Fri 30 Jul – Sonisphere Festival 2010
(k - that's an in joke from the campsite)
Right - I'm home, I've shat, slept, showered and shaved and I'm beginning to feel like a member of the human race again, so while it's fresh in my noggin (and yeah, I'm just writing this to remind myself of what it was all like ;) ) - my first festival at Knebworth!
Overall, awesomeness incarnate with 3 of the most spectacular headliners imaginable - so here's a quick run down (the order might not be quite chronological - there was beer involved):Friday
I somehow managed to miss Delain
- I suspect I was tanking down some cans in the campsite I'm afraid, £3.70 a pint (yeah, yeah, I know - standard festival prices and so on - but I don't even like Carlsberg much) in the arena was a good way to ensure I didn't get too wasted inside I guess. So, on to what I did see.Europe
- yeah... not really my thing, my other half had a great time bouncing around though, she must be one of the few people who actually knows more than "The Final Countdown" and was well happy when they played "Rock the Night" - of course, the whole place went nuts on a cheese overload for The Final Countdown, personally I preferred the Blaas of Glory
version (if you were there, you'll understand).Gary Numan
- bit of a surprise this one. I had a quick chat with an American guy standing in front of me and he said "This is like Nine Inch Nails done right" - glossing over the fact that without Gary Numan breaking the ground there might not be a NIN, I can kind of see what he's saying. This was a modernised Numan somehow a little darker and a little edgier - absolutely awesome.Alice Cooper
- hell, what do you say, it's Alice FFS, doing an Alice show. So it's all strung together as a kind of story told through the songs. It was great, don't get me wrong there but it wasn't an ideal "festival set". It was the kind of show you'd want if you went to see Alice headlining - one for the Alice fans. This meant it had many less-known songs in to tell the story but was missing a couple of barn-storming crowd pleasers - nothing wrong with that but it was just a bit weird for a festival if you ask me. Still, the guy's harder to kill than Rasputin and it was a good show.SaturdaySabaton
- the first big "whoah" moment for me were Sabaton. I'd heard the name before and was contemplating getting tickets for a show in October (my brother wants to see Alestorm
who are supporting) but I'd sort of mentally shrugged Sabaton off as a Nu-Death "whatever" kind of band. Oh how wrong I was. Full on power metal in an almost old-skool stylee. The lead singer looked so fucking happy to be there, like he'd was having his best ever fantasy dream, that it was just infectious - you couldn't NOT love them. It was 11 AM for fucks sake, we were all feeling a bit groggy and hungover but they just got people smiling and bouncing - absolutely brilliant. Needless to say, I'll be ordering those tickets :)Soulfly
- right, I'm biased here I'm afraid. I absolutely loved Sepultura
back in the day (e.g. pre-Roots) and I've never really got into Soulfly - and they did nothing to convince me otherwise. The best tracks IMO were both old Sep tracks (Refuse/Resist and Roots IIRC) I don't think the band can stand on its own merit - it sort of falls into a cliché of Max Cavalera's creation, like nothing has changed since 1995. On a scale of "zzzzzzzz" to "wohoo!" Soulfly get a "meh" from me.Fear Factory
- FF played a decent festival set, threw in a lot of the crowd-pleasers from Demanufacture as well as Edgecrusher (from Obsolete). As always perfectly executed - but somehow missing something from the previous times I've seen them... that's probably me though. The first time I saw them (Donington '96) they were like a breath of fresh air - totally new and totally barnstorming. Somehow they seem to have settled into a comfortable groove in the last 14 years and lost that edge a bit - the new tracks seem good enough but they're not breaking any new ground. I'll reserve judgement until I've heard the album though - overall, they were good but didn't blow me away.Apocalyptica
- cello-based metal... they were good enough I suppose, running through a load of Metallica covers (where they started) as well as some of their own stuff but it seems more like a gimmick than anything else. Not exactly metal's answer to Emilie Autumn - it was interesting rather than awe-inspiring though - I think I'll stick with EA thanks.Good Charlotte
and Papa Roach
- hate them both, went back to the tent for beers.Family Force 5
- missed.Skunk Anansie
- missed most of the set as we wandered back in from getting beered up while they were on.Lacuna Coil
- failed to impress I'm afraid. I think they'd be a better band if they got shot of the male singer - nothing in the set nor the performance grabbed me. Overall, just a bit too "nu-metal whatever" for me - I'd much rather see The Birthday Massacre
for a female led "rock" band.Anthrax
