A couple of days and a couple of hangovers had passed since the weekends festivities, Watching the boxing, watching the Cavalera Brothers, and it was now time to head down south to sunny Stevenage. Home to Knebworth House. Home to Sonisphere 2011.
I’d been pretty much packed from Saturday having sent my bag down with Jim due to a severe lack of car space in the Astra, yet still when Wednesday night rolled around I still felt completely unprepared. Tent – check, sleeping bags – check, torch – in wrong bag, but check, pillow – check, food – check, tickets – check. Gravy. Let’s go.
We swooped down to London (Enfield to be precise) on the Wednesday evening so we could meet up with the fourth member of out travelling crew and to get a lie-in in the morning. Unfortunately, there was naff all on the telly, so we were forced to sit through American Pie. Sleep could not come quick enough! …and it really didn’t! The couch wasn’t comfortable.
Anyways, the following morning our initial 4-man posse was complete. We grabbed some breakfast from Tesco, a few last-minute bits n bobs then rammed the car full of stuff and headed on our merry way. A swift 30 minute journey later and TA-DAAAAAAA. We were at Sonisphere.
Only a short stroll from the car to the gate this year, and given that we were 3 hours early, we were near the front of the queue. We did the only thing we could do with 3 hours to spare. We cracked open the first of many tinnies! Fatal flaw, I took a swig of some rather oddly flavoured Absinthe that I’d got on holiday many years ago. It was minging. Made me feel instantly sick and made me feel sick again with every Absinthe flavoured burp for the next 6 hours. Mark, on the other hand, hammered down a whole miniature of the stuff. This was the beginning of the end for him!
2 hours later and they opened the gates. Yup, opened ‘em early. No wonder we usually get a shit spot! Not today though, we pretty much had our pick of the field. We grabbed a spot near where we were last year (only there was a tree there this year which I didn’t remember) and proceeded to pitch TEN EFFING TENTS!! That’s right, of our 11 man party only 4 of us were able to get there early enough to get a decent spot. So we had to carry everyone’s tent down with us! Between 3 of us, we got 9 done while mark fought to the death with his.
And there we sat and drank, under the mixed bag of clouds and blazing sun! Mark had developed a knack of managing to divert the rainclouds away using positive thoughts! Shame he spent most of Saturday in his tent sleeping while it was thrashing it down outside!
We drank onwards until it was dark, then sparked up the barbie. It was at this glorious moment that Jim decided to arrive, so after burger number 1, myself and Ross had to go find him. He had our bags. Jim claimed he was at the main entrance, so out the gates to the main entrance we jogged… only for him to tell us he was at a different entrance! GRRRR!
Having pretty much done a lap of the entire campsite and arena, we found him and marched back to the tents to find a dead barbeque. Nice. So we carried on drinking ‘til it was time for a kip.
Friday: The Big Four Day.
Woke up bright and early (as per usual at festivals), so geekily, I read a few chapters of my book ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ by Seb Hunter (Metalheads, read this book. It’s class). Then proceeded to head out, make a brew and start on breakfast (bag of crisps and an apple) then hit the cider. The remaining 6 members of our group were due to arrive throughout the morn, so we whiled away the hours laughing at all the usual festival weirdos and the bunch of idiots that had camped next to us… and Mark, who’d gone on some mad sleepwalking adventure.
Everyone had now arrived, sorted out their stuff and been formally introduced. Time to go watch some bands then. We were not really bothered about Diamond Head so used the time to down a few more cans. Most of us using the standard from-the-can method, Adam using the beer-bong method.
We stomped into the arena ready for the first band of the day (that we wanted to watch). It was the first of the Big Four – Anthrax. Now, I’m not the greatest Anthrax follower in the world, but they were pretty good. Watched them at Soni last year too. I’d noticed that the gleaming scalp of Scott Ian was missing from the ‘Thrax line up and I was told he was away (for reasons I forget. Wife had a baby, maybe?), but didn’t know who’d replaced him until about half way through their set, when I heard a familiar accent talking. As I turned and said: “is that Andreas Kisser up there…” They blazed into the intro to Sepultura’s ‘Refuse/Resist’. So yeah, it was. Also, pretty sure it wasn’t gonna be the last time I heard that song this weekend!
