Groezrock 2013

author PP date 08/05/13

Ah, Groezrock. The annual kick off to the festival season for this scribe, which also functions as the excuse after which it is safe to go to any festival and not feel bad about missing bands, because you've seen all the best ones this weekend already. Provided you keep up with emo / punk / hardcore / scene music, the festival virtually guarantees each year a lineup so ridiculously strong that you're can't possibly see all of your favorite bands without skipping all of breakfast, lunch, dinner and the obligatory beers in the process. Mixed with the biggest names in the genre you'll find exciting reunion names (many of them one offs), and a wealth of up-and-coming bands contesting for the afternoon slots head to head with established household names in each genre.

Really, there is so much great music to see that you can essentially pick a stage and a time randomly, and you're almost guaranteed to see a great band in one of the aforementioned genres. Your problem isn't as much about how to catch good bands rather than struggling to find a moment of eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner without missing either one of your favorites, an old classic name, or a curious new band you've been told rules.

2013 is no exception, so as has become an annual tradition here at Rockfreaks.net, we sent a congregation of our writers (PP,AP, and TL and photographers (Julie Decome and Lykke Nielsen) towards the idyllic town of Meerhout, Belgium to provide you coverage of the shenanigans, dragging along 44 other music enthusiasts from Denmark and Sweden on a booze-riddled bus ride from Copenhagen to the festival and back. PP

To skip my blabbering about the camping site and the festival site, feel free to scroll straight down to the reviews section below

Camping Site

Only idiots go camping in this weather were my thoughts as we unloaded the bus before noon outside of the Camping entrance, only to be met by blistering rain and gusty winds, and temperatures well below 10 degrees Celsius during daytime. Last year, we had temperatures close to or over 20 degrees, and this year, it was down to zero at night during the coldest night. Needless to say, few of us have never felt this cold before in our lives while camping.

Our Danish/Swedish congregation awaiting to be let into the camping site on Friday morning

Keeping our heads up then despite the weather, the Camping Site continues to meet all of our basic expectations just like last year. No major additions were made; you could still charge your phone for a measly €2, the camping supermarket helped to pump your air mattress for free and sold whatever other supplies you might possibly need for a camping festival, and the breakfast tent served basic, but delicious breakfast each morning. Toilet facilities were extremely well maintained as far as I could tell, and there is a possibility to take a shower on site as well. It wasn't nearly warm enough for me to try that out for you guys, though, so there you go.

Other than that, the camping site once again featured the Acoustic Punk Meeting, an open forum where anyone could show up with a guitar and play a few songs. This year, Joey Cape of Lagwagon fame and Russ Rankin (Good Riddance) both played a short 20 minute set, but the area was so packed with people that really only the first three or four rows could hear anything, with others talking way too loudly at the back or singing other songs, and the party tent next door making a ridiculous amount of bass noise throwing Rankin off his rhythm from time to time. PP

Festival Site

Much like the camping site, the festival site trusts in the if it ain't broken, don't fix it ideology in the best punk rock fashion. But jokes aside, Groezrock is one of the best organized festivals in the world, if not the very best, so things just work. There are no queues - even to pick up your wrist bands - the food is great quality on festival standards (those vegetarian samosas, Christ they were good, this coming from a sworn meat eater), and most of all, everything is CHEAP. At least when you compare to Scandinavian or UK festival standards.

The festival has four stages: the Monster Stage, which acts as the main stage to the festival, the medium sized Impericon Stage, the stage dive friendly Etnies Stage, and of course last year's new addition, the acoustic stage, each with their own quirks, pros and cons. The metal bands, for instance, sound really good on the Impericon Stage, whereas a pop punk band would sound terrible in its echoing surroundings. Placing a hardcore band on the main stage doesn't make much sense, whereas surrounding them with stage divers in a small, intimate environment is a great idea. Most of the time the sound is very good (considering the short changeovers between each bands), and the set lengths are ideal for a festival where you're seeing probably 15-20 bands per day individually.

Last year had a mechanical bull placed near the 0.5 Liter beer tent (which is awesome, by the way, because the 0.3L beers run out so quickly). That was replaced this year with a BMX ramp in the middle, though I never actually saw anyone playing around on it. Probably because it was clashing with any number of bands I was watching this festival. Another new feature (as far as I can remember) was the possibility to buy Cava. Never tried to drink from a champagne glass at a festival site before, that's for sure.

One thing that did change this year was that the festival dropped the food tickets altogether, which was literally my last remaining grapple with the festival. Instead, they just had one type of ticket - the 'Groezrock' ticket - which could be used for food, drinks, and even charging your phone in the camping site. This means that buying stuff was so much easier than before, and you didn't have to get absolutely hammered on Sunday at 10pm because you just realized you have 10 drink tickets left and the festival is closing soon. No problem - late night kebab instead. Awesome change.

Yes, there's a lot of advertisement around the festival site (for instance for some of the early bands without elaborate light shows, the Monster stage lights would occasionally flash giant green M' (wonder how much they had to pay for that), but really it doesn't bother anyone given how strong the lineup is year after year.

