Sonisphere 2011 has come and gone and what a weekend it was. A weekend filled with great bands, not-so-great weather and a pineapple, which has yet to be explained. So in a nutshell the size of an aircraft hanger, this is Sonisphere 2011 in words and photos. Band ratings are between 0-10, scored based on my personal enjoyment of their set above anything else.
Last year, the journey to Sonisphere was a lot easier due to having a friend driving. This year however, we had to trust our fates (and bags) to National Express and Green Line Coaches. The NE leg of the journey between Portsmouth and London was fairly painless, although the delay arriving caused a slight amount of panic. We got on to the Stevenage bound coach alright (despite people leaving their bags at the front of the luggage compartment, when there was tons of space behind them) and were on the way to Sonisphere. When we got the coach last time (went for the day in 2009), we got dropped off on the A1M roundabout right by Knebworth House, which was quite busy at the time. This time the bus had the common decency to kick us out round the corner from that roundabout. However, the main difference this time was that there was a lane on the road from where we got dropped off (or nearby) right round to the festival cordoned off. We were going to get a taxi from Stevenage, so I guess on reflection, this wasn’t the worst thing in the world to happen as it saved us money.
When we arrived at the festival, the first obvious thing was that most of the entrance way was the same, with the same massive queue as the year before. The only two real differences were that there was no merchandise stand off to the side of the queue (which is a good thing) and the bottle exchange had moved from being in-line with the entrance to IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING QUEUE! Seriously, of all places to put it, that was probably the stupidest they could have chosen without sticking it on the main stage. What this achieved was the queue having a bottleneck meaning it moved really slow. It took about 1.5hrs to get from the back of the queue to inside the festival. Short of making reference to everyone who annoyed me in the queue, there is little else to mention about this part of the festival. We met with Sally, who led us to where a massive group of other people from Portsmouth were camped and we camped nearby. We got set up which was fairly straight forward aside from Sam and Parsons’ tent (which was missing bits) and Paul’s tent (which for the fuck of god was complicated to put together). Seriously, easy to put up dome tent FTW! Anyway, after some drinking – the people in my campsite went to bed and I joined some of the other people from Portsmouth for a drink before sleep.
Hey, headaches in a field are not fun. However, historically (by which I mean, last year) we took advantage of Sonisphere’s first day not starting until later on in the afternoon to visit Stevenage and grab breakfast and any other bits we need for the campsite. It had to be one hell of a hangover to not be defeated by a Wetherspoons breakfast. Following the jaunt into Stevenage which included (well for me, Paul, Sam and Parsons anyway) the visit to Wetherspoons and Tesco, we went back to the festival which had no queue. We strolled in and popped back to the campsite. After a brief break, it was time for the first bands of the festival.
DIAMOND HEAD (7)
Despite not knowing a great deal about them, I was excited to see them. They were one of the major influences on the music of Metallica and some of their songs featured on the Garage Inc album. They were actually on stage when we arrived and we caught the second half of their set. They were very enjoyable and it was awesome hearing the band that wrote Am I Evil playing it live. Helpless was also a highlight of their set.
Sonisphere 2010, Anthrax was one of the best bands that played. This year they just weren’t. They played a very similar set to the previous year as well (5 of the 7 songs being the same) but they just weren’t as good. I don’t know if it was all due to Scott Ian being absent on guitar for this set, but something was missing. I did enjoy the nod towards Sepultura at the end of their set with a quick blast through Refuse/Resist (they had a Sepultura guitarist covering Scott Ian). Anthrax have now played all 3 Sonisphere festivals at Knebworth and could do with going away for a little while.
It was during this set that someone in front of me in the crowd held up a pineapple. Seriously, who brings a pineapple to a festival?!
We moved much closer to the front for Megadeth, which was a good call! Despite playing a very similar setlist to the one I saw them play in 2009 when they supported Judas Priest, I was very happy with their set. Their set performance wise appeared flawless, despite some technical issues with the rhythm and lead guitars. They played a new song from an album due out shortly which sounded very good. I don’t know if this is because it’s the first one since David Ellefson rejoined the band, but it gives me hope about the next album. Especially after their last one which was a bit weak as far as I was concerned. Hearing Sweating Bullets was good and quite entertaining.
