A new unfortunate notch in the timeline of the music industry

Note – since writing this blog HMV are back up and running and have a great store in Cambridge!  (HMV and Fopp!)

Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine put out a CD in the mid nineties under the name MD45 – he was on guitar only, not vocal, but more importantly a song called “Day the music died” – a chorus I had in my head when I heard of HMV’s situation.   I have to say, I think it is really sad to hear that  HMV has gone into administration thus reducing my need to visit the town centre.  Less than 15 years ago Cambridge was a hot bed of great record stores and a Saturday morning could be enjoyed walking between them to see what great new releases were out.  The greatest of the pack was Parrot, they had a great metal section and you could guarantee that when the likes of Doro put out a new album it would be there on the week of release waiting.  Numerous artists I discovered purely through flicking through the vinyl at Parrot records and being amazed at their cover art.

In Cambridge you could visit Andy’s, Jays and Parrot to name but three and these were complemented by the giants like Our Price and HMV – both of which at one point had two stores each in the city, and all now gone.  These were huge stores with great displays – walking out of the Cambridge Grafton centre to see a huge cardboard Iron Maiden Eddie in the windows of Andy’s records to support Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, now that was impressive.  WASP once did an instore in Andy’s and I stood in line for my Crimson Idol vinyl to be signed by Blackie Lawless and Johnny Rod, how rock.  HMV has only just returned recently to Cambridge and it was great to see an expansive metal section enabling me recently to pick up releases from the  likes of Testament and Doro (the sign of a good store!) with friendly helpful staff.

The music industry has been a bit odd in recent years and dominated by quick and short fame artists, and I can say that I doubt I would recognise many from the top 40, if there is still a top 40 although that may be an age thing.  TOTP vanished as well with no regular music show I’m aware of on mainstream TV.  Marillion turned the business model on it’s head with their well documented story and we’ve seen the rise of the download which despite working in digital innovation I haven’t come round to accepting yet as owning a real copy of an album – eBooks fine as I love my Kindle but for music I like the hard copy as I see it as more than just music.

Today feels like another notch in that timeline, and a sad one, and I’ll cross my fingers that HMV or at least an alternative rises again!

I wonder if the music industry today is more like it was for hundreds of years – before say the period of the sixties to the naughties, before the days of any recording devices.  The greatest bands aren’t on huge labels with mass exposure – they aren’t playing arenas but they are selling their own CDs via their websites and promoting their own gigs via social media.   I have this picture-esque image in my head of (pre-electricity) bands travelling from town to town with their banjos and flutes as entertainers with no promotion, record labels etc.  Just word of mouth and hard work.  Who would have thought the music industry could return to a model from over a hundred years ago, just using some new technologies to accelerate the opportunity?

Winter In Eden

With bands as awesome as Winter in Eden coming up and putting out great music the music industry is still good for us the listener!

But you know what – with newer bands of the quality of Winter in Eden, Fen, Pythia, The Dollyrots, Orestea to name just a few coming up, releasing great tunes and playing awesome gigs, and established acts such as Whitesnake and Motorhead putting out some of the greatest music they’ve released for ages there will be no shortage of great new music in the future.  So my headphones remain on, and I’m still looking forward to what’s ahead.


Marillion and Chantel McGregor – Cambridge Junction Sep 17th 2012

Marillion have had some good support acts in the past but I’ve never seen one as great as Chantel McGregor

Chantel McGregor live at the Cambridge Junction 2012

Ok I was a bit excited when the night before the gig I saw that she was the support for the evening after already owning her fabulous Like No Other album.  A cheeky smile and audience banter fill the short gaps between the rocky blues songs – but there is more here than great tunes, the truly massive sound she gets from her guitar, fast finger work that looks effortless and I’d imagine anyone watching this would be inspired to want to pick up a six string and give it a go.

Chantel McGregor at the Cambridge Junction

From hard rock to slow blues – a fantastic set displaying amazing musicianship and true to the first track on the debut album tonight Chantel McGregor is Fabulous.  The venue is packed and everyone captivated – you could have easily walked in and though she was the headliner.

Marillion live at the Cambridge Junction 2012

But there is more to come!  GCSEs, A-levels, University, working life – for the last 20+ years of my life I feel I have somewhat grown up with Marillion.  Tonight they start off with Gaza – the epic new track, I like Marillion when they rock out and this track is full of it.  Track two This Town is a personal favourite for me – a regular on my walkman from the cassette era.  New album tracks Power and title track Sounds that Can’t Be Made also feature in the set alongside live favourites (for me) You’re Gone, Great Escape and Fantastic Place.

