Groezrock 2014

author PP date 10/05/14

Ah, Groezrock, how you manage to leave such a lasting impression of nostalgia every single year in the days and weeks after the festival. Usually around this time of the year the festival hangover is finally over, only to be replaced with anxious feelings of "How can I wait for 51 weeks until next year?" and "How could next year possibly top this year's festival?". These are questions I've been asking every year for the past 6 years that I've been attending the Belgian festival, and without fail every year Groezrock has an answer. How they could top the euphoria that was The Offspring playing "Smash" next year is beyond me, but as mentioned before, they have a way of proving me wrong.

Atmosphere from the festival

Located in the picturesque village of Meerhout in Belgium, Groezrock is the first camping festival of the year for most people. The last couple of years it has been brutally cold, so much so that in 2013 we were all wearing gloves and winter jackets, battling potential hypothermia at night as the temperatures dropped below zero. This year, the festival was scheduled for the first weekend of May instead in hopes of catching a better climate, but ironically, the opposite happened. The weekend before saw beautiful sunshine and 24 degree afternoons in Belgium, whilst the Groezrock weekend barely topped 16 degrees during daytime while again appearing suitable for refrigerating meat outside your tent during the nights. Yet that was good enough for a light summer jacket given the sunny weather we experienced for most of the weekend, meaning the party atmosphere was certainly more vivid this year than before.

This year, a contingent of 66 people from Denmark / Sweden / USA / Australia / UK / Germany made a lengthy but memorable coach tour on the Rockfreaks.net party express from Copenhagen down to Groezrock, getting drunk on a festival-relevant playlist of punk/hardcore, where among others Halcyon Hope and Dungeon Days performed actual, mic'd up acoustic shows at the back of the double-decker bus. This is how cool it was:

As tradition is true, our article will spend the next few paragraphs discussing everything that was awesome (and not so awesome) about the festival, so if you're here for the reviews, feel free to scroll down. PP

Lineup

Just look at that. I can't possibly make it any better. Although what the fuck Falling In Reverse was doing here is beyond me. PP

Best Organized Festival In Europe

Groezrock makes it easy for us music critics and participants. It's so well-organized that it is next-to-impossible to find anything negative to say about it. That includes the lineup, which is by far the best and most diverse lineup Europe has to offer within punk rock and hardcore, and probably also other genres (although this year Hellfest lineup is ridiculously stacked). It is ran with a Germanic efficiency where from the participant's perspective it's smooth sailing from checking into the camping site (which is gradually opened on a meter-by-meter basis to maximize available space for tents and to accommodate for large groups arriving late) to obtaining your wristband, a pint of beer, a glass of cava, Vegan food, merchandise, or catching as many amazing bands in a row as you can possible muster in a single day. There are rarely any queues, the value-for-money factor (at least from a Scandinavian perspective) is excellent (4€ for a 0.5L beer at a festival? Sign me up!), and the quality of food (and beer) is generally above-average at least when comparing to other festivals.

Scandinavian beer tent

Groezrock operates a strict no-cash ticket system for food and drinks, which means you exchange your Euros to drink & food tickets at set points of the festival. This is awesome, because it means no matter whether you're going for a beer, a cava, a Kebab, or a shot of Jäger, you never have to queue for it. The 'Scandinavian beer stand', as we've dubbed the 0.5L stand, functions as an excellent meeting point at the middle of the festival allowing for a quick dash here in between bands to ensure constant flow of beer from show to show.

Crowd outside a Bury Tomorrow concert at Macbeth Stage

But most of all everything just works. The stages generally have good sound (unless they are empty, but that's impossible to solve), the bands love playing here because the crowds are amazing, they know the words, they start pits, they stage dive, they do backflips off the stage, et cetera. Toilets are cleaned so regularly that I didn't notice a single time on the festival site where I had to choose another toilet because it was too disgusting/full to go into (maybe I was lucky?), and you'll never run out of toilet paper on the festival site because that part is constantly manned and monitored. The extra amenities (like the Monster bar, the Jägermeister mini-club) were there to entertain you if you grew tired of listening to punk rock all day long. The circular structure of the merchandise tent made it easy to walk through and quickly check out what merch each band had with them that day. There's probably more out there that I didn't get to check out, but honestly, with this many amazing bands on the lineup, how are you NOT running from stage to stage wondering when you could possibly have time to eat? PP

Friday, May 2nd

Restorations @ 12:35-13:10 on Etnies Stage

Due to a navigation failure on behalf of PP and our bus driver, we arrive at Groezrock too late to catch Astpai's opening set, which would irk me if it wasn't because I'll be seeing them in the coming week anyway in support of Restorations, who instead get Rockfreaks.net's festival experience started in impressive form. The band's cinematic blend of post- and punk-rock is delivered with guitars that are brandished enthusiastically and defiantly, as their lengthy, intricate songs soar and develop with a confidence and personality that seems out-of-place this low on the bill. The sound and display are excellent then, but Restorations are hardly a famous band on these longitudes and the Groezrock guests have only barely gotten up and begun to drink at this point, so there's not the crowd surfing galore that we traditionally see at Etnies, but as we shall see later, more of that doesn't necessarily equate to a better blast than Restorations' opening salute. [8] TL

