Sonisphere Day 3

SLAYER!!!

SLAYER!!!

And onto the final day. Despite an early first act, I decided to scarper into Stevenage on the free bus for a McDonalds‘ breakfast. I got back in plenty of time for Henry Rollins “stand up” routine which was simply staggering. From a metal/punk singer to a one-man troublemaking human rights machine, the guy has been to so many places and done so many things that it’s hard not to be in awe of him.

Without doubt a highlight of the weekend and he didn’t even sing any songs.

Another large gap ensued where I just chilled at the tent and worked through my book. Despite the cloud it was still warm and I actually nodded off for an hour, waking with a start and realising I had only thirty minutes to get somewhere near the front of the stage for the mighty Slayer! I ambled like hell…

It was obvious from the size of the crowd that this was a huge draw for an enormous number of people. Frankly, I’m surprised Tom Araya and company were so far down the bill and given only 45 minutes but such is the state of affairs with large festivals. They didn’t mess around and launched through a brutal set including Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, Mandatory Suicide, Dead Skin Mask, War Ensemble, and of course Angel of Death.

Thankfully, my aging and aching frame was then granted a further rest (and time to head through to the train station for a burger) as there was very little else that interested me until the festival headliners took to the stage.

Those headliners, of course, were Iron Maiden. Legends in their own lunchtimes and several other people’s they rarely disappoint… only this time they did. A little. I know I was shouted down for this after the performance by Sandy and Dave, but I just wasn’t hugely impressed. Far too many recent tracks (which Bruce did justify during the set) and not enough classics. For me, anyway.

Iron Maiden

Janick Gers and Eddie

I know almost everyone lived the show, but I just didn’t get to sing along enough as I’m not as big a fan of the newer material as I am of the old stuff. Also, I was hoping for a huge finale which could perhaps give Rammsteins’ stage show a 2-minute run for its money. But no. A perambulating Eddie – one of the best I’ve seen, but still just a guy on stilts – was the only “extra” we got.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed the show. The band were as musically spot on as always, Bruce is a wonderful front man and the lighting and sound were superb. I’ve just come to expect something amazing from Maiden – and I only got something really, really, really good.

In fairness with a near 30-year history and 14 studio albums (number 15 out this month) they’d struggle to fill even a 2-hour set with everyone’s favourites, but I still feel they have too many classics to worry about pushing new stuff. At the end of the day, if a new Maiden album comes out everyone will buy it anyway.

But, hey. Not to take the gloss off another excellent performance. However, on balance I enjoyed Rammstein more simply for the spectacle. In fairness, I’ve seen Maiden around 20 times, at a guess and Rammstein only once. So far!

Tidying up

An empty festival

Overall, a fantastic festival and well organised. They need more shuttle buses and more campsite toilets for next year (20+ mins queue for a poo at times!), but otherwise a great three days. Roll on 2011. Due to work commitments I don’t think I could manage Download or Graspop next year anyway so Sonisphere better have a good lineup!

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Sonisphere Day 2

Anthrax

Anthrax

Saturday promised many goodies and was definitely the busiest day in terms of bands I wanted to see. Thankfully across the three main stages, the times had been choreographed so that there – theoretically at least – would be no clashes. Only one stage at a time was “live” and with five minutes to get from stage to stage it was possible (with a little hurrying) to finish one band and run to catch the next.

I had the morning free so used the shuttle bus service to get me back to the train station where I gobbled a KFC for brunch. I’m glad I gave myself plenty of time as a lot of people had had a similar thought and the bus queues were pretty long. Worth the trip, though. Clean loos, good food and less than half the price of the rip-off joints in the festival grounds.

I’d originally planned on watching Soulfly, but I bumped into two girls I’d first met last year at Graspop. The benefits of always wearing the same (Newcastle United) shirt at festivals! Instead, I caught a couple of songs by Heaven’s Basement, and then a few minutes of Soulfly (still trying to be classic Sepultura, still failing) before wandering over to the Apollo stage to get a good position.

The next two hours or so were a blur. A violent, jumping, moshpit of a blur.

