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Knebworth House in Hertfordshire is a gothic mansion of the Lytton family once lived in by Edward Bulwar Lytton who wrote "the pen is mightier than the sword". The house along with it's gardens is open to the general public for most of the year and frequently holds events such as wood carving exhibitions, car shows and fairs. Courtesy of www.knebworthhouse.comThis all may seem very usual of some larger stately homes now but may surprise you is that once a year is that it lets down it's guard and plays host to the Sonisphere Festival.
****WHAT IS THE SONISPHERE FESTIVAL?****
The Sonisphere festival is a heavy metal/rock music festival which has actually been only going for the last few years. It is held over three days (2011 July 8-11th) and capacity has increased in 2011 to 60,000 people. Now this is pertaining to the English version; Sonisphere festival tours various countries across Europe with slight variations on capacity, line up and length depending on the country and is continuing to evolve. Interestingly this year Sonisphere moved outside the European boarders and took the show to India, perhaps they will develop this further next year to include more world wide countries?
****THE SONISPHERE FESTIVAL ITSELF****
I will come onto travel and accommodation later.
As you approach the entrance there are the usual long queues for ticket / bag checks and wrist band applications. As you get closer the security split you into various sections; camping, non-camping, 3 day ticket holders and day ticket holders etc. Why you may ask? One to get the queues down by secondly to attach you different coloured wrist bands, this says you showing your ticket when you want to go to sectioned areas like the camp site and must be a darn sight easier for staff.
In this area are also toilets - the dreaded portaloo - and trolleys to hire. I wondered why everyone was zipping past so quick with them then noticed the price £10 an hour! (does get cheaper per hour after).
There is a heavy police presence it has to be noted but I didn't see or here of any trouble at the festival; they are outside the arena and security take over inside but there are undercover police in arena and camp sites apparently.
Once through tickets it's a 10-20min walk past campsites to the actual arena - more band checks - then your in!
The site is quite spread out which is good as there are always people going in different directions and not all piling to the one place. This is especially the case for the stages. Please see www.sonisphere.co.uk if you want to see full listings of the bands that played as far to many to mention!
APOLLO - the main stage - this year featuring Metallica, Megadeath, Anthrax, Slayer, Slipknot, Limp Bizit, Motorhead and Biffy Clyro
Admittedly there is a big rush for everyone to see these bands as they are the headliners but the site is adequate for that and provided barriers in a kind of zig zag fashion to prevent the sudden surge forward of fans that has previously led to injuries elsewhere. For this stage there are also big screen either side and two more further back so the shorter of us (myself included) can still see. Generally speaking the views are good unless your stuck behind a screen post. Fully lighted and flashing with band effects or down when the fireworks and piro-techniques come on. Well or castrated by the staff and no malfunctions that I saw. For the disabled there is a raised platform which enables people to see safely and wristband checked.
The headliners did not disappoint Metallica, Megadeath, Anthrax and Slayer are all legends of metal in there own right and to see them individually was superb but when they all played together... fantastic. Slipknot, still on tour and dealing with the death of band member Paul Gray a touching tribute at the end of there show and a two minute silence from the fans. Motorhead - still rocking on Lemmy put on a good show and dedicated a song to stroke suffers as "Wurzel" from the band recently died of a stroke.
SATURN - situated down a slope directly opposite the Apollo stage is the second stage which had bands like Sum 41 (pity they cut your sound off for over running slightly) and Bill Bailey!! The comedian playing to the largest audience he ever has and was fantastic - not everyone could get metal fans dancing to "I've got a brand new combine harvester"! This stage has two raised screens either side. Being on a slope means that you do get a better view even from the back and the view is from a much wider area to this stage.
BOHEMIA - a stage inside a tent, with bands like Sisters of Mercy (there first uk show in 20years). It is quite dark which means you have to slightly more careful where you are stepping as some people sit on the floor waiting for bands, but does allow for better light effects throughout the day rather than just when it gets dark. Another great advantage is that it is dry - there is not much protection from the rain but the tent is manned by security and we only allow so many in at a time. There is also a bar and disabled platform in here too.
