Live Review: Sonisphere Festival – Day One [Knebworth Park, Stevenage] August 1, 2009

INTRO – AN EPIC REFELECTION! Right… Well, we are a week removed from the epic events that unfolded at Sonisphere. The whole weekend was a lot of effort, from the […]

INTRO – AN EPIC REFELECTION!

Right… Well, we are a week removed from the epic events that unfolded at Sonisphere. The whole weekend was a lot of effort, from the train journey down south to motoring to each tent at great speed just so we could be there catch our favourite acts, but as you might expect it was well worth it. We would just like to say a special thanks to the PR for the festival Outside who really supported us through all – great work guys! Similarly, to all the great bands that we were able to cover – thank you. It’s been a great year for nostalgia in alternative music, and likewise it has been a wonderful year for new and challenging music. This year, we saw some absolutely amazing acts, and we were never disappointed. Hopefully you will enjoy our brief reviews and we hope that reading them will inspire you to check out some of these unique artists. In other news, the festival’s organisers have confirmed Sonisphere will return to Knebworth Park next year. At a press conference on the last day of the festival, the event’s director Stuart Galbraith said, “In year one we are over the moon,” he added that the festival’s atmosphere had been the best he had ever experienced during his 25 years of promotion.

John [Jackson, festival partner] and I have been involved in a variety of roles for different festivals over the years, such as Monsters Of Rock, Ozzfest, and Download Sonisphere has in its inaugural year sold more tickets than any of those events in their first years.”

Things are obviously looking good for the festival’s future and those at the helm are very much looking forward to building from the success of this year. Galbraith concluded, “We had a total attendance of 80,000 over the weekend – and we are looking forward to building on our first year and touring Sonisphere into an annual fixture.”

Good, yah…? Now let’s get on with the messy stuff…

[S]

SONISPHERE

DAY ONE

Alien Ant FarmSOIL [SATURN STAGE]

SOiL are one of the strongest bands to have survived the nu-metal era, and they have come through so much adversity. It’s good to see them here today and fans interact well. There’s a defining strength in the new material from upcoming album including the new track ‘Lesser Man’ which that works neatly alongside the established and popular tracks ‘True Self’ and ‘Halo’ to whip the crowd in to a fine frenzy and in-turn, open the festival up on a sweet and sweaty note. We’re sure the four-piece have made some new fans here today and are ready to make a triumphant return to our shores when they tour with Shinedown later this year.

rating-4

[DS]

ALIEN ANT  FARM [APOLLO STAGE]

Man, it’s been a while! This quirky foursome from Riverside, California made quite an impact a number of years ago over here with that Michael Jackson cover and then with the follow-up single, ‘Movies’. Any pre-conceptions that the band may have been booked just so that they could act as a Jacko tribute were soon dispelled as we are reminded just how valid. and anthemic AAF’s material, (particularly the affecting ‘Courage’) is as the crowd rock out wildly at the front just like it’s… 2001. It has to be re-iterated at this point though that this group is still as nuts as ever and as a consequence during their euphoric performance of ‘Smooth Criminal’ the band break-out some damn-near unforgivable sex face-type poses for us. Maybe you could leave those back in Cali when you come back on tour, eh lads?

rating-4

[DS]

SKINDRED [SATURN STAGE]

Britain’s ultimate Ragga-punk metal outfit explode on to the stage today and unload bucket-loads of energy over the gleeful Skindredaudience. We don’t think that there’s a band on this bill that can work a crowd better. For fan-favourite tracks like, ‘Pressure’, ‘Nobody’ and of course, the anthemic and mosh-ready ‘Bruises’ everybody goes absolutely bonkers, including the band themselves who bounce up and down frantically to create a truly explosive atmosphere. With today’s aural onslaught (featuring nice flashes of true metal, drum and bass and pure raucous punk music) Skindred have firmly cemented themselves as one of modern alt-rock’s finest live bands not just in the UK but internationally as well. You simply MUST catch these guys on their upcoming UK tour.