One criticism of Slayer is that they are boring live at festivals. I have heard that, now, it is not worth seeing them unless it is on one of their own headline shows. Well, this was proven wrong last year at Sonisphere when they played a very good set. This year was just as good as last year as far as I’m concerned. The band was on form and played a decent set, combining their best from the back catalogue with new material. I just wish that I would see them play New Faith. Oh well. On a side note, looking back at my photos – I’m sure Tom Araya (lead singer and bassist) saw me with camera in hand and looked directly at my lens. When I stopped looking through my camera, I saw him grin and walk to another part of the stage. I may be looking far too much into what actually happened, but it was a cool moment.
This was the 8th time of seeing Metallica live and it was just as special as all the others as well as being fucking awesome! They mixed the setlist up completely. They didn’t finish on Seek and Destroy, rather finishing with Creeping Death. Master of Puppets was the 2nd song of the night, rather than just before the encore. They opened the set with Hit The Lights, which when I had previously seen before in the encore. They included songs which I had never seen them play before (The Shortest Straw and more importantly, The Call of Ktulu). This continues the streak I have of always seeing Metallica playing a song live I’ve never seen them play before. They also played a song we saw earlier that day, Diamond Head’s Am I Evil. This was played with the members of Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and the guest musicians on stage that day including a member of Diamond Head.
Another thing I love about seeing Metallica live is them bringing back songs they may not have played in this country for a long time. I have already discussed the two songs that I hadn’t seen live before, but there were also songs which I hadn’t seen for a long time. Songs such as Ride The Lightning, The Memory Remains (as epic, if not more so than when they played it at Wembley), For Whom The Bell Tolls but most importantly, BATTERY! I’m so happy they played these songs as well as all the others. I heard during the last song on their 2009 arena tour, they released big inflatable black balls into the crowd. This happened during Creeping Death and it was awesome. 8th time seeing them, 8th time walking away truly believing that once again, I have seen the best live band on the planet. Metallica truly were a fantastic end to the first day at Sonisphere.
After Metallica, I was tired and had busted my right foot. It was this which lead me to carry on walking past the Bohemia stage and missing Killing Joke and Hayseed Dixie. I have since heard both bands were well worth watching. Hayseed can be rectified next month but Killing Joke will set me back £23 if I want to see them in Portsmouth. Oh well. The evening consisted of a beer or two and then sleep.
Considering last year’s waking up time, waking up at 8am was pretty damn impressive. After a relaxing morning where I discovered the sheer win that was the luxury loos, the music started again with what can only be described as the 2011 novelty act. This year’s act though was far superior to the previous two novelty acts that had been booked.
RICHARD CHEESE (10)
What a phenomenal way to start a day of music at a festival (there was a band before them, but I didn’t see them). In 30 far too short minutes, Richard Cheese came on stage and was more than just funny. He and his band were on awesome form. The songs he sang came from a wide selection of artists including Nine Inch Nails. Limp Bizkit, Pink Floyd, Black Eyed Peas, Snoop Dogg, Slipknot, Khia (and many more). Richard Cheese was awesome, and I will be seeing him again when he comes back to London next year (which he announced on stage). I wouldn’t be shocked to see him on another festival’s lineup next year after the success of this set. If Sonisphere have any sense, they will book him again. In the way the Sunday morning sermon has become a regular part of UK festivals (or some UK festivals, where there is a spoken word act to open the day on one of the stages), Richard Cheese and his band could easily be a regular feature of Sonisphere or another UK festival.
Only caught a bit of their set. They were pretty good but didn’t do an awful lot to impress me. I’m sure they’d have done much better on a higher slot on the Bohemia stage. One moment of note which I remember is they asked everyone to crowd surf (which if everyone did, some people would jump in the air and fall over as everyone else was over the barrier). They also asked everyone to get on someone’s shoulders, which I imagine would also provide some logistical problems. Not terrible, but also not great
Gallows really impressed me with this set. As a live band they are solid. Frank Carter announced that he is leaving the band to start his own band and that Gallows will continue with a new vocalist. I feel they won’t be as good with a new vocalist so I am glad to have seen one of their last shows on this tour. They also started a circle pit which went around the sound desk from the front of the Saturn stage. If you’ve never been to Sonisphere, know that a circle pit of that size is fucking huge! Here’s a video - http://youtu.be/7eAcD8zFmZE .They also started a wall of death which was a similar size – equally as impressive. I am sad to say I’ll never see this lineup again.