Anthrax were the first “must see” of the day and they didn’t disappoint – do they ever? With Joey Belladonna back in the fold, the band ploughed through a 40-minute set consisting completely of classics. Metal Thrashing Mad, Antisocial, Indians… and closing with the utterly geek-tastic I Am The Law. My only issue? Well, apart from it being too short? That most of the kids in the audience only knew the first verse and chorus of the Dredd-inspired masterpiece. What are they teaching kids in schools these days? Oh, wait. That’s my job.

Anyway, Scott Ian and company take their bow and I leg it across the field scattering all and sundry to make it to Fear Factory on the Saturn Stage. I get there just as the band are announced and jump into another pit. Much thumping and violence ensues. As ever, the highest bounces and hardest hits are reserves for Replica. Fear Factory, as I stated when I saw them back in February, still definitely have it – especially since Dino Cazares rejoined.

Papa Roach

Papa Roach

Battered and starting to bruise, I turned 180 and ran back to the Apollo stage and managed to crush my way near the front for Papa Roach. Again, a great set but why on earth did they feel that they had to try and squeeze in a new song? Granted it was OK, but with 45 minutes of stage time they really could have stuck to songs the crowd knew.

Dribbling with perspiration (mine and others’, I’m sure), I ambled gingerly back to the Saturn Stage to watch Apocalyptica but gave up after 3 tracks as the sound was awful. Back at the campsite, I ate a lot of junk food and read my book as Good Charlotte wafted down from the Apollo. They sounded surprisingly good and I almost wish I’d stayed up to watch them.

Out of curiosity I walked up to see Corey Taylor doing his acoustic set in the early evening and just managed to squeeze into a packed tent. For those who don’t know, Corey plays with Slipknot so the obvious assumption is that he just hits things, makes noise and has no talent at all (not my opinion, but hey).

That couldn’t be further from the truth. As well as acoustic versions of Slipknot and Stone Sour songs, there was Johnny Cash played and sung with incredible passion. Seriously, this guy was superb. You could buy an album of his stuff and give it to your gran as a present. She’d love it. As did I.

Concrete proof that heavy metal produces musicians, not just noise makers.

Next up on the Saturn Stage were Motley Crue. So I walked down to the Jagermeister tent instead. After their abysmal performance at Graspop the other year I didn’t want to waste my time with them. I met up with Jane and Jason to watch Earthtone9. I thought I recognised the name and it turns out this was their first gig in 8 years. I think I’ve got an album somewhere from the old days when I used to DJ!

My next choice was a toughie – go and watch Pendulum or head into town and get a reasonably-priced dinner. OK, no competition. Pendulum suck more than a high-end Dyson so off to KFC I went. The buses were much emptier and swifter this time and I spent an enjoyable return trip chatting to some of the festival staff. Definitely preferable to listening to a vocalist pretend he’s a black gang-star rapper. Muppet.

Rammstein

Rammstein

Prior to the carnival that was to be Rammstein, I caught up with Moni and Flo for a quick natter but decided I wanted to be a little further forward than they were sitting. Definitely worth the effort though I wish I could have got even closer, even at risk of losing my eyebrows.

I will go no further with describing Rammstein’s set. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe how much I enjoyed it anyway. I’d still not buy their albums but I’m interested in knowing what the best live DVD they’ve released it – it’s on my list as soon as I get an informed opinion.

In short, roll over Alice Cooper. Marilyn Manson can take a seat. Even Maiden with their huge animated stage sets may as well just stick to using nothing but lights any more. Rammstein are without doubt the most impressive entertainers in the rock/metal world. I have never seen a band interact so little with their audience during their set. Never have I cared less. The only disappointment was that they finished with half an hour of their allotted time remaining. I guess this was just a scheduling thing, but it did leave a huge crowd milling around expecting even more!

The final act of the evening was to be Therapy? playing their “Troublegum” album right through. However, after two false starts where the sound and lights died, I gave up. At least I can say I’ve seen them even if they only got as far as the first chorus of Knives. Twice.

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Sonisphere Day 1

Bizarre freaks

Bizarre freaks

I couldn’t manage to get to Graspop or Download due to spending my extra couple of months holiday in Vietnam. I’m somewhat gutted as it meant I missed some class acts like Lawnmower Deth, Steel Panther, Carcass, Deicide and – of course – AC/DC. Still, I can’t deny that my 2 months abroad were, on balance, worth it. Just!

