SONISPHERE – the story

I finally caught up on my sleep after the past week’s ordeals in Thessaloniki (Stop That Sound 2310 festival) and Sonisphere UK.

But Sonisphere was every visiting journalist’s dream. It is so well organized that you could almost hear angel choirs and harps…! I like Belgium’s Graspop for the good organization, and this year the kudos went to their security staff (check HERE to see the feedback from a member of the Graspop crew :-)).

First of all, for those of you who haven’t been to Sonisphere – it’s HUGE. It requires well informed staff, because otherwise your visit will be a nightmare as you’re trying to find your way around.
I’ve been to many festivals and usually, the staff-members know only what they’re assigned to know, so to speak. At Sonisphere, it didn’t matter who I asked, or what my question was, everybody was well informed and extremely helpful, which made my day there a walk in the park, litterally.

I couldn’t help comparing it to the festival in Greece where I spent hours in the boiling heat, asking maybe 20 people for something as simple as where to pick up my ticket, and nobody knew anything. Then again, the Greeks are new with this sort of thing, the Brits invented metal festivals! There’s a big difference there.

But let’s take this from the beginning, shall we? :)

 Already at King’s Cross station, there was no question where everybody was going. It was extremely busy there that day – rockers of all kinds carrying backpacks, suitcases with Wacken-stickers or just their tattoos, everywhere you looked.

Their eyes were firmly staring at the departure information screens. The second it said something about “Stevenage” it was like a given signal, and like kattle, hordes of people dressed in black and denim, headed for the refered platform.

Nice and clean train, I was in Stevenage so quickly that I never even had time to register to use the free 15 minutes of internet time you get on the train. The good organization started already at Stevenage station. Signs for everything. There was just no way you could get lost. Taxis here, coaches there. Info about the last trains back to London that evening, people in yellow reflective vests everywhere that pointed you in the right direction, swiftly answering any questions….

 I was ripped off by the cab driver and I knew that I was, because it was supposed to cost £10 at the most to get to the festival area, this one wanted twice as much.
It had started to rain and I just wasn’t up for any discussions or walking from one taxi to another trying to find one that wasn’t going to rip me off.
Whatever dude, here’s your £20 if you need them so bad – just take me to the damn press/guest-accreditation area….!

It was easy to realize that we had almost reached the festival because suddenly there were cars and more cars ahead in one long line as far as the eye could see.

Got there eventually and I was lucky because it was so early still, that there weren’t that many people at the accreditation booth. It only took me maybe ten minutes to get my wristband and I was on my way.

I knew that Sonisphere is an established, big festival and I visisted the Swedish version of it last year. But THAT was the worst disaster…. don’t even get me started. THIS was a completely different story. I never realized it was that huge either. I kept walking and walking until I finally reached the actual site.

What I didn’t know is that it would be even worse later that day. It’s a good thing I’m used to long walks.

It was still early, maybe around noon, one o’clock, so not much was happening. I had plenty of time to take a look around the area. Plenty of burger-stands and fish&chips. :-)

Another thing that separates the British festival visistors from the Belgian or the Swedes for instance is..:
a) They are polite, you rarely get pushed for no reason, and if you do, you usually get a quick “sorry” at least before they continue on their way.
b) They keep the area clean! Graspop in Belgium looked like world war 3, garbage everywhere. People didn’t care about the litter bins there. HERE there were big garbage containers everywhere that people actually used…. For the most part.

 The toilets were fairly clean and you didn’t have to get claustrophobia in them either, but then again, I went to one at the guest-area, don’t know if they were the same for the crowds outside.

Checked out most bands that played in the Bohemia-tent. After seeing the first band I saw that the quality of the bands playing in there was high, regardless your taste, so it was worth the time checking out some new bands.

Anthrax were playing on the main stage, it was not easy getting anywhere near the stage, people everywhere! But like I said before – the brits know how to arrange a metal festival – they invented it! So there were, of course, huge screens not only on the sides of the stage, but also out here and there around the area. The enthusiastic yet laid back crowd were enjoying the show from wherever they happened to be standing.

Then I noticed something. The TWO bands I basically wanted to see the most – Firewind and Megadeth…. clashed! Both bands were playing at the EXACT same time! WTF?!?!

I stood there wondering what to do with that. I LOVE Megadeth, been a fan of Mustaine for pretty much twenty years now. I took the day off to see them play in Aarhus, Denmark a few months ago. But in the end, it was precisely that fact that made me decide to go for Firewind this time. I’ve seen Megadeth lots of times the past years, mostly when Marty Friedman was playing with them, as he was the one who used to get me on the guest list back in those days.

Marty and me back in the good old days. :)

The signing session for Megadeth was insane by the way. At 2 PM they were meeting the fans at the Metal Hammer-tent and I could not believe how many people there were!

 Then, when Firewind did their signing-session, there were a bunch of people there too, but compared to that ridiculous line an hour before, it was quite a contrast. :)

Did a bit of filming in there as well, but it didn’t turn out well, just a bunch of asses. :-) I’ll spare you. However, I’ll give you two half-decent pics at least:

P1040460.jpg FLASH Gordon? ;)

The Firewind– and Megadeth-gigs will be reviewed separately. Both were very explosive and powerful in their own two totally different kinds of ways.