Atlas Losing Grip @ 13:00-13:35 on Monster Main Stage

For me, this freezing first day of Groezrock begins with a showing by Swedish melodic punk rock heavyweights Atlas Losing Grip, who immediately establish the irrevocable impression in my head of sounding virtually identical to Rise Against - albeit with a lesser invasion of pop in their songs. Despite facing a largely unresponsive audience, vocalist Rodrigo Alfaro enthuses that they've been waiting a long time for the opportunity to perform at this festival - and it's easy to see they're thus expending every ounce of energy they have, and remembering every lesson in showmanship they've learned in order to make it worthwhile and memorable for us as well as themselves. Their performance is of a nature atypical to punk rock culture, with brazen stances and brandishing of instruments giving them the semblance of a much larger pop rock act. But that's what makes big stage concerts so enthralling, and in retrospect, having watched a number of much more renowned acts on this same stage that could perhaps be considered truer grinding out sets as a small cluster at the centre of the stage and showing no interest in actually performing. That is an art Atlas Losing Grip master, and as a result, the fact that my familiarity with their backlog is not nearly extensive enough for recognising the songs, let alone singing along to them, matters that much less. With a better audience, this could have verged on spectacular. [7½] AP

Red City Radio @ 14:35-15:15 on Etnies Stage

In a stacked year's line-up I am fortunately spared for many too heartbreaking dilemmas, but an obvious one is the clash between Red City Radio and Bayside. The latter I've never seen live and the former I've seen at least a handful of times, which means the decision should be obvious, but I decide to stick with Red City Radio anyway, because frankly, yelling "THE SYSTEM IT WASN'T DESIGNED FOR US" is apparently something I take unnatural pleasure in. Furthermore, this is the first set I will see since singer/guitarist Paul Pendley left and was replaced with Nothington's Ryan Donovan. Donovan initially struggles to find his place in the harmonies, but when the mix settles after a few songs, so does he with an increasingly confident contribution. Otherwise it's a business-as-usual performance from the ever hat-wearing Garret Dale and his friends, which I mean in the best possible sense. The crowdsurfers are starting to wake up and half the tent joins in happily when it's time to roar things like "I am a fucking juggernaut!" or "Together we will burn this fucking city to the ground". [8] TL

Bayside

Bayside @ 14:35-15:15 on Impericon Stage

Surrendering to the throng of people crammed into the Etnies tent, I decide to opt for the second of two shows I had eagerly been looking forward to, but which were unfortunately clashing: Bayside playing on the Impericon stage. I do not regret this choice. Focusing mainly on pre-"Cult" era material (that album is decent, but in no way measures up to past glories), iconic vocalist/guitarist Anthony Raneri wastes no time in hypnotizing us with his stunning voice, the phenomenal ability to control it, and the dynamism with which he sings on tracks like "Already Gone" and "Blame It on Bad Luck". His vocal antics alone warrant the highest praise, yet in unison with his compatriots bassist/backing vocalist Nick Ghanbarian, guitarist/backing vocalist Jack O'Shea & drummer Chris Guglielmo, he also orchestrates a spectacular performance - not one in which band members are flying in every imaginable direction or any such mayhem, but one which exudes such confidence, charisma and passion I cannot keep my eyes off it. There's this cool swagger to the quartet that has me wooed and raving to the two patrons who accompany me about how excellent they are, and with songs as outstanding as "The Walking Wounded" and "Sick, Sick, Sick" - all oozing mesmerizing melancholy (in contrast with the new songs, which take on an altogether more positive tone, I find, to my distaste) - the set assumes the character of an upward spiral, ascending toward the cathartic finale of "Devotion and Desire". Extraordinary stuff. [9] AP

Bodyjar

Bodyjar @ 15:05-15:45 on Main Stage

Every year Groezrock books a couple of big time skate punk bands who have the potential to really own the main stage in an early afternoon slot with big melodies and sing alongs, however, this requires the band to actually move a little on stage. The Lagwagon inspired style played by the reunion band Bodyjar comes some way to doing just that, especially when we get a few faint sing alongs for "Fairytale", "Not The Same", and "One In A Million", but overall they leave a very bland impression behind. Their songs simply aren't known enough to work that well on the enormous main stage, so the majority of people who've shown up early are simply standing still watching the stage where mostly nothing is happening aside from some back-and-forth walking by the band. Had they thrown in youthful energy to support their fast, melodic songs, this could've been much better. As it stood today, the front lines were predictably going crazy while the feeling in the rest of the crowd was, well, meh. [5] PP

The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years @ 15:40-16:20 on Etnies Stage