- unfortunately Anthrax pretty much epitomise everything I dislike about metal - screaming, high-pitched vocals and overly indulgent guitar solos - so not really for me thanks. Still, I'm glad to see they're still going and still doing what they do - the music world would be a little poorer without the old-skool thrash bands kicking arse for those that love it.Placebo
- they didn't play Pure Morning which was disappointing but I'm not a massive Placebo fan, I just like the odd track here and there. Memory might be playing tricks on me here but I seem to remember I much preferred them at the Milton Keynes Bowl for Metallica's "Big Day Out" in '99. Good but not blinding.Motley Crue
- I don't really do the Crue I'm afraid so I'll leave this for someone more glam-inclined to comment.Rammstein
- best, live, band, EVER :D Same set they played in Brum a few months back and they were fucking brilliant, as always (Sonisphere was the third time I'd seen them). Was funny as owt seeing the looks on people's faces who'd never seen them before - especially when the keyboardist crowd surfed on a rubber dingy. "Pussy" is just a wee bit too puerile for me (and I quite like the Bloodhound Gang so that's saying something) but it's a laugh anyway with the big pink "cement mixer" jizzing all over the audience - my neck is stiffening up nicely now from the likes of "Du Hast" and "Ich Will" though ;) Only downside was that the set was cut short by a half hour for some reason which left people milling about going "what? is it over?" - they should have done Engel at the end which was spectacular in Brum.SundayHenry Rollins
- got up early because we HAD to see Henry Rollins doing his spoken word rant in the Bohemia tent (every previous time we'd headed to Bohemia we couldn't get in). The man is absolutely brilliant - he manages to get his points across without preaching with just the right level of humour. I'm really glad we made the effort for that.CKY
- skipped, I don't like them anyway and the start of their set meant the mic had to be turned up for Rollins.Madina Lake
- wish I'd missed but they were playing while we nommed some lunch. Don't like Madina Lake at all and the singer just came across as a tosser - "for all the bad shit that's happened in your life - here's a song you can fucking whinge along to" - yeah, piss off.Karnivool
, The Fab Beatles
, DIR EN GREY Skindred
- went back to the tent for beers after lunch and missed these.Slayer
- now after what I said about Anthrax you'll expect me to rinse and repeat for Slayer... but no. I kind of like Slayer, I've always kind of liked Slayer - for a Thrash band they're a bit special (and I don't mean that in a window licking kind of way). Not only will they mosh the living crap out of you but you'll end up with the impression that they loved every fucking minute of it as much as you did! They've been doing this shit for years but Tom Araya STILL looks really happy when he sees the pit they've created. So big up the Slayer - they are just Slayer and they always will be! Bring Me the Horizon
- we didn't really watch them to be honest, we wanted to make sure we'd get back to the other stage for Alice in Chains.Alice in Chains
- now the new guy isn't Layne Staley but he's a very good vocal match so all the old classics ("Man in the box", "Rooster", "Would" and so on) were there and sounded great BUT... while I love Alice in Chains and can listen to the music endlessly they are not an ideal festival band - they're too downbeat. You're there to have a good time, bounce around like a twat and dress as a banana or whatever, forget about all the shit for just a few days - so while the band are great they weren't what I "needed" at Sonisphere in the end.The Cult
- bounce, bounce, bounce. OK, they're looking old, OK Ian Astbury is still a total fucking prima-donna (wtf, reading out the names of the stalls?!?) and seemingly only passingly in touch with the real world - but hey, it's The Cult! Most of the Classics were there, "Rain", "She sells sanctuary" and the rest of it and it was great to just "rock out" in a totally cheesy fashion. I've no idea why the hell Astbury felt the need to categorise everything though, "And this one is acid rock", fuck it, they're Cult tracks man, we KNOW they're Cult tracks, we know what we're getting, we don't need you to pigeon-hole your own music in some kind of attempt to pseudo-intellectualise it - just let us rock the fuck out man!Pendulum
- you may hear people say "they're a shitty dance act, they don't belong at Sonisphere" or something similar - you know what - anyone who says that either wasn't there or was passed out somewhere. Pendulum totally rocked the fucking house down! How they managed to blend their own brand of bouncy electro-pop like Granite with Prodigy-ripped dance tracks and then get Anders from In Flames
out and go full-on Death Metal in an almost seamless manner, I'll never know. They were spectacular and they tailored their tunes to the audience, for instance the guitar sounds were racked higher in the mix than they are on the radio edits giving the set a more "metal/dance" feel. Seeing these forty-something Maiden fans in Maiden T-Shirts bouncing around like they'd just dropped an E at a rave made me grin from ear to ear.
