Sonisphere Festival (2011) [HDTV, 1080i]
MPEG-TS, AVC, 1920 x 1080 (16:9), 16.6 Mbps, 25 fps | AC-3, 6 ch, 384 Kbps, 48 Khz
Hard and Heavy / Metal | 01:30:00 | ~ 11.01 Gb
[QUOTE]- Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slipknot, Opeth, House Of Pain, Sum 41, Cavalera Conspiracy, Mastodon, Motorhead ... -[/QUOTE]
01. Slipknot - Duality
02. Slipknot - Surfacing
03. Opeth - Hex Omega
04. House Of Pain - Jump Around
05. Sum 41 - In Too Deep
06. Cavalera Conspiracy - Roots Bloody Roots
07. Mastodon - Crack The Skye
08. Airborne - ???
09. Motorhead - Get Back In Line
10. Bill Bailey
11. Diamond Head - Am I Evil?
12. Anthrax - Anti Social
13. Megadeth - Holy Wars
14. Slayer - Seasons In The Abyss
15. Metallica - Seek And Destroy
16. Metallica - The Memory Remains
[QUOTE]Sonisphere Festival 2011:
Accusations will always follow Sonisphere festival – usually aimed from those most preposterously pretentious metal fans who frequent supposedly non-mainstream festivals like Bloodstock – that Sonisphere is little more than a sell-out event, aimed at watered-down metal fans of pop-edged bands who have long since let go their grip on creative integrity in favour of the almighty dollar.
But 2011's fest boasted one of the most impressive line-ups rock festivals have seen for a good long while, thanks largely to the promise of the Big Four playing together on one stage in one glorious night, as well as talent from across almost every sub-genre of rock from pop-punk (Weezer, YouMeAtSix), to comedy-tinged re-imaginings (Hayseed Dixie, Richard Cheese) and the bona-fide megastars of Slipknot, Biffy Clyro
And no matter what pigeon-hole those bands might fall into, a festival experience that includes so much breadth, and so much inclusive passion for music in general is a far better one than the incestuous claustrophobia of more self-consciously liminal festivals. So I say long live the touring festival, because what I experienced a couple of weekends ago – despite the rain, the mud and the occasionally moronic wankers – was a magical thing indeed.
So, pull up a camping chair, pop a can of Tuborg and join us as we revisit the highs and lows of Sonisphere 2011.
Friday: The Big Four
A three o’clock start for the bands meant another morning of heavy preparation, mostly out of plastic cups or directly from the can, which numbed the pain of the abysmal weather for a while at least until Diamond Head opened the festival on the Apollo Stage, in a slot that suggests as much about their importance to the formation of Thrash Metal’s elite as it does about Metallica’s personal fondness for the NWOBHM band. Without them, none of this would have been possible – as Lars Ulrich himself proclaimed later – but, this is no mere ceremonial inclusion, as the band ploughed through song after song, sounding better and more energetic than Megadeth for the most part, and rousing the crowd perfectly with the day’s first appearance of iconic track “Am I Evil?”
Without much of a pause, we were into Anthrax, the start-line proper for the Big Four event, and a fitting beginning, thanks to a focus on the 80s heyday material that reminds the gathered mega-crowd of their thrash metal royalty status in sublime fashion. The band – and Joey Belladonna in particular are in barn-storming form, despite the absence of talisman Scott Ian who is usually such a focal point, but who was necessarily otherwise detained by the birth of his first child with wife Pearl Aday, and proved a standard-setting opening for the historic reunion.
Next up came Megadeth, who I personally would have put in the opening slot, because following an amped-up Anthrax was always going to be a Herculean task for a band who can blow hot and cold within the space of one gig. But, despite not being a fan, I was eventually silenced by Megadeth’s technical prowess and Dave Mustaine‘s undeniable presence (even if I always feel he could step up his animation a little more to suit his reputation). What puts me off about them is usually Mustaine’s vocals, which are usually the problem when things go wrong, but he offered a pretty strong showing that will probably be unfairly forgotten thanks to being sandwiched between two superior showings from Anthrax and the ever-blistering Slayer.