But without further ado, lets move onto the reviews, shall we? PP

SATURDAY

The Rocket @ 11:00-11:30 on Monster Stage

I know that some people consider a slot as Main Stage opener at festivals an honour, but out here in the real world of binge-drinking Rockfreaks.net reviewers, it normally just means that most writers will still be asleep when you go on, and anybody that does manage to see the show will probably have serious trouble remembering all the way back to you when the whole ordeal is over. This year however, Friday at Groezrock was so cold and miserable that I had turned in early and gotten up earlier (had it not been for the holding of that first cup of coffee, I think I would be typing this with my nose rather than any fingers now). So when Belgium's own pop-punkers The Rocket open the prominent Monster Stage, I'm fixed at the rear barriers with a Jäger-laced early cup of the drink of the same name, planning to take it easy in expectation for a long two days. So the best thing I can remember about The Rocket then, is that their 8-bit synth-infused tunes - which sound like Motion City Soundtrack keyboards mixed into Chixdiggit oldschool pop-punk with Polar Bear Club's Jimmy Stadt on vocals - soon has me half-bouncing with excitement. Of course it could also have to do with the Monster or the general excitement with the festival having officially started, yet these five dudes - who look old enough to teach in high school yet wear what looks like high school uniforms on stage - still strike me as encouraging choice to open up proceedings with some fun-filled music. [6½] TL

Attila @ 11:40-12:15 on Etnies Stage

I'm quite sure my friend Mirza was joking earlier when he told me "Dude we MUST go see Attila" - partly because he's nowhere to be found as they go on, but since I have nothing better to do this early, I figure "why the hell not!?", quite aware that this band is likely of the type that I hate more than anything in the world. And true enough, the Atlanta five-piece is 100% exaggerated attitude and 0% depth of content, quickly launching into a set of the breakdown-filled modern variety of nu-metal which is so often labelled as "lowest common denominator music" in our reviews. Yet I find myself not entirely out of the mood for some simple fun and maybe that's why I find something entertaining in between the stupidly heavy breaks. The band delivers their spectacle with such bravado that it's hard not to figure there's some sense of irony in there, leather jackets and sun-glasses whirling about as blazing, low-tuned melodies race away under the frontman's almost rap-sounding speed-screaming and alternating cookie-monster growls. And there's a tentful of people nodding their heads here, so who knows, maybe these guys belong in the "so bad it's sort of good anyway" category? [6½] TL

Far From Finished @ 11:55-12:30 on Monster Stage

The Rocket put me in a good mood with their Motion City Soundtrack meets Polar Bear Club style expression earlier, so after having witnessed one song of Attila and deciding that breakdowns aren't for me today, leaving TL behind and returning to the main stage was in order, where gritty melodic punkers Far From Finished were waiting. Their upbeat expression was exactly what was needed to forget Attila instantly, especially when considering the glorious way in which their one-handed vocalist has triumphed his disability with supreme confidence and showmanship. Not trying to hide the fact that he's handicapped, he instead embraces it fully by treating us to a wealth of microphone and tambourine related tricks both with his healthy and his missing hand. This all the while flying across the stage, jumping off the drum kit, and delivering some roughened, yet catchy vocal melodies to boot. A cool sound with a lot of energy that could've done with a much bigger crowd. [7] PP

Crossfaith @ 12:30-13:05 on Impericon Stage

In a rapidly developing pattern of me seeing the least punk-like bands at the punk-festival, the next thing I check out is Japanese quintet Crossfaith, who bring a serious attitude to their outrageous mixture of video-game trance and metalcore that only bands from their parts can muster up with straight faces. And again, to my surprise, it sort of works in all its post-modern bastardness, so although the bare-chests-under-open-jackets and grim grimaces that bounce about on stage strike me as the height of questionable taste, the playful infusions of electronics and the simple musical dynamics keep me around for a while wondering what these guys are going to do next and prompt me to start questioning if it isn't possible that something can be somewhat stupid and yet somewhat interesting at the same time. [6½] TL

The Riverboat Gamblers @ 12:55-13:30 on Monster Stage

So far so good for the punk rock today, 2/2 bands were at least decent if not better. And from the beginning, it seemed like The Riverboat Gamblers were going to be an early candidate for one of the best shows today, considering the ridiculous amount of energy exhibited by their vocalist throughout the show. It's not enough just with the regular jumps and storming left-and-right on the stage, but he also does a handstand jump off the drum set, does weird kneeling jumps, swings around the mic from its cord, and does virtually everything in his power to wake up the crowd from their Friday night hangovers. It's unfortunate that the sound is echoing a little too much and the vocals aren't too clear in the mix, because to start out with, the Gamblers songs arguably don't have enough staying power on their own, aside from a few great hits. This results in a static crowd that, halfway through their 35 minute set, begins to feel a little bored, this scribe included. Luckily, the band rescue it from disaster with a few great songs in the end - and the awesome stage dive while screaming the finishing 'G A M B L E R' lines to "The Art Of Getting Fucked" was pretty cool. Still, the mid section was so bland and anonymous that as a whole, it's difficult to rate the show any higher than [6½] PP

Streetlight Manifesto

Streetlight Manifesto @ 13:55-14:35 on Monster Energy Stage

Often the best concert experiences at a festival are those delivered by bands you will not have seen, or even heard before, as the additional aspect of discovering and, if you're fortunate, falling in love with the songs as well as the show itself is unique to this type of experience. Such is the case here with Streetlight Manifesto, of whom I have heard many a great thing, but never managed to actually catch live. They reside in ska territory of course, and as such it comes as no surprise that among the septet stands a trumpeter (Matt Stewart), two saxophonists (Jim Conti as tenor and Mike Brown as baritone) and a trombone player (Nadav Nirenberg); what does take me aback is how well those are incorporated into the band's musical template to forge songs that are - quite frankly - irresistible. Especially so in the live context. Streetlight Manifesto are in a buoyant mood, exuding confidence and electrifying the sizable audience until it transforms into a flurry of dancing (and skunking) and deafening screams of approval between each song. It is a near-perfect combination of carefree fun and a professionally executed performance, one that ranks among my favorite concert experiences at Groezrock this year. [8½] AP

