Sonisphere Festival
Knebworth Park
Hertfordshire, UK
July 4-6, 2014

Today we have an installment of OLD England Music Blog. I travelled across the pond to the United Kingdom, where I experienced Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth House.

Disclaimer: I did not have a photo pass for this show, so the pictures are not as high quality as most of our coverage, however I still wanted to bring the story of the festival.



Sonisphere Festivals have been touring Europe since 2009. This was the first year it was held in the UK since 2011, after they cancelled the 2012 edition due to poor planning. This year, Sonisphere UK was a three day festival, with five stages of bands; two main stages (Apollo and Saturn stages) opposing each other across the field, as well as three smaller stages inside of tents across the grounds.

I rolled into the park on late Friday afternoon. Retrieved my wristband, and made my way through the gates. This park is massive! After entering the main gate, you walk through an endless campground. I chose not camp, as it was too expensive to do solo. Were I to go again, in a group of friends, I would certainly give it a shot.

After crossing the campgrounds, you ender the main festival grounds. Immediately as you walk in is one of the tented stages, the Bohemia stage. There weren’t many acts playing Friday that I had specific plans to watch, so I spent a fair amount of time wandering the grounds, getting a lay of the land, and checking out some of the many vendors. There were dozens of booths of vendors in the market, selling all kinds of merchandise. All across the festival were dozens more vendors selling all kinds of food. Throughout the weekend I had a couple of different delicious burritos, pizza pockets, as well as daily stops at the fruit stand for a strawberry-banana smoothie. I was pleased to see how many vegetarian booths there were also.

One section of the grounds had an assortment of carnival rides, which you could ride for a nominal fee. Some of them were rather impressive for being a temporary setup.

The main act I was here to see Friday was Limp Bizkit. The last time Limp Bizkit tried to tour the US, they had to cancel due to poor ticket sales, so to see them as the second slot headliner in the UK is amusing to me. The same can be said about The Prodigy in the headlining spot, but we’ll get to them shortly.

When it was time for their set to start, The Lounge Kittens, a group of three girls who recently had a YouTube hit with their a cappella cover of “Rollin'”, came out to introduce the band, and sing a verse of their version of the song. Fred came out, thanked them, and then “You know what time it really is…” as Limp Bizkit plays their version of the song.

I wasn’t a fan of Limp Bizkit when they first hit it big, but got into them around the time of the Chocolate Starfish album. Lucky for me, their set was heavy on this album. I don’t know that I can necessarily say that they were good, as it’s Limp Bizkit. But they’re certainly a fun show, mostly on a nostalgia level.

Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst

Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst

Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)
Hot Dog
My Generation
Gold Cobra
My Way
Killing in the Name
Take a Look Around
Break Stuff

Friday night Anthrax was playing the complete Among The Living album on the Bohemia stage. I went over to check out some of their set, but the tent was full, so I just listened to a little bit from the outside. I came back to the tent later on to see Electric Wizard, who I’ve heard multiple people say good things about. I found them to be a little too monotonous, reminding me a lot of The Sword, who I’m not a fan of either.

I went back to the main stage to see some of The Prodigy’s set. I heard three or four songs that sounded like “Firestarter,” and then they played “Firestarter.” I’m not a big electronica fan, but they have a great production.

Friday night comes to a close, leaving me very excited for the rest of the weekend!

I awoke to a rainy morning. My ride to the show was running late, resulting in my arrival right as Babymetal finished their set. I was interested in checking them out, and will make sure to do so at Heavy Montreal in August.

As the rain pours on, I worked my way up close for Ghost. As always, they were fantastic. It’s a bummer to see them only get to play a seven song set, but I’ll take what I can get, and look forward to their next headlining tour of the US when they release their next album. While I like their recent cover of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts,” I would have preferred in such a short set if they had kept it to original material.



Year Zero
Con Clavi Con Dio
Prime Mover
Stand by Him
If You Have Ghosts
Monstrance Clock

After their set, Ghost did a signing at the Metal Hammer tent. I took this opportunity to tell them all how much I love the band, and the musicianship that they all bring to it. I had time to actually converse with each member, which was really great.

Unfortunately, I missed checking out The Winery Dogs during this signing. Next up, on the Apollo stage was Anthrax, playing a regular set this time. I’ve seen Anthrax countless times now on festivals, and they’re great at what they do. I caught a little bit of Sebastian Bach on the Bohemia Stage, but the lights and sound in the room were pretty poor, so I didn’t stay for long.

The Lounge Kittens had a full set on the Satellite Stage this afternoon, so I went to check them out. There’s a definite Richard Cheese vibe to what they do, but it’s a lot of fun. (Not to mention they’re much easier on the eyes than Richard Cheese…) Their set included a Prodigy medley, “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson, of course “Rollin'”, as well as several other heavy songs and medleys (and the Backstreet Boys, because, why not?).