CAVALERA CONSPIRACY (7)
Wanted to see this band since they formed. I’m a fan of Sepultura and of Soulfly, so I figured another band formed out of the Cavalera family could only be a good thing. I enjoyed the material from their albums, although in all fairness if they were branded as Soulfly albums then I wouldn’t suspect foul play. Performance-wise, they were solid. I enjoyed the CC material, and I always enjoy hearing Sepultura material sung by Max Cavalera. The Cavalera family jam was also quite fun, although something that should perhaps be reserved for a CC headline gig.
THE TREATMENT (6) – Heard one song and it sounded really good. Wish I checked out their whole set. Oh well!
PANIC CELL (9)
Their last ever show was a 30 minute set on the Jagermeister stage and it was superb. Just a sad reminder that another great British band are splitting up. The setlist was a very best of Panic Cell. Personally, would have liked to see them play Fallen, but you can’t win them all. It was a special moment being a part of their final show, but I do wish they had more time. Alas. Just as a side note, I am really pleased about the crowd they got. They played the little outdoor stage and got a big crowd. I am gutted to have missed Bad Religion but it was worth it to be a part of this crowd.
SUM 41 (5)
One word – Boring! Fat Lip and In Too Deep were enjoyable but the rest of the set was quite dull. It was kinda cool to hear them do a homage to Metallica but even that didn’t save the set. They wasted a big amount of time getting fans up on stage for them to stand to the side of the stage and dance. I was really looking forward to them, and they were probably the biggest disappointment of the festival for me. One of the funniest moments of the festival came when they declared they weren’t ready to leave the stage when their set ended and carried on playing. The organisers, not caring much for this, turned their sound down slowly before eventually turning it off. Awesome response I think. Burn on the boring Sum 41.
At this stage, I had a major headache. It would either cost £2.50 in the arena for a pack of aspirin or going back to the tent where I had some. I left the arena and headed back to the tent. I originally planned to head back when my headache cleared and hopefully catch some of Weezer. This didn’t occur which is lame. I’m informed Weezer were superb. A right bugger, but I think leaving to take a rest was the right thing to do.
I was super excited when Ginger got announced to replace One Minute Silence. Ginger ended up being my headliner for the Saturday which worked out well as he and his band played a phenomenal set. The only complaint that I would have about it is that it wasn’t long enough. However as he actually wasn’t the headliner of the tent, it makes sense that he only got 40 minutes. The atmosphere was electric the entire time they were on stage. It was strange seeing Ginger wearing corpse paint, but hell, it made for some good photos.
In that 40 minutes though, he played a 9 song set which was superb. Starting with I Wanna Go Where The People Go, the tent just exploded. Without any time to recover, Vanilla Radio was played which was simply amazing (it’s one of those songs which is always good live). Mazel Tov Cocktail and TV Tan received a good reaction. Arguably some strange choices, but I was glad to hear them. The tent exploded again when My Baby Is A Headfuck was played, with very loud “Headfuck!” chants throughout. The Revolution Will Be Televised also was a great song choice and was awesome live. So far the whole set had been Wildhearts material so the announcement that a song from the Silver Ginger 5 album would be played got a massive cheer. While I personally hoped for Anyway But Maybe at this stage, we got Sonic Shake. It was still an awesome choice. The set closed on Suckerpunch and 29x The Pain. Both songs fantastic with 29x featuring Leila Khan from Sonic Boom Six and Dave McPherson from InMe. It was an awesome end to an awesome set.
I had decided before the festival that I wasn’t bothered about seeing Biffy Clyro. I am informed by Paul that Biffy Clyro were superb and truly stepped up to deserve their headline spot. I am glad this is the case as I said it would be after seeing them support Foos. As a result, I saw no more bands this day (missing Gojira hurt, but the headache won out). As Biffy started, my headache had gone and I decided as I was with my alcohol that getting drunk would be the answer. Wow did I get drunk. I don’t remember a great deal of this.
Oh fuck my life was I hungover. Also, I woke up at 10am, needing to be awake and in the arena for 10 to meet Dave who had come up for the day. If I had met them at the time I intended, I could have met Bill Bailey like he and Hartley did. Fuck my hungover life.
