Sunday, 11 September 2011

Festival Review: Sonisphere 2011

Having never been to Sonisphere since its inception in 2009 and missing out on attending Download Festival this year, I jumped at the chance of a free ticket to Sonisphere festival.  However after having high expectations due to the Sonisphere headline acts arguably wiping the floor with what Download could offer but sadly for myself and the other festival goers I have spoke to Sonisphere could not compare to Download.

The main hype surrounding this weekend was based around the big four (Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeath) being together in the UKfor the first time.  Personally I’m not a massive fan of any of the bands above but I was excited to see Metallica because they’re not the kind of band you get to see very often and they didn’t let me down, playing classics like Master of Puppets and Enter Sandman.  Regardless of not knowing all of the songs they played, their performance was outstanding and topped-off with a fireworks display at the end.  Megadeath also gave a great performance and I would definitely recommended going to see them live to any metal fan.

For a lot of the people I’ve spoke to, Slayer were the best band of the weekend – their set list gave a good mix of both old and new material.

Out of the big four, Anthrax received the weakest reviews with people saying their sound wasn’t great quality but that could have had a lot to do with how great the other three acts were.

The band that surprised everyone this weekend was Saturday headliners Biffy Clyro.  After there being much reservation about whether they should be headlining a metal festival, something the band even agreed with on the night but nonetheless feeling very “honoured” to be playing the festival.  The highlights of Biffy’s performance was their mix of songs from their earlier and newer albums such as Folding stars, Glitter and Trauma and Bubbles and to top it off they paid tribute to the big four by thrashing out a rendition of Slayer’s Reign in Blood.  From what I have been told the set-list was the same from their recent tour so anyone who was disappointed at Biffy playing Sonisphere instead of T in the Park don’t need to feel so bad about missing the Kilmarnock trio in action.

My personal favourite of the weekend was Bill Bailey and his rendition of songs like Poker Face, Master of Puppets, the hokey cokey, Scarborough Fair and I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester. If you’re game for a laugh and want to see some raw talent then look the performances up on Youtube.

Sunday had an emotional element to it with a two-minute silence taking place at 2 o’clock in memory of the Slipknot bassist Paul Gray.  I was sceptical about this beforehand taking the view that it would never work at a festival, but it did. At 2 o’clock Knebworth park fell silent.  It was a strange experience to say the least but it was also beautiful so see so many people pay tribute, not only Paul Gray, but to the other members of Slipknot whom headlined later on the day as part of their Remembrance Tour. And as usual they put on a fantastic live show.

Limp Bizkit performed to their usual high standard but I was disappointed that they only played one song off their new album Gold Cobra.  However it was good to rock out to the old songs again and they appeared to take into consideration what the audience wanted to hear.

Although I did enjoy my weekend at Sonisphere and I saw some amazing bands the festival in general just lacked the magic that Download possesses.DonningtonPark(the home of Download) just appears to have a better feel to it compared to Knebworth.  I don’t know if it’s because of the sheer size of Donnigton in comparison to Knebworth or because of little things like not being able to drink your own alcohol anywhere other than the campsite at Sonisphere.  The best way to describe the difference would be to compare Sonisphere to a nightclub closing just as the party gets into full swing and Download being an all night rave.

With Sonisphere only being in its third year of running though it still has time to become as great as Download.  However I feel that if you have never been to Download Festival or if you are unsure about the whole festival experience then you would perhaps feel more comfortable at Sonisphere than Download. 

With Sonisphere appearing to have more security at hand and notably more children in attendance which reflects the safe feel the festival has.

On the note of travelling to Sonisphere if you’re Scottish get the direct bus there and back because even though getting the bus toLondonand then getting the train, tube and shuttle bus to Knebworth is cheap – it is also exhausting.  More so when your bus breaks down atManchesterand Megabus’ idea of a replacement is to send a normal double-decker bus – with no toilet and a bus driver who is reluctant to let a whole bus load of people off to use the toilet. It’s safe to say Megabus will be receiving a lot of angry e-mails this week.

Having now been to two of the UK’s biggest metal festivals the thing that I learnt from both of them is that metal fans are some of the most passionate music fans in the world and it’s not just about the music.  Rock music is like our religion and our festivals are like our religious gatherings.  It is always a comforting feeling to be surrounded by others who share your taste in music.  Regardless of the music being good or bad these festivals bring a sense of belonging and I think at the core of it that’s what makes them fabulous.

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