For videos of the Firewind-gig, these are up on Youtube now (since this is one of the more modern bands that actually encourages the use of Youtube as a promoting tool):

FIREWIND @ SONISPHERE:

Falling To Pieces
World On Fire
I Am The Anger
Fire And The Fury
Head Up High

 And since the videos from the Thessaloniki-gig won’t fit anywhere else right now, why not list those here now as well:

FIREWIND IN THESSALONIKI (2310 festival)

I Am The Anger
Fire And The Fury + Till The End Of Time
Head Up High (part of song)
World On Fire
Ark Of Lies

So, reviews, that will be separate.
When I decided to leave the festival, it dawned on me how HUGE this place was. I had to walk for nearly 30 minutes to get to the exit/main entrace. Of all the festivals I’ve been to so far, this is the largest one by far, I thought I’d never see the end of it!

The cab-driver was a happy man from India who said he really enjoyed working during the festival, because although he first thought that the rockers who got into his car looked dangerous, he quickly realized that they were happy and friendly and just loved their music.

– I don’t have any problems with them! I wish everybody was like that, it’s been great working during this Knebworth festival! he said.

I beat the crowds, got to Stevenage, then King’s Cross, then Paddington station and took the Heathrow Express train to the airport…. I figured because my flight was early in the morning, around 6 am, I could just walk around the airport without stress and check out the stores and stuff… But they were not allowed to let me in until the next morning *sighhh*…….

What to do? Well. I found a power point and plugged in my laptop. Had to sit on the floor, because it’s interesting how the airports seem to figure that today, when people have all those laptops and cellphones that require constant charging, they won’t NEED a wall socket anywhere….?! It’s always a big issue with that. Welcome to 2011…??

I ended up sitting on the hard, cold floor all night, till 5 am…. Boots and everything closed at nine, so sometime after midnight, the place was completely deserted! Not a soul. It was like being in a horror movie or something. They even dimmed the lights. There was just me and my laptop.

The worst thing was I had to go to the “little ladies’ room” but didn’t want to leave my things. And you know at airports, they would probably have brought in a big,fat bomb squad or something if I left it for two seconds.

My Australian friend Clint who was on MSN Messenger, came up with a brilliant idea:

– Why don’t you turn on the webcam, point it in whichever direction you think someone would approach from, and leave the sound on as well. It I see anyone coming, I’ll call your cellphone so you can rush out from the loo! Or I’ll tell them not to touch the laptop, that you just had to go to the toilet!

OR – leave a note that says: “Not a bomb. Had to take a piss”.
Yeah – that would have worked! ;P

What a trip this has been….
First I had a friend from Sweden guiding me through the streets of Thessaloniki, Greece through GOOGLE MAPS – THEN I had a Greek guy guiding me through the dark streets of Thessaloniki when I couldn’t find the bus stop for the last bus – by cellphone
And NOW there was a guy in AUSTRALIA on MSN that could keep an eye on my stuff while I went to the ladies room – in England!

WHAT did we ever do without all this information technology?! :-)

I’m finally home. Now a few days “normal life” before heading back to the UK on Saturday for more Judas Priest. As usual – more stuff will be added here as I go!

 

 

5 comments

  1. Ronnie Soo

    This must be an alternative universe Britain to the one I know… well organised? Polite?! Tidy?!? Nice CLEAN train? And it ran on time?!?!? :DKnebworth Park is ginormous – been there twice myself in the 80s, the Deep Purple quagmire in ’85 (imagine getting out of there when it had been raining all day!) and the coach couldn’t leave til the morning and again in ’86 for what turned out to be Queen’s last ever show. Pitch black on leaving the site it was! Safe travels back to UK!

  2. Daniela

    Really?? I’ve always thought that it’s easy going to concerts in Britain in general. At least compared to here. Maybe you should come over here and compare. :)I can imagine being out there in the rain, it got close to that this year too. :-(Yes, next stop is Manchester!

  3. Ronnie Soo

    I still have nightmares about Knebworth 1985 and I swear my poor back has never recovered! Honestly it bucketed down from the moment we got in to the last chords of ‘Smoke on the Water’! I still have my programme from that day, kept dry by three black bin bags and amazingly still in one piece! Always fancied Sweden Rock – several of my friends go every year and praise it, maybe when things pick up I will do that one!

  4. Clint

    That’s pretty amazing that you saw those two ‘historical’ gigs Ronnie. I have the audio of the Purple show, and seeing Queen, the final show no less, nice work. England may be going down the shitter in many ways, but they served up the best bands ever :PGlad I could help you through that ordeal D, hopefully the flight timing will b better next time :)

  5. Ronnie Soo

    Re Purple, that was their only UK show on the comeback tour and for many of us it just had to be seen, though it was controversial at the time that they only did the one date here. Nobody knew that would be Queen’s last ever gig in 86, they were such a huge live draw then. I got within 20 metres of the front for them and to this day I don’t know how! They say 125000 were there, it may well have been 200000. Never been in an audience that big since then!

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