Up until this point I had been not only a Groezrock novice, but also an Etnies-stage-at-Groezrock novice. The stage is widely known for its "back to basics" approach with little to no distance between band and audience allowing stage dives as I have never ever seen them before. The Wonder Years surely made use of that this afternoon in Belgium with hands and feet going in all directions in the middle of 'em at almost all times. Their melancholic, yet very energetic songs like "Woke Up Older" and "Dismantling Summer" make the dance floor fire up during choruses. What parts of the gig don't sound all that well (Etnies seem to be a bit challenged in this respect), the band surely makes up for it in attitude and energy. The Wonder Years is a quick, but enjoyable party I wouldn't mind being invited to again. [7] HES

The Menzingers

The Menzingers @ 16:10-16:55 on Monster Stage

When prompted "what are the best albums you've heard in your life then?", The Menzingers' "On The Impossible Past" comes up really early in the conversation and consequentially, I am both excited to see them again knowing they've grown significantly in popularity since 2012's visit here on Groezrock's main stage, but at the same time apprehensive because plainly, I'm still not sure just how well I like the new songs from this year's "Rented World". Predictably though, the band quickly finds a warm welcome in form of solid singalongs to "Nice Things", "Ava House", "Who's Your Partner" and "In Remission", and part-time frontman Tom May flies around his centre-stage position as wildly as ever. The band's tight-lipped approach is an odd fit for this kind of setting though, and however well-endowed their catalogue is, it's hard to forgive this as a time-saving measure when highlights like "Gates", "Time Tables", "Sun Hotel" and "Mexican Guitars" are still all omitted. Consequentially I wonder if it isn't perhaps a curious problem to have as a band that's written far too many good songs, namely that it becomes hard not to gratify fans in an over-the-top way when the time is as short as here. [8] TL

The Lawrence Arms

The Lawrence Arms @ 17:20-18:05 on Main Stage

Having seen Lawrence Arms earlier in a packed indoor venue at FEST 12 in Florida and not thinking they did all that great job after being away for so many years in a row, I wasn't terribly optimistic about how they'd fare on the massive main stage at Groezrock. Turns out, that's exactly what happened. The band stands still on stage showing little to no emotion, and the crowd is far more sparse than is expected for the Midwestern punk legends. "The Slowest Drink At The Saddest Bar On The Snowiest Day In The Greatest City" provides an early highlight together with "Recovering The Opposable Thumb", and in general you can say that the band are playing a spot on setlist where most of their highlight songs are well represented. That's not the problem. The problem is that their static performance on stage feels uninspiring, which is such a stark contrast when you consider the influence their records have had on so many of us here today. It's not the first time I've seen lack of energy on stage turn an awesome band into a boring one live, and Lawrence Arms should take note of that for future performances. Their excellent setlist means most of us are singing along and having a decent time nonetheless, but it's far from being the celebration of punk rock history many expected it to be. [6½] PP

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! @ 17:20-17:55 on Macbeth Stage

One of the last things I did before leaving my home to go to Belgium this year was to check out an album by Chunk! for the first time, and that quickly convinced me that I had to catch them live. In hindsight that is not a decision I regret in the slightest. Pulling a decently sized crowd from the beginning of their set, they start out in superior form. From brutal growling to nasally singing melodic refrains, the vocals sound surprisingly good, not least because of the fact that they all emanate from within the small figure that is vocalist Bertrand Poncet, who jumps around the stage as he seamlessly transitions from one to the other. As they play their new cover of Smash Mouth's "All Star" from the recent "Punk Goes '90s 2" compilation, most of the crowd is jumping and singing along. Instead of silence between songs they often just use breakdowns as transitions, an effective move to keep people moving to the extremely danceable music. Coming across as very likeable people with their repeated expressions of gratitude, it's hard not to like them and have a good time at this show, although it's not a truly impressive experience. [7] LF

Iron Chic

Iron chic @ 17:55-18:40 on Etnies Stage

Iron Chic played Groezrock last year as well; it was an excellent set from what I heard that I sadly missed. They're back this year, the crowd has grown larger, the sing alongs even more so, and the set predictably becomes a lengthy sing-along session on both material old and new. Crowd surfers go amok, the pit intensifies at the front, but all I'm thinking is: this material is fucking solid. It feels down-to-earth, intellectual, and carries a ton of depth to it. Halfway through the back half of the tent begins to empty because of this, but those of us in the know are partying. The setlist is full of modern punk rock gems that are sung and played with enormous passion that also reflects to the crowd: people are ripping their shirts apart and holding onto their chests with both hands as they are singing their hearts out. This, my friends, is what a community both looks and feels like. [8] PP