A Wilhelm Scream

A Wilhelm Scream @ 15:00-15:40 on Monster Stage

"Career Suicide" is one of the best technical punk rock albums recorded, so the eagerly awaited return of A Wilhelm Scream in a rare European show surrounded the Monster stage in a sense of anticipation and excitement before their set. And like the couple of times I've seen them in the past, AWS never disappoint, and showcase the most energy out of any band today , as well as the biggest sing alongs we've heard so far today. Their lead singer is small but peppery, and his raw, throaty delivery acts as a perfect contrast to the cleaner sing along melodies that their songs are known for. "The Horse", for instance, incites an echoing sing along in the tent already this early during the day, as does "We Built This City (On Debt And Booze)", and especially "Famous Friends And Fashion Drunks" which has what feels like the whole tent shouting along and jumping around in a frenzy. The pits are intense, the band refuses to cease moving on stage, and they even debut a new song to suggest that there's an album coming out later this year. It's a bold statement to call AWS the best technical punk rock band around, but then I ask you, who is actually better than them? After the show today, the arguments are strong for the former statement. [8] PP

Samiam @ 15:40-16:25 on Impericon Stage

I said before the festival to many of my friends that Samiam is the best band at the festival that they haven't heard of. During this afternoon, they prove just that and then some by playing some of the greatest songs that nobody knows. They literally come out of nowhere and steal the show today with a subtle approach that relies far more on amazing songwriting and light song structures than on crazy stage energy or weird antics like a lot of bands today. They stand rather still with their vocalist bobbing about in his own zone, but there is no movement required, because their magical songs hypnotize the crowd to the extent that I jotted down to my notes on four separate occasions the phrase "so many amazing songs", and another three times "an outpour of emotion and passionate to a crazy level". The vocals are gravelly and charismatic much like Hot Water Music, but carry a light, 90s alternative rock flavor to them that make them float around the Impericon stage tonight. That there aren't so many people here helps them echo a little, which normally is to the detriment of a song but not tonight. It helps the small singalongs sound even louder as people shout back the lyrics with the kind of passion that only exists when you've been waiting to see a band for five years...for ten years...maybe even longer for some, considering their debut album was released in 1990. This wasn't a show, it was an experience embedded into your memory for years to come. [9] PP

AC4 @ 15:55-16:40 on Etnies Stage

I figure somebody should go see Dennis Lyxzén's AC4, and since PP and AP seem to be busy, it falls to me, who is pretty much free to have adventures with a Groezrock schedule that caters to me less than normally. Honestly however, the main feeling I have watching AC4 is one of annoyance, which I must admit could come from having little love for the traditional hardcore in my own musical history. The band performs energetically and dynamically enough, and Lyxzén charisma as both a performer and a between song entertainer are predictably as good as ever here in the smaller setting, but I just can't get over the feeling that a guy like him could run a band like this with his left hand and his eyes closed. Clearly, the whole point here seems to be exactly a hardcore band, nothing less and nothing more, and the whole idea of settling for such a static and restrained expression would annoy me in any band and somehow it annoys me extra in a band that features a legend such as Lyxzén. Fans of hardcore music will likely chastise me for this opinion then, but from where I'm standing, this is a retirement hobby more than a band any curious and adventurous music fan should have too much interest in. [6] TL

Pulley

Pulley @ 16:05-16:50 on Monster Energy Stage

I've never counted myself a stalwart Pulley fan. Their politically charged skate-punk has been of the sort that, when on the stereo, tends to inspire tremendous respect from me by virtue of its accessibility and, above all, intelligent lyrics; but nonetheless the kind of stuff that I have always swiftly forgotten shortly thereafter. But in the live setting, it seems - and especially in the context of Europe's largest punk rock and hardcore festival - their music comes to life in a fresh way that keeps me glued to the Monster Energy Stage for the entirety of their set. No, I am not familiar with most of their recorded output, but just like The Black Pacific a couple of years ago at this same shindig, there's just something supremely punk about this band that makes them worth the while. They play with urgency and attitude, and by the time my personal favorite "Insects Destroy" is aired, I find myself well and truly entertained. [7½] AP

The Story So Far @ 17:05-17:50 on Etnies Stage

While The Story So Far has risen to become one of the most loved new bands of the 'realist pop-punk' movement, I've taken some heat for not showering them with quite as much praise as most other appreciators have, which is partly why I decide to head to the Etnies stage to see if I can see something I've previously missed by checking out the band live. As is going to become a recurring theme for bands of even remotely good quality at the Etnies Stage however, it ends up being hard telling one show from another, because there will be so many people stage diving that at all times that you can hardly see the band. In that aspect the band also resembles The Wonder Years, and Parker Cannon and his crew also embrace the stage's hardcore nature, striding side to side while playing and dishing out their tunes with passion and energy at a constant high. So the tent is naturally crammed with people that likely feel differently, but again, I'm not hearing anything here that changes my mind about The Story So Far being a band that may have all the energy and conviction of their peers, yet still don't have the melodies or the compositional ideas to quite measure up. [7] TL

The Aquabats

The Aquabats @ 17:15-18:00 on Monster Stage

The always idiotic Aquabats are quite the spectacle to watch when doing so for the first time. To start out with, they enter stage to orchestral marching music that wouldn't feel out of place in Star Wars, wearing their retarded blue spandex costumes that make them look like space aliens escaped from a bad B-movie. Their upbeat, synth based pop punk that borrows elements from ska at times, is super nerdy, as is their stage presence which includes throwing pizza baguettes at the crowd and proceeding to offer pizza for everyone at the cost of Pennywise tonight. They draw lots of big woo-hoo sing alongs and stuff, but really, it's just all a bit weird and silly, with a little too much crowd control for my liking. They're funny (if you're into super lame humour), but the problem is that many of their songs just aren't that good. They're a good laugh, but to call them masterpieces is equally retarded to the band themselves. This begin to show as their set drags on, and in the end I find myself more bored than entertained by The Aquabats. [6] PP

