Sonisphere Through the Ages

Okay, ‘Ages’ might be a bit of a stretch, but Sonisphere has an interesting, albeit brief history and it’s a festival I hold close to my heart.


Back in the 1990’s when I was a wee baby, the idea for Sonisphere, a touring world festival, was the brainchild of John Jackson. By 2008, he’d signed up with Kilimanjaro and AEG Live. By 2009, Sonisphere was born in the form of a two-day festival in August for the UK and six European one-day festival events.


I’m going to focus on Sonisphere UK, because I’m biased like that and I was THERE for those ones. In 2009 it was a two-day festival headlined by Linkin Park and Metallica. It was my first festival at the tender age of fifteen, and I was mostly only allowed to go because it took place at Knebworth House just 10 minutes away from where I lived at the time.


But it was glorious. The stage layout means that there’s never a band playing on both main stage and second at the same time, eliminating the agonizing decision over which phenomenal main band to see at a time (a common problem at Download). With it being local, almost everyone I knew was there, and although that’s not a universally relatable perk, it was certainly a perk for me.


Not to mention the fact that Sonisphere 2009 facilitated the last UK performance of two exceptional musicians, Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan of Avenged Sevenfold and Ronnie James Dio.


Both 2010 and 2011 were smash-hit successes as far as the fans were concerned, although the act choices seemed a little dated at times, a little like the wet-dream lineup of a middle-aged man (which I guess it was). With acts like ‘The Big 4’ (Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer) all playing together in 2011, it marked Sonisphere down in the history books for facilitating legends.


Other notable headliners that weren’t the obvious Metallica and Iron Maiden are Biffy Clyro and Slipknot (2011) and Rammstein (2010).


In 2012 everything collapsed. With the announcement of Kiss, Queen with Adam Lambert and Faith No More as headliners, the festival flopped in the UK. The official reason for cancelling it was that ‘co-ordinating the festival to an appropriate standard this year had proved more difficult than expected’ but I’m pretty sure it was more to do with dismal ticket sales. This was a festival I’d been loyal to since the start, and now I wasn’t buying a ticket and neither were any of my friends.

Though the festival continued on through Europe with success, it was radio silence from the Sonisphere UK camp until 2014, when the festival returned in all it’s glory with the predictable but crowd pleasing headliners Metallica and Iron Maiden. There were some old-school surprises like HIM, and some very, very new-school controversies like Baby Metal, but overall Sonisphere 2014 was a great festival.


So far we’ve heard nothing from Sonisphere UK about a return in 2015, which is a little worrying. With a substantial number of acts already announced for competing alternative festivals like Download, Reading and Leeds and Bloodstock, Sonisphere had better pull it together if they’re planning on making a return. I have to wonder though, if they’re not simply struggling to find acts, with all the ‘greats’ being snapped up by competing festivals, who is left to compete on Sonisphere’s behalf?


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