La Dispute @ 19:05-19:55 on Etnies Stage

Prior to our arrival at the festival, I had conversed with one of our passengers about how La Dispute's newer material, compared to the wild intricacy of "Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River And Altaire", doesn't get a bit too "talking over background music"-ish, and after a couple of sets that were hindered from meeting my expectations for one reason or another, I arrive positively on the verge of passing out past any point where another pint of Jäger/Monster can resurrect me. A combination of an Irish coffee that could give a bull a seizure and a La Dispute appearance that - as the first since Restorations - feels like a band is making the Etnies stage their own, does the impossible and gets stokedness flowing through my veins again. The front of the tent is a fray of movement of course, while Jordan Dreyer and friends confidently perform their narratives with the appropriate energy on stage, so while I still maintain that a song like "Said The King to the River" is endlessly more awesome - with its quirky latin percussion and wild guitar riffs - than anything La Dispute has put on track of late, this is an inconsequential concern when a band owns their space and time so wholly and strikingly as these breakers of the wave-scene do tonight. [8] TL

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio @ 19:45-20:35 on Monster Main Stage

Before seeing Alkaline Trio at Groezrock this year, I had been told many times that the one show I had seen them at previously was one of their rare good ones. As such, I didn't really know what to expect from them but initially things go well. As they play through their set on the main stage, there's nothing wrong with their performance strictly musically speaking (Ed. Note: left after 3rd song because they played a classic song in half tempo and with different chorus melody). Their somewhat grand but eerie punk rock rings clear through the tent and they even manage a couple of their old songs with a certain elegance before reaching an early highpoint in their newest single "I Wanna Be a Warhol". After that however, it quickly begins to feel like there's no energy in them at all as there's not much engagement to be heard in the vocals. Even though there are lots of chances for singalongs and jumping, this lack of involvement in their own songs is strongly demotivating, and makes the remainder of their set a mostly boring experience. [6] LF

Ignite

Ignite @ 20:20-21:10 on Impericon Stage

Ignite is not a band I'm overtly enthusiastic about when we arrive at the festival, but one glance at the Impericon tent, which looks stocked to bursting with audience, is enough to convince me to force my way in, around the sound desk, and to the front to find out why so many people seem to be so eager to watch this melodic hardcore act. Fronted by Zoli Téglás, who has filled some big shoes in the past replacing the Misfits' Michael Graves when he left the band before a North American tour in 2000, and more recently Jim Lindberg after he left Pennywise in 2009 to pursue his side project The Black Pacific on a more permanent basis. Armed with a trident of guitarists in Brian Balchack, Nik Hill & Kevin Kilkenny, it takes exactly one song for me to understand the allure of this quasi-legendary band: not only are their songs excellent in the live setting, they have an uncanny knack for commanding an audience of this magnitude. Mosh- and circle pits are constantly operational, and the sing songs are absolutely monumental, Téglás directing the proceedings with a true frontman's authority and charisma as he towers over the audience and surges left and right roaring politically charged his lyrics. The rest of the band, completed by bassist Brett Rasmussen and drummer Craig Anderson, though by no means verging on the furious, look electrified as well, striking their instruments with the sort of force you'd expect from a hardcore band, but which nonetheless has you standing back, awestruck at the sheer amount of power radiating from the stage. We are treated to a varied selection of material from the band's two decade discography, including the likes of "Bleeding", "Poverty for All", "Call on My Brothers" and "A Place Called Home" - and there's even time for a brand new track dubbed "Nothing Can Stop Me Now", which goes down as a massive success, if the raucous crowd is to be taken as verification. [8] AP

Paint It Black @ 20:20-21:10 on Etnies Stage

You can usually judge a band's notoriety at Groezrock by the amount of other bands watching on the stage. One of the biggest crowds on stage this year at the Etnies is owned by Paint It Black, whose violently aggressive and innovative hardcore punk has made its mark in the scene over the last decade or so. "There's no violence at our shows", vocalist Dan Yemin proclaims from the get go, making it clear that while stage dives are extremely welcome, karate moshing is not. "FUCK CHRISTIAN HARDCORE", his piercing scream echoingly states, right before the mic is thrown into the crowd in what is the theme of this show: sharing the vocal duties with the crowd. Much like Verse a few years ago, pretty much every line, every chorus sees Yemin reach into the front lines with his mic to allow anyone who wants to join him in his fierce vocal delivery. "If you come closer...you'll note how much more awesome it'll be", and the crowd happily obliges. It's an intense set with a ton of crowd energy that's also mirrored on stage by the band, however, the last bit of connection is missing for it to be truly awesome. I blame this on the constant stage divers, once again. [7½] PP