Tonight their lighting rig is probably about as big as you can fit into the Cambridge Junction – blinding at times forcing you to close your eyes and enjoy the great sounds to the mix of colours.  The venue is more packed (and hot) than I have ever seen it before – reportively this is the only sold out gig on the venues calendar.

Marillion live at the Cambridge Junction 2012

Who just asked for Grendel?

Finishing the set we are treated to not just Sugar Mice – but Garden Party as well.  With Fish era tracks being a rarity in Marillion sets this I think is especially for Cambridge with the references to punting on the Cam.

Thank you Marillion, and thank you Chantel McGregor.  And after watching this I feel inspired again to pick up a dust collecting six string of my own!

Terrorizer inspiring how I can reduce the space taken up by CDs

I liked tapes, I loved vinyl and I like CDs – but despite what I do in my job (which is future looking tech based) when it comes to music I’m not yet ready to move into the mp3 age.  Music is more than just digital source, it’s the lyric book, the cover artwork, the ability to flick through a few, admire the covers to Motorhead’s Bomber or Rock’n’Roll, Pythia’s The Serpent’s Curse or Alice Cooper’s Raise your Fist and Yell – before deciding which one to play loud.

But – shelf space is limited.  Doubling up my CDs on the shelf just isn’t good, one topples, they all fall off, crash, a few plastic cases break, the cover is distorted by a big crack with extra white edges.  So I looked for an effective storage solution that cut down the space required.

First of all – the thinning out, I looked at what can go to charity.  Sorry nu-metal, you’ve been collecting dust for too long, except Coal Chamber, not finished with you yet.  Next up box based storage solutions – the thing is that however you stack a few CDs they still take up the same amount of space, and if any efficiency is gained it’s at the detriment of accessibility of being able to actually get hold of the CD.  So – I was stuck, how do I reduce the space they take up?  I like cover art and lyric books, so buying a CD wallet was out of the question.

Inspiration came from an issue of Terrorizer magazine and it’s double free CD on the cover.  A free double CD in a gatefold sleeve plastic sleeve.  Interesting, I thought to myself!  Selecting a CD (Natalie Imbrugulia) I gave it a go.  The front artwork fitted perfectly in the front pouch, the back artwork slid into the back, CD in, what I had here was a mini vinyl – it genuinely looked like the old days when you’ve buy protective covers for vinyl records.  It looked great and took up a third the space of a standard CD.  I needed more of these innovative CD covers, this could work!

CD Gatefold Sleeve

The CD gatefold sleeve from an issue of Terrorizer (but the displayed contents wasn't from Terrorizer....)

I was keen but finding such items wasn’t easy, a trip to Cambridge didn’t result in any on the shelf, many Google searches later and I struck!  I found a company selling them – first of all UK based CDS media – http://www.cdsmedia.co.uk/CD/CD_Storage_Sleeves/Polyprop_CDDVD_Double_Gatefold_Wallet.aspx

£2.65 for 25 of these little things, couldn’t be bad!  So I ordered some.

But further reading led to another solution  – the only other place that I could find was the Jazz Loft in the USA – http://www.jazzloft.com/p-34281-space-saving-cd-sleeves.aspx – ones which were specifically made for this purpose so I ordered them via their ebay shop to see what they would be like.

Firstly the CDS Media ones were smaller and stiff, for turning jewel cases into smaller works of art these were ideal – and they could be stored easily in a small box from paperchase.  Flicking through the box was a similar experience to the days of flicking through a box of 7″ vinyl.  And it enabled me to keep those CDs (Gina G) that I couldn’t face giving to charity but maybe didn’t need to be on display.  Theres is only one disadvantage – due to the size it results in the need to add a fold to the inlay tray slightly, but that is minor, it forms a neat small compact and visually desirable pack, and not only looks cool but saves space, and and provides a great flick through set in a small box.
Next up – Jazzloft‘s space saving CD packs – designed specifically for doing this job!  These really do echo the plastic vinyl sleeves that anyone who fingered through racks of vinyl at record fairs in the 80s and 90s.  You slide the inlay tray and booklet in and it just fits so well – no need to crease.