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls @ 18:25-19:15 on Monster Energy Stage

Having lived in the UK for the best part of three years, I find it rather surprising that to this day I have never seen, or even heard the music of Frank Turner. As such, just like with Streetlight Manifesto, I arrive at the main stage once again with no expectations, a virgin, if you will, to the acoustic punk of this man they call a genius. Turns out such praise is well deserved, as Turner and his hired guns The Sleeping Souls deliver one of the standout performances of the festival; a show marked above all by the enthusiasm of every musician on stage. Turner's voice is sublime; even without the other musicians, I have no doubt his voice would have the power to envelop the enormous confines of this tent with relative ease. The setlist - not that I'm overtly familiar with the songs - seems to provide a fulfilling mixture of old and new, with particularly "The Road" from this year's "Tape Deck Heart" emerging as a personal favorite, its lyrics easy to follow and reciprocate. For someone such as myself, who tends toward the heavier facets of the music scene, watching an artist like Frank Turner is a refreshing, eye-opening experience; one that I plan to jump on once again at the earliest opportunity. [8½] AP

Grade @ 19:15-20:05 on Impericon Stage

PP routinely recommends bands to me and friends of ours that we end up not liking at all, yet there's a certain conviction in his tone when he urges me to go see Grade - a band I have never previously heard nor seen - so that eventually I decide to join him there against my better judgment. And initially it doesn't seem like the reunited Canadian emotional hardcore band is having a particularly great show, with few people there to see them and with a sound that doesn't exactly emphasize any finer points of their expression. Yet the members sway to the songs with a passion that seems directly channeled from the band's original heyday of some twelve years ago and soon I find myself spell-bound - despite whatever mundane problems that hinder the show - by music that so obviously comes from a mother lode from which scores of bands would later come and shape my musical upbringing. Like a more introverted Taking Back Sunday with more screaming, Grade root me to the spot and wind me up to the point of bated breath, and to the point where I have one leg in a reality where this is a grown up band playing out of its era to a crowd that doesn't really get them, and one leg in some long lost past where the term 'emotional hardcore' made a kind of sense that it hasn't made in over a decade. The mark then, is one blurred by this double-vision, but rest assured, Grade make an early personal highlight of the festival for me and get first in line of new names I'm rushing to check out as soon as I get home. [7½] TL

... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead @ 20:30-21:30 on Impericon Stage

Having another stretch of time to kill with adventures, I decide to make for 'Trail Of Dead, whom I've been reading ever since I got into music, yet have somehow never given the time of day. The highly unique progressive noise-punk/rock they unchain on the Impericon Stage soon has my undivided attention however, as the band performs it with the tightness and charisma of an act completely outside of category. Bassist Autry Fulbright II spends a lot of time playing while arching over backwards and staring at the crowd with his head upside-down and while Jason Reece and Jamie Miller change back and forth between positions of drummer, second guitarist and backing vocalists, front man Conrad Keely gradually gathers momentum until every wind-mill strum of his guitar looks like the fulfillment of some apocalyptic prophecy, sending him spinning with excessive energy, knocking over mic stands and emanating untold inner electricity that is bursting to get out. Perhaps it's this energy that finally finds release then, when a show that has me hanging by each note ends with guitars thrown around violently, monitors being shoved over the edge of the stage and a kick drum that is hurled out towards the audience. I don't know, I'm honestly not entirely sure what happened in front of the curious few that had assembled for this hour at Impericon, but I know for sure that while startled security members suddenly appear, looking like they fear the band has lost their minds, the look on Keely's face - like he's some possessed child that was just caught set the family pet on fire - is one that will likely forever remind me of one of the most incendiary shows I've seen period. [9] TL

Title Fight @ 20:45-21:35 on Etnies Stage

Title Fight has the unfortunate time slot that clashes massively with reunion of Jim at the helm of Pennywise, so despite my love for the band, the knowledge that they'll be playing in Denmark in a couple of weeks means I'm going to commit just 15 minutes to their set. Turns out it wasn't an entirely bad decision as they suffer from bad sound especially in the vocal department for the portion that I watched, but at least they're treated to echoing sing alongs straight away when they open with "Numb, But I Still Feel It" that cover it up a little. "Secret Society" keeps the sing alongs going, while the band tears it apart on stage in the midst of hundreds of crowd surfers as is usual on this stage. It looked like a great show from the bit that I saw - and the response from the crowd is evidence to just how popular these guys have become after the release of "Floral Green", a classic release that is as unique as it is wonderfully experimental. No grade considering I only saw three songs or so. PP

Texas Is The Reason

Texas Is The Reason @ 22:00-23:00 on Impericon Stage

With emo revivalism trending slightly of late and bands from the genres golden age reuniting left and right, I always feel obliged to go check out such spectacles though I fear it may seem out of place (or time) or like a feeble cash grab. As I approach Texas Is The Reason's set at Impericon however, with the amp setup now nostalgically decorated with a chain of lights, I immediately understand why the New York quintet have continually had trouble to leave their reunion alone. The whole set may rely quite consistently on the starting and stopping of grungy guitar harmonies, and front man Garrett Klahn's may not display new heights of either enunciation or diversity, but by all that is holy, when they let those riffs ring, it is hard to understand why in the world they would have ever gone away. They even look like every bit the band presence, more so than a lot of reunited, suddenly-grown-ups that have previously guested Groezrock's reunion-friendly line-ups. I guess it only speaks of the unpredictable magic in music though, that a band who only existed for three years originally, and who only ever released one full LP, can somehow appear like a force to be reckoned with after sixteen years of almost complete inactivity. [9] TL