Descendents

Descendents @ 21:05-22:05 on Impericon Stage

It feels like yesterday that I watched these legends at this very festival, on this very stage, giving the youth of the genre a lesson in punk rock heritage. Though drummer Bill Stevenson and vocalist Milo Aukerman remain the sole founding members, all of the current line-up were already playing music when I was born, and seeing them here, in their 50's, still playing their age-old repertoire like it's nobody's business, and rocking out like men half their age, one cannot but stand in admiration of one of the most longevious bands in the genre. Without needing to expend an excessive amount of energy, the Descendents have this air of authority over them, and combined with Aukerman's infinite charisma, watching a Descendents show is the punk rock equivalent of watching Iron Maiden or Metallica: a cosy, guaranteed good time full of classics like the aptly titled "When I Get Old" and "I Don't Want to Grow Up", as well as the fantastic duo "I'm Not a Loser" and "Descendents" which conclude the 26-song setlist. Like Bad Religion, another dinosaur band like this, the Descendents, completed by bassist Kari Alvarez and Stephen Egerton (both of whom have been with the band since 1987 in its various active periods), cruise through their set without ever truly impressing, yet with the sort of professionalism and ease one would expect from a band with 35 years in the bag. [8] AP

Taking Back Sunday

Taking Back Sunday @ 21:35-22:35 on Impericon Stage

As anyone that's followed Taking Back Sunday since the return to the band's original line-up can probably relate to, I've been watching more than one dodgy youtube performance online since then while rueing what state my once heroes would appear in should I ever get to see them again. Yet except for being late, Taking Back Sunday gives positively no cause for concern as soon as the hits do start to fly off the setlist. New cuts like "Stood A Chance" and "Beat Up Car" ring out alongside older ones like "Make Damn Sure" and "Error Operator", as frontman Adam Lazzara slides across the stage swinging his microphone with an ease and a timing that makes other practitioners of this art form look like clumsy children, and finally it seems, the band has found a way to reconcile their past with the ten years they've ripped out of the calendar since their breakthrough. Lazzara and guitarist John Nolan's vocal exchanges sound sharp enough to draw blood, and with the band thus sounding and seeming like they're hitting a new prime, there are probably no more than a handful of bands in the world that could possibly convince HES and I to leave the set before its time. I damn it all the way to hell then, when we make off after a mere six or seven songs because one such band is in fact waiting for us over on the main stage. [8½] TL

Brand New

Brand New @ 22:35-23:35 on Monster Stage

Despite knowing and appreciating Brand New as a band that does exactly as they please, I have my concerns approaching their Groezrock set as well, because if there's any place in the world where a set front loaded with the pop-punk and emo material from their first two albums would shake up a nostalgic sing along fest for the ages, Groezrock is that place. Of course, Brand New either haven't thought of this or just don't give two fucks, opting instead to pummel us with the more angry onslaught of their two - equally but differently amazing - later albums. "At The Bottom" is hence screamed menacingly out over the Monster tent as are "Sowing Season" and "Gasoline". As with The Menzingers earlier however, a compressed, communication-free set at merely an hour leaves no breathing room to transition between the band's different aspects, and while the singalongs are indeed gratified during the three-song stretch of "Glory Fades", "Tommy Gun" and "Seventy Times Seven", the whole thing feels a bit detached to me. So while I screech my throat ragged as "Degausser" and particularly "You Won't Know" echo across in mighty, almost oppressive fashion, there's still room in a super-stoked mind such as mine, to consider if Brand New haven't cultivated enough coolness factor by now to afford opening up and/or considering the occasion just the tiniest bit. [8] TL

NOFX

NOFX @ 00:05-1:20 on Main Stage

NOFX are always a talkative bunch, but tonight they're even more so than usual. I don't know if it's the fact that it's the 20 year anniversary of "Punk In Drublic" or what, but they just won't shut up tonight. And that's great, because best NOFX shows are always those where everyone gets their fair share of offensive content. First off the shadowy, super pretentious Brand New show from just before gets knocked down in multiple ways. One, the tiny logo has not one, not two, but THREE spotlights aimed at it, alongside video effects on-screen to make the joke complete. "Hey did you guys see Brand New...? Because we're Brand Old". The sing alongs from the get go are enormous - biggest so far for the whole festival for sure - as the band plows through "60%", and "72 Hookers". Suddenly Milo from Descendents is on stage singing all the vocals for "Quart In Session" to more big sing alongs. "Fuck that was cool!", Fat Mike shouts, "That was cool how you practiced all the lyrics and knew it perfectly.". A couple more new tracks follow in the form of "We Called It America" and "Seeing Double At The Triple Rock", but then it's time, the moment all of us have been waiting for. "Alright so we're doing it everybody, have fun, welcome to 1994", and the band kick off with "Dying Degree" from "Punk In Drublic". You'll notice how this isn't the first track on the album, and that's because NOFX are dicks like that. "We'll fuck with you and play it in a different order just so you don't notice if we skip a song", as Fat Mike says. From here onwards, the crowd goes absolutely mental. Circle pits, mosh pits form across the packed main stage, and the sing alongs are seriously, and I mean SERIOUSLY huge. The band is much more energetic than the last few times I've seen them, with Eric Melvin engaged in constant jumps, Fat Mike rushing across the stage while sipping on his drinking mug attached to his microphone, and El Hefe delivering his usual funny scissor kick jumps and leg-lifts for our amusement.

