Saturday, July 26, 2014 @ 8:29 AM
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Once is never enough when it comes to the Sonisphere UK festival, so it was exciting to return after a four year hiatus, to witness an advertised lineup that promised to ratchet up the entertainment and circuses several notches.
Here’s the positive, the negative, and the in-between:
Tents as far as the eyes can see – the inns in town were sold out months in advance and the rooms in nearby Stevenage ran twice the price as they did 4 years ago.
British Rail, unlike before, was running late trains, permitting those not camping or unable to get a hotel, or not driving, to actually see all of the headlining bands.
The headliners were stronger than ever before, including THE PRODIGY (on Friday night), IRON MAIDEN (on Sat. night) and METALLICA “by request” on (Sunday night).
Despite the strength of the headliners, for those past a certain age, it might not be the best venue to see the headliners, since GA means waiting for hours near the front of the main stage area if you actually intend to see the bands without help of the Jumbotron; hearing is not a major problem, though.
There were many more acts on all the various stages, and the tent stages, like Bohemia, were even bigger than before
There were a total of 5 major stages, running acts from 11 AM to 11 PM, and some, like the Bohemia, running all night.
Umbrellas WERE allowed, and that was good, since it rained on and off throughout the weekend.
You could BYO booze and food in – up to a point.
The non-main stage acts were fantastic and some great new talent was also on display
Highlights of American bands at Sonisphere, apart from Sunday headliner METALLICA: WINERY DOGS (though it rained during their set), showing the Brits what American mastery is about; ANTHRAX playing two nights, and once playing a whole album in the smaller Bohemia tent; and the biggest surprise: SEBASTIAN BACH, packing the Bohemia tent, too, hitting all the high notes, and reminding the whole crowd what an exemplary frontman he was and still is.
Highlights of British bands at Sonisphere: Of course, the Saturday headliners the incomparable IRON MAIDEN, CHAS AND DAVE, VOODOO SIX and new and modern majestic metallers, THE RAVEN AGE.
Upscale accommodations and special perks for those with the money to afford the “Rock Royalty” special packages offered (the Brits do still love their stratified class system, even at a metal festival).
A midway atmosphere that included booths with all kinds of goods: in addition to band merch there were clothing booths, electronics booths, charging stations, etc., to accommodate the remote location.
Carnival rides, for those so inclined.
Good burgers and good English beer (some American beers too), surprisingly.
Despite free shuttles to town, the pickup for the regular shuttles was about a mile or more up the road from the actual entrance, as was the cab stand, so there was no getting around massive walking.
The fellow concert goers were extremely friendly and it is impossible not to make new friends when attending Sonisphere, even if it’s only for one day.
Other than the general admission for the headliners, which makes it impossible for any but the most dedicated to see the headlining bands properly, it still seems to be the best concert experience out there for a combination of emerging and established acts in the hard rock and metal world, bar none!