it was fantastic. the festival was really well organized and run. they had things set up with 3 stages. two of the stages ('A' and 'B') were right next to each other and they would be setting up on one stage while a band played on the other. a third stage ('C') on the other end of the fairgrounds had the smaller name acts. most bands played for about half an hour each except a couple of the bigger names which played for 45 minutes or an hour at the end of each day. the advantage of the setup was that there was almost no wait between bands. someone was playing at all times on at least one of the stages.
the bands were amazing. there were no real disappointments. standouts were Darkest Hour, Walls of Jericho, Lamb of God, Anti-Flag (who were excellent to see on the 4th of july: "you've gotta die / gotta die / gotta die for your government? / die for your country? / that's SHIT!"), In Flames, Bouncing Souls, Shai Hulud, Dead to Fall, Jude the Obscure, Brother's Keeper (they announced that they were breaking up and hellfest was their last show ever), The Locust, and With Honor. but seriously, pretty much every band i saw was good.
the crowd was just as impressive as the bands though. crowd participation and enthusiasm was mind-blowing. even after three solid days of moshing in 95 degree heat and clouds of dust (one of the few negative aspects of the weekend was that the fairgrounds were really dusty and it was hard to see or breathe quite often. i think i have gravel in my lungs now and all weekend my snot was black), they were still jumping around and stagediving every chance they got. at every single band, even the obscure Stage C acts, there were people going crazy jumping on stage and they all knew all the lyrics to all the songs.
i brought my new toy along and took a ton of pictures. it was hard to get very many good shots though. for many of the bands, the mosh pits were extremely violent and took up such a huge area of the floor in front of the stage that i really couldn't get closer than about 100 feet without risking getting my camera and my skull destroyed.
aside from going to hellfest, i would recommend that you just stay out of syracuse. driving around that area was a nightmare. they seem to have the most confusing system of roadways imaginable. there were hidden exits, ambiguous or just missing signage, an overall twisted street layout that felt like it had been designed by a spider on benzedrine with a cruel streak, and everything looks the same. we literally spent hours driving around just trying to do simple things like finding a convenience store or getting back to our hotel. every turn that we were supposed to make we would manage to miss the first time around and have to back track to it. just when we'd get back on the right track, we'd suddenly find ourselves in an exit only lane and have to spend half an hour just trying to get back on the highway (a process that would usually end up involving about 14 turns). it wasn't just one or two cases of bad design, the whole area seemed to suffer from it.