Sonisphere Goes Global

The new Sonisphere Festival scheduled for Knebworth Park in the U.K. in August will have European versions in Holland, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Finland.

Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live and John Jackson of K2 agency have exported the brand, which begins with rock gigs headed by Metallica, by setting up five one-day shows on the continental mainland.

“This is just the beginning. From 2010, we will extend the dates from Europe to the globe,” Galbraith said in a Feb. 9 statement announcing the new shows.

The details of the Knebworth shows Aug. 1-2, which are headed by Linkin Park and Metallica respectively, emerged a few days earlier.

“This year we’re going to be part of the brand spankin’ new Sonisphere festival, the first and only touring European rock festival which hits six cities for a total of seven shows,” says a note on Metallica’s Web site.

AEG, which has invested in Kilimanjaro Live and is reportedly putting a further $100 million into Sonisphere over the next three years, will be promoting the Swedish show (July 18) and working with Live Nation on the Finnish show (July 18 and 25).

David Maloney, who heads LN’s Stockholm office, looks to have piggy-backed the infrastructure used by other Scandinavian festivals.

His Swedish show is on the Hultsfred site and comes the weekend after the festival of the same name. The Finnish show is on the Pori site and comes a week after the city’s famous jazz festival will be done with it.

Live Nation already has a raft of Metallica shows in Scandinavia, which are spread across Stockholm, Sweden; Helsinki, Finland; Oslo, Norway; and Copenhagen, Denmark, which have already sold out 125,000-plus tickets.

The Sonispheres kick off at Goffert Park, Nijmegen, June 20, which is where Metallica inadvertently helped establish Holland’s Fields Of Rock Festival in 2002.

Jackson was looking for a Metallica festival show and Mojo Concerts, which didn’t have a suitable event during the time period, created Fields Of Rock to accommodate the act.

“I was looking to start a new heavy metal festival at the time and when Metallica was available it made it so much easier,” Mojo’s Rob Trommelen recalled.

The June show will be the first time Metallica has been back to the Goffert Park. Apart from Live Nation Finland, Mojo is the only other LN company involved in Sonisphere.

In England, Live Nation U.K.’s chief ops officer John Probyn is playing down reports of “a war of words” with Galbraith over Sonisphere.

“When Stuart went from this company, he was always going to do his own thing. We knew he’d compete,” Probyn told Pollstar when asked if the Kilimanjaro chief designed a festival to target the same audience as LN’s Download Festival.

Galbraith promoted Download for LN before being shown the door for negotiating a deal with rival promoter AEG in 2007.
Probyn, who announced a June 12-14 Download bill including Slipknot, The Prodigy, Motley Crue, Korn, Dragonforce, Pearldiver, and Pendulum on Feb. 8, said the fans will make up their minds and then vote with their feet. Galbraith has been quoted saying something similar.

This competition isn’t new to Probyn though. Download, which is on the same Donington Park site as the British Grand Prix, faced competition last year from the Reading and Leeds weekend, which featured a rock-orientated lineup that also included Metallica.

The statement announcing the naming of the Download acts said the festival offers “more bang for your buck.”
LN’s Hard Rock Calling (June 27-28), one of the events it stages annually in London’s Hyde Park, a contract Galbraith unsuccessfully competed for, has announced Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Dave Matthews Band, and The Gaslight Anthem. More names are expected in the next couple of weeks.

Regardless of whether Galbraith has created Sonisphere to rival Download – and he has publicly criticized the 2008 edition of his former employer’s festival – he and Jackson look to have been planning it for at least eight months.

In July 2008, AEG Live president and chief exec Randy Phillips confirmed a Pollstar story saying his company was in discussion with Jackson to co-produce “worldwide rock festivals.”

At the time, he denied a U.K. live music industry rumour that his Los Angeles-based company was negotiating to buy K2 but told Pollstar that Galbraith was talking to Jackson about “creating festivals on a global level.”

Ossy Hoppe of Wizard Promotions, who is co-producing Metallica’s other German shows with Marek Lieberberg, will have Die Toten Hosen, Mastodon and Lamb Of God among the supporting lineup for the Sonisphere he’s promoting at Hockenheimring July 4.

The Formula One motor racing circuit at Baden-Württemberg, which stages the German Grand Prix on alternate years, has previously hosted concerts by acts including AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and Robbie Williams.

The Spanish show at the 50,000-capacity Barcelona Forum (July 11) will also have Slipknot, Mastodon and Lamb Of God.
Itxaso Hernández of Last Tour International, which produces major Spanish festivals including Bilbao BBK Live and Azkena Rock, said the company became involved in Sonisphere because it has worked with Metallica before.

In May, Last Tour put Metallica on its Getafe Electric Festival in Madrid with Rage Against The Machine, The Offspring, and Queens Of The Stone Age. This year it will also be promoting Metallica at Madrid’s 10,000-capacity Palacio de Deportes (July 13-14). The band also played Bilbao BBK Live in 2007.

It’s possible Metallica may do further Sonispheres in Eastern Europe, Russia and Italy in 2010.

The Knebworth event that ends the European run is the first time the country house venue has been used for a camping festival and the first shows it’s staged since Robbie Williams did three 125,000-capacity sellouts in 2003.

Since starting with The Allman Brothers Band in 1994, Knebworth has hosted major open-air concerts from the likes of Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Genesis, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John and Oasis.