It has been one whole year since we have graced the beautiful rural countryside of Meerhout, Belgium. For one weekend every year the best festival in Europe happens…. Groezrock! Still hanging from the strength from last year’s Groezrock Festival which saw Rise Against, Bad Religion, FLAG, Comeback Kid, Killswitch Engage, and Bring Me The Horizon headline, it was inevitable that with the other plethora of bands that were performing over the weekend, that it slowly became the best weekend imaginable for our writer JPM.
Coming back with a bundle of enthusiasm and dream-like stories, we decided that a couple more of us were to venture out to this year’s festivities! What follows in this here review are our collective thoughts on what happened and went down through out the whole weekend moshing, stagediving, crowdsurfing, singalongs, fun, unity, and thousands of people with a like mind for punk, hardcore, rock, and metal, this was merely but a continuation from the fun and excitement that was captured last year.
So without further ado, please check out what we thought of Belgium’s very own, GROEZROCK 2014!
Devil In Me- Impericon Stage
Quite the way to kick of proceedings at Groezrock, as Portuguese hardcore crew Devil In Me provide the first injection of audio adrenaline for the day! A short but very sweet set that demonstrates just how much of a promising band they really are, not to mention how musically tight and energetic they are. One thing that does hinder the ferocity of this music, is the barrier divide between band and crowd. However in a display of great showmanship, vocalist Poli comes down to the crowd during the last couple of songs and basically tells the crowd that ‘no barrier should matter at all, because we are here as a family and to have a great time’. RIGHT ON! Devil In Me really showed just how much of a force they are to be reckoned with today. Jolly good show, chaps! 3.5/5 JPM
PUP- Etnies Stage
PUP have waved goodbye to Toronto in favour of the depths of Belgium but you wouldn’t have guessed the band were so far from home. They channel their aggression and push the boundaries of urgent rock n’ roll with the catchiness of punk-rock. With just one EP under their belts the set is full of tracks from it culminating with ‘Reservoir’ which provokes a sing-a-long catchy anthemic end to an energetic set. 4/5 RW
Bayside- Impericon Stage
Bayside have just finished a UK tour alongside Alkaline Trio so they’ve been on the road for a little while before today’s set. Latest album ‘Cult’ came out recently and the band showcase three tracks out of their ten track long set from the album including opener ‘Big Cheese’. Anthony Raneri’s vocals are pitch perfect throughout the set showing of the fantastic acoustics of this tent. Closer ‘Devotion and Desire’ shows how loved this band actually are with loud sing-a-long’s which only pushes the band even more. 3.5/5 RW
Red City Radio- Etnies Stage
This set could have gone one of two ways, especially because of the recent parting of ex-vocalist Paul Pendley. So with a new lineup and a fresh mentality, how did Red City Radio go down? The answer is… better than it possibly could have gone! Red City Radio proved that no matter what the odds stacked against them, the can still pull out the ace card, even at the last minute. This set was so uplifting and downright full of great vibes, that the octane level threatened to tear the roof off on multiple occasions, so to speak. Armed with a barrage of songs such as the life-affirming ‘Two For Flinching’, and ‘50th & Western’, you cannot help but pull yourself up to the stage and want to dive off in sheer joy and pride.
Put quite simply, Red City Radio are here to stay. And on this evidence, they are not leaving us anytime soon! 4/5 JPM
Deez Nuts- Impericon Stage
Australian hardcore band Deez Nuts have always been one to polarise opinions, with their rather tongue in cheek take on their ‘bro’ tainted hardcore. Their live shows have reportedly been one of sheer chaos, or ridiculous crowd singalongs with such amusingly titled tracks like ‘I Hustle Everyday’ and ‘Unfuckwithable’.