Instead, I opted for Sonisphere as it is towards the end of the summer period and fitted better with my travel plans. It’s only the second year it’s been on and this year’s was a 2-and-a-bit days festival. The Friday kicked off at around midday and the major headlining stage wasn’t used.

Andy and Shalene, who I’d stayed with, very kindly spotted me for breakfast before I made the train journey north (thanks, guys!) to Stevenage. Shuttle buses ferried rockers to Knebworth after a 40-minute queue. Note for next year – more buses needed! Compared to Graspop (and from what others told me, Wacken), the bus service needs a bit of work.

I did have a slight argument with some chaps from Scandinavia who didn’t seem to grasp how queues worked. That is, you join at the end and stay in order. You don’t just jump to the front because you have beer. In the UK, we’re generally good at queuing and also bad at telling people off who skip as we’re too polite.

Thing is, I’ve been abroad for more time in the last 4 1/2 years than I’ve been in the UK. I was also tired, had a cold and was therefore cranky. Politeness went out of the window. Several uses of the “F” word, some pretty precise details as to what would happen to the crate of beer and a handful of insults about the gentlemen in question’s mother country later and they ambled back in the queue. Not all the way back, but behind me and everyone else who’d been in earshot.

Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper

I lucked out with my “accommodation” at the festival. Sandra had pitched up tent with her friends the night before and there was room for one more which saved me the effort of unpacking and flinging my little one-man effort up. Thanks, Sandy! She met me, I dumped my stuff off and we wandered into the arena where I met Dave and Rho who were in the tent next door.

I’m not sure what happened with the world record attempt for the largest number of people doing the Timewarp at one time, but I soaked up the atmosphere for a couple of hours. I also managed to bump into Jane and Jason (not seen them in maybe 6-7 years) and Holly and Peter who I’d camped with at Graspop last year.

First band of the day for me was Europe. Just a box to tick as I’d never seen them before. They didn’t play too many songs I knew (Rock The Night, Superstitious, and obviously The Final Countdown being the sum total) but they weren’t bad for a “bunch of punks from Stockholm”. I think they planned on doing Carrie, but Joey’s acoustic guitar wasn’t working.

Alice Cooper headlined the secondary stage and effectively the first night of the festival. The start was a little slow and the sound quality not great, but by the end of the set he was displaying all the charisma he’s known for and had the crowd in the palm of his hand. A great entertainer. I still don’t understand starting and finishing a set with the same song, though.

Terrorvision

Terrorvision

The last band of the night was in the Bohemia tent – Bradford’s Terrorvision. They broke up quite a few years back but I gather have been doing a handful of small gigs here and there. I think the last time I saw them was at Bradford University quite a few years back, and they are as bouncy now as they were then.

Generally, Terrorvision don’t go for the most intellectually stimulating lyrics. Their most famous hit features the chorus “Do-wop-bo-a-woo-op”, for crying out loud. However, they’re fun. They’re out there to get the crowd to have a great time and from the smiles on the faces of the people all around at the end of the set, they did the job well. My House, Alice, Tequila… all the hits were present and correct.

A great first day, if a little short on bands. I’d expect next year will be a full 3-day billing. At least I hope so!

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Graspop 2008 – aftermath

Hans left first from the festival as he had to get down to Charleroi for a flight to Dublin, and wanted to stop in Brussels on his way there. It was great to see him again after so long. I think we should set a rule that we never meet in the same country again!

The rest of us lazed for a while as our bus to Eindhoven wasn’t scheduled until midday. Plenty of time to mop up, finish the scraps of food, the last tins of beer and have a quick wash in the troughs. The campsite looked more like a bombsite. Discarded tents, small fires (and men zipping around on small ATVs putting them out), food flying through the air, corpses… OK, not corpses, but I’m sure the hangover some of them had made them wish they were dead.

Lunchtime approached and we picked out our coach. We had two choices – get off in Eindhoven proper or stay on to the airport. We opted for the former as we had several hours before our flight and the town offered more entertainment than the joys of a small-town airport. For food we joined the ranks in McD’s, mainly as it was easy to pick something, cheap and they’d let us sit there for hours without hassling us.