Next up was the band that I’d been banging on about for some time. Megadeth. Right, there’s been this running joke with our group for a while about how MegaDave Mustaine finishes the set. I have a CD of them performing a song, and at the end he says “you’ve been great, we’ve been Megadeth” in his croaky voice and it cracks me up every time I hear it. Last year at Download, even though we’d been building it up all day, we weren’t expecting to hear him actually say it, so myself and Jodz (massive Megadeth fan) casually chatted at the end of the ‘Deth’s set…. And he said it!! And everyone else apart from me and him heard it! Gutted.
This year though, we stood our ground, and after a blistering set of tunes including Hangar 18, Peace Sells, A Toute Le Monde, Sweating Bullets and more, we were silently waiting… and irritating Jodz about it through the medium of text! There was a moment where it was all over and it wasn’t heard. We remained disappointed. Then big Dave walked to the mic… “YOU’VE BEEN GREAT……… WE’VE BEEN MEGADETH”.
…and my weekend was complete!
Next up was Slayer. Now, in regards to Slayer I had to make a tough decision. I decided not to watch them. Given my plan of festival times, I’d worked out that by missing Slayer I could infact watch The Black Dahlia Murder, Black Breath and Protest the Hero if I ran about quick enough. So we did.
We nipped into the Bohemia tent and caught 20 minutes of Black Dahlia Murder’s set and it was cool, sound aside. Sound in tents is always a bit shit. Then we headed over to the Jagermeister stage in time to watch Black Breath. Now these guys were feckin amazing. The sound was raw and full of that filthy Scandinavian guitar groove that Entombed made famous. Enjoyed every minute of these guys, even with some bass issues, and when you’re at the Jager stage, you’re really close to the action too!
After they’d finished, we headed over to another tent (forgotten the name of this one) to watch Protest the Hero. They’re on the list of bands I’ve ignored in the past only to come to like. We got to the tent and it was rammed. They weren’t letting anyone in. So we hovered for a bit to hear ‘em start, but it sounded crap from outside, so we wandered towards the main stage to wait for Metallica. Fortunately, Slayer were still on and we managed to catch the last few songs of their set. RAINING BLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!
Food and a beer later and we were waiting on Metallica. They came out, all guns blazing and nailed a stormer of a set. It was not necessarily a greatest hits performance but a career spanning showcase of skills and songs form their illustrious 30 year history. NO, I’m not a fan of the new stuff so was grateful they only played ‘All Nightmare Long’ but they did, for some unknown reason, throw into the set ‘The Memory Remains’. Not exactly their finest four, but to be fair, it got a massive sing/chant along going. Me included!. They played all the usual faves, Enter Sandman, Master of Puppets, One, Creeping Death and banged out a few tunes I’ve not heard in a long time. Welcome Home (Sanitarium), The Shortest Straw and others. Classic stuff.
As expected, they did the Big Four jam, which, if you look at it might as well have been the Big Seven jam, as Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler got up to play ‘Am I Evil’ and Sepultura’s Andreas Kisser (Covering for Scott Ian) and Exodus’ Gary Holt (Covering for Jeff Hanneman) were also up there! Was a pretty cool moment to catch, and of the footage I’ve seen previously of this moment, I was surprised to see Kerry King up there too!
And there we draw the bands of day one to a close. …but not the events!
We got back to our circle of 10 tents to find that some…. TWATS had decided to pitch their tent right in the middle of our circle. Cue 11 very unhappy people. We marched over (well, I marched over) and told them to up sticks and shift! The cheek of it! If we’d arrived that late, we’d have had to go find a pitch miles away. As it was, we’d made the effort to get there early to have a decent pitch, so I’ll be damned if I was letting them steal it! After I’d calmed down a touch, we said they could move in the morning, but they shifted there and then anyway. Apparently I scared them! That’s gotta be a first!
Tunes on and beers downed and it was time to hit the sack and leave Mark to claim the throne as Last Man Standing.
….oh, and i met ‘The Edge’ of U2 fame!
Part 2 coming soon….