rating-4

[DS]

Taking Back SundayTAKING BACK SUNDAY [APOLLO STAGE]

Now, we have to hand it to TBS, they are a great live band and this set will surely appease the die-hard fans. It’s complete with a grandiose entrance and songs like ‘You’re So Last Summer’ being poured out at blistering volume along with the group’s standout track, ‘Damn Sure’ turning things up to around 10.5. Unfortunately though, in our opinion while his band seem to be working their asses off, the vocalist Adam Lazzara doesn’t really seem to give too much of a toss despite some effort to interact with the enthusiastic crowd. Their usually invigorating brand of emotionally-charged rock music seems staid and painfully average on this day.

rating-2

[DS]

BJORN AGAIN [SATURN STAGE]

You know, it would be the norm for us to slate this band, and we know that’s what most other online and print mags will do. We’re not going to though. See, Bjorn Again are not and will never be any kind of heavy-rock band and while 70 per cent of today’s crowd sit and look bemused, the rest of us (yes, SPHERE included) are enjoying some seriously delicious cheesy pop in the form of “classics” like ‘Super Trouper’. The defining moment (and one that will almost definitely go down in Sonisphere history) has got to be the band’s Metallica cover of ‘Enter Sandman’. It’s nothing short of wicked, and for a few minutes these guys absolutely rock the frickin’ house. We have to wonder if James Hetfield and co. (who apparently made sure Bjorn Again were on this bill…) are around somewhere to hear and see it. Simply put, it’s pure festival gold. Actually, with the exception of NIN, Killing Joke, Paradise Lost and The Defiled, Bjorn Again are probably the most Industrial thing on this weekend’s bill! Frankly, we can’t wait to see what next year’s festival surprise is. Here’s hoping for the Spicey Girls, eh?

rating-3

[DS]

AnthraxANTHRAX [APOLLO STAGE]

With Anthrax, it’s back to the real f’ing metal baby! With their old singer John Bush back on stage following the departure of Dan Nelson, are really able to make an impact – though, would you expect anything less from the hardcore-metal icons? The standout tune has to be the defiant and solid ‘Bring The Noise’ which receives a riotous response – it really sounds awesome and it sees the band’s legions pumping their fists in the air with reckless abandon. For the first time today the metal crowd seem to really lose themselves. While old-school fans are without a doubt excited to see Bush return to the fold, there will be an abundance of new fans created as a result of today’s education in rebellion. These guys absolutely destroy Sonisphere to the sheer delight of those looking on. Let’s hope Bush sticks around for a bit now then? Really wicked stuff.

rating-4

[DS]

THE USED [SATURN STAGE]

You can feel the vibrations as The Used work their crowd with some old and new tracks. The standout song and one of their biggest hits today was unquestionably ‘Liar, Liar’ which went down a storm with the frenzied crowd. A particularly notable moment came as the band played their new single, ‘Blood On My Hands’ from the forthcoming new album ‘Artwork’ which seemed to go over pretty well as it packed vocalist McCracken’s shrill words in with some awesome drumming, gang vocal-goodness and some seriously haunting guitars. Great stuff.

rating-3

[LC]

TWIN ATLANTIC [BOHEMIA TENT]

This exciting new act create intriguing mix of alt-punk in the vein of Biffy Clyro. Indeed, there’s a touch of that epic-ness to this sound along with Funeral For A Friend’s penchant for a bouncing and energetic rock chorus and some tasty progressive rhythms. Stuff like ‘You’re Turning Into John Wayne’ works really well here today and TA‘s set hooks the attention of people outside and inspires them to take a peek and come in to the respectably full lair. There’s a definite uplifting quality to this music that will certainly carry these boys forward to some great things over the rest of this year and into 2010. Top marks.

rating-4

[DS]