Dave tried to pick a fight with some juves who were attempting (badly) to vandalise the toilets, but otherwise lunch was uninteresting. We walked about for a bit and noticed that every pub was closed. We had a swift drink at an outdoor cafe in the sun watching some stunning women walking past. I swear, every gorgeous woman in the Netherlands must come from Eindhoven. Oh, and there was a mad man who looked like Santa on an electric trike driving round telling everyone they were going to Hell unless they repented. I refrained from letting his tyres down.

Time came for us to hop on a local bus up to the airport and a short while later we were in a massive queue of scruffy metallers waiting for the RyanAir desk to open.

Oh, and I removed my contact lenses for the last time. Ever. Historical note – my last pair of contacts were disposed of in a small bin next to the ATM in Eindhoven Airport. Well, it means something to me.

The flight back was uneventful with the only spectacular point of note being the complete lack of queue when we arrived at Stansted. A good job as our train tickets only gave us the minimum of time to whizz through. A shame our luggage took an age. Still, we made it onto the train with a minute or two (and I mean just that) before it headed off. Marina had kindly sorted my ticket for me to save me some cash and I jumped off at Cambridge as her and Dave continued on to Ely. Oh, Pete had met his dad off the flight and was getting a lift home. Alright for some.

Colin was there to meet me at the station. As ever, great to see him. The last time was just before I originally left the UK. And he’s not changed. Apart from becoming increasingly bitter about drivers trying to kill cyclists on the roads of Cambridge. He took me to a local burrito shop where they sell what he claims are the best burritos in the UK. I don’t think he’s wrong. I’d be surprised if anyone could top them, frankly. He also, very kindly, paid. Cheers, fella!

After chowing down in the park, watching some foreign kids show off at football, we hopped in a cab to a pub near his place where we met up with Damo for some beer before last orders. Then walked back to Col’s for more beer and a giggle viewing of the excellent film UHF. Monster Munch were chomped on and then bed headed for. A bed. A real bed. Yay!

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Graspop 2008 Day 3

Acoustic rock. Kinda.

The final day. We rose at a reasonable time and realised we were all out of beer. Hans walked off to see early bands while we kept on going on into down to find out that the small supermarket was closed on a Sunday. Argh. Fortunately, there’s another supermarket around a corner which we hadn’t used before. Popping round there, we managed to get the last of the – sadly low-alcohol- tinnies and lugged them back to the campsite.

I managed to miss Lauren Harris for not the first time. Mainly because I’ve heard nothing but scorn poured in her direction. I know her dad’s a rock god, but by all accounts her own band sucks. Besides, beer and food were more important.

I made my way into the festival area in time to catch Apocalyptica coming on and had a good listen. They’re OK, and certainly novel, but not on a par with Hayseed Dixie when it comes to doing covers. Each to their own. After them, I popped into a marquee to see Soilwork with Pete. They put on a great show, but there’s no doubting that their best material was from Stabbing the Drama.

More metal karaoke

As we walked out of the tent to meet everyone else, I saw a familiar face walk past. It was Melanie from the previous day – quite a coincidence as she was only walking past to find her mates. We hooked up again and she kicked around with us for the rest of the day. I guess Brits are more fun than Germans…

Bullet For My Valentine are hard to take seriously in their “We are metaaaalll… from the Valleys” Welsh accents so they were pretty much ignored. We headed back to the campsite to make the most of the beer rather than watch Avenged Sevenfold (I’d eat my own ears rather than listen to A7X) where we discovered that Melanie had much better beer than I’d picked up. Got to love those Germans – they do come in useful at times.

We did head back for At The Gates, In Flames and Arch Enemy. The latter did keep asking for updates on the football as the Euro 2000 final was on, and the lead singer is German. A good job nobody told her they lost…

Of course, the big band of the day was Iron Maiden. They drew the biggest crowd that Graspop has ever seen and justifiably so. Hans even sang along to some of the songs! The stage show was superb, the song choices excellent, the whole buzz of the crowd amazing. With a great mix of songs, predominantly from Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, and Seventh Son along with the obvious classics they rocked for around 2 hours before letting loose an enormous Eddie mummy.

Fancy dress

Show over and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life being sung by tens of thousands of metalheads as they made their shaky ways back to the tents. Partying continued late into the nights, though. Just because the bands were done, didn’t mean that the beer would stop flowing!

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