CDs in plastic sleeves from JazzLoft

The Jazzloft CD plastic space saving sleaves

And what is really great is that it goes on the shelf and you can read the side of the sleeve, and they expand or shrink to fit the shelf space available.  These really are a great innovative design – the likes of a Dio, UFO or Scorpions CD in one of these sleeves is a nostalgia trip on it’s own, back I travel in my mind to happy university days flicking through vinyl at Canterbury Rock and my CD shelf no longer looks crowded.

So – I have a combination of both, some sleeves in a box, and the Jazzloft ones neatly on the shelf.  My need to move to the age of downloaded music has been delayed for a bit longer!

Jazzloft CD Sleeves: http://www.jazzloft.com/p-34281-space-saving-cd-sleeves.aspx

CDS Media Sleeves:  http://www.cdsmedia.co.uk/CD/CD_Storage_Sleeves/Polyprop_CDDVD_Double_Gatefold_Wallet.aspx

Orestea and To The Lions at Portland Arms 24th August 2011

Orestea live at the Cambridge Portland Arms August 2011

The tunes are catchy – “We can be Ruthless, we can be flawless, we can do anything” –  Those were the words still going through my head when I woke up the next day after the great gig from Orestea and To the Lions at the Cambridge Portland Arms.

To the Lions live at the Cambridge Portland Arms

To the Lions were on the bill last time Orestea played this venue and it was great to see them play together again.  Full of energy they delivered a set that punched much harder than you’d expect from a band third on the bill of a venue this size.  A foundation of old school metal mixed with a bit of Sepultura, maybe some Korn and some death growls but backed with pure talent, fast sharp riffs and complex rhythms.  We get new song Breathe, but sadly not their excellent cover of Love Gun.

To the Lions Live at the Cambridge Portland Arms 2011

It’s a short set but relentlessly heavy.  On the web there appear to be a few bands of this name so these are the URLs you need http://tothelions.co.uk/ and  http://www.reverbnation.com/tothelions

Next up Sondura and I was expecting heavy from their logo.  I wasn’t disappointed and they delivered 30 minutes of melody heavy straight metal.  The busy venue by this point was sweltering with heat, time to grab another beer, another midsummer madness.

Orestea live at the Portland Arms Cambridge  Orestea live at the Portland Arms Cambridge

Orestea were the band I’d come to see tonight and by the time they hit the stage shortly after 10, as I was looking down into my third pint of midsummer madness.  Great beer!   They have a musical talent that is amazing to see at a band that I imagine is still at it’s genesis.  A heavy background with Lisa’s vocals slightly softening the heavy blow of the music resulting in a dynamite sound.   Made me think of how Alanis Morisette would sound if she was backed by Machine Head’s rhythm section.  Guitarists Lloyd Wilson and Luke Genders rock with complex finger work whilst Will Crozier pounds away in the background and Mike Quinn holds solid rhythm down but they seem restricted by the size of the stage for a 5 piece.  We get a selection from their recent “Love lines and Blood Ties” album which is fairly instantly cathy metal music.

Orestea live at the portland Arms Cambridge

Ruthless is a radio friendly anthem and I hope it does them well – dare I even call it pop-metal.  It was only five months since they last played this venue on an epic UK tour of the clubs – hard working they definitely are and I hope it pays off to see them headline larger stages.

Orestea: http://www.orestea.com/

To The Lions: http://tothelions.co.uk/

Sondura: http://www.myspace.com/sondura

Cambridge Rock Festival 2011 – Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn live at the Cambridge Rock Festival

It’s been a few years since I went to the Cambridge Rock Festival (or Rockinbeerfest as it was back then) and seeing Mostly Autumn on the bill justified the £35 for a ticket to Sundays performance.

First of all, the organisation of the festival is superb.  Easy to get to, no big queues to get in, no one to tell you that you can’t come in with a bottle of pop in your back pocket.  On entry you can buy beer “tokens” at £10 for 3 pints – that’s an extra pint for your money compared to normal festival prices and what’s more the bar is a real ale bar (so the beer is good) and the use of tokens mean that bar service is speedy.  There are quality food stands within  as well and I had the best smoothie ever, strawberry, honey and cinamon.  Programmes detailing all bands with all stage times in were just £2, there is a lot to be said that is right with the Cambridge Rock Festival and I haven’t even started on the music yet!  And it’s in Cambridge.