Pennywise

Pennywise @ 22:00-23:00 on Monster Stage

So here we are again at the same stage almost exactly at the same hour as three years ago when Pennywise last played here in what turned out ultimately to be an extremely disappointing set. But that was also a show without Jim, who is unquestionably the face and, more importantly, the voice of Pennywise. You need his fiercely political, yet simplistic fuck you chants like 'fuck perfect people, this song is dedicated to Kim Kardashian' before "Perfect People", or his authoratively commanding stance in songs like "Fuck Authority". Need proof? Few vocalists in punk rock can get 10,000+ people screaming along to your lyrics in a manner that makes the entire tent shake in its foundations. Indeed, some of the loudest sing alongs this year are happening at the Pennywise show, especially because the setlist features so many hits ranging from "My Own Country" to "Society", and of course, "Bro Hymn" which has hoards of people singing along to the woo-hoo melody of the song the next EVENING at the festival still. Unfortunately for us, they also cover at least 4 different artists (Black Flag, AC/DC, Nirvana, Ben King) during the set, which is especially annoying when their festival-length set is already condensed enough as it is, and they have so many amazing songs in their back catalogue they could be performing instead. Is this the most passionate show at the festival? No. You could even argue that Jim and co's performance is exactly as you expect Pennywise to be: a little bit cool, and slightly energetic, but let's not kid ourselves. This is a nostalgia-driven set which, if nothing else, makes it clear that the only one that can replace Jim is Jim. [7½] PP

Rise Against

Rise Against @ 00:00-01:20 on Monster Energy Stage

Rise Against is swiftly becoming the household name at this festival, playing here every second year or so - and usually with a new album on their backs. Consequently I feel quite confident in this emerging as solid, if somewhat predictable performance. And for all intents and purposes, that's exactly what it is: Tim McIlrath and his compatriots bust out one leechy punk rock anthem after the other against monolithic sing-songs, with all the urgency and attitude of a band that whole-heartedly believes the politics and social commentary they preach. Now, if you've seen Rise Against before, you'll know that McIlrath's tirades between the songs have a tendency to sound a little too premeditated and, well, generic. Not so tonight. This is all about the music, and they've got a setlist to show for it, banging out an intriguing mixture of fan favorites like "Survive", "Drones", "Prayer of the Refugee", "Audience of One" and "Ready to Fall" and seldom played tracks like "Heaven Knows" and "The Dirt Whispered" - all of which in my slightly intoxicated state feel like sugar in my ears. But the show does not reach its climax until the encore, which, as usual, begins with the teary acoustic tracks "Hero of War" and "Swing Life Away", the latter of which sees Dave Hause joining McIlrath on stage; and ends with a duetto with Geoff Rickly in "Make It Stop (September's Children)" and the brilliant "Give It All" and "Savior". Fantastic performance once again by one of my all-time favorite bands. [8½] AP

SUNDAY

Nothington @ 10:30-11:00 on Monster Stage

Nothington played way too early for any of your beloved review staff to catch all of their show, so here's a real brief note of what I experienced during the last two songs to their set: roooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaarrrr awesome melodic punk song with gravelly vocals. Sweet. PP

The Dopamines

The Dopamines @ 11:25-12:00 on Monster Stage

One of the major clashes at the festival for the undersigned was seeing no frills pop punkers The Dopamines play at the same time as their equally dorky genre colleagues in Masked Intruder, who are playing the small stage at the same time, but I wasn't prepared to miss songs like "Public Domain" played live. The turnout is miserable this early in the morning after a long night of drinking for most people, so the main stage is almost empty and you can walk straight to the front barrier, but that doesn't prevent the band from making the most of their set nonetheless. But as much as I love their songs, they aren't songs made to be played on an arena stage. They need a sweat, small basement style venue where you can crash into the walls as much as to your friends, where the band can be within touching distance from the crowd and all that. This is exposed bare during their set: the band doesn't really feel home at the big stage no matter what they do. Good songs, but the wrong stage. [6½] PP

PJ Bond @ 12:00-12:40 on Acoustic Stage

When I saw that PJ Bond had been booked for the festival, my thought process was something along the lines of "HEY! I know that guy! ... Wait, what the hell does he sound like again?". I honestly couldn't remember, but the recognition eventually convinces me to go to the show as my first one on Saturday. And I'm glad that I do, because Bond's set proves an unusually un-punk-rock one, in the positive sense that his singing is all full and warm and country, as is the interplay between his own acoustic guitar and the brought-along electric guitarist. It's not exceptionally original - in fact some of the lyrics are a little on the trivial side if you ask me - but with the singing and playing being great and Bond addressing the audience with a warm charm, the show is a nice change of pace from all the gritty punk that you inevitably get to hear on a weekend like this. [7] TL

Smoke Or Fire

Smoke Or Fire @ 12:25-13:00 on Monster Stage

By this point in the afternoon you've already seen more awesome bands in a row than most people can dream of, that's how strong the Sunday lineup is this year. The fact that the hard-edged melodic punk band Smoke Or Fire plays just after noon is testament to just that, although the crowd is still kind of static and small, still waiting for the big names to arrive later on tonight. Nonetheless, the upbeat and energetic set from Smoke Or Fire is exactly what is needed to get your tired brain ticking again, lead by the sing alongs of "Monsters Among Us" and other highlight tracks from the band's arsenal. Still, the same problems as I've mentioned before follow the band: their best songs are really good, their other material is merely decent. That's also the vibe in the crowd as I glance around the sparsely filled main stage: hands are going up during the best tracks, static standing still during the rest. [7] PP