NOFX

"Oh, I don't even like this album. So Long & Thanks For All The Shoes is much better", Fat Mike says, not even halfway through the album. Because this is what NOFX do best: they are absolute dicks. So it's time for "Its My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite" right in the middle because, well, just because. We return back to "Punk In Drublic" and more banter, where furries, jews, mexicans, Germans, 'Benelux people', and everyone you can imagine is pointed out one by one and offended as is the NOFX way. Most people think they go over the line when they point out "hey there are two darkies in the crowd! Look at them!", where the camera zooms into two blacks in the crowd, but they take it with humour, especially when the next song is "Kill All The White Man". Earlier, they point out a furry-costume wearing kid in the crowd, call him an Arab, and accuse him of throwing shoes at Jews. Yeah, that kind of stuff is normal at NOFX shows and it would feel racist everywhere else, but this is all just comedy. And in the end, this is what happens throughout the show: 28 songs, great energy, enormous sing alongs, and a shitload of stand up comedy in between. Excellent setlist, excellent crowd, and one of the best NOFX shows I've seen in a while. [9] PP

Saturday, May 3rd

The Priceduifkes @ 12:35-13:10 on Etnies Stage

The dramatic techno/electronic intro to what is considered Belgium's best no frills pop punk band spells out exactly what kind of band we're dealing with here. Spiced with plenty of humour, The Priceduifkes believe in simplicity above all in their catchy melodies, which has earned them a legion of fans in their home country. These guys have shown up early and have positioned themselves near the front of the stage going crazy from the get go. The band itself plays with plenty of energy on stage with the vocalist appearing unfazed when serpentine spray is shot in his face from the front. Shortly after fireworks go off and new years decorations seem to be everywhere in front of the stage. This is the biggest show they've ever played, they announce, while thanking the guys at the front who have been there since the beginning at every show, apparently. This is a good opening set to shake off the hangovers from last night. [7] PP

The Charm The Fury @ 12:35-13:10 on Impericon Stage

Opening the Impericon stage on the second day we have metalcore-act The Charm The Fury, who do so with a bone-shattering energy. Their lead singer Caroline Westendorp does what she can to get people to "wake the fuck up" and with the solid punch present in the songs they play for us, this succeeds and a small moshpit is constantly active up front. The fact that there's a girl on vocals in this band doesn't really do as much as you could expect to set them apart from other bands in the genre, and I can't really decide if this is good or bad. Westendorp sticks to all the clichés of the genre, pacing across the stage, headbanging, and kicking the air like the best of them. "Carte Blanche" is a personal highlight of the set for me, with its gang-vocals really shining in this live-setting. There's a slightly too long guitar solo included in the set, and I manage to drift off completely during it, probably because of my hangover-affected attention-span but apart from that one moment, this is a solid performance by a band on the rise, which manages to shake some life into us all. [7] LF

Elway

Elway @ 13:00-13:35 on Main Stage

Having seen Elway deliver a great, intimate set in Copenhagen last week, it was interesting to see how they'd fare on the enormous confines of the main stage at Groezrock. The crowd is sparse this early, and everyone seems hangover in pretty much all directions I look, but Elway makes the best of the early morning slot by showcasing pretty much every great song they've written thus far. "I know it's early and all of you are waiting to dance to Casualties, but you should try dancing to this", vocalist Tim Browne suggests, before the band play "Passing Days", an upbeat, melodic Midwestern pop punk tune that has an infectious chorus melody. Finally, "Ariel" receives echoing sing alongs, as it does in all Elway shows, but "chances are that's the best one so far" according to their vocalist, and why wouldn't it be? There's a few thousand people here already singing along, which must've been awesome for this small Colorado bunch. [7½] PP

Drug Church

Drug Church @ 13:35-14:10 on Impericon Stage

I have never heard about Drug Church, but our senior writer AP had praised them so much on the 15 hour bus ride to Belgium that I wanted to go check it out. And there it was: my best "find" at Groezrock this year. The band is originally from Albany, NY but could've easily taken a time-traveling device from 90s Seattle or Washington hardcore/emotional hardcore-scene. The mood is grungy and repetitive, but completely energetic mainly due to frontman Patrick Kindlon that looks like he is shouting about the apocalypse coming, his body cramping up for every line, swaying and gesturing like a crazy person. Albeit it a very noisy soundscape and the lyrics very chaotic, songs like "Attending A Cousin’s Birthday Party" and "Reading YouTube Comments" are still catchy as hell. And the crowd likes it as well - at least those who got up from their tent and wandered over here at 13:00 in the afternoon. But Drug Church turned out to be the best remedy against hangovers in Belgium. I can recommend it. [8] HES