JAGERMIESTER - the stage named after a drink and bright orange too. A small stage for new and up coming bands some of which have not yet released an album. Small and compact but I liked the idea you could see new bands and being on a bill with such large bands as metallica must be a thrill for them.
RED BULL - another drink enthused stage with smaller bands, again providing variety and unique opportunities for bands.
So that is the stages there were no clashes (occasional slight over runs) between the Apollo and Saturn, which was good as these provided the bigger bands/acts but with the smaller tents it meant people had options of who to see when.
To know who was playing when you could look before you go and try and remember (never going to happen), buy a lanyard with each days details at the show, download the app!
With each band that I saw I thoroughly enjoyed it, the visibility and sound where very good from each stage and the acts performs were individual and engaged with the crowd brilliantly. Some bands also did live feeds to the web, great for those who couldn't go.
I appreciate everyone has there different favourites mine - Metallica (rock royalty), Slipknot (had us crouching and jumping in the rain) and Arch Enemy (that woman can out rock many men).
So to other bits and pieces -
What can I say they are portaloos - a few more would have been good as after 3 days they are not pleasant - take you own supply of loo roll and hand sanitizer. There is the option of "Pootopia" £2 a go in a cleaned each time toilets block. For men there are the urinal blocks allowing men to pee in the fresh are and frees up some of the cubicles for us girls.
****FOOD AND DRINK****
Very impressive - a extensive range of choice from vegan to steaks and Mexican to Chinese. Another nice option was the tea and toast bar. The main bar the bohemia bar (I think that was what it was called) - not to long a wait and had a reasonable selection of larger, beer, cider and shots; they also did a few activities in here too. Soft drinks widely available at stands.
RECYCLING- 10p a turboug larger cardboard cup if you take then back in good condition - some kid made £100! According to the website charities where coming in after to collect recyables before the litter pickers.
Four I think official t-shirt stands with the sonisphere t-shirts and ones for each band. This was the only thing I was slightly disappointed at as they ran out of ladies ones with the band list on. Reasonable prices though and good selection for bands. Lots of stalls with clothes and apparel.
Ok so down to business! There are a multitude of ticket option so see website for more details and prices are going to be different each year.
My ticket cost £145 for the 3 days not camping. This is a lot but when you break it down against the nig bands you see normally charging £40-£50 a show each it is very reasonable.
Children under 12 go free with adults. Deposit scheme starts earlier in the year for people to secure there ticket and pay later. Option to buy next years tickets now at same price (limited time) but you won't know who the bands are?
Ticket costs depend on whether you are day, three day non-camping, 3 day camping and where you are camping as some upgrades are available (rock royalty).
****TRAVEL AND CAMPING****
Car quite easy virtually straight off the A1M. Coach trips and trains available and shuttle buses from train stations. Parking - I chose to pay £11 pre booked £20 on day for a car park permit. Parking is on grass, you are shown where to park but there are some very big dips so be warned for low spoilers etc.
Camping - I didn't camp. Looked like fun and people seemed to be enjoying themselves. Portaloos provided, food vendors and free drinking water - next to each other!!!! Mini shop and security controlled. Also separate section for family campers.
A fantastic 3 day festival with great bands, food, drink and merriment had by all. Would I recommend it - hell yeah! But perhaps not if you don't like heavy metal.
Review maybe posted on dooyoo and Ciao under the same username
Download Festival which has been staged annually at Donington Park in Leicestershire since 2003 and has predominantly been the only rock and metal festival in England. Since Sonisphere Festivals sprang up on the scene in 2009, they have created a huge rivalry with Download and have also sprang up all over Europe, with 2011 events taking place in countries such as France, Poland, Bulgaria and Spain. This review is from my experience at Sonisphere 2010 here in the UK.