The first act I saw on this Sunday I enjoyed from the sitting on the grass outside Stage 2’s tent.  Later metal newcommers the Crimes of Passion rocked the crowd on Stage 1 with tales of touring with Saxon, fresh high octane old school heavy metal packed with complex fast riffs (think Maiden, Helloween, Saxon) and finishing with an awesome cover of Dio’s Holy Diver that pretty much blew everyone away in the middle of an afternoon, fists in the air metal, that’s how I like it.  New album is out in October so I’ll be sure to check that out.

On the Access to Music a young band are rocking out and a pleasure to watch in the sun – but I have no idea who they were.  But here’s a snap of then, lead vocalist in an old school Def Leppard shirt – they rocked.


Similar to the High Voltage Festival the festival was a case of running between two stages to catch the best of quality acts.  CREDO on stage one had a proggy feel, possibly slightly celtic.  Over at Stage two Bad Influence take to the stage with Thunder’s Harry on drums pumping out some loud dancy blues, but after a few songs I return to Stage one for Mr So & So.  Argh decisions, it’s back to Stage 2 for Bad Influence and then back to stage one for the end of Mr So & So’s set.  The best of both worlds, well as best as you can get!

The band I’d come to see were Mostly Autumn and before they came on stage there was a moving talk from the charity Pilgrim’s Bandits about the excellent work they do – not a charity I’d come across before but they raise money for brave forces victims who have suffered injury and take them out on adventures and confidence building exercises – the website where you can find out more is here  http://www.pilgrimbandits.com/


Mostly Autumn are on stage just before 7 and the tent was packed.   The band were awesome and this was the greatest festival live performance I’ve seen this year – fantastic atmospheric prog rock from a band with 7 highly talented musicians.  What more could you ask for – Olivia the perfect front woman captivates the crowd, Bryan’s floyd style soaring guitar tones, Anne Marie takes centre stage for a flute solo, Iain Jennings superb tones from the keys.  Most of the material is familiar to me featuring heavily from the Go Well Diamond Heart album – but Evergreen really stands out from Heather’s era.  I never saw them with Heather up front (I regret not taking more notice of colleague from work Pete’s suggestion that I must see them live) but I’ve got an exciting time ahead exploring the back catalog.


My regret for the festival – not going for the weekend, what an awesome no fuss festival.  And in a rock music fan moment I had my snap taken with Mostly’s Olivia – check out my cool Pythia shirt!

The festival really was different to other festivals, it felt less corporate oriented (or not corporate at all I should say) which could be due to it’s size – you can just sit back and enjoy great music, beer and food.  Let’s hope the line up next year looks good!

Cambridge Rock Festival :  http://cambridgerockfestival.co.uk/

Mostly Autumn: http://www.mostly-autumn.com/

Crimes of Passion: http://www.myspace.com/crimesofpassionrock

Autumn Leaves: http://www.autumn-leaves.co.uk/

Andrew Stawarz Photography has some pictures on flickr of the event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stawarz/sets/72157627358676694/

High Voltage 2011 – Thunder, Mostly Autumn & Anathema, Heaven’s Basement

Mostly Autumn live at High Voltage  Anathema live at High Voltage  Heaven's Basement - live at High Voltage

My first High Voltage festival – and third weekend of Rock, starting with Sonisphere, then the Histon Billfest and now on my way to Mile End Tube for High Voltage.  The previous two weekends had raised the bar pretty high, but the line up over the next two days was packed with quality acts.

Leaving Mile End the website had said a 10 minute walk to Victoria Park – I walk quick so beforehand I translated that to a two minute walk around the corner, but true to the word it was a decent walk of probably just shy of a mile by the time you’d reached the gates.  Entrance was fast and simple – for a festival the fastest I’ve ever experienced.  And friendly too, not something you get much at large events.

First up Michael Monroe was doing his thing on the main stage – he seems to work on a festival sized stage better than that of s small venue and for the one song I saw he was great.  And then to the Metal Hammer stage where Attica Rage were making a decent heavy racket.

Grand Magus - High Voltage signing

Grand Magus are at the HMV stand early afternoon so I use the rare opportunity to get them to sign a couple of CD sleeves I’d brought with me (I’m such a metal dork) – but they rock, and they will deafen me with their riffs later.