FLOOD OF RED [BOHEMIA TENT]

This band strike us from the off with their At The Drive In-influenced alternative stylings. Tracks like ‘An Hour Away’ wow the dedicated (and particularly packed-out) crowd in attendance while the varied vocals delivered by Jordan Spiers are backed solidly by some exhilarating drum work and classic guitars. With ‘Home Run, 1997’ this lot prove themselves to be more substantial than the average rock or “emo” bands out there at the minute. From the first beats until the very last Flood Of Red rock the roof from off of this tent and put on a proud performance.

rating-4

[DS]

FACT [APOLLO STAGE]

This crazy Japanese fivesome play addictive progressive punk music that finds itself half way between Mad Capsule Markets and Dir En Grey. There’s a heavy-as-hell side to this band but also an undeniably infectious pop sensibility. Unfortunately, on this day the band don’t get the respect that they deserve as they have replaced the much anticipated Coheed And Cambria, who show up late because of a ferry issue. Tracks like ‘Fog’ and ‘A Fact Of Life’ really standout and they impressed at least a few people here today. This lot should be proud – it is our opinion that those ignorant fuc*ers that throw the bottles during this varied and energetic set don’t know how to appreciate new music…so there.

rating-3

[LC]

Coheed And CambriaCOHEED AND CAMBRIA [BOHEMIA TENT]

As usual there’s a massive build-up for Coheed And Cambria – we swear the anticipation actually slapped us in the face. Not least, because fans had rushed over following the announcement that the group had been delayed and as a consequence would have to play later on this very stage instead of their billed place on the Apollo. After a monumental wait the band take to the stage, offer their apologies and launch into their now staple back-catalogue of sing-a-long prog-rock anthems including the massive ‘Welcome Home’ and the trademark powerhouse, ‘A Favour House Atlantic’. It strikes us immediately that this band perform much better within a more intimate setting, and in this smaller space, we certainly appreciate them more than we did when we checked them out last. Some truly breathtaking guitar work gives way to soaring vocals and blasting drums on the track to the delight of the enchanted crowd. These guys always bring it live, and we’ve certainly become better acquainted, thankfully. What a stormer!

rating-4

[DS]

OCEANSIZE [BOHEMIA TENT]

Manchester-based prog-rock mainstays Oceansize are on fine form today and we learn exactly why this five-piece are one of the best, if not the best “death-indie” band to have come out of the UK in the last decade. On the standout tune ‘One Day All This Will Be Yours’, distortion-fed guitars and epic beats rock our brains out while on the beautiful-yet-deadly ‘You Wish’ the group kick the sh** out of our ears with some pure, intense post-hardcore awesome and extra-added brutal breaks. The band utilise grand, skyscraping melodies to achieve a wonderful chaos that is all their own. Today, Oceansize come across like Radiohead with a much larger set of balls. Sounds pretty damn cool, right? Yeah, we think so too!

rating-4

[DS]

HEAVEN AND HELL [APOLLO STAGE]

You can’t deny the sheer quality of Heaven and Hell’s totally epic sound – they have long been synonymous with rock music’s greatest bands. In fact, they are undeniably the Granddaddies of heavy metal. The four legends wow the great crowd with the melodic ‘Bible Black’ and the hard-hitting ‘Die Young’. Each track, as you might expect goes down incredibly well with the crowd and the on-stage atmosphere and setting was even more magical to these eyes.

rating-4

[LC]

LINKIN PARK / DEAD BY SUNRISE [APOLLO STAGE]

