When and Where
On Friday 4th July I was very excited to be going to the Sonisphere Festival. It's a three day music event for rock and heavy metal fans.
I drove to Knebworth House in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, it's been the home of Sonisphere since it started in 2009. I found out that Knebworth House is celebrating 40 years as the home of British rock music and I can see why. The park is vast with a natural bowl shaped arena and easy to get to with great links from the M25 straight onto the A1(M).
I was invited to enjoy the festival by K2, the event owner and had an access all areas pass to photograph a little bit of history, and boy was I in for a treat.
(I am writing this on a high on the Monday after the night before) Let me tell you more about my experience.This year for the first time Iron Maiden and Metallica were headlining at the same festival.
It had been a while since I had attended a rock festival, so I prepared well and made the most of my three days.
On arrival I was directed to the guest car park, which was close to the main stage (Apollo), so there was no danger of forgetting where your car was parked or having to walk miles to get to it!l
The layout of the festival was well structured. A few days prior, this was just park land, and now there are porta cabins as dressing rooms, toilets, showers, marquees for food, drinks, crew catering, guest hospitality, and two huge stages (Apollo and Saturn) and three smaller stages (in marquees). You could get a new tattoo, buy a new outfit and have a ride on all the fairground attractions.
There were bands performing from morning until late at night, with a choice of exciting entertainment until the early hours (they even had a silent disco!).
It was interesting to see the array of accommodation on site, which ranged from a one man tent, to very comfortable Winnebagos complete with all the mod cons, home from home to chill out and recharge. There really was something for everyone.
The array of food kiosks available was enough to suit any diet and palette, I was spoilt for choice.
You could sense the excitement and fever in the air, the 50,000 plus fans were there for a good time and they weren't disappointed.
Behind the scenes was very calm. Everyone got on with their duties; the production team, the caterers, the engineers, sound and lighting, hospitality, press office the golf buggies ferrying crew to the main stage and the limousines driving the artists back stage to take centre stage.
On Saturday, Iron Maiden's front man Bruce Dickinson had taken to the skies and flown a 1977 fokker tri plane as part of the First World War memorial. He was joined by members of the Great War Display Team, who together staged an eight-plane dogfight above a wooded area next to the festival site, with commentary and machine gun fire playing throughout the display, this really got the crowd in the mood for what was to come later.
Just before 9pm the fans gathered in anticipation in front of the Apollo stage. Iron Maiden were playing their last concert of a three year tour. The roar of the crowd as they joined the stage was incredible. From back stage I was escorted through the crowds with precision weaving, to take my position in the mixing tower a few hundred feet away from the stage.
I felt so privileged to have been able to take photographs from this magnificent viewpoint, with a sea of fans below either side.
I was swept away by the pure theatre and precision of their performance, it became very clear why they have been so successful for the past thirty plus years, and are one of the most well respected bands in the world!
And they're British too!!
In The Pit
I got a snap shot of the end result and photographed the artists doing what they know best during the first three numbers of their performance. Especially during Metallica's performance, I could feel the music reverberating in the cavity of my chest - the atmosphere was "on fire".
Seeing around 50,000 people of all ages, all walks of life and countries having a good time was a surreal experience, enhanced by the sun going down.
I was able to take time out behind the scenes and speak to the crew and band members about their experiences, including Martin Mickels from Oxted who was playing with his band Empire Kill and with his "roadie" Randy from Oxted's very own Randy and the Rockets.
I got to photograph Iron Maiden, Metallica, Deftones, Gary Numan, Limp Bizkit, The Lounge Kittens, Little Matador and others, it was an experience to listen to the bands, some I hadn't heard of before.
My camera kit consisted of:-
2 Nikon D700 bodies 1 with MB-D10 battery pack
1 wide angle 15mm-30mm lens
1 telephoto 70mm-20mm lens
1 standard 24mm-120mm lens
1 Nikon speedlight SB-910 with spare batteries
3 Memory cards 32mb
All I can say is WOW, and WOW - what an amazing, exhausting, exhilarating experience!! A huge, huge thanks to my hosts for looking after me so well and enabled access all areas to what was a first class festival. I can highly recommend Sonisphere to all you music lovers out there for next year, you don't have to be a big rock or metal fan, I wasn't, but I certainly am now.
Thanks for reading, my next newsletter will be in two weeks time about the Masterpiece Fair in Chelsea.
Bye for now.