Anathema live at High Voltage

On the prog stage were one of my favourite bands even though I’ve only seen then live once before – Anathema.  There is a moving moment when Dreaming Light is dedicated to the terrible events in Norway the day before.  They capture an atmospheric sound and the set is largely from their last album – a long way from their death metal days  -the set and musicianship stunning with each song an epic masterpiece.

Thin Lizzy live at High Voltage

On the main stage Thin Lizzy appear to be playing at a quieter volume that you’d expect this afternoon – but their music doesn’t really on headbanging loudness for effect.    A young lady asks if she can sit on my shoulders but I decline, at over 6ft myself I’d block out the view for a large triangle behind me, but she is soon up there on another chap and appearing on the big screen herself.  Michael Monroe is the special guest for dancing in the moonlight on sax.

Thin Lizzy with Michael Monroe live at High Voltage

I never saw Lizzy with Phil Lynott, but Ricky Warwick makes an excellent substitute – loyal but with his own take on the songs, and Macro is superb on the bass.  They’re back in  the UK early next year so I’ve purchased my ticket.

Neal Morse live at High Voltage

Neal Morse was the surprise hit of the day.  I found myself strangely drawn to the prog stage several times and although I don’t know a single song he’s done (not even Spocks Beard) his set was enchanting – I later check the HMV tent for his material but they have none.  Neil jumps into the audience and sings in a circuit of the crowd with camera capturing the whole event, his band was pretty huge and filled the stage and the sound was just as large.  The Internet awaits for me to check out his stuff.

Slash at High Voltage

On the main stage it’s Slash belting out Rocket Queen, I’m a fair way back as you’ll see from my snap but I liked the silhouette on the big screens captured in the pic.  I miss the end of his set to get down to the Metal Hammer stage for something heavier.

Grand Magus live at High Voltage Grand Magus live at High Voltage

I witness Grand Magus setting up on the metal hammer stage before the metal really begins.  At times slow paced, heavy swedish metal – for a trio the sound is epic.  The themes are heroic and so is the music, Hammer of the North…  The crowd is the largest I see at the Metal Hammer stage all weekend – I’m happy that I’ve finally seen them live.

Day Two – Today would be busy – lots of clashes and minutes between great artists but first up Heaven’s Basement.

heaven's Basement live at High Voltage Heaven's Basement liev at High Voltage

They rocked as Hurricane Party, they totally rocked as Roadstar, they were awesome as Heaven’s Basement but this was the first time I’d seen them in a couple of years and the lineup had changed severely – lots of new faces but the same high octane rock’n’roll attitude was in abundance.  The crowd thickened very quickly around the front and HB shirts were all over.  I wish they’d play the title track RoadStar – such a classic and probably one of the songs that I’ve never not had on my ipod nano.  What I can’t work out about Heaven’s Basement is after years of quality gigs why are they first on the bill?  If any band deserve to get to the next level it’s them.

the Treatment live at High Voltage The Treatment live at High Voltage

I said today was tight and now it was straight down to the Metal Hammer stage for new band The Treatment – I’d read reviews that were good but not yet heard this new band, as they are reportively from Cambridge I was keen to check them out.  They rocked – they could have been Heaven Basement’s younger brothers, and they drew an impressive crowd, Cambridge’s very own Motley Crue.

Over at the HMV signing tent Black Spiders were scribbling on CDs – I got them to deface my Son of the North Cd before going up to the main stage to catch Saint Jude.  never heard of her, but what a great performance, slightly jazzy slow rock, perfect chill out for a day in the sun.

Moris Dancing at High Voltage

There’s more than just music at High Voltage – there is Morris Dancing, slightly gothic style.  And real ale – the fact that the real ale tent always appears rammed and the lager tents look empty should be a good indicator that more real ale at rock gigs is good!

Gentlemen’s Pistols are on the Metal Hammer stage with a guitarist that looks familiar – it’s Bill Steer or Firebird!  Another quality band belting out heavy bluesy old style rock.  The sun is burning the back of my neck, but who cares, this rocks.  And then it’s down to the prog stage for an act I’ve always been told are great live but I’d never seen.

Mostly Autumn live at High Voltage Mostly Autumn live at High Voltage

Mostly Autumn – a colleague (Pete) had told me for a long time that I need to see this band live, and he was right.  Awesome performance, seriously prog – the music was intense, multidimensional soundscapes.  When Olivia came onto the stage and every camera or mobile phone in the crowd was raised to capture the moment.  I find myself torn – this band should have been on the main stage, and I want to stay for the whole set, but I can purchase it on CD and something explosive is about to happen on the main stage, something I never thought I’d see again, something that was the initial sole reason for my coming this weekend.