Since 2009 Sonisphere has been held anually on the grounds of Knebworth house, Hertfordshire. It has immediately proved popular with the rock and metal community in the UK, and within it's first two years of existence had already managed to book the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Alice Cooper and Rammstein, the latter whom Download have been trying to book since 2003 and failed each year.
As I was working a lot last summer, I had always intended to go to Sonisphere but never thought I'd end up going. Thankfully I managed to get the time off and travelled down to Hertfordshire from North Wales by myself to meet up and camp with friends I'd met at Download just 6 weeks earlier. Queueing up took surprisingly long in comparison to Download, with us ending up queueing for 2 and a half hours, where as Download it was a case of straight in. Both festivals I had tickets and we turned up at sensible times too, but I'm guessing that was down to it's one and only entrance.
The campsite was relatively large, covering all over a huge field with some other areas hidden behind hillcrests and in dips. It was fairly well layed out, with food and drink vans located throughout, as well as a helpsite in the middle. We managed to camp a minutes walk away from the main arena entrance, and wherever you'd camp you'd never be further than a 15 minute walk away from the entrance. Where as at Download, you'd spend about half an hour walking to the arena from the main entrance alone, let alone finding the way to the main entrance from your camping spot!
The main headliners last year were Rammstein and Iron Maiden, two bands I'd wanted to see for a very long time. In the arena itself there were plenty of food and drink stalls, merchandise stalls, funfair rides, a silent disco and several other little market stalls dotted around. It was more compact than the Download arena but that's because Sonisphere accommodates almost half the number of people Download does.
One big plus that Sonisphere has over Download is that the bands playing times are structured, therefore they don't overlap on the main and second stage when the headliners of both stages are playing, enabling you to see all of your favourite bands who are playing the two main stages. There's a good 5-15 minute break in between each band finishing and playing giving you enough time to walk from one stage to the other, though it's a fair trek from one side of the arena to the other. Be prepared for a mass onslaught of fans if there is a huge band playing!
To conclude I really enjoyed my time at Sonisphere last year and intend on going this year provided I have the money and the time off work. 2011's headliners are Metallica, Biffy Clyro and Slipknot. This will also be the first time the Big 4 (of thrash metal, notorious amongst the metal community) will be playing together in the UK. Tickets are steep at £190.00 but I can assure you it's worth every penny if you want a great friendly atomosphere and enjoy rock and metal music.
When I first heard that there were plans to set up a new Metal-based music festival to rival Download I thought to myself that it couldn't be done.
However, a few months later when Sonisphere Festival announced their first headliners were to be Metallica and Linkin Park, I was forced to eat my words and bought tickets immediately.
A few months down the line after this I was slightly annoyed to discover that the Sonisphere team were now offering ticket bundles, effectively offering free Guitar Hero Metallica games with purchase of tickets. I felt a little betrayed at not receiving this offer despite being one of the first few hundred ticket buyers. However, the Sonisphere team had not forgotten about us and unveiled the Founder Member's Club (FMC). We each got a code which people could input when buying their Sonisphere tickets and we would then move up in the ranks from Bronze to Silver to Gold to Black, depending on how many tickets were bought with our code. Fair enough!
The organisation for this touring festival was phenomenal. In 2009, Sonisphere festivals took place in The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Finland and finally Knebworth House in the UK, the Sonisphere I attended. I cannot BEGIN to come to terms with the logistics of an operation of this scale. The guys who run the festival organisation must be gods.
There were more surprises to come though. As more of the lineup was announced, I became increasingly worried that I was going to have to make some hard decisions about which bands to miss. Sonisphere was to have TWO main stages, both showing such fantastic bands:
SOiL, Skindred, Anthrax, Airbourne, Heaven & Hell, BFMV and Linkin Park on the Saturday and Saxon, Buckcherry, Killing Joke, Mastodon, Lamb of God, Feeder, Machine Head, Limp Bizkit (dont even ask about the whole MH/LB situation), Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Avenged Sevenfold and Metallica on the Sunday.