The Smith Street Band

The Smith Street Band @ 14:00 - 14:40 on Monster Stage

All the way from Melbourne, Australia - The Smith Street Band seems like a great booking for this time slot. The band's sound, although not toothless, is warm, welcoming and not too much for our already heavily tried out ears this afternoon. I once in a while struggle to find the "punk" in the "folk-punk", but the catchy and easily understandable songs make up for the lack of energy. The mood of the audience is good, but the timing somehow seems to make the whole set a bit too mellow for my taste. We easily get spaces in the pit and the audience primarily consists of obviously still hung over guys with arms crossed, listening mood on, dancing mood off. It is a bit sad that The Smith Street Band never really turn that boat around, but they honestly get an A for effort. [7] HES

Crowd at Apologies, I Have None

Apologies, I Have None @ 14:35-15:15 on Impericon Stage

When Apologies, I Have None recently had to substitute a member, I mistakenly got the impression that it was their main singer who had jumped ship, leading me to harbour some anxiety prior to the band's Groezrock appearance. My relief then, is considerable when I find them playing at Impericon to an equally considerable audience and realise that I had mixed the members' names up and that Josh McKenzie and PJ Shepherd are taking charge with the vocals as always, while new man Simon (whose last name I later get and promptly forget in the merch tent) fills in competently on guitar. The band is currently gearing up to release a second album, but wisely recognise their status as a band on the rise and opt to summon up some synergy with existing fans by playing future classics like "Sat In Vicky Park" and "Long Gone", prompting yours truly to loyally chant along to the refrain borrowed from Grade's "Triumph And Tragedy". It's really a pretty business-like set though, solid in all departments that I make note of and ironically Menzingers-like for a band I tend to introduce to curious ears as "the British Menzingers", but the confident appearance of the band and the undeniable quality of their songs only continues to make me want more from them, hoping that this set at size-y Impericon is hardly the last stop on the band's continued journey towards destinations far from here. [7½] TL

The Casualties - crazy hair

The Casualties @ 15:05-15:45 on Main Stage

As for The Casualties, they are probably the punkest band on the planet, ever, embodying the original rebellion the music genre once stood for. They are a constant reminder of this heritage today, from mentions of "punk rock comes in many forms" in reference to the wide array of bands on display here at Groezrock, to a screamed cover of a Ramones song that's announced as "Everybody forgot Ramones...". Yet in an early afternoon slot and on a stage as huge as this one, The Casualties are missing the intensity that they normally have at smaller shows, which cuts a little bit into their anti-everything punk rock stance. "Run To The Hills" by Iron Maiden gets an anarcho punk cover as well, before "System Failed Us Again" and "Unknown Soldier" engulf the entire tent into echoing woo-hoo gang shouts. There's an enormous wall of death that finally wakes up the crowds that have been mostly still and largely silent so far today. It's not as good as The Casualties in intimate surroundings, but still a decent afternoon performance overall. [7] PP

Blitz Kids @ 17:20-17:55 on Macbeth Stage

Since I heard and loved "Photograph" and "Story" on the first Blitz Kids album, I've wanted for the band to get things together even despite more mixed feelings when seeing them at Takedown Festival in 2012 and hearing their new, more ambitious album "The Good Youth". So when there's some rare time between bigger band's I'm interested in, I decide to make for the Macbeth stage to see how the band is these days. Sadly, the impression I get is perplexing. Firstly there's none but a few stragglers here (compared for instance to the packed crowd that will see Bury Tomorrow here in a few hours) but to their credit, Blitz Kids do their best to not appear fazed. Instead they perform energetically and professionally like every bit the pop-rock stars they clearly aspire to be, but even as the sound gradually improves the whole thing just fails to translate. Despite numerous good hooks in their arsenal, Blitz Kids feel like they're going through pre-conceived motions and fail to make their songs stand apart from each other, and we soon feel like we're listening to the same structure over and over. It makes for a set where you half pity the band for trying so hard and still not getting it right, and alas, so far it seems that Blitz Kids are the new Kids In Glass Houses; They have hooks to be sure (see "On My Own" and "Run For Cover") but they pale completely when compared to their home scene competitors in You Me At Six, Young Guns and Mallory Knox. Keep swinging though boys, I still have hope things will get right at some point. [5] TL.

Snuff

Snuff @ 17:20-18:05 on Main Stage

Right, it's 5pm and by now people ought to be drunk, so upbeat punk rock with ska undertones should be exactly what's needed to get the whole shindig off the charts for the second day in a row. The trumpet melodies are leading the way, the crowd's dancing, and Snuff demonstrate through a 45 minute set why they are considered by many to be the best punk rock band Britain produced during the 90s. Not that much noteworthy is happening on stage, but here's the thing: when you're a great band, you don't necessarily need to compensate by having a spectacular scene show in order to impress. We sing, dance, and party to Snuff tunes today, which is enough for a solid rating of [7½] PP

