Friday evening provides a goldmine of entertainment for the smaller stages

Sonisphere 2010 review

published: Tue 3rd Aug 2010

And So I Watch You From Afar

Friday 30th July to Sunday 1st August 2010
Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AX, England MAP
£157.50 with camping, £40 Fri, £60 Sat/Sun
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Mon 26th Jul 2010

Now into it's second year at the legendary Knebworth site, Sonisphere 2010 certainly had some boots to fill after its '09 debut. This year brought the addition of some Friday night acts to help pad out the festival towards the more standard three day affair. Whilst the main stage offered a wealth of entertainment brimming with legends from yesteryear, the smaller Jagermeister and Strongbow stages offered some truly unmissable acts for those willing to seek them out.

And So I Watch You From Afar
And So I Watch You From Afar were easily one of the best finds of the whole weekend. The four piece which originates from Belfast have enjoyed a whirlwind of success throughout the relatively short 5 years they've been together, cemented by a 2010 tour supporting Them Crooked Vultures around Europe. Tonight's small stage is the perfect catalyst to help the music swallow the crowd before them. The band lean towards more instrumental tracks, which allows each beat and riff to ping around the room with pure conviction. Their sound is steadily paced yet truly crushing at it's crescendo. Tempo is complicated and simple all at the same time, with beat changes and total track direction darting in different directions at any given second. They are constantly animated and energetic around stage, firing through tracks such as 'I Capture Castles' and 'A Little Bit Of Solidarity Goes A Long Way'.

Guitarist Rory Friers remains gracious and humble by the crowds interest throughout the short set. "It's nice to see we've made some new friends here, I'd also like to thank our fans from back home for joining us."

They close the all too brief half hour set on album opener 'Set guitars to kill' The militant opening drumbeat and wailing guitars explode into each other as the verse fires through the audience; receiving a whole tent of unified head banging in appreciation. Fans know all the words, breaks and cues just to jump around insanely. The song comes to it's abrupt close and each member stands tall to consume the cheers of applause. This is a band whom will be growing to play these larger stages in years to come without a doubt. I'd implore you to take your chance to grow right along side them.

Over on the Jagermeister stage, penultimate band of the evening Winnebago Deal unfortunately just didn't seem to get it right. The Oxford two piece just couldn't find the groove. The songs remained punchy and powerful yet quickly seemed to fizzle into wailing guitar and just get lost in the ether on too many occasions. The slushy sound was of no fault of their own, the enemy for Winnebago tonight, was the sound engineers. The vocals remained marred and just fell disappointingly short of each chance they really had to explode. Now years away from their days of Mondo Generator, you can still hear that infectious connection throughout their music. It's just a shame the technical side of things were not so ambitious.

But stage head liners Karma To Burn truly were at the mercy of the sound man. A band of which over two thirds of their music is solely instrumental, one moment of neglect of from the desk could have been catastrophic. Luckily, this was not the case; for most part of the show. The band tune and test their own instruments to a dishearteningly small audience, only to have that small green patch in front of the stage become swarmed with onlookers during the opening notes of their first track 'Nineteen'. The sound is perfect from an instrumental perspective. From Rich Mullins' crushingly deep bass, to Rob Oswald's ear deafening tub thumping, with the chugging juggernaut guitars from Will Mecum and Daniel Davies; everything sounds in place.

Karma To Burn just sound epic this evening. Every track demands attention and is pitched perfectly with every note. Each instrument, huge and overpowering, yet when combined they create an audio delight genuinely matched by very few others. The band play through all manner of tracks, spanning all four of their albums. Daniel Davies (also of Year Long Disaster) is the latest edition to the line-up; kind of becoming unofficial front man since picking up vocal duties on the vocal track of their latest album /Appalachian Incantation. /Unfortunately his voice seems as unbalanced as anything else the sound man has done tonight and can be barely heard throughout the song. Energetic and explosive tracks such as 'Twenty-Eight' and 'Twenty-Two' only infuse the audience further as circle pits began to breakout and the band powered through the set like a steam train. The criminally short set of 30 minutes began to rear it's ugly head as the band come to the close of their slot. The band oblige to the chants of one more from the audience, firing into Sabbath cover 'Never say die', only to have sound pulled by the stage management. Mullins (bass) storms off to the side of the stage to unload a war of words upon an unwise sound crew.

The performance comes to a heated and abrupt close. But the guys leave the stage with dignity and compassion, with all members personally apologising to the crowd up close and always happy for a small chat or a handshake. Irrelevant of the premature close, Karma To Burn just prove time and time again why they stand as pioneers in their genre. They remain as unsung heroes whom are more talented than most of what this festival has to offer; and since their 97' inception all the way through to the 2009 reunion, they move from strength to strength. These guys have played from main stages, to academies, to smaller stages all around the world and demolish every single one, every single time. With a tour with Monster Magnet this coming November, things just move from strength to strength.

Alice Cooper may be on the main stage singing about how 'School's Out', but a real musical education can be had right here, on stages like this with bands like these. And with a headliner like Karma To Burn, there can only be one certainty - the guarantee they'll make the grade.

around the festival site (1)
review by: Phil Davies

photos by: Karen Williams / Sarah Collie

Friday 30th July to Sunday 1st August 2010
Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AX, England MAP
£157.50 with camping, £40 Fri, £60 Sat/Sun
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Mon 26th Jul 2010


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