Iron Chic @ 13:10-13:50 on Etnies Stage

Iron Chic has another one of those band names that I've seen enough times to have decided that I want to check them out given the opportunity, so when I find myself quite drunk already at this early over, I pop over for another peek at the stage diving madness of the Etnies stage. Much like was the case with The Story So Far, the melodies seem in order here, which is backed by the fact that the stage already has numerous people running across it to vault into the front-lines. By now though, a pop-punk set at the venue strikes me as completely par-for-the-course, and seeing as I also want to check out Into It. Over It., I make my way after just a few songs that had me feeling pretty moderately entertained. [6½] TL

The Flatliners

The Flatliners @ 13:25-14:05 on Monster Stage

The Flatliners struggle with roughly the same problems as Smoke Or Fire during their main stage set, which is certainly a far cry from the huge sing alongs of their previous Groezrock appearance in 2009. Although the band have written a number of solid punk rock tracks in the past, their early slot combined with the relative scarcity of the crowd at this point means their bright, yet still nicely raw and coarse punk rock anthems are reduced to mere observational entertainment for most people. This despite them airing classics like "Eulogy" and "Monumental", as well as newer tracks like "Count Your Bruises" from their latest EP. The band have as much bouncy energy on stage as you'd expect any band to feasibly display this early in the afternoon, but they would have benefited from a set later on this evening, for sure. [7] PP

Into It. Over It @ 12:00-12:40 on Acoustic Stage

I'm pretty sure I've heard every Into It. Over It album that's been released so far, and yet when I'm only 'pretty sure', it's because I've always found myself slightly ambivalent to the emo/punk-rock songwriting of man-behind-the-band name Evan Weiss. Coming over to his set at the acoustic stage, I soon notice that Weiss indeed seems the veteran of many similar shows, although he is quick to remark that this is probably the largest show he's ever played in these parts. And quick remarks characterize Weiss' personality - as does quick laughs - as the chatty singer does not allow for much awkward silence between songs. It's entertaining, but his almost constantly use of high, strained, emo singing feels a little grating alongside the subtle guitar and prevents the show from becoming as nuanced as I know acoustic performances otherwise can. [6½] TL

Adept @ 14:05-14:45 on Impericon Stage

Having followed Adept for quite a while, I know the inspiration Bring Me The Horizon have long been to them, and hence I fully expect sort of a light-weight version of the later BMTH show, only with more of the Swedes trademark tapped lead riffing of course. And those expectations are soon fully realised as I make my way to the very edge of an area up front I would suggest anyone to enter when in search for a bruise or a blue eye, because Adept are bouncing vividly about the stage, laying down the metalcore law with melody/chugging back-and-forth that really gets the karate kids in the audience going. I like that frontman Robert Ljung seemingly sings more of his clean parts than he did in the past, although the mix isn't doing that aspect of his vocal work many favours, and generally, my impression is that Adept's visit is a both active and convincing, if a slightly typical debacle at a stage that acts as boxing ring as routinely as it does as dancefloor. [7] TL

Pure Love @ 14:15-15:00 on Etnies Stage

Oh, where to start with this one. Those of you who thought the more mellow sounds of Pure Love meant Frank Carter (ex-Gallows) was going to settle down and play it safe, well, it took but a single show with his new band to convince you otherwise. Other than playing great songs with great melodies, their set is packed with spectacle after spectacle that's guaranteed to keep you entertained. First, we see an enormous circle pit during "Scared To Death" that Carter orchestrates to to pierce two holes into the packed tent on the back left and right sides, and thus form the first circle pit I've ever seen that literally goes outside of the entire tent and then back in. All the while guitarist Jimmy Love is nonchalantly hanging out in the middle playing his instrument like it's the most normal thing in the world. Later on, Carter discovers two inflatable air mattresses, and together with his guitarist they declare a race between each other that goes all around the venue. Did I mention that they continue to play and sing the song almost perfectly despite the guitarist being thrown around above the crowd on an air mattress? Many more a crazy antic later, the band finishes off with "Riot Song", where they literally form a stage within a stage by filling up the stage with people, and proceeding to have crowd surfs on the stage around the drum kit - just take a look at this madness. What a fantastic set. [8½] PP

The Ataris

The Ataris @ 14:30-15:10 on Monster Energy Stage

Another teenage favorite here to behold: The Ataris. Truth be told, I cannot remember a single song by these dudes by title, but as soon as the hit parade that this show is begins I suddenly remember them all, culminating of course in the ultimate summer anthem "The Boys of Summer". There was always the danger that The Ataris would pull a Sugarcult; a dismal performance by a band way past their due date. But fortunately it is everything but: not only does the band perform with the utmost enthusiasm and treat the crowd like long lost friends; they've also tailored brand new renditions of many of their songs for the occasion, with many of them now ending in tantalising, post-rock style instrumental jams that ensure their set is a constant up-down barrage of memorable choruses and cathartic escalation. It's just so god damn good that any plans I may have had of only catching a couple of their songs are swiftly forgotten. Instead, I surrender to the child inside me, suck in the warm summer atmosphere the band's songs whip up, and lose myself in the music. Best show at the festival, if you ask me. [9] AP

Sparta

Sparta @ 17:30-18:20 on Impericon Stage

Being slightly disappointed with even Polar Bear Club's stellar selection of songs blending into a long line of stage-dive soundtracks that have more energy than personality, I decide to make my way over and catch a few songs of Sparta's set as it draws to a close. Despite enjoying another break from the more festival's more typically punk rock sounds however, I soon begin to notice that Jim Ward and his relatively stone-faced crew are not having the best show ever. Ward himself slams a guitar against an amp in frustration, before exchanging it at the side of the stage and subsequently apologizing to the crowd and sharing his intentions of making the best of the show despite technical difficulties. Despite his intentions however, it feels like his mojo is broken however, as the band continues the remainder of its characteristic material a manner that strikes me more as a little "let's get this over with" than "let's have a great time with these people here". [6½] TL