I read an interview with Pendulum in the Big Issue a couple of weeks beforehand (when they found out their manager had booked them for Sonisphere) and they were like, "We're opening for Maiden at Knebworth? Fuck - the Maiden fans are going to crucify us". They pulled it off though, they got the whole crowd going nuts, young, old, Maiden fans and Slayer fans, you name it - and you could tell from the look on the singer's face at the end of the set that he was thinking "Fuck YEAH, I don't believe it, we fucking pulled this shit OFF!". They went to Knebworth as an electro-pop-dance type act, the last act on the Apollo stage before Maiden... and they won! They had a bigger circle pit going than Slayer for Christ's sake! THAT is an achievement.Iggy And The Stooges
- I have to feel a little sorry for Iggy here, he could have done anything... hell, he tried to, getting fans up on the stage but the fact of the matter is that he was on the Saturn stage before Maiden (on the Apollo). For the last ten minutes of his set he could have dressed as a rubber chicken and just wandered around clucking and nobody would have noticed as the exodus from that half of the arena to the other was well under way by then. To be honest, I don't even know if he did Passenger or Lust For Life because by that point I was gearing up for Maiden. What I saw was good though, he's still got it despite being a car insurance salesman these days - Fun House live was great and as the man Rollins put it that morning, "he's got more energy than any three of you" - and he was right.Iron Maiden
- Iron Fucking Maiden, that's WHAT! as the T-Shirt says. From the offset I want to make this clear... I am NOT a Maiden fan - I'm just not, "Killers" yeah, "Fear of the Dark" yeah but have I followed them for years? Not really - my partner however had waited something like 15 years to see them since she'd always somehow managed to miss them when they've played outside London (she's a Geordie lass). However, Iron Maiden are legendary, I had to see them at least once and I went with an open mind.
With Maiden there are certain legendary tracks, ones that even the heathens like me know, Fear of the Dark, the Trooper, Aces High, the Number of the Beast and so on and I'd have thought they'd have laced a festival set with these tracks since it's not an entirely Maiden audience... but I was wrong. It WAS a predominantly Maiden audience so whilst they did a few of the "classics" the set was mainly from the last three albums. To be fair I can understand it - back in my teens when I was an angry metalhead I used to like a bit of Maiden ... but when Bruce Dickinson left the band it just wasn't the same Maiden (yeah, I know he wasn't the original vocalist) and I just sort of lost interest. I'd imagine many people would have been in the same boat so with Bruce's return on the Brave New World album Maiden might have been in danger of effectively becoming a cover band of their own back catalogue from the pre-Blaze Bayley days - but they didn't, they drew a line and said THIS is the new Maiden, we're going forward not back... and apparently it's worked for them, the audience was younger than you might think and maybe, just maybe, it's actually kind of cool now to admit to liking Maiden (it wasn't when I was a teenager, Maiden were the "old guard" you were _supposed_ to like Korn, Pantera, Sepultura, Machine Head, Biohazard and so on... which I did anyway, well apart from Korn at the time, but I generally said "bollocks, Maiden are alright").
So, it was mostly a new Maiden set for the new/true Maiden fans not for the "nostalgia, Las Vegas trip" people (as he put it) who used to be Maiden fans back in the day but aren't really any more... and you know what, I can respect that. It was still a Maiden show, they still blew the house down, they had a big ambling Eddie monster - what more can you ask for? OK, less fucking flags in the crowd, that's one thing I'd ask for.
It's good to know that Maiden are Maiden again and will carry on being so... angry teenagers and ageing metallers alike need the Maiden - but for me, to be honest, I was really, at heart, more of a rivethead the whole time anyway and despite my occasional metal-leanings will always return to Industrial music.Biggest surprises
Right, just to finish off this epic spiel, some stuff that just made me go whoah!
Sabaton - totally unexpected and utterly brilliant.
Pendulum - I still can't believe they had a bigger circle pit than Slayer! Epic.
Blaas of Glory - laugh, I nearly pissed myself - when Maiden started playing Hallowed Be Thy Name I could still hear it on that xylophone thing in my head.Biggest downers
Rammstein finishing a half hour early.
Not being able to get into the Bohemia tent for practically anything unless you got there really, really early (missed the Gallows, Terrorvision, Evile and Tim Minchin).
Too much bullshit - really, it was a MUSIC festival yeah? We don't need a full fucking fairground and 10,000 stalls selling random shit all over the place - OK it's been a while since I've been to Donington or the MK Bowl but as I remember it the stalls were mostly around the edges leaving plenty of open space to crash out, watch the bands or run between stages - there were just stalls EVERYWHERE at Knebworth.