Soni Sunday is a tribute to the fallen

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

Early morning heat, and vodka a devilish mix that makes getting to Howard Marks' breakfast sermon impossible. By the time I get in the arena it's after a liquid lunch and I watch House of Pain, feeling a bit sorry for them. As they showcase some great cuts which have been lifted by other acts who rose long after the band broke up in '96 most of the audience are just waiting for that one song, when they finally deliver 'Jump Around' the place goes mental, until half way through the track Parkway Drive start up and the crowd start leaving, harsh!

Parkway Drive
Getting to Parkway Drive after 'getting up to get down' I see why. The Aussie's play some up beat tunes, and their guitarist is in a wheelchair, and makes me wonder why the hell are so few band members in wheelchairs? Possibly due to watching too much Glee with my daughter. There's some serious crowd surfers about in the pits they've brought surf boards and surf across the crowd parallel to the stage, clever.

Following their set the entire site respects a two minute silence in memory of Slipknot's Paul Gray, and the eerie silence was offset by a loud cheer as the festival sparked out of it's reverie. I see screamo band The Ocean Between Us, and pass the highly annoying Red Bull DJ Box which appears to only have one Pendulum record on all weekend. The overflow from the tap beside the toilets has made the whole place a quagmire, and I leap across, noting a few people attempting to do themselves injuries in the slick mud, before settling down for the comedy session.

Andrew O Neill
The compere Andrew O'Neill is actually the best of the bunch as he gets us to sing along to Queen and Slayer. Sean Hughes' set is a little flat, but that's made up for by a brilliant skit where he introduces U2 live on CD. He gets us all to applaud wildly, before the speakers blast out 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' live and we all cheer along. Outside passers by are trying to get in to see whether U2 really are surprise live special guests - priceless!

Motorhead pay tribute to former bandmate Michael 'Wurzel' Burston, who passed away the day before with frontman Lemmy saying of the bonecrunching set, "We'd like to dedicate this set and our lives to Wurzel." After I buy some food, and an ale from the bar and take a moment to reflect, as the tankard I brought with me gets confiscated, and I have to down it, for fear I may throw it at somebody. At £4 a pint - WTF?!

Title Fight
Pop hardcore punkers Title Fight are rather entertaining with various members doing their utmost to get amongst the crowd, as does the lead singer of Don Broco who actually stands in the middle of a circle pit, and asks the crowd to rush him, "Be as hard as you like, I don't mind" he quips before getting brutally slammed, and bouncing happily back on stage seconds later - respect! It's bands like these, that get in with the crowd, let them sing along, forinstance the bassist from Title Fight runs off stage right and into the stage to joyously bounce along. It's this connection with the audience that makes the Red Bull Jam Stage such an attractive proposition, it's here you'll get to share a microphone (until it breaks) with the singer, or bounce about in the pit with a member of the band. That intimacy is lost on the big stages with pits the size of the West Bank.

Between them Exit Ten on the Jager Stage provide us with a different aural sound to most acts here today. A pleasing energetic set of well crafted material, these guys are surely one to watch for the future. It's an impressively tight set they delivered us today.

Sensing another case of tent closure for Alestorm, I get in just as the barriers are being drawn across trapping long haired pirate folk outside. Inside it's a heaving mass of singalongs, and arms aloft (holding a balloon sword) chanting to the likes of 'Shipwrecked', 'Wenches and Mead', 'The Sunk'n Norwegian', 'Nancy The Tavern Wench', 'Captain Morgan's Revenge', 'Keelhauled', and 'Wolves of the Sea'. Quality stuff me hearties!

Being a WCW and WWE fan back when it gave pandas grief, I decided to miss the opening of Bill Bailey to catch Fozzy' the band fronted by wrestler Chris Jericho. They should have come on when I got there, instead the PA was playing Rush, I guess because Y2J is Canadian. As the music switched to Queen, so the rain started. It got heavier as the band comprising of Stuck Mojo members hit the stage. They're clearly talented playing throbbing heavy blues rock, and then Jericho fronts the fray. His singer is better than I expect, and his frontman moves are over blown in that big wrestling way, and the rain gets heavier.

There's no cover in the driving rain so I make my exit, opting to hang out in a stall facing Bill Bailey, well it's better than the big bin lid I usually used, and watched the remainder of Bailey's set. It's quite possibly the most amazing thing I've ever seen at a rock festival.

Bill Bailey
After a French cover of Gary Numan's 'Cars', we get a techno version of the BBC News Theme followed by a The Wurzels cover in a Kraftwerk Style which sounds rather like how the band sing it these days. More shocking still was watching the leather clad long haired masses singing along to 'Poker Face' and then dancing to a German 'Hokey Kokey' - actually it was good to see the crowd not taking themselves too seriously and getting involved, not that I did, or would dare report that I did you understand. I was already hot footing it to the front for Slipknot as Bailey revealed his master stroke a cover of Metallica's 'Enter Sandman' on air horns.

The big question for me was would Slipknot live up to the hype and deliver a set to rival the memorable one last year by Rammstein, the answer, an indelible YES. The band have never really made it to my radar, apart from when their CDs blast out of my daughter's bedroom. It's demarcated as her music. We get 17 or so tracks, masked guys in boiler suits - that can't help but slightly unsettle you as they walk past looking out at you from feet away. Especially when they mime slitting their throats or blowing their brains out and then point at you. The music and the pyros are anything but unsettling. Big boisterous chanting and arms aloft sing alongs to maniacally delivered power tunes like 'Wait and Bleed', 'Liberate', 'Pulse Of The Maggots', 'Left Behind', 'Psychosocial', and the crowd participating "sit down (jump the fuck up)" delight of 'Spit It Out' to be left with a flaming Slipknot symbol and Gray's assigned Slipknot number #2 as the back drop. Before an encore of flames, clowns on rising barrel drumkits, drummer Joey Jordison spinning around on a rotating side slung drum kit, and us all singing as one along to 'People = Shit' and 'Surfacing'.

It's only minutes earlier I notice Paul Gray's #2 boiler suit, bass and mask are on stage, and the band move it to the front of stage. The PA booms out the ''Til We Die' lyrics, as the band gather around the memorial for pictures. Both Corey Taylor and Joey Jordison make moving tributes as they are clearly (even with masks on) moved by the moment, and so are we. It's a huge leveller, the crowd are silent respectful, and the band leave to reverent applause. What a climax to Sonisphere. The emotional crowd are left shell shocked and a little flat. We decide to give Bat Sabbath - Cancer Bats doing Black Sabbath a miss, and the teen attractions of the silent disco or DJ sets, and we're too old for fun fairs, so instead we start drinking heavily and long into the night, as we remember those who aren't here today, and by morning there's many gaps around us as those who were there pack up and disappear into the early morning light.

We leave early too, and have no problems with queues until we hit the car park that is the M25. Yet again Sonisphere has been an absolute pleasure, and the emotional display from Slipknot was a gamble that paid off and really connected band, audience, and festival, a stunning climax to a damn fine festival. One which offers a fantastic upbeat enjoyably vibe whatever the weather. It's wider remit of music, and comedy, as demonstrated by headliners Biffy Clyro, and Bill Bailey hugely paid off, and shows that this festival can take risks and deliver a wider line-up than the same old rock legends. Although it'll struggle to ever repeat the pure historic moment of having the Big Four on the same stage for the first time in their 30 year history. That is now forever a part of Knebworth's illustrious annals. Sonisphere rocks, and rocks well.

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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