Are Festivals really worth it? Pt2. (Sonisphere 2014 review.)


As knebworth marked its 40th anniversary, what better way to celebrate than the return of Sonisphere? In this part I’m looking at if Sonisphere can really live up to the price and if it offers just as much for the money?

The obvious comparison to Glastonbury, the week before the week before would be the size. The smaller capacity created a much more compact experience resulting in a strong yet sense of community throughout the festival. A perfect vibe to get sweaty with a bunch of rockers, LETS DO THIS…

On Friday, Limp bizkit came out with the hits and gave everyone what they wanted. If anything this was a genius move by Durst and Co. as I realised I wouldn’t have minded some newer stuff. I mean let’s not get carried away here I just mean “Ready To Go” would have gone down well and the whole main stage bounced to Gold Cobra. Either way, the main stage was nicely warmed up for headliners The Prodigy. Booking legends like this, and prodigy on the same day simply screams “sick day out” and is a huge ticket mover. Defiantly worth emptying your pockets for any lovers of a good time.

Some said that Soni played it a tad safe when announcing The Prodigy as a headline. Mainly due to the similarities they share with the other headliners in the way they have played Download and other major European festivals in recent years. That being said, as soon as they swagger onstage and drop Breathe …. All the mouthing off stopped. Upon reflection The Prodigy are anything but safe. They are a constant ever evolving typhoon of expression. Since the last album in 2009 they have refused to stop touring, dominating the globe with their sound. This meant that this set included 4 pieces of new music, that fit so well into their set they already felt like old classics. Along with an impressive light show, they wore out Knebworth and I for one can’t wait for the new album!

Blues Chaz and Dave blues legends prove the diversity pf the festival as the play the same stage as Carcass. Safe to say a niche crowd turned out, including a crowd surfing bunny during hit tune “Rabbit.” Providing some diversity to the line-up, Chaz and Dave filled a spot nobody would have ever through existed, therefore giving Sonisphere another USP to its bill.

The Dogfight was another unique experience to mark WW1 as Bruce Dickenson himself flew over Knebworth recreating a battle. This was truly a bazar experience showing both how sick Dickenson is as well as the little finishing touches Sonisphere uses to go the extra mile this year.

Folk-Punk freight train, Frank turner takes to the stage and to people unfamiliar with his work, seemed like an outsider. Maybe this is because he played after Anthrax?  Yet as a long time follower of his work he seemed like a great choice as this guy fits in here.  A die hard Maiden fan and a true punk so don’t let his acoustic guitar fool you! Be brought his old time hits and new album tracks all wrapped up on one brilliantly delivered set.  WHO SAID SONISPHERE IS METAL ONLY?

Iron maiden. What is there to be said? They came they set everything on fire and they conquered. They target a HUGE age range and never have a bad show. Always worth your money….

New hardcore super group Kokodil did well to fill out the large Jagermister tent. Members include Radio 1 DJ Dan P Carter and Gallows six stringer Laurent Barnard. Only problem was that due to the band only having a handful of shows under their belts the crowd participation was lacklustre. As for their brand of riff heavy tunes, they run the risk of fading into the background of every other heavy band here at Knebworth. The saving grace comes from Carter himself as his lends his clean vocals to the set thus containing some freshness to their sound. The ability to still find something new is always a great thing at a festival. New and Fresh talent was buzzing through the smaller tents at Knebworth, proving that you’re not just paying for mainstream acts and veterans of the game.

Most impressively was the fact that Laurent then had 10 minutes to get to the opposite end of the arena for his full time job. Punk troubadours Gallows then made an appearance and tore the place apart.  Opening with Outsider Art built up the energy like a highly revved engine, begging for that handbrake to be released. As anthem Misery then followed, it’s safe to say that happened. Now continuing as a four piece following guitarist Steph Carter’s departure (see my full interview with Steph on why he left in the music Colum) it can seem like Gallows are slightly missing something when stood on a stage his big. This is when they drop the new material from upcoming album number 4. “Chains” is accompanied by a female vocal and might be their most epic track to date. Manny spelled the end for a Carter-less Gallows , yet the new material is far from mellow and the emotional outburst that is the live shows is still going strong…. Looks like Gallows are alive and well!

(Also HUGE props to the Soni staff who actually looked happy to catch our sweaty bodies and high fived the crowd. The world needs more people like that!)

How lucky am I? I’m in the small minority of people that got to see two career defining sets from Metallica IN THE SAME WEEK! For the By Request set, I was ready to get what I didn’t at Glasto. As that obviously had to be a diverse “greatest hits” set this is where I could see the band I love in their comfort zone, firmly the insiders. With elaborate stage set up, enough lights and screens to be seen form space Metallica return To Knebworth to deliver something special. From opener Battery to new song Lords of Summer, Metallica displayed a perfect example of why they are so relevant today. Ever developing and maturing yet remaining s as tight as ever. My only quarm is not with band but the fan base.

We should have used By Request to its full advantage and seen lesser known tunes included into the show. Instead, the Enter Sandman’s, and Sad but True’s were thrown in again. I understand we all want to lose our shit to Seek and Destroy, yet we had a great opportunity hear and it was not fully used. However, it was cool to see …and Justice For All played live and I plead interlay guilty to crowd surfing during Whisky in the Jar.

All in All Metallica are hard to beat, legendary status ? Check. The show to prove it? Check. Relentlessly releasing great music? Well is the glimpse of the new stuff combined with the momentum this band have right now… Check Check and Check. Right now we have no choice but to roll with Metallica or get rolled over.

Oh before I forget, one element of nigh time entertainment that needs a mention was the pro wrestling! Taking over the Satellite stage every night, this unorthodox group provided fantastic performance’s every night that kept the drunken vibe at an all-time high… BRAVO!

Overall I hope Sonisphere returns again next year. This rock village lacks the magnitude of Download and for that I fill it benefits. With a blend of seasoned rockers to fresh faced teens, the people at Knebworth create an excellent vibe of community spirit. It thrives of DIY nightlife of people there because they LOVE music. This is a carnival atmosphere where everybody is mates, Knebowrth is a small corner of bliss where judgment is left at the gates and everybody can take a bit of that back with them. For your money, you still get a huge mix bag of a diverse line up, nightlife and extras yet with a bit more comfort then that off a more established festival.

A last word on UK festivals.

When buying your ticket, know what you’re going for to get the best for your money. Experience ALL of Glastonbury cause it’s the mecca of festivals. In terms of Reading and Leeds, it’s a bender with your mates with crazy nightlife and the opportunity to see a pile of diverse acts you love in the same place.

Sonisphere is community (arguably more than download due to its smaller size.) Yet you get a chance to see cult bands and icons along with that carnival atmosphere. Being slightly smaller it was by far the most comfortable I have been at a festival, (less people less mess. Plus the toilets were amazing.) The “it’s just us” feeling is what pumps through the heart of Sonisphere and is what makes the UK festival scene so magical.


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