekends usually are awesome because it means extra time off work. For me this time around, that didn't matter as contractually I had the week off. I'm not complaining though, a week off is better than a day off. Thinking of the actual weekend though, I had some fantastic plans afoot. The Saturday involved going to Twickenham for the Rugby Union Aviva Premiership Final between Leicester Tigers and Saracens. The Sunday involved going to Coventry to visit the Warwick Arts Centre to see David Gray.

I wanted to book the train from London Waterloo to Twickenham before the day to save time when we got there. There wasn't much time between arriving at London and the next train to Twickenham so booking the ticket in advance just made sense. We had to get to the ground ASAP as kick off was 2.30pm. However I only had one option available which was booking the train in advance but with set times. This sort of thing isn't smart considering this game was nearly sold out and it would be impossible to know what time train we would actually get on. Deciding that booking in advance wasn't an option, it had to be done on the day. When we got off the train, we rushed to the ticket machines where there was no queue (you see what happens when you have more than 2 at a busy station...) which was a big help. It was sorted so quickly we had time to make the first train we could get. That train was unfortunately busy so we waited until the next one which was only a 3min wait. After a jaunt to some places I'd never heard of before, we arrived at Twickenham. When getting to the ground, we made the discovery that kick off wasn't until 3pm.

The atmosphere in the ground was electric. There were 80000 people there and the majority of whom wanted one of the teams playing to win (that might seem like an obvious thing to say but I was there as a neutral, as was Dave. When I think to big games of football like the FA Cup final, I think it's terrible that the teams playing only get 25k tickets each for their fans, in a 90k capacity stadium). We were surrounded by a mixture of Tigers and Saracens fans which made it so much better. The game itself was fantastic. There was only one try scored but there were a lot of tense moments along with a lot of frustrating ones. One gripe I had was the poor play on the wings for both teams. There was only one try scored but there could have been so many more had it not been for poor decisions made at key moments. Tigers fly-half Toby Flood scored a phenomenal penalty from close to the half way line. The main turning point for me was when Saracens were 19-12 up, and Leicester got two penalties in quick succession. If both of these were scored, the Tigers would have pulled it back to 19-18. The kick taker was Toby Flood, who is not only Leicester Tigers fly-half, but also England's. Both times he lined up to take fairly easy penalties, I turned to Dave and said "England's penalty taker shouldn’t be missing kicks like these" and then he did, both times. On the third attempt in quick succession, he took and scored a penalty which was significantly harder to score than the previous 2. Strange how things like that happen.

The ending to this match was simply epic. The score was 22-18 in Saracens favour, the clock was ticking down and the Tigers were on the assault. One try would make it 23-22 to Tigers and snatch the Premiership trophy away from Saracens. This final attack took the game well over the 80min mark and had everyone on the edge of their seats. Mere yards from the try line, Leicester went through 32 phases trying to push the ball over the line. Eventually, 6 minutes into added time, Saracens won a penalty for hands in the ruck and the game was over. Despite going into the game as a neutral, I found myself cheering for Saracens at the end as they were defending so well from the brutal Tigers onslaught. This truly was masters at play in this game. We hung around briefly for the trophy presentation before heading out to the station. We headed back to Waterloo, having witnessed some fantastic rugby, and although there could have been more points from both teams, it was so worth the journey. The second part of the day was watching Man Utd play reasonably well against Barcelona in the first half of the Champions League final. Apparently the second half was pretty dire for the Red Devils. That I cannot confirm as I didn't watch it but either way, it is a shame United didn't win. All reports after the game suggested that Barcelona were leagues ahead of Man Utd and clearly deserved the victory.

Time to skip forward most of a day to arriving at Warwick Arts Centre. Small things about a venue impress me and give me a positive feeling about it. Firstly, a free multiple storey car park across the road (well, free after a certain time and on certain days). Most events take place in the evening and that is just great. Another thing was the layout of the venue. There were other little rooms in this building but everything was laid out so well and seemed so clean and classy. Another small thing which impressed me was the bar prices. 3x500ml bottles of diet coke, a glass of red wine and half a pint of cider coming to under a tenner, in a gig venue! Unheard of! I heard from my cousin Steve (who works there but wasn't there that night) that the configuration of the room David Gray was playing in was either 1200 or 1800. I forget which, but I remember thinking when walking in that for an act as big as David Gray, this was quite an intimate surrounding. I will confess to not knowing a massive amount of David Gray's back catalogue but what I did know, I liked a lot. I felt we were in for a treat.

As with most gigs, there was a support act. Gray came out on stage (he got a massive response) to introduce Lisa O'Neill, saying that her voice really caught his attention when he heard it. I didn't mind her music at all, but her voice grated on me a little bit. By the end of her slot, her voice had really had grated on me. I think overall she would have been much better if there had been a band backing her up. Oh well. After a break in proceedings (and another visit to the reasonably priced bar), it was time for David Gray and his band. The gig was listed in the foyer as an acoustic gig, which I can't say surprised me as his music sounds fairly acoustic anyway. Anyway, the gig was really good. Gray was on perfect form, which after a short while makes you realise just how annoyingly talented he is. Moving seamlessly between keyboard, acoustic guitar and piano, Gray shows he is perfectly comfortable in what he calls "a new style of show" for him. His band was also fantastic, changing instruments between songs when required. Gray and his bands performance was top notch. The main songs from his White Ladder album attracted the biggest reactions of all. His setlist finished on a somewhat nautical theme, with the songs Davey Jones Locker and Sail Away. Gray was superb, and the only mystery to me is why he was playing to less than 2000 people when I'd imagine he wouldn't struggle to fill bigger venues. Perhaps he likes the more intimate surrounding for his acoustic shows or maybe he wasn’t sure if, having taken a lengthy absence from performing in the UK, he could fill bigger rooms. Whatever the case, I am thankful to have witnessed the first date on this intimate UK tour, because I completely believe when he comes back, it will be on a much bigger scale. I can’t make any more of the dates on this tour, however if you have the chance, I would definitely recommend it – you will not be disappointed.