Unfortunately today, it seems that putting them on the Impericon Stage makes them seem, well a little lost. Regardless of this, they are one hell of a tight live band, but it just seems that this kind of stag is just not meant for them. The energy on stage just comes across as lacklustre and half-hearted. Which is a shame, because we can imagine that Deez Nuts would be sheer mayhem in a more intimate setting. 3/5 JPM
The Wonder Years- Etnies Stage
Having not been to Groezrock before we were made aware of the situation with the Etnies stage. No security and a stage only a metre off the ground being a sanctuary for stage divers and crowd surfers alike. But it wasn’t until The Wonder Years set that we got to see exactly how mad this can get. There are points when you can’t even work out whose in the band and who isn’t from the sheer volume of people on stage. Upcoming single ‘Dismantling Summer’ and closer ‘Came Out Swinging’ are highlights of pure unadulterated fun. The set is a raucous display of pop-punk gold mixed with heavier riffs to appeal to the Groezrock crowd. 4/5 RW
Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!- Macbeth Stage
French pop-punk metallers Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! are a burst of fresh air on the tiny MacBeth outdoor stage and fortunately the sun is shining (sort of!) The mixture of crushing guitars, silky smooth pop-punk melodies and sampled backing tracks gives the audience a chance to show off their dance skills. The band showcase a bunch of tracks from their latest album ‘Pardon My French’ including ‘Restart’ and ‘Haters Gonna Hate’ but the track which gets greeted with the most enthusiasm is in fact a cover track. ‘All Star’ originally by Smash Mouth appears on the latest Punk Goes album and gets the crowd in a complete frenzy. 4/5 RW
Terror- Impericon Stage
No matter what stage they are on, wherever in the world, you can always count on Terror to crank it up to 11. Sounding as vicious and as rabid as ever, they show absolutely no signs of slowing down. Whether it be vocalist Scott Vogel demanding that people ‘step the fuck up!’ or ‘open that shit up!’, no matter where you go during a Terror show (especially of one this size) there is always going to be a pit, a crowd surfer, or some form of two-stepping going on.
Whilst not necessarily re-inventing the wheel and with a lack of classic ‘Vogelisms’ today, Terror still manage to raise the stakes by a hell of a lot. With such liberating songs such as ‘One With The Underdogs’, and ‘Stick Tight’, how can you not help but involve yourself?! Always against the odds, one with the underdogs! 4/5 JPM
Madball- Impericon Stage
When it comes to NYHC legend Madball, you can bet your bottom dollar that they have played on nearly any and every intimate stage in the world, and every reputable bigger stage in the punk and hardcore circles too. So it comes as a no-brainer that Madball will surely know how to whip this crowd in to a frenzy.
Frontman Freddy Cricien is just in total control throughout the set. Only a couple years shy of hitting 40 years, he looks in better shape than he ever has done in his life. But as well as being a tremendous bolt of energy, he knows how to keep this crowd going one song after the other.
When it comes to the final song in the set ‘Pride (Times Are Changing)’ with a flurry of guest vocalists including members of Wisdom In Chains and Devil In Me, the crowd on the floor as well as the side of stage, really do show the mass of appreciation that these hardcore veterans deserve. 4/5 JPM
La Dispute- Etnies Stage
Before Groezrock we’d heard an awful lot about American based La Dispute but had never had the chance to catch them live and my we’re glad we gave them a shot this weekend. This was one of the first time’s we truly saw this stage get completely rammed and understandably so. Crushed at the front (but safely out of the way of the hundreds of stage divers) we were impressed by the fifty minute long set of progressive rock. ‘Andria’ and ‘Said The King To The River’ brought the crowd into even more of a frenzy and despite not knowing many other tracks it was a beautifully enjoyable set which has given us a new found love for La Dispute. 4.5/5 RW
Alkaline Trio- Monster Main Stage
After 18 years as a band Alkaline Trio are almost reaching legendary status within the punk genre. The Chicago based three piece have gained and maintained an international fan base meaning that their set on the main stage at Groezrock is met with as much enthusiasm as it would have have back home in America. The sing-a-long romps and the crashing guitars showcase almost two decades of a much loved band. From opener ‘This Could Be Love’ to ‘Sadie’ and closer ‘Radio’ the set is littered with everything an Alkaline Trio fan could ask for. For those of us impartial to the band it does seem a little same-y but perhaps this is just because we aren’t as familiar with all the tracks as the rest of the crowd are. 3/5 RW
Paint In Black- Etnies Stage
This was definitely one of the main focal points of the weekend. Paint It Black have not been to Europe to do a tour in six years, so there was an evident feeling of apprehension and nerves as they came on to the stage. It probably did not help that they were playing the same time as Ignite to that as well.