Polar Bear Club @ 17:45-18:35 on Etnies Stage

While the enormous amount of crowd surfers on the Etnies Stage for every single band is starting to get a little bit old, none of that matters for this scribe tonight because Polar Bear Club are playing what is quite possibly the greatest setlist they can possibly play out of their back catalogue. Strongly leaning on stuff from debut album "Sometimes Things Just Disappear", only the best hits from "Chasing Hamburg" and "Clash Battle Guilt Pride", ensuring the wealth of old school fans have plenty of songs to sing along to. "Convinced I'm Wrong", "Bug Parade", "Another Night In The Rock", "Burned Out In A Jar" and "Our Ballads" are all in the repertoire tonight after the band opens with the monumental "Living Saints" and the ultra catchy "Screams In Caves". Jimmy Stadt's vocals aren't as tuneful as they usually are, but fuck that, they play so many awesome songs tonight so details like that just don't really matter. In a club, this would be a 9, maybe even better show. But the slightly awkward sound quality at times, and the ridiculous amount of crowd surfers bring it down a notch. [8] PP

The Starting Line

The Starting Line @ 17:55-18:45 on Monster Stage

The Starting Line are one of those pop-punk bands from the era when I was getting into bands, yet somehow I never got into them back then. I understand that their reunion is a big deal though, so I decide to go check out the latter half of it, initially finding myself a bit put off by the extra casual demeanor of singer/bassist Kenny Vasoli and the seeming lack of synergy between himself and his reunited band. Reminding me of last year's Further Seems Forever however, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the melodies and vocal prowess the front man delivers here, and during some of the band's more energetic movement, Vasoli gets carried away enough to launch some pop-punk jumps that gives you a sense of the contagious energy the band have displayed at their best. It only shines in brief bursts today however, so the much-hyped reunion sadly remains a rather casually enjoyable one compared to some of the more exciting ones of the weekend. [7] TL

The Used @ 19:10-20:00 on Monster Stage

"I don't know why exactly, but I feel like being a fan of The Used these days is comparable to being a fan of Limp Bizkit", said PP in a conversation about the band prior to today's set. And I'm prone to agree with him, having grown more and more adverse to the early material that broke this band and having gradually become tired of their seemingly lack of interest in growing what they do. Front man Bert McCracken is in an amiable mood today though at least, enjoying the arena-sized show by playing crowd-control games with the audience. The dodgyness of his vocal work is as embarrassingly audible as one could fear however, and the band's helpless has been status feels cemented by the completely different reaction they get playing songs like "The Taste Of Ink" as opposed to the awful new "Put Me Out". There's a sizable chunk of people singing along nostalgically, but really The Used very much appear like a band that had little to offer to begin with and has less to offer now, and if it weren't for a few decent melodies, I'd consider it quite a waste that they get such a good slot here. [4] TL

Bring Me The Horizon @ 20:00-21:00 on Impericon Stage

Bring Me The Horizon then, is a band in exactly the opposite position compared to The Used, winning over critics and seemingly reaching a new career high with the recently released "Sempiternal". So it makes all the sense in the world that Impericon is PACKED prior to their slightly delayed arrival, and it makes as much sense that the shout-alongs that instantly welcome "Shadow Moses" echo across the crowd in a powerful wave. With interesting electronic facets now laced into their soundscape, the Sheffield quintet appears like a band rightfully charged with taking the metalcore genre to its logical extremes: Where other bands go back and forth between sugary melodies and heavy chugging, BMTH bridge the chasm between angelic serenity and muddy fucking bomb-shellings. The hard moments has the whole crowd swaying and bouncing in unison, and responses come in force to front man Oli Sykes's demonic vocal performance, as he flies across the stage while spitting out a bone-chilling variety of harsh vocals. Furthermore, those in it for the exercise get their money's worth as well, as Sykes remains a firm hold of the his hardcore roots, insisting on commanding the front crowd to form circle pits and walls of death like he had written contracts stating it was owed to him. Overall, Bring Me The Horizon solidify what a power they've become, nothing more and certainly nothing less. [8] TL

Billy Talent @ 20:30-21:30 on Monster Energy Stage

Another band not known to disappoint - like Rise Against yesterday - is of course the Canadian ensemble of mad geniuses known as Billy Talent. How their music works on record when it is based on such simple riffs and song structures remains a mystery, but in the live setting, delivered at deafening volume and with a perfect sound mix, there is no way to disapprove. Billy Talent are looking in fearsome form tonight, dispensing more energy than most band's on this day put together and unleashing one song after another of hits like "Devil in a Midnight Mass", "Rusted from the Rain", "This Is How It Goes", "Try Honesty", "Devil on My Shoulder", "Fallen Leaves" and "Red Flag" to a bewildered audience; with that trademark devilish swagger these boys are renowned for. We are given an airing of new material as well, with "Viking Death March" and "Man Alive!" in particular emerging equally as excellent as the classic stuff. This is an unhinged, all-out rock show that you should be ashamed to have missed. [8½] AP