Thunder live at High Voltage

You’ve been Thunderstruuuuuck – the killer intro music for the greatest band in British rock.  Entering the stage to Backstreet Symphony Thunder are the band that should never have split, they rule.  During Back Street Symphony the PA cuts out a couple of times, but the audience sing to meet the audio levels – who cares, it’s Thunder and they are on stage.  Every song in the all to short set is a classic, the Devil Made Me Do it, Gimme Some Loving.  Guitars are above heads and Thunder shirts at todays festival are probably only outnumbered by Jethro Till Shirts.  Signalong classics, I decide to go and sit back on the grass in the sun and enjoy one of the finest rock bands from a distance.

I miss the Black Spiders as I just couldn’t miss Thunder, but it says something about the volume of the Metal Hammer stage that Blood of the Kings came bouncing up the hill.

High Voltage Crowd

High Voltage was possibly the best festival I’ve attended – the smoothness of entry, the quality of the food stands, the people there, the vibe, the fact that they had cleaning gell near the convenience facilities and last but definitely not least, I didn’t see a single band that I walked away from.  It was quality throughout, and reintroduced me to some bands that have led me to go online and order some Mostly Autumn and Neal Morse CDs.  Mostly Autumns performance lead me to buy a Sunday ticket for next weekends Cambridge Rock Festival.


Mostly Autumn – http://www.mostly-autumn.com/

Anathema – http://www.anathema.ws/

Heaven’s Basement – http://heavensbasement.com/

Grand Magus – http://www.grandmagus.com/

High Voltage the Festival- http://www.highvoltagefestival.com/

Sonisphere 2011 – Anthrax, Arch Enemy and Motorhead

Motorhead live at Sonisphere Knebworth 2011

Friday 8th of July – Thrax, Megadeth and Diamond Head

Sonisphere 2011 – and I find myself back in the queue for buses at Stevenage station amongst the metal masses.  The queue is big, and despite there being several buses packing the fans up and whisking them away to the festival as quickly as possible the waiting time is around an hour.  But spirits are good – music is playing from out loud from smartphones, and there is a collection of metal shirts from gigs gone by.  There are loads of bands playing Sonisphere so I’ve only written about a few that I wanted to write about.

Diamond Head Live at Sonisphere

The one thing Friday could have done with is some earlier bands – but what a band to kick a festival off with at 3pm, Diamond Head..  They rocked, the Prince, Helpless, Am I Evil, Metallica may have boosted the audience for these songs but it’s great to hear them from Brian Tatler’s band, superb.

Joey from Anthrax live at Sonisphere 2011 Knebworth

Anthrax followed – three years at Knebworth park now – for three years just seeing one band listed on the bill has made me want to attend.  Thrax.  And today its a limited edition thrax with Andreas Kisser replacing Scott Ian whilst Scott takes time out with his new arrival.  What a great version of thrax to see – when else would you get to see Thrax with Andreas playing some Sepultura!

Frankie Bello live at Sonisphere 2011 

This was a great performance,  being a Bush era fan for years I never thought I’d see them as such an awesome band again with Joey up front.  Fight Em is the new track, Only is the Bush era track, Madhouse is as classic as ever.

Dave Mustaine Megadeth Sonisphere 2011

Next up Megadeth, and Dave Elfeson is back , Dave Mustaine with a cool flying V double neck and they pound through the classics, Wake up Dead, Holy Wars, Symphony of Destruction, In my Darkest Hour, a Toute le Monde.  One song I’ve always wanted to see Megadeth play live is Mary Jane, we didn’t get it and I didn’t expect to, it didn’t matter as they rocked. And we get a new song from their next album, I miss the title but I think it was Public Enemies.

Black Breath Sonisphere 2011 Knebworth

After being down the front of this huge crowd  for three awesome bands I went to get some space rather than hanging around for Slayer, something was happening at the Jagermeister stage so that was my next chosen destination, Black Breath were about to hit the stage.  A great thing about Sonisphere is that you can walk into unexpected gems, last year it was Audrey Horne, this year Black Breath.  Very heavy metal from Seattle, singer Nate McAdams pointed out “you’re all here and you could be watching Slayer, but we thank you for being here”.  Awesome.