And third out of four they came – fan favourites, and the pick of the three acts so far by some distance, Slayer don’t know how to play a reserved gig. Their manifesto is coronary-bursting, bone-shattering brutality, even if their lead singer has just got over massive surgery and can’t quite head-bang the way he used to, and they didn’t disappoint, turning heads with their energy and stage-presence like few other bands can muster.
Others may argue, but it was always going to be about Metallica, and the heavy-weights didn’t disappoint at all, swaggering through an extended, pyrotechnic-punctuated set; the air pregnant with insistent helicopter drumbeats, cut with screeching jaguar-snarl guitars to distract from the earlier rain. And as ever, they had the crowd on their side, the response buoyed by the familiarity of so many songs, and the band’s decision to stick to largely pre-1990 material. That decision might have pissed off more modern fans, but it knitted them closer to the Big Four spirit when many might have expected them to consciously set themselves apart.
One thing the band can never be accused of is laziness – they know, after years of successful tours, exactly how to play to a crowd, to make the sweating, heaving mass before them feel part of the experience beyond merely observing. It’s for good reason they repeatedly called out the Metallica Family, because even those who were there for other bands – the hugely vocal, occasionally sneering Slayer fans who feel their bands position in the Big Four hierarchy belies their importance for instance – are quickly enveloped in.
The moment that many (okay, maybe all) were waiting for arrived when Metallica were joined on stage by members of the other three bands, plus Diamond Head founder Brian Tatler (and fill-ins Andreas Kisser of Sepultura and Gary Holt of Exodus). Unsurprisingly, the invasion was met with roars from the crowd, which swelled when Mustaine and James Hetfield embraced enthusiastically (cynics might call it no more than showmanship of course), and which peaked during the Big Four Collective’s version of “Am I Evil?” This was what we all signed up for, and it didn’t disappoint – the footage of that song from the rest of the tour is already highly viewed, but it in no way devalues the experience, nor the bragging rights of being present at one of the historical moments of Heavy Metal.
If Metallica brought the house down, it was left to a far less auspicious talent to pick it up. And in the shape of Hayseed Dixie, the festival organisers found the perfect antidote to the occasional and wholly acceptable self-important, po-faced grandeur of Metallica, who not only picked the house back up, but also dusted it off and handed it an over-flowing jug of the finest moonshine.
The boys in dungarees who sing about ale, women, and ale blew the lid off the packed tent in their late-night slot (a feature of Sonisphere I love), introducing some of their own material – the beautifully odd love-song “Keeping Your Poop in a Jar” – with classic covers that got everyone singing back in response between bouts of chaotic, and obviously drunken barn-dancing. My own personal highlights were the ridiculously impressive version of “Duelling Banjos” and a spine-tingling re-imagining of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And for anyone who dismisses the band as no more than a comedy act, I’d urge you to reconsider, or at least go and see them live – their technical prowess is unbelievable and their on-stage enthusiasm breeds a massive, warm reaction from all audiences I’ve so far seen them gather.
Saturday: Biffy Clyro
In comparison to the night before, Saturday’s line-up was something of a commercial venture – but unlike those accusing sorts, I won’t say the line-up suffered as a result. Far from it in fact, as it was great to see radio-friendly acts like Sum 41, YouMeAtSix, All Time Low, Weezer and the mighty Biffy Clyro enjoying the opportunity to show their stuff alongside heavier, more fan-driven acts. Sadly, not everyone felt the same way, and the arena felt a damn-sight quieter than the night before, and there’s only so much of that you can blame on the rain. Which is a huge shame, as it meant comparatively few people were present for the hilarious re-arrangements of Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine, who surprised and delighted in equal measure in their early slot.
