The Big Four all together at once is a moment of rock history at Sonisphere

Sonisphere 2011 review

published: Thu 14th Jul 2011


Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July 2011
Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AX, England MAP
£170 with camping or £145 without camping
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Fri 1st Jul 2011

Another year and another UK leg of the Sonisphere Festival rolls into Knebworth, and we roll up too, in the hope it lives up to the enjoyable event of last year.

It did, in fact it quite possibly trumped last year's event by having three memorable headliners as opposed to last year where only Rammstein's performance was one that still stuck in the mind a year on. But, for me, the festival wasn't just about the big four on Friday, but the other acts appearing in the Red Bull Jam Tent, on the Jagermeister Stage and in the expanded Bohemia tent.

around the festival site
Okay, so this is a metal fest primarily, and so sure enough the checklist can be applied, toilets awful, and people pissing in the open - check, beer tasting tasteless and expensive - check, food options restricted primarily to the staples of burgers and chips - check.

Okay so the last two may be a little harsh, there's also the option of Adnams ale - not settled on Friday, and there are a few options for those who prefer their food of the non potato, noodle, or bread based products. Vegetarians had very little choice. But, this is a rock event, so I'm not overtly bothered, or surprised.

The other item on the checklist of rock, is usually brutal security, disappointing then to find pleasant security guards and friendly stewards. Everyone of the day glo jacketed folk I saw was helpful, even when I couldn't get in a venue, which happened often as they were over capacity. For that read full by the entrance loads of space at the front.

The police were okay too, those on horse back were lit up like wandering Christmas trees at night, and the covert ones were far too young, and with my seasoned eye I was able to spot them. perhaps it was the fact they weren't paralytic on booze and weed - unlike nearly everyone else.

Anyway Friday started badly, we had to take down our awning - rules apparently (although everyone else around us had them and tents). We didn't get into the arena early, as was the plan, because we had some friendly Serbian neighbours who handed out free shots of vodka, absinth, and cherry liqueur like it was going out of fashion. A friendly bunch who also cooked us breakfast and offered an interesting choice of music on their van's stereo - I'm liking a few of the foreign acts I heard at the time when I should have been watching Diamond Head, and half of Anthrax whilst all the time ominous clouds avoided us, and the expected downpours held off all night.

I arrive at the well laid out Arena during Anthrax to discover that Scott Ian isn't on stage, and they're not at the top of their game, it's a subdued performance, and only set closer 'I Am The Law' gets my juices flowing. Megadeth continue the lackadaisical set, and having seen them so many times, I decide to check out some of the other action elsewhere, and at the Jagermeister Stage , Slam Cartel are delivering a rocked up cover of Talking Heads' 'Once In A Lifetime' and they hook me for the whole set. Wandering back to the Big Four I pop into the Red Bull Stage as Cerebral Ballzy stagger onto the stage. The New York punks are a glorious mess, lead singer Honor stumbling and clambering over the stage kit, spewing lyrics and drawls, "We cam here to play... and we came here to party" and they seem to be fully immersed in both as the deliver fast old school hardcore that leaves me smiling.

Slayer (2)
Back at Slayer there's more personnel changes, but this time I recognise Exodus guitarist Gary Holt who has replaced Jeff Hanneman and they sound good for it. 'Seasons in the Abyss', 'Mandatory Suicide', and 'Chemical Warfare' all sound terrific, and the band sound the best I've heard them in a few years, take your time coming back Jeff!

I head back to see Protest The Hero, and for the first of many times, discover the Red Bull Stage is so rammed that they won't let us in, there's masses of us wanting to see the set, the crowd going all the way back to the bar, and at one point the weight of numbers of fans desperate to see them collapses the barrier and loads of security are suddenly deployed. I give up trying to even get close enough to hear them, and head back. To find a bloke unconscious beside the ice cream van, with a distraught woman in tow, I look for a steward, security, anyone - it takes me until I get to the disabled platform to call down a steward who gets help on the way. It's only then I realise there are no stewards at all anywhere in this part of the arena, presumably they're all dealing with the crowds at the front at Slayer, and outside Protest The Hero.

Next up headliners Metallica who are back in top form tonight, with no tour and no album to sell it's a glorious 'greatest hits' set that's so good I even forget my long running regret at there being no Jason in their ranks. Their stage set appears to be just a plain half built slab of grey concrete, and their big screen, and it's all they need. The pyrotechnics help and the hits fly by, 'Master of Puppets', 'Seek & Destroy', 'Ride the Lightning', 'Sad But True', 'One', 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', 'Fade to Black' and 'Enter Sandman' are my personal highlights. The set concludes, and James comes out grinning, a bit of banter and then the bomb is dropped! We're going to have all of the big four on stage at once, with the stand in guitarists (Gary Holt & Andreas Kisser), some other personnel and DH's Brian Tatler to cover his classic 'Am I Evil?'. It's a moment that will live with me forever. For some reason I thought with four bands it would be four times louder (it wasn't). The set concludes with 'Battery' and 'Creeping Death' and it was the best I've seen 'tallica since the 'Nowhere Else To Roam Tour - but no 'Damage Inc' dammit!

Killing Joke
The first night was just starting with Killing Joke, Hayseed Dixie and more still to come, but I was shattered, so it was off to the van. Big mistake, the field was awash with entertaining late night revellers who didn't hit the hay until dawn. I may as well have stayed out and enjoyed the silent disco, the hugely entertaining Soni Radio Airstream and had more Jagermeister. What is it about that stuff? I hate Red Bull and Jager usually but suddenly I have a perpetual thirst to chuck it Jagerbombs down my neck (at £8 a pop!) until I can only walk funny.
review by: Scott Williams

photos by: Danielle Millea / Karen Williams / Zelah Williams

Friday 8th to Sunday 10th July 2011
Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, SG1 2AX, England MAP
£170 with camping or £145 without camping
daily capacity: 60000
last updated: Fri 1st Jul 2011

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