FESTIVAL REVIEW: SONISPHERE IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY, JUNE 19, 2011
Every year in the summer I do the obligatory trek back home to Turkey. For most people, this is kind of a nuisance, but not that big a deal. However, I need to take at least two planes and cross the Atlantic to visit my family. This is why I usually go home onlyonce a year. Or whine at them to just come to me if they have to see me.
I grew up somewhere were we didn’t get many bands. I’m pretty sure that’s partly why I moved to a large city in the States. But when I found out that the Sonisphere Festival was hitting home sweet home, right when I was visiting, I took it upon myself to take my two youngest cousins and little sister. I figured it’s my duty to take them to their first metal show. We decided not to half-ass it. We’d stick it out from start to finish and see all five bands. One day of metal culminating in Iron Maiden. None of them had ever seen them. It was the most awful and awesome day.
Doors were supposed to open at 12:30 pm, so we got there around one and proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait some more. It was already really warm out, and the location of the venue was probably the worst place anyone could imagine. Smack in the middle of downtown, in one of the busiest locations in the city. Traffic is inconceivably bad here, but add a few thousand metal fans standing in the middle of the street and, well, like I said, bad planning.
Waiting two hours outside with no idea what was going on was understandably annoying. It was kind of fun to watch the undulating sea of black t-shirts, though. I am way past the age of feeling like I should look like what I listen to. So is my sister. Of my two cousins, let’s call them Girl Cousin and Boy Cousin, Girl Cousin isn’t even a metal fan. We thought this would be educational for her. Okay, and a little bit (and amusingly) cruel. Boy Cousin just doesn’t care what he looks like. We were the only people wearing light, comfortable clothes. Look, I know we’re an image-conscious community, but it’s over ninety degrees out and humid. Black absorbs heat. Black leather and tight corsets and big hoodies and fishnet long sleeves are possibly the worst idea. Unless you’re really hell-bent on heatstroke.
The arena was split into two sections; in front of the barrier, which reached up to the stage, and the general admission area in the back. We were lucky enough to score tickets for the former, because otherweise, even with the huge screens set up, we wouldn’t have been able to see anything. We got a nice spot near the front, and, finally, around 2 pm, Mastodon hit the stage.
It was pretty early in the day and Mastodon don’t really have a huge following here, so I got to watch them pretty close up with basically no one around me. I’d never seen them live, and it was a pleasant experience. The dudes seemed happy and excited and didn’t look like they wanted to kill each other. The setlist included “March of the Fire Ants,” “Crack the Skye,” and the finale, “Blood and Thunder.” There were several people headbanging and cheering, but I think it was more for the joy of being at a live show than anything else. They were curious, but not exactly pitching fits over the band.
Then it got even hotter. There was absolutely no shade, and we were hoarding water because there was exactly one place to get any (as well as food and beer) and none of us wanted to deal with the lines. But we were not bored, because I plan ahead! I had my super cool, super special WWE edition of Uno. So we burned our legs on hot concrete as we sat and played several rounds. None of us figured out what the Smackdown card did but Kane looked especially foreboding on his card. It was number 6.
In Flames were next, and, waiting for them to come on, I kind of had mixed feelings . They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results each time, and In Flames have pretty much driven me to such insanity these last few years. Every time I go to a show, I hope against hope that they’re gonna buck up and play good songs and look excited and just put on a good show. And then it’s the most disappointing thing ever. But this time… they, they actually looked happy?! They were engaging and friendly and energetic and, okay, I didn’t really like the set list all that much (or at all, really), but at least I wasn’t watching a bunch of robots. Anders actually talked to the audience! He called us sexy. Aw, shucks. The band mainly stuck to the newer albums as well as their damn concert stand-by, “Take This Life,” but it was great watching them, and they piqued my sister and Boy Cousin’s interest. Which was the whole point of the day. (Girl Cousin decided to take a walk.)
Around 5pm, the arena really started filling up, and a couple other friends joined us. Everyone was pretty damn excited because up next was the one and only Alice Cooper. (Is anyone else noticing that the line-up is a little odd so far? Wait until I get to the fourth band.)
Alice Cooper was simply amazing. Even though it was daylight and hot as balls, he had multiple costume changes, ran around like he wasn’t a day over sixty, and just put on a show. He had a huge Alice Cooper/Frankenstein hybrid monster for “Feed My Frankenstein” (that song will always remind me of Wayne’s World), and came out in crutches to act out the “old man’s heart,” line of “Eighteen.” His Renfield-like minions ran were sufficiently creepy and his band just looked like they were having ridiculous fun. I love his cheesy 80s Trash/Hey Stoopid phase and pretty much lost my shit when he actually performed “Hey Stoopid.” In fact, he did almost all his classics. Opening with “The Black Widow,” which showcases one of my favorite voices in Hollywood, Vincent Price, he also played “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Under My Wheels,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and, of course, “Poison.” Not to mention a “School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall” medley. The most poignant part, though, was when he came out waving the national flag to “Elected.” There had just been an election, and probably everyone at the fest had voted against the party that won. They would have actually voted too; it was that big an issue. It was a pretty perfect set, except, okay, I’m being nitpicky, but I would’ve traded, “Brutal Planet” for “Cold Ethyl.”