The pick of the early day’s more poppy bunch were Sum 41, who we caught the final few songs of (and in all honesty that’s the only ones I’d have wanted to see anyway), thanks to missing out on seeing Steve-O‘s debut set in the Bohemia tent, as originally intended, who captured a massive crowd and did manfully well to entertain every last one of them. Aside from them Weezer stuck out a mile, reeling out their classics (old and new), as well as offering two outstanding covers in the shape of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” and a flawless version of Radio Head’s excellent “Paranoid Android”. They would perhaps have been better suited to a Leeds/Reading near-top-bill slot, but the crowd were obviously game and the set went down a storm.
Not everyone did so well – I have to say I’m a sometime fan of YouMeAtSix: I find their particular brand of British poppy “punk” to be quietly entertaining – but this is the second time I’ve seen them play a festival that perhaps didn’t suit their more tender sensibilities and the second time I’ve watched front man Josh Franceschi foolishly try and whip up the crowd into some mosh-filled maelstrom. Which would be a lot easier if he wasn’t fronting YouMeAtSix and facing a growling mass of metallers who think he’s a petulant clown. At one point I thought he was going to stamp his foot and swan off stage because he wasn’t getting his own way, but at the end of the day a front-man should know his audience, and his place. And sometimes they should just shut the fuck up and accept that they aren’t a world-beating heavy metal band.
Between the radio-friendly stuff, and in the oddest of all the line-up decisions were Cavalera Conspiracy, given a mere thirty five minute set that defied their status and their subsequent performance, and Gallows, playing their last gig with erstwhile flame-haired frontman Frank Carter who’s now left for pastures new. Both formed heavy punctuations to the rest of play, and both brought generous responses from the crowd, particularly Gallows, whose circle-pit baiting almost threatened to engulf the entire (impressively massive) audience. And while Carter’s announcement, and his odd decision to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of his new band Pure Love (fucking awful name that) could have derailed the whole affair, the band responded defiantly, playing one of the best gigs of their careers.
Saturday was about one band and one band only for me – Biffy Clyro – the reason I bought my ticket. This was the seventh time I’ve seen the Kilmarnock boys live, and the seventh time I’ve been blown away by their live show and generally huge talent. They might not quite subscribe to the opinion (Simon was particularly humble in his thanks for being accepted at a metal festival) but the band pack an unbelievably heavy punch that is far more visible in earlier material, but still adds a steel-toed kick to even their most radio-friendly newer material.
Every time I see Biffy, they match their impeccably staged sound with a visual show that would put most to shame, and it was only the presence of Metallica on the day before’s bill that meant they didn’t walk away with best light and pyrotechnic show, which is some achievement. The addition of smoke filled bubbles to an immaculate “Bubbles” was a particularly charming touch.
If I had one criticism, I’d suggest the set-list was a little uneven, with three early “slow” songs in a row sending an audible wave of unease through my section of the crowd, before later choices had even the most vociferously anti-Biffy fans (and there were some vocal ones dotted around – who had particular fun with their Matt Cardle jokes) admitting their conversion to the band’s army of fans. But it’s a small matter, and one that is more about the expectations of others at the festival than my own, as I can safely proclaim to be a fan of their material across the broad spectrum that it plays.
Mon the biff!
Another day, another soggy wash-out, with the promising early sunshine that left a fair few pink faces around the fields making way for biblical torrents in the late afternoon.
The day’s line-up again was something of a mixed bag, meshing the technical insanity of Mastodon (which they actually toned down in favour of more generally crowd-pleasing fare) and Slipknot, the old school teeth-rattling heavy metal of Motorhead, the tub-thumping ACDC apeing of Airbourne, the rap infused Americana of Limp Bizkit and the madcap surrealism of a comedy set by the wonderful Bill Bailey.
