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Festival fight: Sonisphere vs. Download - who won?

Two of the UK's best rock festivals squared off this summer. But which one was best? Fiiiiiight!

Posted 11th July 2011 in Features, System Of A Down
System Of A Down

Sonisphere managed to bag the Big Four - Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth - following their appearance at last year's European leg of the festival. A historical weekend for British rock fans, their sets were euphoric and rapturously received (it's Metallica, FFS). Elsewhere, Biffy Clyro and a returning Slipknot headlined their own nights. At Download, they managed to book System Of A Down's triumphant return, Brit metal legends Def Leppard and rap-rock superstars Linkin Park. Mightily impressive, but nothing could beat the pulling power of the Big Four.
Winner: Sonisphere

Rest of line-up
Download really packed it in this year - over five stages across the site, you'd never struggle for a band to watch. Funeral For A Friend, Bullet For My Valentine, Trash Talk, Frank Turner, Pendulum and Rob Zombie all featured across the weekend, alongside a slew of lesser-known talent on the smaller stages. Sonisphere's lineup offered far less choice, but included some impressive names: Weezer, You Me At Six, All Time Low and Sum 41 all appeared on the bill.
Winner: Download

Talking points
Both festivals got people talking, but for different reasons. Download's inclusion of The Darkness, reunited for the first time since their hiatus earlier in the decade, was greeted with derision and surprise from some quarters. The band won over any naysayers, though, with a set that was catchy, heavy and fun. Basically, everything people liked about The Darkness in the first place. Sonisphere's choice of Biffy Clyro as a headliner threw people into a spin, with rock fans taking to Twitter and Facebook to whine, bitch and moan that they just weren't 'metal' enough. They obviously hadn't seen Biffy live - the band balance their gentler material with larynx-shredding screams and shredding riffs, and put in a headline set that cemented their place as one of the best rock bands in the country.
Winner: Sonisphere

Download started off blissfully - full of sun, clear sky and warm temperatures. Things soon changed, however, and the next day festivalgoers were subject to winds, bone chilling cold and piss-wet rain. So much so, hoardes of people gave up on Sunday before headliners Linkin Park and trudged home. Sonisphere wasn't much better - the Great British Weather (ie as miserable as one of Korn) reared its ugly head all weekend. But for that one utterly glorious day alone, Download edges it.
Winner: Download

Though Download made the most of social media this year - giving regular updates (and, importantly, weather and traffic information) throughout the weekend, Sonisphere's choice to broadcast a selection of sets over the weekend via their website was a smart move. Couldn't get to Knebworth? No worries, because the likes of Mastodon, Parkway Drive and Slipknot were all webcast live across the globe.
Winner: Sonisphere

Download decided to price theirs from a very reasonable £155, while Sonisphere's price point was slightly higher at £180 for a weekend ticket. When the likes of Reading & Leeds festivals come in at well over £200 when you include booking fees, both were bargains. But in terms of lineup choice vs price, Download is victorious.
Winner: Download

Fan reaction
We try to keep a close eye on Twitter and Facebook here at Rocklouder, so it was interesting to see the post-festival comments for both events. Download's reaction was fairly muted in comparison to Sonisphere - we're guessing mainly due to the adverse weather everyone experienced for the majority of its weekend, people spent most of the next week drying off.
Winner: Sonisphere

OVERALL: Download
Though Sonisphere's headliners were hugely impressive (the Big Four, in particular, was a real coup), Download's sheer volume of bands across multiple genres gave the best value for money. 2012 rumours have already started, and we reckon next year's going to be the best yet for both festivals. How the hell are we going to decide?