Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Sonisphere Knebworth 2009 Review

Are you still out there Knebworth!!!

Well I’m rather too close to 50 to frankly be doing two day metal festivals surely? I’m going to do two posts on this. Firstly this’ll be all about the music and the general stuff the second will be about my festival “experience” :-)

The general stuff

Knebworth is a good venue, reasonably easy to get to being right on top of the A1(M) just north of London and on the East Coast Main Line so easily reachable by train from many locations. It is a way out of Stevenage and therefore good no doubt that the majority of residents are pretty much undisturbed by the legions of music fans, unlike Reading where the whole festival pretty much spills into the centre of the town.

Camping facilities were basic to say the least. The tap in our bit seemed designed to turn the area about it into a bog instantly. Toilets would have been okay if they’d have been emptied more frequently, I know others have complained about this already – it was one of the major downers.

So we pitched up Friday afternoon and got the tent up and headed over to the arena to look about. The comedy Friday night in the tent was very good.

Come Saturday morning the queue for the showers was madness but we got breakfast from the camp shop then set off and found a great little Tea and Toast van – Tea £1 a big cup and 2 rounds of toast and topping £1.50 – bargain of the site. And the best tea we found all weekend.

Sonisphere has two stages set up at opposite ends of the site. The timetabling is good as there is hardly any time from one stage closing to another opening. This we liked over our previous Reading experience.

Top performances on Saturday… Linkin Park headlined the main stage and were really good. One of my top for the weekend although slightly tarnished by an odd encore where for the first encore they had Chester’s new side project play some numbers. Eh?! Why not play the other stage at some other point in the weekend? It lost the momentum a bit and the atmosphere as many left then and there were less to see the final encore back with Linkin Park. By the way the side project (Death by Sunlight – I think) wasn’t that impressive to me.

Heaven and Hell. Stunning probably my top of the whole weekend. The sky was as black as it can get and the rain sythed down which sadly meant the crowd was smaller than they deserved. But they were brilliant. Iommi’s guitar sound and playing just terrific. Sadly Coheed and Cambria had been delayed on a ferry in the morning and missed their slot on the main stage meaning they were rescheduled into the tent at the same time as Heaven and Hell – so we were torn. After seeing H&H start we nipped off but the tent was full – no doubt due the rain as much as anything so we listened to a couple of songs outside then headed back to H&H. Only timing sadness of the weekend really.

Bullet for My Valentine headlined on the second stage and were very good. They are a band I should check out more frankly as there were a few in there that impressed me. Also on the second stage the performance of the weekend goes to Airbourne. It was just pure AC/DC from the Bon Scott era – all the same tricks etc. Watching the front man climb 30 feet plus up the gantry in the pouring rain with no harness for one solo was hysterical if not a little frightening.

Other noteworthies from Saturday included Skindred – different mix of West Indian and metal were good value as were Soil who kicked off the whole thing. Alien Ant Farm impressed me more than I expected as well. They were good even if they don’t look like a rock band much :-) After the main stage closed we got in the tent to see Thunder’s last ever performance, I’d forgotten how good they were in their day and it was a great if too short performance and they revelled in the atmosphere.

Sunday. Thankfully brighter skies and many many more people – where the hell were this lot when it was raining on Saturday? Buckcherry kicked off on the main stage – good rock n roll stuff. Paradise Lost were worth a listen. Mastadon were okay but the sound was very odd, the mix just seemed all wrong to my ears. Then we hit my son’s pay dirt of Lamb of God and Machine Head both of who really got the crowd warmed and wound up. Machine Head were much better than the last time we saw them at Wembley in 07, the sound mix was better and the humour on stage much more apparent which was good to see. Avenged Sevenfold headlined the second stage and did much to repair the damaged reputation they had with me after what I thought was a very poor set at Twickenham last year. Sound quality was much better and the mix was right with the vocals at the right level – it showed in them as well they seemed a lot happier and having fun, oh yes and Synyster Gates looked really healthy rather than that white “just out the morgue” look he has previously had.

Feeder played a good set off the second stage and were well received, they are a band I like a lot. Nine Inch Nails played a fantastically entrancing set on the main stage which really drew you in, more than once someone would push past me and I was pulled out of the revere I’d fallen into with a bit of a jolt. I’ve never really listened to much of them, I intend to put that right.

Metallica headlined. Brilliant set with a mix of old and new. My son particularly loved them – but mainly they were his reason for wanting to go. It was a very good Metallica gig simple as that culminating in James Hetfield being ambushed by family and the crew with foam and silly string etc. as it was his birthday – great humour.

We just managed to squeeze in seeing a short, energetic and thoroughly entertaining set by Hundred Reasons in the tent before we called time for ourselves.

So… any bad stuff… Killing Joke – I’ve never got it and I doubt I ever will – so depressing! For one song the intro was about an artist they know who is about to have an assisted suicide due to MS (very sad) and will be listening to that song. Great that was cheery! Bjorn Again and Limp Bizkit we avoided as well simply as not for us and you do need a break in the day frankly. But really it was a good line up all round.

Bad stuff on the org front – not enough litter bins or litter collectors, toilets overflowing and the solution seemed to be simply to open the drain cocks and make the situation far worse from a smell point of view not to say anything of the hygiene point of view. Not enough showers. Shuttle bus service was rubbish – we waited ages on Friday for it. The organisers not wanting people to walk across the A1M junction – fair enough but when you wait far longer for the bus than the journey to walk it you wonder. So Monday we saw the queue for the buses and thought – to hell with that and we just walked into Stevenage stopping at nice café for a cup of tea, we’re convinced even though we went a round about route a bit and had the tea it was quicker than waiting for the bus. The last bad thing was that a 15 year old boy was seriously injured when thrown from one of the fairground rides on Saturday. We saw a lot of stewards running about, ambulances and stuff and assumed something bad had happened but he sounds very lucky to be alive. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

Good stuff – good range of shops – important when you read my festival experience! Well organised camp site for “families” like us. Good range of food outlets and not all the usual stuff as well – the little Tea & Toast van was our top favourite on that front.

Would I do it again… for the music yes… but read my other post on my festival experience before I pass final judgement… :-)

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