Sonisphere UK, 2011… How it went down…

This is a GUEST BLOG by MADMan.

There are certain times in your life that you don’t mind being called a bastard. I experienced one of these times last week when telling my mates that I’d won Rock Royalty tickets to this year’s Sonisphere festival. The added bonus for me, which not everyone appreciated, was that the win included a meet and greet with Limp Bizkit.

Being as my homie Petrovski is a fan of the Bizkit, plus it was his birthday, he was the lucky recipient of ticket two. He couldn’t get the day off work but after some strategic truth realignment we were on the road and aiming for as much of the Big 4 as possible.

Tent erected (stop sniggering at the back) we hit the main arena. Unfortunately, traffic fuckaboutery and confusing contraflow meant we’d missed Anthrax and Megadeth but as Slayer pounded their way through a blistering set and the beers flowed steadily down our gullets, it didn’t seem to matter. Finishing with Raining Blood and Angel of Death, Slayer played a blinder. But then it was time for the main event and as soon as the Ecstasy of Gold started wafting over the PA the crowd were off.

There have been a few twinges around the music press about Metallica being a bit static and unengaged but clearly the people saying this need their genitals nailed to a moving train. The setlist was:

Hit the Lights
Master of Puppets
The Shortest Straw
Seek and Destroy
Ride the Lightning
The Memory Remains
All Nightmare Long
Sad But True
The Call of Ktulu
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Fade to Black
Enter Sandman

Pretty much as good as it gets? Oh no. Not yet. As with their recent Big 4 appearances, Metallica were then joined on stage by Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and members of Diamond Head for Am I Evil. Never has a moment been so metal. I assumed the world would implode. Once 60,000 people had finished going mental Metallica chucked Battery and Creeping Death at us and buggered off. Petrovski and I proceeded to drink a million beers, eat some crisps, and bivvy down for the night.

Saturday morning brought with it a stunning hangover, an expensive sausage and egg baguette and a rather pleasant shit in the Rock Royalty cans. With the weather threatening rain, we headed down to the Apollo stage for Sylosis, who’s energy for 11:00 was extraordinary and a significant crowd got involved. Beers in hand we wandered across to the opposite Saturn stage for Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine. Having spent the last few years recording lounge music versions of modern pop and metal songs, Mr. Cheese has built up a bit of a cult following and as such, the numbers witnessing his versions of Limp Bizkit’s Nookie, Disturbed’s The Sickness, Black Eyed Pea’s Boom Boom Pow and Weezer’s Buddy Holly were huge. It was nonstop laughs and a thoroughly excellent addition to the lineup.

Architects followed with a blistering set that lead nicely into Gallows. The day after Sonisphere, Gallows frontman Frank Carter revealed he would be leaving the band, which came as a huge shock considering the passion and balls out punk rock fury of his delivery on stage. Carter remains one of UK punk’s most compelling front men and despite Gallows continuing without him, it will be his new band Pure Love that will get my attentions.

It’s not a heavy metal festival without Max Cavalera appearing in some guise. Cavalera Conspiracy brought a refreshing simple slab of chugging metal to the site with Refuse/Resist and Inflikted involving major crowd singalongs. He may look like a stinking cider tramp but Cavalera knows how to work a crowd, particularly with the inevitable inclusion of Sepultura’s anthem Roots. My only criticism was that Igor Cavalera’s snare sounded like someone hitting a bucket with a tennis racket but you can’t have everything I suppose.

With the onset of a) pissing rain and b) Kids in Glass Houses it was time to meander back to Rock Royalty for an expensive beer, some shelter and another sausage baguette. The VIP area was a pretty opulent area for a festival. It even had, in some instances, seats. After another marvellously clean bog experience, we headed back to the tent for more provisions. In true male preparatory style we’d packed 15 cans of beer, 24 bags of crisps, 12 sausage rolls and a bag of dry roasted peanuts (important roughage).

Despite the brutal downpour which started to assault the tent, I waterproofed myself up and headed out into the elements as there was no way on Satan’s green Earth that I was missing Bad Religion. The funniest thing about these punk legends is the fact that they are old. It’s difficult to imagine that the balding, polo shirt-wearing blokes on stage were the force behind Voice of God is Government and We’re Only Gonna Die but by the time they’d pulled out 21st Century Digital Boy and Fuck Armageddon…This is Hell their credentials could never be denied. Bad Religion are one of the bands that I started listening too in my yoof with the rest of the Fat Wreck/Epitaph bands so to finally see them in the flesh was a pretty immense experience.

After another tent/beer/sausage-based product intake the sun found it’s way through and with the promise of Paradise Lost and The Sisters of Mercy on the way, we headed down to the Jagermeister stage for Rival Sons. A somewhat erroneous addition to the traditionally brutal Earache Records roster, this quartet sound like a modern day Led Zeppelin, with frontman Jay Buchanan commanding the stage as I would imagine Robert Plant did back in the day. Their blues-tinged rock and roll was absolutely spot on and is vying for a top five slot in terms of performances for the festival.

Saturday started to go a bit wrong after that. As we descended upon the Bohemia stage, which is in a tent, we came across belligerent security guards and metal barriers. Seemingly Gojira had caused such a surge in the crowd that barriers were put in place and in their infinite wisdom, the crowd control staff decided that the tent shouldn’t be more than half full for the rest of the night. As a result, we stood in the drizzle for about twenty minutes listening to Paradise Lost before fucking it off completely and heading back to the tent. Saturday came to an inglorious end. In hindsight we should have headed to the Bedroom Jam stage for Watain but the buzzkill of Paradise Lost coupled with the turgid monotony of Weezer and Biffy Clyro headlining the Apollo stage meant we were better off smashing a few cans at the tent and waiting for Sunday whilst discussing pertinent questions such as who would win in a fight between Bruno Brooks and Keith Chegwin.

