After starting off in 1992, to only a couple hundred people, Groezrock has now expanded over its 22 years to having 40’000 campers across two days to enjoy four stages. The biggest punk and hardcore festival in Europe, which has seen many legendary sets in it’s time has hosted such bands as Bad Religion, NOFX, Parkway Drive and The Offspring, who this year performed breakthrough and worldwide phenomenom album ‘Smash’ in it’s entirety. Situated in a remote part of Meerhout, Belgium the festival brings together the most devoted punk and hardcore fans in mainland Europe, the UK and even a few Americans make their way over to be a part of such a fantastic weekend of music.
After we’ve set up after a long and tedious 8 hour journey from the UK, we make our way to the campsite entertainment. A tent has been set up with a bar running along the back and a DJ stage at the front. So after arriving on the Thursday, and every night after all the bands you can listen, dance, drink and go generally bonkers to the best punk/hardcore/classic rock tunes until 3am. European fans are crazy and go hard even in the DJ tent! Mosh pits open up all over the place and people dance like maniacs. A brilliantly unique experience, and that’s even before we’ve seen any bands.
“Hi we’re The Wonder Years, let’s see some stage dives” announces bearded vocalist ‘Soupy’ as TWY make their way onto the stage to kickstart our Groezrock weekend. Opening with ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’ the stage dives have already well and truely started and throughout the set it is a relentless barrage of bodies. If you’re unaware, the Etnies Stage has no security and no barrier…let chaos reign. After that they stride straight into ‘Passing Through A Screen Door’ and the singing from the audience is deafening as Soupy looks out towards the sea of observers with shock and amazement. They plod along nicely and are on their way to a killer set when technical diffculties seem to get the best of bass player Josh as he slaps his microphone stand to the floor and thats what we don’t want to see. Contender for song of the weekend is ‘Dismantling Summer’ a heartfelt song that has a couple of crowd members in tears and choked up. Overall a fantastic set and a great start to Groezrock.
‘Sowing Season’ kicks off Brand New’s set tonight and is a powerhouse with clear and concise guitar work that sounds absolutely HUGE in this tent. Followed on, somewhat daringly by a couple of tracks from last record, the hit-and-miss ‘Daisy’. However even ‘Gasoline’ and ‘At The Bottom’ go down a storm with this crowd, it seems like nothing is going to stop them tonight. ‘The Archers Bows Have Broken’ arguably the catchiest song BN have in their locker is given an airing much to the delight of those in attendance tonight with the chorus being sung back at full volume. BN have been accused of not looking like they want to be on stage and that they’d rather be anywhere else a lot of the time, but tonight they feel the love from the crowd and feed off of it with smiles and glee. A 10+ minute ‘You Wont Know’ finishes off the set in spectacular fashion as the band create a supremely intense wall of noise and walk off with their heads held high. Set of the weekend by a country mile.
Touche Amore have 45 minutes to fit in as much alternative melodic hardcore as they can for Groezrock, and with their songs roughly coming in at two minutes each we are treated to a career spanning set. A lot of new material is aired with the one-two of ‘Praise/Love’, ‘Anyone/Anything’ coming out early and the former building into the second half of essentially a two part track that when it kicks in, the whole tent goes off. Stage dives, sing-alongs, a cathartic non stop release for the band and crowd during this early evening set. Second album material ‘Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me’ get’s the biggest reception with staple live set cuts such as ‘~’, ‘Amends’ and a particuarly emotional ‘Condolences’ with vocalist Jeremy Bolm letting out an almighty scream that seems to last an eternity and in this moment the whole tent is united and the catharsis is done and dusted in a blink of an eye.
The Macbeth Stage is in a very odd placement at Groezrock, it’s placed right in the upper corner of the arena site almost out of the way. However this doesn’t stop the UK’s most hotly tipped band for success to draw an impressive crowd. Wedged inbetween the likes of Touche Amore and The Ghost Inside it really is tesitment to see how far this band has come over the last 18 months or so. Opening with latest single ‘Man On Fire’ from soon-to-be-released ‘Runes’ it signals the guys intentions early on to leave a lasting impression, and that they do. Along with previously released single ‘Watcher’ the new material sounds enormous and sits and slides in with old matieral like a glove. Frontman Dani Winter-Bates tells us all to circle pit around the sounddesk that he has been eyeing up all day, and this crowd is very much happy so to oblige as the band kick in to ‘An Honourable Reign’. The band came to do a job, to kick ass, win new fans and have fun. All three boxes ticked there, expect to see Bury Tomorrow on a bigger stage on their next visit to Groezrock.
This is it, the time has come, it’s taken a few years but Falling In Reverse have made their way over the pond and then some to mainland Europe. Is it going to be everything we’ve read about and expected?…um, not quite. Firstly the crowd is rather sparse for such a big occassion which naturally takes away and diminishes the atmosphere. Also with this being a festival there’s no real stage production, only raised drums and a few ego risers. Also there’s a lot of haters here tonight flipping the bird and shouting obscenities towards the stage, tonight isn’t going well at all for Ronnie and co. However they do try to pull it back with a great sound, something they struggled with early on in the set. Ronnie’s vocals actually sound almost record like which is a delight for our ears, that being said, he should put his high pitched screams in a bottle and toss that bitch into the ocean, cause they are just an embarassment to an overall great vocalist. As the set wears on the audience get more involved and smiles began to appear on the 5 faces onstage. The guys manage to pull back a decent result from a poor start. It’s going to be interesting to see how they fare when they hit UK shores, but for now, we’ll just call this one a draw. Not bad, not great, just mediocre.
And that concludes our 2014 Groezrock Festival, a brilliant experience and one helluva weekend with Brand New taking the accolade of ‘best set of the weekend’.