It’s a well known fact that Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson has his pilots license. One of the planes he owns is a WWI fighter, and he’s become involved with a group of people who put on WWI display shows with them. As I left the Satellite Stage tent, the WWI dogfight was in progress, with Bruce playing the role of the Red Barron. I’m a fan of air shows, so it was cool to see. After watching videos of the display online, I realize that over by the main stage they had a soundtrack and narration for the display. I do wish I had heard that, but I still enjoyed watching the show.

The Deftones were the Deftones on the Apollo Stage. I caught the end of their set, and then stayed at that stage to get a good spot for Iron Maiden, resulting in missing Slayer’s set on the Saturn Stage.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden

Can I Play with Madness
The Prisoner
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Trooper
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run to the Hills
Wasted Years
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Aces High
The Evil That Men Do

This was the final of the Maiden England tour, of which I caught two shows in the States back in 2012, at the start of the tour. The set was mostly the same, save for 2 or 3 songs they had switched out. But why mess with a good thing? It’s a phenomenal set, though a little too heavy on the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album.

As I was in the UK for the Fourth of July, I didn’t get to see any fireworks. But tonight, on the fifth, Iron Maiden made up for that with tons of pyro. Maiden puts on one of the best shows there is, and they did not disappoint tonight.


The UK Torn

The UK Torn

Right off the bat, Day 3 had a much larger crowd than the rest of the weekend. When I got there, I went to a meet up of the local chapter of the Metallica Fan Club, The UK Torn. They were stationed midway between the Apollo and Saturn stages, so we could watch bits of bands on both stages. I hung out with them for close to two hours, as they were a great group of people, totaling about 30 or so throughout the afternoon.

I’ve seen Airbourne’s name many times, so I decided to check them out. Looking at them, they’re obviously very Metallica influenced. Listening to them, they’re obviously very AC/DC influenced. I’m not really an AC/DC fan, but these guys were good, and had a huge stage presence. At one point, the lead singer/guitar player climbed up the scaffolding at the side of the stage, and proceeded to play a guitar solo from 50 feet in the air!

Following them, over on the Saturn Stage was Reel Big Fish, struggling to keep ska alive. Next was Mastodon on the Apollo Stage, followed by The Dropkick Murphys on Saturn.

Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

As I get further away from New England, when someone asks where I’m from, I just say “near Boston.” Everybody today said “Oh, you must be real excited for the Dropkick Murphys then!” Amazingly, I’d never seen them before, save for a one song appearance with Conan O’Brien. I was amused at their backdrop being a replica of Fenway Park, when I had been at a Red Sox game 5 or 6 days earlier.

Over on the Apollo Stage, next up was Alice in Chains. I was impressed at how much they sounded like the record, especially considering original singer Layne Staley has passed on. It goes to show how much guitar player Jerry Cantrell’s backup vocals were a big part of their sound.

Just as I missed Slayer on Saturday, I missed Dream Theater on Sunday night while camping out for a spot for Metallica. Metallica hit the stage at a 8:15, which seems like such an early time for your headlining act. That, combined with how late the sun goes down in the UK in the summer, led to the sun still being out for at least half of Metallica’s set.

This summer, Metallica is doing a “Metallica By Request” tour. When you buy your ticket, you get a code to vote on what songs you want to hear. Unfortunately, overall it’s resulted in greatest hits heavy shows. There’s been a few good nuggets pulled out here and there, but overall the sets have been pretty routine.

Though I knew what the songs would be going into the show, the order remained a surprise, and even though it was fairly standard, it was actually a really great show. They had a lot of energy, and played a kick-ass 18 song set.

Towards the end of the show, they play the “Vote of the Day.” Throughout the day, you can text in your pick of the bottom 3 songs in the voting ranks. My vote was for “The Four Horsemen,” but ultimately, “And Justice For All” won. Of course I can’t complain about hearing Justice…



Master of Puppets
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Ride the Lightning
The Unforgiven
Lords of Summer
Sad But True
Fade to Black
Creeping Death
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Nothing Else Matters
Enter Sandman

Whiskey in the Jar
…And Justice for All
Seek & Destroy

The biggest highlight of the set for me was “Whiskey in the Jar,” which is a song they haven’t regularly played in years, yet has been voted into almost every set on this tour. They also played a new song, “Lords of Summer.” I’ve been digging the tune, though I think by the time they finish their next album, they’ll have made something better with parts of it, and we won’t actually see this track on it.

I had a great time at Sonisphere. If you get the chance to experience a real European metal festival, I definitely recommend it. Hopefully in the future I’ll see another one!

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