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Success for Sonisphere Festival Knebworth

3rd August 2009 Print
The UK’s debut Sonisphere Festival kicked off on Saturday with Chicago hard-rockers Soil taking the Saturn stage at midday to wake up amassing crowds who had started to pour in an hour earlier.

It didn’t take long for the festival vibe to get into full swing with the first crowd surfer being caught 90 seconds after the first note was struck.

Stand out moments started with Skindred taking the stage to Darth Vader’s Death March to whip up a frenzy in the pit with their hard-hitting raga-punk, teasing the crowds with Bowie’s “Under Pressure” before unleashing their own rip-roaring “Pressure”.

Something that Abba aficionados Bjorn Again were feeling before their first ever Sonisphere appearance. The act understandably was feeling a little nervous about playing to an audience of metal-thirsty rockers. “I never thought we would play in-front of 45,000 head bangers” stated the band. The black-clad Bjorn Again opened with “Waterloo”, winning the crowd over “Gimme Gimme Gimme” before paying tribute to headliners Metallica – who invited the band to perform at the festival – with a cover of “Enter Sandman”.

Legendary US thrashers Anthrax stomped the Apollo stage for one of the most memorable sets in metal history. Reunited with former long-time lead vocalist John Bush for a special one-off performance, the band kicked things off with “You Can Not Kill What Doesn’t Die” before the crowd were literally “Caught In A Mosh” for song number three. The band were having so much fun they ran over their allocated set time by fifteen minutes, treating fans to an encore of “Only”, “Indians” and “Bring The Noise”

Aussie rockers Airbourne blew the Knebworth audience away with a highly energetic set of hard-hitting rock. Living up to their namesake, front man Joel O’Keefe risked life and limb scaling the Saturn stage’s scaffolding in the pouring rain to entertain the crowds from way up high. Twisting his body round the poles, Joel shredded and sang while holding on for dear life, a sight that all who saw will never forget.

Over in Bohemia, a last minute time change saw Coheed & Cambria play an intimate set for the lucky fans who managed to squeeze into the overflowing marquee. After missing their ferry, the band we forced to give up their slot on the Saturn stage over to Japanese mentalists Fact. Claudio Sanchez and co played an electrifying set in the intimate setting of Bohemia, giving the assembled throng a rare chance to see the band up close and personal.

Bullet For My Valentine used their Saturn Stage performance to treat the Sonisphere crowd to previously unheard material. The welsh metallers - who had come direct from their appearance at Germany’s Wacken festival the previous day - road-tested some new songs, as well as throwing in familiar faves such as “Scream Aim Fire”.

Early evening saw a fleet of blacked out vans pulling into the production area, and a strict no-smoking policy enforced in the back stage area, as clean-living headliners Linkin Park arrived on-site. Taking the stage to a chorus of cheers, the Californian sextet dealt out hit after hit as the sun set over Knebworth Park. Frontman Chester Bennington used the Apollo stage appearance to debut his new project “Dead By Sunrise” to UK rockers, who performed as part of Linkin Park’s encore to a rapturous reception, ending the main arena activity on Sonisphere day one.

For those with the energy left to party on, Thunder performed their last ever show in Bohemia, followed by The Wildhearts who kept the noise going till 1 am. 3 am marked the official end of the first day as the party wound down with comedy and the rock and silent discos, but there were still some murmurings of festivities on the campsite until the early hours before the campers declared lights out.

Day two kicked off with Buckcherry lighting up the Apollo stage, waking the masses with a hard rocking sleaze drenched set of good time party rock. Paradise Lost changed the atmosphere over on Saturn with their doomy gloomy gothic metal, before industrial pioneers Killing Joke followed with a pounding set to a rapturous “welcome back” from the assembled throng.

Over on Bohemia, Swedish pop-metallers Dead By April soldiered on without guitarist Johan Olsson who had to pull out of the show due to severe illness. Despite being stripped down to a four-piece, the band played a blinder, winning all in the marquee with hit single “Losing You”.

The biggest surprise of the day came from San-Francisco metalheads Machine Head, who took the Special Guest spot. Despite pulling out of the festival a few weeks ago due to a disagreement over their billing, the mighty Machine Head delighted those amassed in front of Apollo stage with a blisteringly heavy performance, shaking the leaves from the trees with their pounding metal. Frontman Rob Flynn dedicated the set to the fans, bellowing “Sonisphere this is beautiful” and “thank you so f***ing much”.

With the festival still in full swing, director Stuart Galbraith took time out to squeeze in a press conference, declaring his happiness with the weekend’s achievements. “In year one we are over the moon, 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, Ozfest, and Download. Sonisphere has in its inaugural year has sold more tickets than any of those events, in their first years We have 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 in the rock calendar.”

Stuart also further confirmed that the festival will continue and is already planning Sonisphere Knebworth 2010. Although Nine Inch Nails and Metallica are still to play, it’s without doubt that all in attendance will see this as great news and look forward to seeing who will be filling the stages next year.