The second high voltage festival took place on 23rd and 24th July 2011. The line-up was superb - some really top bands on the bill including Judas Priest, Slash, Thin Lizzy, Queensryche, Dream Theatre, Jethro Tull and many more.
The location for the festival was once again Victoria Park in London - a large park in Hackney with good transport links (they'd have been a lot better had LUL not decided to shut half the underground lines for the weekend).
The park gives plenty of space for the event, but does come with a major problem - its in a residential area, so the council imposes strict noise levels that are far lower than most similar event have to work with. The council killjoys were out with their noise monitoring devices even before the first band took to the stage, ready to demand the volume be turned even further down if the noise limits were breached. The sound levels allowed were reportedly 96dB - lower than most festivals, so the PA even on main stage was fairly small and when the wind blew the sound got even worse than it was throughout the weekend - almost everyone there seemed to be complaining about how quiet the bands were at some stage or another during the weekend.
The festival has three stages - the Main stage, the Prog stage and the Metal Hammer stage. Sadly the layout seemed to have the prog stage pointing towards the metal hammer stage which meant that when watching bands on the metal hammer stage it wasn't unusual to hear the band on the prog stage. Apart from this the layout was good and one improvement this year was to increase the space around the prog stage compared to last year after last year's overcrowding at that stage for some of the more popular bands.
The feel of the festival was very good - a nice relaxed friendly atmosphere with everyone there to have a good time.
The bars were well run with no need to queue - I managed to walk in and get served immediately whenever I wanted a drink. The only exception to this was the real ale bar where the organisers appear to have badly underestimated the demand and the crowd at the bar trying to get served was 5 deep pretty much the entire weekend - hardly surprising given that the length of the bar was less than half that of the main bars. A much bigger real ale bar would be a massive improvement next time please as many ale drinkers gave up as they didn't want the long wait.
There were various food stalls around the site offering a variety of foods, but numbers seemed down on last year. Having said that there was still a good variety and the choices seemed more upmarket than at many rock or metal festivals - the hog roast for instance actually had an entire pig on a spit rather than it just serving up anonymous slices of pork, and there were also Aberdeen angus and Ostrich burger stalls.
It wouldnt be a festival without a last minute line-up change. Electric Wizzard were stuck in Norway and so Rival Sons replaced them headlining on the Metal Hammer stage on Sunday evening. It was good to see the information being displayed on the screens by main stage in between bands so most people will have seen the news.
The weather was ok on Saturday - cool and cloudy but never delivering the threatened rain. The sunday was a lovely hot sunny day and thatreally helped boost peoples spirits (and their alcohol consumption I suspect).
A few bands did signing sessions over the weekend at the HMV stand. The only one I saw was Thunder and they had drawn a long line of fans wanting stuff signed.
Most of the bands seen are reviewed separately (see the links at the bottom of this review), but a few bands arent as I only managed to catch a few minutes of their set.
On the Metal Hammer stage, Graveyard were very impressive and I'd like to see them again. In contrast Neurosis who were high on the bill for the Metal Hammer stage were very disappointing - they dounded like dull prog rock and the very small crowd they drew suggests most people decided they weren't worth watching.
Another good band on the Metal Hammer stage was Gentleman's Pistols who despite some technical problems that resulted in long gaps between songs, put in a great set.
The festival didn't feel busy - in fact it seemed to be fairly poorly attended, which is surprising given the superb line-up, but from talking to people, a common reason given was the cost - not so much of the festival itself but of the accommodation in London which many people had needed to book as travelling home each night wasn't practical. I think that in a better location (one where camping is allowed or accomodation is cheaper) then attendance levels would have been higher.
It will be interesting to see what happens with next year's festival - its likely to be just days before the Olympic games start, so I'd be surprised if the organisers are able to get police, toilets etc organised for a site in East London just days before the games begin - a date change or a venue change (or both) would seem likely, but we'll just have to wait and see - whatever option they go for, I hope the festival does happen as it brings together so many great bands for a fantastic weekend's entertainment.
Attica Rage: http://festivalphoto.net/index.php?page=reviews&review=1085
Michael Monroe: http://festivalphoto.net/index.php?page=reviews&review=1086
Thin Lizzy: http://festivalphoto.net/index.php?page=reviews&review=1094
Judas Priest: http://www.festivalphoto.net/reviews&review=1089
Black country communion: http://festivalphoto.net/index.php?page=reviews&review=1090
Jethro Tull: http://festivalphoto.net/index.php?page=reviews&review=1091
Michael Schenker: http://festivalphoto.net/index.php?page=reviews&review=1092