In the highly competitive summer festival market any new event must be right on the money. And while High Voltage experienced its problems we’re pretty confident this is one rock and metal gathering which will grow and grow.
As Sonisphere booms into life at Knebworth and the memories of Download are still so vivid it’s clear that we’re slap bang in the middle of a golden era for outdoor rock. With Bloodstock and the Leeds/Reading festivals still to come there’s never been as much choice for the discerning fan of guitar-driven music and the only question is: will it last?
High Voltage sold itself as a festival for the more mature concert goer. And it just about lived up to the billing. There were the slew of veteran acts and even the younger bands tended to be of a distinctly retro vintage – The Answer and The Union quite easily transcending generations.
And then there was the specially brewed real ale and the glorious yellow throwback tees. Targeting High Voltage fans with both would have been a marketing masterstroke – had the sold-out signs not gone up almost as soon as the weekend’s festivities had started.
And that was just one of the setbacks this virgin festival suffered. Adhering to the oh-so-strict setlist times was another black mark against the brilliant but flawed inaugural High Voltage. Watching the plug being pulled on legends Gary Moore and Ian Hunter was tough to take – especially as neither was going to throw the rest of the day’s entertainment out of kilter. Everyone knows festivals ultimately run late – everyone except the hard-nosed crew manning the High Voltage main stage.
But then the counter argument would be that good organisation is key. And let’s face it – this was one of the best planned festivals you’ll ever attend.
The hand-picked site was perfect for the job – even if the proximity of the metal stage to the prog stage meant some of the artists appearing on the latter had to ramp up their keyboards and flutes to 11. At a reasonably brisk pace it was quite possible to get from one end of the venue to the other within 10 minutes and there was never any sense of overcrowding (much to the chagrin of those selling the tickets, no doubt).
The range of food was exceptional for an outdoor shindig on this scale – the usual tempura vegetables and noodles complemented by proper pies and gourmet burgers, fish and chips and an on-site Pizza Express. There simply wasn’t enough time to fully do justice to a potential feeding frenzy.
But then there was the walk to and from the site. In the sweaty heat of a London summer. On the High Voltage website we were reliably informed that a 10-minute stroll from Mile End tube would do the job – Steve Cram at his peak would have done well to run that distance in 10 minutes! Honesty is the best policy and while a 25-minute walk might sound excessive at least the masses wouldn’t turn up late for their favourite bands.
Overall High Voltage was a high point of the summer. And there are high hopes it will go from strength to strength with the likes of Whitesnake and Van Halen mooted as potential 2011 headliners. Can it ever compete with Download of Sonisphere or does it even want to? Who knows. But as British rock fans we’re bloody lucky to have all three right here, right now.