After Alice, we took a pause and stepped out of the crammed arena to get some fresh air. There wasn’t any. I’m sure we all smelled just great at this point. I also lost half my body weight in sweat. But the sun was slowly setting and around 7 pm when the fourth band hit the stage: Slipknot. Okay, we all have our opinions on Slipknot, but they’re actually one of the most popular bands here. They were the only one on the bill Boy Cousin really knew and wanted to see. It makes sense; they’re the perfect gateway band for any 14-year-old kid looking for harder stuff that’s not going to intimidate them too much. I may have owned a Slipknot song when I was in seventh grade… it was on a compilation so yes, one song. It also had stuff from Sevendust and, uh, Finger Eleven. Shut up, System of a Down was on it, too. And Powerman 5000. I was young! It was the Scream 3 soundtrack…
Anyway, I don’t know any of their stuff and I don’t particularly care for them, but I thought I’d give it a shot because, frankly, I was a little curious to see their stage show. I went to watch with an open mind. They hit the stage and my sister literally ran screaming away to the refreshment stands. Apparently, she’s scared of clowns. As previously reported from another show, Paul Gray’s costume was conspicuously hanging on-stage. Alas, the performance itself was a little lackluster. Sure, they had visual effect and matching jumpsuits and masks and explosions, but they kept plodding back and forth across the stage, and the whoel show just seemed disorganized. After a couple songs, I had had enough, so I headed out of the main arena to find my sister. I asked Boy Cousin if he had fun, though, and he really enjoyed them, so that’s good enough for me.
The sun finally disappeared around 8 pm, though it was still light out, and we filtered in to find some good spots. We didn’t want to be up front with the crush of peopl,e but we did want to be able to see Iron Maiden.
I love Maiden. I don’t care what anyone says. I think I’ll always be a Maiden fangirl. I’ve loved them for years and years, and technically they’re my gateway metal band (I saw the video for “Can I Play With Madness” on TV once when I was twelve, and thought it was the best thing, ever. Chronologically, that came before owning the Slipknot song). This was not my first time seeing them, but it was my sister and cousins’, and I can’t tell you the geeky excitement I felt that they were going to get to experience Maiden with me. I was practically vibrating where I stood from the second “Doctor, Doctor” started.
And, good God, it was one of the best Maiden shows I’ve ever seen. I knew they’d be doing a Final Frontier-heavy set list with a healthy dose of Dance of Death and Brave New World, and, yeah, it’s not the best mix of songs for a first Iron Maiden show, in my opinion, but who cares? I was excited because I’ve never heard “Blood Brothers” live before, and it’s one of my favorites.
Maiden played for two hours straight and ripped through not only the songs I expected, but a few surprises as well. They added “Two Minutes to Midnight,” “The Trooper,” and, causing me to lose my shit for the second time, “The Evil That Men Do.” I was a pretty good, uh, chaperone, I guess, all day. I kept an eye on my charges and fed them and watered them and made sure they weren’t getting trampled. But during Maiden, other than checking to see if they were still standing near me, my sister and I basically ignored the young ‘uns to scream along with the music. They didn’t mind. What had spent most of the day being a generally reticent audience finally just let loose. Every mispronounced word was excitedly yelled back, especially during “Fear of the Dark,” and Mr. Dickinson proved once more why he will always be my favorite gent. We tease that his voice gets weirdly high-pitched and scratchy sometimes, and he seemed to know it, but he rolled with the punches as he demonstrated how to really hit the notes by grabbing his man parts. He encouraged us to do the same: “Really just take a good, firm hold of them!” Of course, The Final Frontier mascot (that’s not Eddie, and I refuse to call him “Eddie”) made an appearance, in person, as did his giant robotic head.
Bruce talked about how Maiden fans come in every type prior to the start of “Blood Brothers,” and it’s so true. His proclamation that we’re all the same whether we’re Muslim, Christian, or Jedi was very well received. The encores were “Running Wild” (YES), “The Number of the Beast” (with a cameo by the Beast), and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” (YEEES!!), which I adore
This will sound ridiculously lame, but I’ve always wanted to hear the words, “Scream for me” followed by my hometown, and I never thought I would. It was their Maiden’s show here, and I’m fucking ecstatic that I got to see it. The entire experience was almost twelve hours of relentless heat, sweat, and discomfort. We ran out of water, ran out of food, and had all manner of aches and pains from standing up all day. But it was all worth it. Thus ends my first and probably only foray into an outdoors, summer festival. Girl Cousin will probably never, ever listen to metal again, but Boy Cousin has already come and stolen all my Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, and In Flames stuff, and sister is looking forward to seeing Maiden again. “Always look on the bright side of life…’”