Geoff Rickly @ 21:00-21:40 on Acoustic Stage

After a rather cold and taxing Groezrock, the last show I manage to summon up strength for is Geoff Rickly's appearance at the acoustic stage, which the former Thursday singer opens by proclaiming that he's every bit as wired and tired as we are, having had quite a weekend here himself. It's the first dose of filter-less honesty we're going to get between Thursday songs, new songs and covers, on a night when Rickly seemingly finds himself a little buzzed and still very much unhappy with Thursday's demise. We get as different tunes as Usher's "Climax" and Bruce Springsteen's "Atlantic City" in between Thursday numbers like "This Song Brought To You By A Falling Bomb" and "This Side Of Brightness", all delivered with shaky guitar playing and plenty of blue notes from a Rickly who proclaims early that he aims to make everybody really sad and who soon knocks over his stool and whisky bottle as he stumbles about playing. While it's hardly a masterful acoustic performance however, there's something completely unique about seeing Rickly willingly unravel as the cold of the night sets in, and as his high, desperate cries punctuate the mostly depressing lyrics. The whole thing is emo in its saddest yet most relatable sense, and it manages to make such an impression on me, that trying to bounce back and watch either Killswitch Engage and Bad Religion before closing the book on my Groezrock 2013 just feels all sorts of wrong. [8] TL

Flag @ 21:30-22:20 on Etnies Stage

I'm willing to bet some of the first stage dives ever happened at Black Flag shows almost four decades ago. So what better place to bring the legends back than at the Etnies Stage in Groezrock, the ultimate punk/hardcore festival and the stage absolutely notorious for it's stage divers. As such, it's no surprise to see the place explode from stage divers while Morris, Dukowski, Stevenson, Cadena, and Egerton perform 21 Black Flag classics to an admirably faithful late 70s/early 80s old school hardcore sound. All the songs you wanted to hear are on their setlist from "Nervous Breakdown" to "I Don't Care", "Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimme", "Rise Above" and many, many others that are essentially the foundations of the hardocre. Everyone in the band is an old dude now, so it's only left to Keith Morris to move around a bit while the rest of the guys just rock out in their own personal spaces, probably afraid of their bones breaking from the aggro crowd surfers given their old age and all. And that's no disrespect to the guys, it's just what happens when you've been playing music for 4 decades. Not that it really matters, the crowd's echoing sing alongs often drown out Keith Morris' visceral vocals, especially since he's encouraging it by often shoving the mic into the direction of the crowd. A great reunion, but in light of some of the mind blowing reunions we saw earlier on during the festival, it was only super intense at the front, while towards the back you just have curious onlookers killing time before the Bad Religion show. Watch the whole set here. [7½] PP

Bad Religion

Bad Religion @ 22:00-23:00 on Monster Stage

I've seen Bad Religion enough times now to know what to expect: a solid, entertaining set of some of the most famous punk rock songs ever written. What changes from time to time is not so much how the band look on stage - vocalist Greg Graffin looks like he's preaching to the crowd in his commanding stance while pacing the stage left and right in a casual pace - but how many hits and how strong of a setlist they play. There have been times where they've literally blown my mind by playing only anthemic shout-along classics, and there have also been times - even at this very festival - where they have played more unknown material designed for the hardcore fan in mind. Tonight, they opt for the former, and play just about all of their most famous songs: "Generator", "Punk Rock Song", "Suffer", "No Control", "Against The Grain", "You", "Fuck Armageddon...This Is Hell" and many others, plus a selection of cuts from their brand new album "True North" (though, strangely, omitting its best song "Changing Tide"). As you might expect, this results into the biggest sing alongs of the festival that weren't at the Pennywise show last night - you can just take a quick listen to the echoing rendition of "Sorrow" or the equally deafening response to "Generator" to see just what I mean. It's back-chilling to hear so many people sing along to punk rock songs, and an amazing experience for anyone checking out Bad Religion for the first time ever I imagine. Tonight, they are sadly performing as a four-piece only, and with one guitar missing, the wall of sound isn't quite as thick as it usually is. Not to worry - the band look visually rejuvenated compared to their 30 year anniversary tour where they hinted they might not come back or even write another album, so all is good despite some details missing here and there. And who can blame them? "True North" is the best punk rock album written this year - hell, in the last few years - so the band have all the reasons in the world to look full of energy. It helps, of course, to have an entire festival of punk rock faithful coming back time after time after time, singing your songs back to you. [8½] PP

Setlist:

  • 1. Past Is Dead
  • 2. We're Only Gonna Die
  • 3. New Dark Ages
  • 4. True North
  • 5. Generator
  • 6. Overture
  • 7. Sinister Rouge
  • 8. Fuck You
  • 9. 21st Century (Digital Boy)
  • 10. Punk Rock Song
  • 11. Suffer
  • 12. No Control
  • 13. Against the Grain
  • 14. No Direction
  • 15. Robin Hood in Reverse
  • 16. You
  • 17. American Jesus
  • 18. Fuck Armageddon... This Is Hell
  • 19. Vanity
  • 20. Sorrow
  • 21. Dept. of False Hope

Final Words

I've been thinking over the past week or so what to complain about Groezrock 2013, but I have to be honest here and say that I cannot come up with anything special. Of course, the weather could be better, but otherwise the festival has once again nailed it. Great crowds, a great selection of food, fantastic merchandise opportunities, plenty of ATMs this year (I didn't see any two hour queues this time), a fast and understandable ticketing system for food and drinks... all other festivals should look at the Groezrock model very closely and find solutions to their problems here.

When thinking back some more, this year was also different in the surprising form of all reunion bands that played. Usually, the reunion bands are kind of boring and uninspiring to watch, but this year Samiam, Texas Is The Reason, Flag, Grade and The Ataris all showed what it really means to have written some of the greatest songs each genre has seen. The headliners were also very good - Bad Religion, Rise Against and Pennywise didn't disappoint - and there were plenty of solid shows to be found within the smaller names as well.

If you've read this far, you're an insane person, but then again there were so many good bands to see/watch, that maybe you missed many of them, or just wanted to read our thoughts on some of the shows you saw, or just the festival in general. Either way, I guess all there is left to say is: SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!

Written by PP (except where otherwise stated)

Photos by: Lykke Nielsen and Julie Weitmann Decome

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