United Kingdom | 04 August 2009
The experience of the Sonisphere organisers is shown in what is a fantastically run festival, with some great bands and none of the teething problems you might expect from a debut festival, writes Robin Card.
Overall - 8/10
Sonisphere is a great new heavy rock festival taking place just outside of London. A series of similar festivals have already taken place around Europe this year, with the UK leg of the touring festival the crowning edition of the event. The experience of the organisers is shown in what is a fantastically run festival, with some great bands and none of the teething problems you might expect from a debut festival. Hopefully the event will go from strength to strength; on this showing they certainly have all the potential in the world.
Getting There and Back – 8/10
Whether arriving by car or by train, the festival site at Knebworth is effortless to get to. The nearest station at Stevenage is 20 minutes outside of London and from there, complimentary buses take festival-goers directly into the heart of the campsite. Many have come from the North and taken a trip down the A1(M), which runs directly next to the site. Leaving by train is more problematic due to the long queues for the shuttle buses, followed by more queuing at the station ticket office. Driving out of the area was a breeze by comparison and most would have been well on their way home within minutes of getting in their vehicle.
The Site – 7/10
Sonisphere has an unorthodox system whereby no bands on the main two stages clash at any point. When the band on the main stage finishes, it’s a few brief minutes until the next band appears on the second stage. This has the disadvantage of everyone moving at more or less the same time and caused congestion near vital areas (the bars and toilets). Apart from that, the site is spacious and well laid out. The campsites encircle the arena and even the furthest of these was not a labour to get to.
Atmosphere – 6/10
The campsites are noticeably quiet. This clearly is a bonus when it comes to sleeping but considering this was the first time Sonisphere had occurred in the UK there was an unexpectedly average level of excitement. Tickets for the festival are also still available on the opening day, which is unusual in this country. There was a marked increase in numbers for the final day, due to the increased quality of the acts.
Music – 8/10
The emphasis is on hard rock in all its' forms, played loud. The organisers have secured a high proportion of exclusives that could not be seen on any other festival stage in the UK this year, in an effort to establish themselves as major players on the scene.
Metallica – 9/10
Unquestionably the foremost reason most people attended Sonisphere, Metallica don’t disappoint. The veterans play a set packed full of crowd-pleasers with impressive energy. “Do you want heavy? Metallica gives you heavy!” roars James Hetfield before a colossal 'Sad But True' shakes the crowd like an earthquake. A dramatic pyro display accompanies the gunfire intro to 'One', causing fans to gasp in amazement. After 'Nothing Else Matters' and 'Enter Sandman', a cover of Queen's 'Stone Cold Crazy' ushers in their encore, a tribute to one of the greats to have played at Knebworth previously.
Nine Inch Nails – 7/10
Rumoured to be the last time NIN will be seen in the UK, Trent Reznor is noticeably putting tremendous amounts of emotion into a set composed of downbeat numbers such as 'Something I Can Never Have', and 'The Fragile'. The fans appreciate seeing some of the material that doesn't get aired on festival stages very often, though the casual follower who wants to see 'Closer' is left been disappointed. A full-scale sing-along to 'Hurt' closes the set and Trent thanks the crowd before riding off into the sunset.
Linkin Park – 8/10
Headlining the first night, Linkin Park really appear to be enjoying themselves, as are the masses in attendance. A typically well-polished show lacks in special effects but more than makes up for it in tunes. All of the modern classics are present and correct, from ‘Points of Authority’ to ‘Numb’ and a particularly majestic ‘Shadow of the Day’, taking place as the sun fall behind the horizon. A peculiar decision to switch to Chester Bennington’s side project halfway through prompted a mass exodus (see downers below), but the people came flocking back for set-closer ‘One Step Closer’.
Hundred Reasons – 9/10
Unfortunately placed on the third stage in a slot directly after Metallica, as Hundred Reasons open with a raucous ‘I’ll Find You’ the crowd is extremely sparse. However the extreme energy of their performance quickly draws a full house, many die-hard fans echoing back each one of the Surrey boys’ heartfelt words. ‘Feed The Fire’ and ‘What You Get’ prove highlights as an hour races by and, as the last act of the festival, they prove more than worthy of the position.
Machine Head – 8/10
In doubt for the festival ever since they argued with organisers over having Limp Bizkit added to the bill above them, Machine Head confirm at the 11th hour that they will be performing purely for their legions of fans. They are on incendiary form, from opener ‘Imperium’, through ‘Beautiful Mourning’ to ‘Bulldozer’. Appreciative disciples respond with the biggest circle pits seen all weekend. Brutal, and as Fred Durst would later say, “heavy as a motherfucker.”
Limp Bizkit – 3/10
Fred Durst seems more at peace with the world these days, citing NIN as an influence “since day one” and complimenting Machine Head because “they do not give a fuck”. However the world is not at peace with Fred Durst. A poor opening ‘My Generation’ is exacerbated by the “fuck Limp Bizkit” chants of many irate Machine Head fans at the front. The band seemed to be irked and this seems to spur them on for and improved second half, ‘Break Stuff’ and ‘My Way’ being performed with particular venom. However, this particular appearance was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Feeder – 4/10
Distinctly mediocre from Grant Nicholas and the boys, only a set-closing ‘Buck Rogers’ really tempting the assembled throng into life. Feeder are never going to be troubling the upper reaches of the bill on this form.
Dead By Sunrise – 2/10
With an album due out later this year, Chester Bennington’s side project Dead By Sunrise play out Linkin Park’s first encore, causing all but the most devoted fans to start making their way towards the third stage to get inside in time for the Wildhearts. The “Nineties rock” influence quoted by Chester materialised itself as plagiaristic dross, ‘Fire’ sounding like Nirvana with added sheen and ‘My Suffering’ stealing from QOTSA.
Alien Ant Farm's Dryden Mitchell got his... er, 'Smooth Criminal' out for the entire world to see.
Tip: a luminous pink tutu is the current 'look' for the discerning male metal fan.
By Robin Card.
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