The highlight of today for this scribe was Linkin Park’s set, and watching the whole crowd joining in and chanting throughout all of the songs. The band produce a varied set-list from their albums ‘Hybrid Theory,’ ‘Meteora’ and ‘Minutes To Midnight.’ They also run through all of the essential classics including ‘One Step Closer,’ ‘Numb,’ ‘Breaking the Habit’ and their latest hit ‘New Divide’, (which is taken from the fairly decent ‘Transformers 3’ soundtrack, FYI). It’s unfortunate then, that Bennington’s new, more electronically-minded project Dead By Sunrise doesn’t go down quite as well in this setting because although they produce some pretty impressive sounds and really make an effort to step-it-up a gear with some surprisingly heavy and vast material, the crowd simply feels as though they had been cheated out of three Linkin Park songs.

rating-3

[LC]

ROLO TOMASSI [BOHEMIA TENT]

Right from the get-go Sheffield’s noisiest band (probably ever…), launch a massive all-out assault on the senses. Believe us, these guys are quite possibly the maddest group on the planet right now. They break our faces in with blistering chords, nightmare-disco electronics and Eva Spence’s haunting squeals. This is the kind of material you will check out through sheer morbid curiosity, and at times it will scare many fluids right out of you, but then it will also take you on a thrilling ride you will probably never experience anywhere else. That’s why we think that so many people lap it up tonight. Hands clap and bodies fly during every moment of ‘Oh, Hello Ghost’. While it is hard to believe that a great deal of thought goes into these lyrics (though it may, we just don’t know?) it is the unquestionable truth that Rolo Tomassi are one of the North’s hottest acts at the moment and they are certainly one that you must see, just to believe.

rating-3

[DS]

FUCKED UP [BOHEMIA TENT]

The best way to describe Fucked Up to all of you wonderful dark culture lovers is that their sound does exactly what it says on the tin. This group produce an utterly enthralling blend of punk, hardcore and rock music geared towards making you move, shout and pump your fists in the air in time with the chaotic beats. This dear friends, is fightin’ music, and with a catalogue of tracks built specifically to excite and evoke (most notably ‘Police’), it gets very sweaty, very fast for FU’s blistering set. This stuff as you might have guessed it is quite simply punk as fuck and like a fatter and more personable Henry Rollins the band’s lead vocalist Pink Eye is this organised riot’s ring-leader. The band’s die-hard following love every second. Fucked Up are all about making visual chaos appealing and tonight they do a fantastic job.

rating-4

[DS]

THUNDER [BOHEMIA TENT]THUNDER

“This is it” says singer Danny Bowes and indeed, after 20 years, it is. After a strong introduction and atmosphere created by ACDC’s massive ‘Thunderstruck’ the hundreds of fans that are literally rammed into the tent. Within five minutes of the opening tune we feel that this is going to be the ultimate rock show and the band do not disappoint breaking out some of their most essential tracks including ‘Dirty Love’ and the finally, ‘I Love You More Than Rock N’ Roll’. Of course, we are sad that MJ didn’t make it for his last hurrah but man, are we glad Thunder do! The five-piece made some new fans tonight and we are glad that we could be a part of it. If you don’t know who this lot are, we suggest that you give them a try. It’s great to hear the band play ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ and make it sound so fresh and relevant. This will surely be hailed as one of Sonisphere’s greatest moments in the years to come.

rating-4

[DS]

WildheartsTHE WILDHEARTS [BOHEMIA TENT]

A set with the Geordie-punks is the perfect way to end our first day at Sonisphere, and also to keep out of the rain. They start off with crowd favourite ‘Vanilla Radio’ and things only get better from there onward despite some annoying technical problems (with Ginger’s guitar) meaning that the band cannot play their “heavier” material. No matter though, trademark stuff like ‘My Baby Is A Headfuck’ and ‘Suckerpunch’ keep the pace moving and everyone’s fist pumping. The Wildhearts always bring their best and tonight they are on fine form and at Knebworth they really seem to turn it up to a whole new level. It’s certainly going to be one of the festival’s most memorable sets.

rating-4

[DS]

Check out our day two review!

Also check out Helen’s photoblog from both days!

 

* All photos are the property of SPHERE Magazine and may not be distributed or published elsewhere without the consent of this publication.

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