Volbeat were due to start at 11. They came on at 10.45. I managed to make it to the front by the time their 2nd song started which was a good time. They played an awesome set, proving that they should have had a much higher and much longer set. Still Counting was an awesome song live, as was I Only Wanna Be With You. Volbeat fucking owned the main stage, and I now cannot wait to see them in October!
ARCH ENEMY (9)
Arch Enemy are a superb live band, who are good in an indoor venue or an open air festival stage. I really enjoyed their set and although there are songs I would have loved to have seen them play, I was really happy with their set and am glad to have caught the whole 30mins. Angela Gossow claimed the band had not had any sleep. If this is true, then I am even more impressed. I would love to go see them destroy London in December but they are playing on a Tuesday. That is just not helpful. Quote of the set – “I didn’t know Arch Enemy had a female vocalist...” – Paul.
HOUSE OF PAIN (6)
I sat down for their set and realised I actually knew a lot more of their stuff then I was expecting to know. I stood up while they played Jump Around and witnessed carnage not seen since...well the day before for Gallows. They were fairly entertaining and had a lot more about them than just Jump Around.
KYLESA (6) – Stood outside the tent for this band and realised half way through their set that it was them. I guess I wasn’t really paying attention. What I heard was really quite enjoyable.
Actually went into the tent for InMe, having heard very mixed things about them. I really liked them. I didn’t realise they were so heavy live. This 30min set makes me really want to see them at their own headline show. I also enjoyed hearing more music I recognised from my days of Delight @ Route 66.
ANDREW O’NEILL (MC) (8) – Really suited the MC role well. He got the crowd to shout a variety of things in between jokes. The highlight of his appearances was a mass sing along of Bohemian Rhapsody. He was great
JASON JOHN WHITEHEAD (6) – Pretty funny guy. He had some funny material but nothing that was side splittingly funny. The material about his ex girlfriend was probably the best material he had.
JASON ROUSE (6) – I had watched a set of his before the festival which was just a collection of sick remarks. Some of it was quite funny but some of it was just disgusting. This was essentially the case at Sonisphere. The funny stuff was great but the stuff which was too sick just wasn’t funny. I don’t get offended easily, and he didn’t offend me. But material of this nature has to be golden and some of this stuff just wasn’t. One line which sticks in my mind is him randomly saying he will fill a girl’s mouth up with his jizz so much it will look like mushroom soup is coming out of her mouth. It received an “oh god!” reaction from most, which is all is deserved as it wasn’t funny. His crowd banter was superb to be fair.
BRENDON BURNS (8) – Brendon Burns was significantly funnier than the other comedians I saw. His set was all funny and the crowd banter was superb.
AIRBOURNE (8) – Only caught the end of their set as I plan to see them at Wacken. They sounded in good form though and I really enjoyed their last two songs. Can’t wait to see them again.
I’ve heard that Motorhead can be quite dull at festivals and this was the case unfortunately. I enjoyed the classics but the newer material just seemed to be lost in a sea of noise. They dedicated their set to Wurzel (the Motorhead guitarist between 1984-1995) who passed away the night before their set at Sonisphere. I am hoping for a better performance at Wacken. They play a headline set there, so I’m guessing they will have better sound.
CANCER BATS (9) – A very impressive rating for a band I actually didn’t watch. I was outside the tent for these as I couldn’t actually get in the tent. I must admit, I am quite glad about this as it must have been quite lively in there. I don’t know if they would have been better on the open air stage, but I think next time they play Sonisphere, they need a set on the Saturn stage or even the Apollo. Cancer Bats are a genius live band. They played the Bohemia stage in 2009 as well and played their cover of Beastie Boys – Sabotage for the first time. During their set, they played it and it was a highlight as it is a superb cover.
I love this band live. Inside the tent, the atmosphere was electric. I would expect nothing less from a band that has a key-tar. They played all my favourite songs from the first album (aside from Over The Sea). I was really hoping for Leviathan, but you cannot win them all. Alestorm are a fantastic live band, and this 30min set really established that. I am really glad I chose to see them over Limp Bizkit, who I heard were appalling (granted, I heard it was a sound related issue, but still). Another plus about seeing Alestorm this time is that I did not get kicked in the head. That might be a strange barometer for enjoying an Alestorm gig, but it happened last time!