Dawn broke, as did a great deal of wind thanks to a heroic intake of sausage rolls, and wellington boots were donned. Petrovski also made a sneaky dash to Asda for 24 cans of lager as we’d spent the national debt of Ethiopia on Tuborg over the last 36 hours and were feeling the festival pinch. So with cans in pockets and underpants we strolled into the main arena, unable to avoid the hellish aroma of a broken Rock Royalty toilet block but happy nonetheless. Opening the proceedings was Volbeat, who got a chunky crowd and despite covering Raining Blood with the wrong notes kicked the day off a storm.

Arch Enemy then took the stage and the bizarrely sexy Angela Gossow unleashed her epic lungs upon us (stop it). I’ve never seen Arch Enemy play a bad set. Michael Amott’s guitar pedigree is unrivalled and their delivery is bordering on perfect every time. As I Will Live Again cascaded across the field and we were planning to head over to the Jagermeister stage for hardcore outfit Feed The Rhino I received a call from Steph van Spronsen of The Noise Cartel informing me that the meet and greet with Limp Bizkit would take place at 14:45. I won’t lie, I did a bit of a shit. Stop pretending you don’t sing along with Rollin’ whenever it comes on. I had also told my pal The Red Wizard I would film Fred Durst telling him to fuck off (there’s a long history of hatred there) but knew this would be unlikely to come to light.

So back to the tent for a few more cans and some revision on who the fuck the bassist was in Limp Bizkit and off we went a-wandering. Steph met us and walked us into the band area which couldn’t have been more different from the place us proles were used to; clean, quiet, cheap beer, free tattoos, and Joel O’Keefe from Airbourne walking frantically in every direction with no obvious purpose. Durst’s PR met us and explained he was tired and feeling unwell; at this point I was expecting him to live up to his “being a dick” hype. However, we wandered over, shook hands, and just had a bit of a chat (which apparently was filmed by Scuzz TV, so if you see Durst with a fat bloke in a white vest and an Agnostic Front baseball cap on telly do let me know). He told us how happy he was to be touring with Slipknot again, we spoke about the tragic loss of Paul Gray. He also kindly offered to buy me a blowjob as part of the prize win, which I declined as, although generous, I suspected Hot Chick wouldn’t be too pleased. He then offered to fly her in by helicopter but alas, the logistics were just horrendous.

Having bumped into the hugely pleasant Mikael Akerfeldt and stood a bit startstruck as a sweaty Arch Enemy walked past, we were ushered back to the main arena, where a series of odd events resulted in my giving the manager of Exit Ten my stock of festival Immodium. But still, we’d met the Durst, we were buzzing (legally) so decided to enjoy a bit of Motorhead. The sad death of original Motorhead bassist Wurzel the day before was a shock to the crowd but it meant that Lemmy and the boys delivered a spot on, emotionally-charged set of songs that spanned 35-odd years.

More rain, more beers, and bin bags fashioned into dresses as the afternoon progressed and before long, Limp Bizkit took the stage and tore it up. The set was everything a fan would have wanted, i.e 90% Chocolate Starfish, plus Break Stuff. The only track from latest album Golden Cobra that they played was Douchebag, which features the eloquent chorus:

“Douchebag, I’mma fuck you up
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you up”

A searing critique of cultural oppression, I’m sure you’ll agree. But fuck it; it’s Limp Bizkit. Unless you’ve stood with 30,000 people during My Generation, Take a Look Around, Rollin, and all the other songs you all know, you really can’t say you hate them. To go all Durst on yo’ ass, that shit is fuckin’ infectious bro.

Bill Bailey followed Bizkit with his absolutely spot-on comedy. From Rammstein to The Wurzels, he was hugely entertaining. But we didn’t come here for comedy; Sunday was all about Slipknot. Their first UK show since the death of Paul Gray was second to, if not on a par with the Big 4 in terms of anticipation. There were Slipknot shirts everywhere on people of all ages and despite the onset of the shitting rain, the crowd was immense.

Opening with the traditional 742617000027 and blasting straight into (sic), Slipknot weren’t there to piss about. Drawing on over a decade of material, they fused new and old as my personal fave Disasterpiece led into Psychosocial before steaming through The Heretic Anthem and Duality. The lack of Paul Gray hasn’t effected the sheer intensity of Slipknot’s live performance and as Corey Taylor said, this was a celebration and not a commiseration. Earlier in the day there had been a two-minute silence across the whole site; all the fairground rides shut down and 60,000 people stood facing the stage in memory of the fallen Number 2. Taylor commended the crowd for their respect and tells us it was a truly wonderful thing to see.

There is of course one main reason why Slipknot are so brilliant live and as the main set draws to a close, we’re told it’s time to “SPIT! IT! OUT!”. Most of the crowd know what happens next. Despite the mud, down we sit, and as the song kicks back in, up the fuck we jump. Wonderful stuff.

Coming back on with People = Shit and Surfacing, a giant “2” dominates the backdrop and Gray’s boilersuit and mask are brought to the front of the stage. It all comes to an end and it’s been a hugely emotional experience for the ‘Knot but they couldn’t have been on better form.

The music, and indeed the festival, had finished. As the rain continued to pour we headed back to the tent to evaluate the weekend we’d just experienced – the bands, the beers, the toilets, the food, the awesome fat ginger bloke in an army helmet – and there was only really one question on our minds; how the fuck are we going to win Rock Royalty tickets for Sonisphere 2012?

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