But what we get in the next little while is a set so honest, so unifying, and so true that it even overwhelmed the members of the band themselves, which vocalist Adam Yemin questioned at one point whether the band had any validation to the audience in question, but was quite clearly humble and extremely grateful for all those in attendance. The fact that they actually came over with no merchandise to sell (which they voiced that they are not fans of, purely for the fact they are the people’s band, who are as DIY as they come) and still managed to have an air of importance is just testament to how much of a loved and revered band they truly are.
Their furious brand of hardcore punk music is just as life-affirming and as true as it always has been. This is as stripped down as it possibly could be, and for those in attendance for this set, know how real it particularly was. Songs such as ‘Pink Slip’, ‘Cannibal’, and ‘Greetings, Fellow Insomniacs’ whip this crowd in to a maelstrom of chants and stage dives – just how Paint It Black like it. Although one thing must be noted, is that vocalist Adam Yemin said during the art how he felt uncomfortable and nervous being on such a large stage, and also encouraged that the audience come join him on stage throughout, and even so much as him coming out in to the crowd for a decent majority of the set! But ultimately, the brevity of the set felt like it was over too soon… but we now wait with unabated breath, in hope that they do not leave it so long next time. 4/5 JPM
Descendents- Monster Main Stage
Descendents are one of those bands who you’re sure to know some tracks by even if you don’t realise this like us! The first thing we thought when the band entered the stage was ‘Are they not a little old for this?’ but the second they bound onstage all our worries are blasted away. Their impressive twenty song strong set is a seamless display of punk melodies and sing-a-long fist punching crackers. ‘I’m The One’ and ‘Hope’ prove with careless energy that they’re a whirlwind live. 3.5/5 RW
Taking Back Sunday- Impericon Stage
We were really stoked to see Taking Back Sunday play so high up Groezrock’s festival line up but sadly we were not blown away. With tracks spanning their fifteen year and six studio album career there were plenty of sing-a-long moments and Adam Lazzara was everything a frontman and showman should be. But sadly the sound just wasn’t good: after moving on three separate occasions to see if it was just our spot we realised i was the entire tent. The intensity of newest track ‘Flicker Fade’ and older favourites ‘MakeDammSure’ and ‘A Decade Under Influence’ was lost in the lack of sound. Adam’s showmanship: which included climbing up the stage’s metalwork and hanging a lot of feet in the air made up for some of our disappointment but we know how much better Taking Back Sunday usually sound. 2.5/5 RW
H2O- Etnies Stage
Was this the set of the weekend? For this writer in particular, yes it was by a LONG shot. Headlining the Etnies Stage are NYHC veterans H2O, with their infections and ridiculously positive and uplifting hardcore punk tunes that have at times resonated in the mainstream consciousness of the public.
From the get go, kicking off with a hectic ‘1995’, it is clear that the ratio of stage divers and crowd surfers are maddeningly high, and that it could only get better as the set progressed. H2O’s set was jam packed with solid tunes such as ‘Nothing To Prove’, ‘Guilty By Association’, and ‘Fairweather Friend’. But what was also more poignant was the amount of guest vocals throughout the entire set from figures of the hardcore community such as Scott Vogel from Terror, Freddy Cricien from Madball, Mad Joe Black from Wisdom In Chains, Poli from Devil In Me… the list is endless. For one glorious set, these guest vocalists were pretty much just as much one with the fans as they were side stage. It was a beautiful and glorious thing to witness, just solidifying the reason why hardcore punk truly is a family based thing, and that no one is excluded.
There was even a cheeky couple of brief covers – ‘Bro Hymn’ by Pennywise and ‘With Or Without You’ by U2 (seriously, it was amazing!), just showing that it does not matter what kind of music you listen to, everyone was all there for the same reason… To have a great time!