I only caught 4 songs of their set, but I was very impressed with Fozzy as a live band. I was psyched to see Chris Jericho singing with his band. He is an awesome front man, even if it is strange to see him head banging. They played my favourite song of theirs, Martyr No More; in this short time I saw them. I definitely hope they come back and do another full UK tour before Jericho inevitably returns to the WWE. One funny memory is during the first song, a guy standing near me put his girlfriend (or I presume it was his girlfriend) in the Walls of Jericho. That might not sound funny, but she was laughing really hard about the whole experience, as was nearly everyone around.
BILL BAILEY (9)
Only caught the end of his set so I could see Fozzy. However, I heard the Hokey Cokey in German and a Rammstein-style version of Scarborough Fair. Both songs were awesome. I heard he had some real sound problems at the beginning of the set, which if true is a real shame. Again, am really gutted that my hangover stopped me from meeting him in the morning, but seeing him was awesome enough. I can now also say I have seen a mosh pit during the Hokey Cokey. The video at the end of the set was from Dandelion Mind, so I left the Saturn stage to head to the Apollo stage for the headliner of the day, and I guess the festival.
Just, wow! Considering Paul Gray, the Slipknot bassist, tragically died last year, they were phenomenal live. Paul Gray’s boiler suit and mask were hung on stage next to the drum kit as a reminder that he was still a part of the band and had not been replaced. The band all wore their old jumpsuits and masks (aside from Corey Taylor). Speaking of whom, Corey Taylor is the ultimate front man and this set was more evidence to prove this fact. The rest of the band was also on top form. Curiously, Craig Jones was hidden to the side of the stage again. When I saw them in Hammersmith, he wasn’t even on the stage. I figured at Hammersmith, the stage was too small. Now I’m wondering if he has a fear of large crowds. Sid, at Hammersmith, clambered all over speaker stacks and did chin ups on the rising drums. Sid, at Sonisphere, dived into the crowd a number of times. The most impressive of which was off the top of the huge sound desk. Another thing worth noting was that I am always impressed that Joey Jordison can play the drums as well as his can when he is upside down or at a strange angle. He is probably the best drummer I’ve seen perform live. I could talk about every band member and how good live they were but I would just be wasting words and spewing superlatives about how good they were. One thing which really added to their set was the rain. It rained all the way through their set and usually that might be an annoyance. But this just made the atmosphere so much more special.
The setlist was really strong. The set started with (sic) and Eyeless which was a mental way to start the set and based on the video screens, the front looked crazy. I then finally got to see Wait and Bleed live. I was gutted when they didn’t play this at Hammersmith so this was a big moment for me. It was also epic as it inspired a near whole crowd sing along. The other highlights from the set included Liberate, Before I Forget, Pulse of the Maggots, Psychosocial, The Heretic Anthem, Duality, Spit It Out (my knee got very muddy during the Jump The Fuck Up part). And the encore of People = Shit and Surfacing. Oh, and they played Left Behind which was just as awesome to see live for me as Wait and Bleed, as it was the 2nd Slipknot song I fell in love with. The stage show was phenomenal as well. A great deal of pyrotechnics, fireworks and a very impressive lighting rig all added to a strong setlist played by a genius live band. The end of the show was very emotional as well. Paul Grey’s boiler suit was brought to the front of the stage with the band posing around it for photos. Joey Jordison went up to the suit and hugged it tight. That caused a slight lump in my throat as it just showed how much these 8 men are still missing Paul Grey. An emotional end to a truly amazing set – Slipknot was fantastic. I don’t know if this band will ever play the UK again. If they do, I will be there. If they don’t, I am privileged to have shared this moment with them. They were the perfect choice to end the festival.
The close of the festival was a quite few drinks and a relatively early night in comparison (along with one last visit to the comfy crappers). In the morning, we got our shit together and headed out the festival. Sonisphere 2011 had come to an end, and even though I didn’t see as many bands as I did last year – I am so happy with this festival. It is hard to place it above or below previous festivals I’ve been to, but it was superb. Sonisphere once again proved itself as a genius festival, and I will definitely be at the next one if the lineup is good enough for me. Hopefully it will include Green Day. A man can dream....