I went for a wander after Black Breath’s all too short 30 minute set was over, time for an ice cream.

Sonisphere Knebworth Crowd 2011  Sonisphere Knebworth Crowd 2011

Have you ever experienced the power of Slayer from 500m?  Ever heard the Raining Blood riff thudding across a field?  I hadn’t, wow that band are powerful, it’s even more haunting from a distance than close up.  I continue to wander round the tends but I don’t get into all of the music here, lots do.

Saturday 9th July – Duxford instead

 Lancaster Bomber from BBM5 Duxford 2011 

Saturday I missed, I fancied going to the Duxford Air Show for a different form of loud heavy metal!  That was followed by an evening at our villages Feast event listening to a cover band.  I missed the Black Spiders but High Voltage in two weeks.

Sunday 10th July – Arch Enemy and Motorhead

Back to Stevenage station for the bus queue.  There was a smell in the air as I got off the coach at Knebworth, a smell familiar to those who live near fields that have natural products spread on them, the smell of a festival 3 days mature.

Volbeat live at SONISPHERE Knebworth

First up, I want to see Arch Enemy but before them Volbeat take to the stage.  Who?  Volbeat – lucky find number two at the festival.  Punk meets Almighty meets Motorhead – these guys as main stage openers were an awesome start to the day.  We even get blasts of Slayer and Motorhead during their set.  I didn’t expect much, I was wrong, they rocked.

Arch Enemy live at Knebworth

The crowd thickened for Arch Enemy, were they too low on the bill?  In their Khaos Legions leathers that rock the main stage and makes the mosh pits that I avoid swirl.  Angela Gossow prowling round the stage, we hear that they’ve had no sleep since playing Sonisphere Sweden yesterday, but the show is still high energy.

Arch Enemy Live at Knebworth - Angela Gossow Arch Enemy live at Knebworth - Michael Amott

Michael Amott shreds away, guitarists in the crowd watching in awe .  Genuinely intense, awesome.

After this there weren’t many bands I had on my list for a couple of hours so I joined the queue at the Arch  Enemy signing tent, did I need them to write their names down for me?  Probably not, but I had time so why not, and it was cool to shake their hands.

Sonsiphere Crowd Knebworth 2011

Next up I find myself in the Bohemia tent for some comedy which was brilliant – no idea who the comedian was (thought that Justice was Tallica’s last decent album), it left time for a slice of Pizza before the most exciting new band from down under were about to come on.

Airbourne Live at Knebworth 2011 Sonisphere

Airborne leapt onto the Apollo stage as if they’d just been let loose – running across the stage like  animals just released from a cage.  If they were a band to play songs with the riff’age and charisma of ACDC without being ACDC it’s airbourne.  Rock’n’roll swagger and riff’s a plenty, the crowd this was pretty thick.

Motorhead Live at Knebworth

The final act I was really looking forward to seeing – Motorhead.  Lemmy came onto the stage and had the sad announcement that Wurzel had died this weekend.  If there was one band member I’d have liked to have seen join a band it would be Wurzel rejoining Motorhead – when i got into Motorhead (mid eighties) he was their axe man alongside Phil, he was the first rock star guitarist I’d seen live (with Motorhead at the Corn Exchange).  There was an initial gasp and a massive cheer when Lemmy dedicated the set to him.

Motorhead Knebworth with Fire Dancer Sonisphere

Motorhead as ever were perfect, fantastic lyrics and solid rock’n’roll tunes, in a hour long set we get all the classics and the best, One night stand, Going to brazil, and the awesome Get Back In Line from their last album.  For Killed By Death they are joined by fire breathing dancers – very rock.  Motorhead are loud perfection.

My feet hurt by this point – I’d been up on them most of the weekend.  After Motorhead’s performance nothing could top that, my Sonisphere was done, I was happy.  Will I be back next year – well, I’ll look for decent bands on he lineup, but 3 ourt of 3 Sonisphere’s have been great so far.

Sonisphere: www.sonispherefestivals.com

Motorhead: www.imotorhead.com

Arch Enemy: http://www.archenemy.net/

Anthrax:  http://www.anthrax.com

Diamond Head: http://www.diamond-head.net/

Duxford War Museum: http://www.iwm.org.uk/duxford