As each song went by, the energy of the crowd and the band got greater and greater, and what it climaxed with was a mass stage invasion during set closer ‘What Happened?’ which saw Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio join vocalist Toby Morse amid the stage invasion / mass singalong / onstage crowd surf bonanza. Arguably speaking, it was one of the most unifying sets this writer has ever seen. One of good clean fun, sheer overwhelming joy, and unhinged mayhem in the most positive form. It later transpired on social media, that H2O claimed that this was probably the best show they have ever played in their lives. On that note and from what we witnessed, we can only but support that statement! 5/5 JPM
Brand New- Monster Main Stage
After missing the multiple times Brand New played the UK it seemed only fitting that we finally saw the band at Groezrock. Despite never going through that Brand New phase- which we’re not sure how we avoided- the set was still a phenomenal spectacle. It’s clear to see how much Brand New mean to a lot of people with so much movement you’d be sucked into a whirlwind if you were any further than half way into the tent and so many fans screaming the words back that it’s sometimes hard to work out what’s the band and whats the crowd. There’s little crowd banter and no gimmicks, tonight is all about the music from ‘Gasoline’ and ‘At The Bottom’ to ‘Millstone’ and fan favourite ‘Sic Transit Gloria… Glory Fades’. Tonight is a celebration of all things that are Brand New and show that the band are at the top of their game. 4/5 RW
Quicksand- Impericon Stage
This could have been a quite frankly amazing set that would have stole the imaginations and breath of many a crowd member. Whilst it is a distinct pleasure to have post-hardcore godfathers Quicksand visit European shores (and one of many of Walter Schriefel’s musical outlets), it was more than an honour for them to play at Groezrock.
With a strong setlist of classic songs such as the legendary ‘Fazer’ and the foreboding ‘Delusional’, their set is unfortunately dogged with a mass of technical problems. It is feedback and incorrect sound levels galore, but with this in mind they still manage to battle on and make the most of their set on the Impericon Stage for all those in attendance. Sadly, the overall vibe and atmosphere of what could have been, is now lost. Hopefully next time when they play European shores, they can make up for it by bringing us the set and atmosphere they and the crowd truly deserved. 3/5 JPM
NoFX- Monster Main Stage
It is the last band of the Friday night of Groezrock festivities, and NOFX emerge on the Monster Main Stage to play the classic ‘Punk In Drublic’ back to back. Although there is something slightly charming about this set, and in typical NOFX style, they give the crowd something that they are not expecting.
Instead of actually playing the album in typical track list order, NOFX basically jumble up the entire setlist in a completely different format. Which is absolutely great in that respect, as each song coming up next is a total surprise for the crowd, and that adds a genuine element of spontaneity which is all the more welcome!
As hilarious as ever, Fat Mike jokes continuously with the crowd and band members alike, even to the point of calling out Descendents / ALL drummer Bill Stevenson asking him if he has lost any weight yet! But in their pitch black sense elf humour, it is all in good fun. It is a genuine punk rock family by the sides of the stage joining them throughout the set. Hell, even Milo from Descendents joins them for a spontaneous rendition of ‘Quart In Session’! Halfway through the set, they even throw in a song totally unrelated to the ‘Punk In Drublic’ album for the sheer hell of it, being the neck breaking ‘It’s My Job to Keep Punk Rock Elite’.
Another charming element to this set is the fact that there is a couple of songs from the album that NOFX have never played live before! So you can imagine the hilarity that ensues when Fat Mike forgets some words, as do the band forget at times what notes to play. But it all adds to the sheer honesty and comedic element that NOFX have always brought to the table. When you see a cord that goes bats hit mental in the pit to the likes of songs such as ‘Leave It Alone’, ‘Don’t Call Me White’, and ‘The Brews’, you cannot help but feel their joy and energy! A shambolically brilliant set, warts and all, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Tres bien! 4/5 JPM
Day one is over, but stay tuned for our review on Day 2 of Groezrock!
Reviews by: Rhian Westbury and James Paul Matthews