Each act’s show fit their reputation – though Mastodon did resist the urge to bring out their more complex material, and Motorhead were somewhat muted to begin with after announcing the death of former guitarist Wurzel the day before, but both got into their strides quickly and blew any cobwebs away mercilessly. Airbourne meanwhile once again advanced their own reputation as one of the most energetic (and slightly insane) live bands currently on the tour circuit, with leading man Joel O’Keefe again showing off his Fathers For Justice skills and climbing to the top of the second stage to belt out some riff-heavy metal goodness to a wave of horned hands below. These Antipodean wonders certainly know how to rouse an audience, playing the kind of material that it’s impossible not to want to join in on, even if it’s not wholly familiar – it’s just that infectious.
Aside from that little lot, the main stages line-up was made-up of an eclectic mix including Volbeat, House of Pain (still trading on that one song), In Flames, Black Tide (universally panned by all I spoke to), Opeth and the angry boys of Parkway Drive, all of whom I missed, with only the latter registering as a disappointing miss (I was upside down in the camping field at that point).
But then there was Limp Bizkit, who I did see (for the second year in a row following last year’s Welcome Back apperance at Download), an opportunity most other fans won’t get this year thanks to their limited appearances. They’re definitely not a current band at all, and their act is firmly rooted in their 2002 heyday, but like Motorhead, Fred Durst and the boys don’t feel the need to adapt to survive, nor will they ever pay any notice to critics other than to flick them a casual, menacing middle digit. And based on the amount of fans and casual watchers visibly singing along to Faith and air-wheeling their way through Rollin’ the band can still infect an audience with their own brand of nu-metal, even long after the genre went belly up.
Despite Limp Bizkit’s refusal to acknowledge his existence, Bill Bailey was on fine form, relying mostly on his musical based comedy to fit the spirit of the big stages, and while the majority of the material was drawn from previous and current tours (all of which I have seen), the fine-tuning of certain bits and the majesty of the event made for a brilliant set. The comedian’s rendition of “Scarborough Fair” in the style of Rammstein, his familiar (though rearranged) techno parody of the BBC News theme and in particular his car-horn based version of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” drew the biggest response from a willing, but drenched crowd (the largest for a comedy set in history apparently). Fair play to him, he tailored the material well, and was able to brush aside the considerable obstacle of the gig’s sheer size with admirable ease – what price now on other comedy acts following suite and venturing out from the tents onto the bigger stages in future?
Even from the earliest hours of the day, it was obvious that there was definitely something going on, and a cursory glance around confirmed that as many people who had turned up to see the historic appearance of the Big Four had turned up to see Slipknot‘s tribute to sadly departed bassist and founding member Paul “The Pig” Gray. Corey Taylor, the charismatic, huge-necked had already dedicated the band’s European schedule to Gray and heartily encouraged fans to get into the spirit and make it a special event. And the fans turned up in their boiler-suited droves, buoyed no doubt by YouTube footage of the band’s high-octane appearances at other European legs of the Sonisphere tour, to pay their own respects.
But for me, Slipknot was never the biggest draw of the day (that accolade went to the delightful Bailey). There is something about the band that I just don’t fully invest in, and though I admire the technical ability involved, and can pick out a number of songs from the back catalogue that I enjoy as much as the most ardent of fans, I would never class myself as an out and out fan. Which is why I took the decision, propelled considerably by the miserable weather I might add to leave as the first bars of opener cut through the air and miss the traffic. Very unrock and roll of me, I know, but the advantage of festivals is that you can pick and choose which acts to see and which to swerve, and the draw of the homeward journey overbalanced my desire to get even more wet.
Every year I come to a festival intent on experiencing the off-big-stage experience, and yet aside from a few exceptions I once again failed miserably, with exceptional reviews for Periphery, Lower Than Atlantic, Killing Joke, Hammer of the Gods and Cerebral Ballzy making a mockery of my decision. But then, there’s always next year. I just have to make sure I don’t drink so much…
This year’s Sonisphere was my first, thanks to my resistance for the two years previous in favour of the familiarity of Download, but I can say assuredly that if I get my own way I’ll be landing on both festivals every year for the foreseeable future. Sell out or no sell out.