I mean, how on EARTH was I meant to choose between these bands. But of course, Sonisphere had thought of this likely predicament in the minds of us troubled rockers. The two main stages were set at opposite ends of the main arena field and the stage times were staggered so that the next band began a few minutes after the last band ended, giving you time to run down to the opposite end of the field. INSPIRED!
The alternative entertainment was very successful as well. There was a GH Metallica stage where aspiring game-rockers could be awesome or completely fail in front of a group of extremely drunk people who would dance to anything. Rock kareoke was my personal favourite, with a range of incredible singers covering Metallica or Iron Maiden to one hippie-esque girl who thought it would be a good idea to get up and, I say "sing" in very little sense of the word, Aeroplane by RHCP but basically do the running-man throughout the entire song.
My only criticism was that the Early Bird campsite in which I was camping was literally about a mile's walk from the main arena. But that's it. Oh, and only 2 days of music (although I hear that this year there will be 3 days). However, 5 days of drunken fun and I'm going back VIP camping this year! Cannot wait for Iron Maiden and Rammstein amongst all others.
This year (2010) Sonisphere's tour is expanding as well and will be rocking out in the UK, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Turkey and Spain!
Just go to Sonisphere, you'll see what I'm on about.
The Sonisphere Festival debuted in August of 2009, and really put itself on the map with a weekend of amazing music. I live in Chelmsford normally, and we have the V Festival, but I find it far too middle-ground and middle-class for my tastes, so I travelled to Knebworth for Sonisphere, a Heavy Metal/Rock festival. It was my first festival experience, and one that I will probably never forget. I will surely be trying to go to 2010's festival, too! Here are the bands I saw:
Linkin Park - a very good set mostly but Chester ended up playing some of his side project which seemed a bit cheeky!
Heaven & Hell - was great seeing 3/4 of Black Sabbath!
Anthrax - one of the stand-out acts and they really got the crowd going. They also had their original singer back which was a pleasant surprise!
Alien Ant Farm - they played all of their hits but the singer seemed like he might have been high on something! He also exposed his genitals bemusingly at one point.
Bullet for My Valentine - not typically a fan but they were pretty good.
Bjorn Again - only saw the end of their set but they did an excellent cover of Enter Sandman by Metallica and seemed to be a great cover band!
SOiL - they opened the festival and although not many seemed to know them, I was very much into it!
Coheed & Cambria - they arrived very late meaning I wasn't able to see them as they clashed with a better band. Quite irritating.
Mastodon - again not many people knew them but they were very, very good!
Feeder - a very crowd pleasing performance and they reamed through all of their classics.
Lamb of God - seemed like a great bunch of guys and really got the crowd going.
Machine Head - really roused the crowd up into some insane circle pits. However the lead singer talking about how they came back after pulling out for anything other than a pay raise seemed very disingenous.
Limp Bizkit - again not too many seemed into them but I thought they did a decent job, even if Fred Durst's voice is a bit ropey as usual.
Nine Inch Nails - probably the strangest performance of the whole festival. I was really excited about him but he just played a bunch of minor songs that nobody knew for the most part, which seems strange when it's a festival format. He also left 10 minutes early and got a bunch of crowd heckling for what was frankly quite self-indulgent of him.
Metallica - not only the best of the festival but the best live act I have ever seen, they blew the crowd away with a stunning performance. It was also James Hetfield's birthday and his son came out afterwards and hit him with birthday cake!
Overall I cannot fault this weekend. It has the typical stuff you expect from festivals: idiots with huge flags that obscure the view of people behind them (get a mobile phone if you want to locate your friends!), people throwing cups of urine through the crowd, and generally some annoying fads like people shouting "backscratcher!" all the time, but it also had great music and the camping experience was very fun. Didn't seem to be much ill spiritedness or theft going on, and I found those camping next to me very affable. It was a great two days with mostly good Summer's weather, and I absolutely recommend it to any metalhead. I will hopefully, pending funds, be nabbing tickets for this year!