Touché Amoré @ 17:55-18:40 on Etnies Stage

Emerging alongside La Dispute as champions of the wave scene of recent years, it's strange that Touché Amoré never struck up any deeper interest from me until our readers united to name 2013's "Is Survived By" their second favourite record of the year, so finally I've been making efforts to find out what everyone's been raving about these past five years. Really though, little seems to have changed since my seeing the band at Hevy Fest 2011, by which I mean Touché were good then and remain excellent now. The members duck and slide around the stage, narrowly escaping the avalanche of crowd-surfers that is constantly cascading unto the front lines during every single song, and upon the band's emotive riffs - which sparkle by sounding remarkably anthemic for hardcore - vocalist Jeremy Bolm wastes no time to get the message across, and indeed, never forgets that the band's music is message driven. His enunciation is thus unusually sharp for a harsh vocalist and while he generously shares the mic on occasion, it never once fails to show that Touché Amoré are here to use guitars and drums to open direct lines of communication to our souls and share emotions in a way that is startlingly immediate. The opening, rollicking melody of "Just Exist" embeds itself in my brain and is not to leave for days, and the lyrics to "Condolences" say a thousand times more than any heartfelt, between-song monologue could ever, and all the while, people come piling off the stage while their counterparts in the tent's front half wail words back at Bolm like their lives depended on it. I may thus have been slow to open my eyes to this, but if you feel like emotional hardcore needs a justification in 2014, it seems all you need to do is to be part of a Touché Amoré show, the like of which takes the prize for the most magical of my 2014 Groezrock with considerable air beneath it. [9] TL

All

All @ 18:30-19:25 on Main Stage

All, the more pop punk oriented version of Descendents featuring the whole band minus singer Milo, bring an early highlight in "Fairweather Friend" from their beloved album "Mass Nerder", which regrettably doesn't form the majority of their 18 song setlist today as the crowd would've hoped for. There's a few people singing along in the crowd to the other tracks, but you can tell that whenever a "Mass Nerder" song is played, the sing alongs grow bigger and the crowd starts moving around a bit. "World's On Heroin" is the absolute highlight 11 songs in, and it is first here where people wake up to big sing alongs. Frankly, the guys are so old that they stand still on stage, and when the setlist isn't better, it feels kinda boring overall. [6½] PP

Bury Tomorrow airtime

Bury Tomorrow @ 18:30-19:10 on Macbeth Stage

While the immense sound of Bury Tomorrow on the smallest stage of the festival is striking in itself, what is burned into my mind from this show is how unbelievably in control of their crowd this band is. One memorable moment is when, not long into the set, the vocalist asks for the people in the pit up front to do a circle pit around the sound desk, the rest of us only barely getting out of their way as they rush to do his bidding. The huge space created in the middle of the crowd by this manoeuvre is then filled with ninja warriors for the remainder of the set, conveniently giving them enough room so they can mostly avoid kicking any innocent bystanders. While pretty much fitting squarely in the metalcore-genre, this is a band that insists on being perceived as quintessentially metal, and the combination of a hard-hitting and well-executed setlist with their commanding demeanour on stage really hammers that point home. [8] LF

The Ghost Inside

The Ghost Inside @ 19:05-19:55 on Impericon Stage

Right in between two punk rock legends, All and Screeching Weasel, there was about 20 minutes to catch a few songs of The Ghost Inside at the Impericon tent. As usual, the party is rowdy and the mosh pits intense, as the band's energetic live performance rubs onto the crowd. "Between The Lines" is played early on, followed by a ton of material from "Get What You Give", including "33", which sounded absolutely fantastic tonight. The band is fucking tight, and play with the sort of belligerence that makes it easy to understand why they are so highly revered in the metalcore and melodic hardcore circles. From the 20 minutes I saw, grading them much higher could've been in the cards had I stayed for the whole show, but Screeching Weasel came calling. First world problems. [8] PP

Screeching Weasel

Screeching Weasel @ 19:45-20:35 on Main Stage

Screeching Weasel have been a band for a long time. Since 1986 in fact (minus several hiatuses). Yet tonight is their first ever show in Europe. What do you know. They've had their fair share of drama lately with their vocalist getting into a fight with a fan at a show and so much else, and that drama doesn't stop tonight. They might play a ton of classic punk rock and get good sing alongs, but one part that did it for me was the constant rants in between songs. There was one moment where he literally mentioned Monster Energy 10-15 times, which was a very obvious sponsored plug. Not very punk rock, eh? It triggered some boo's and whistles from the crowd as well. To get an idea about the ranting I'm talking about, just check out the two-minute piece right before set finisher "Cool Kids", which granted did receive great sing alongs in the tent afterwards no less. A trip down the memory lane for many, but generally a show that was characterized by great songs, tight guitars, and a small but dedicated crowd at the front. Without the sell out factor of the Monster energy plug, this could've been half a grade higher. [7½] PP

Modern Life Is War @ 20:20-21:10 on Etnies Stage

As for Modern Life Is War, this is their only European show with Groezrock having negotiated an exclusive show. Their previous album "Fever Hunting" was exceptional, so understandably a huge crowd has gathered to open up intense mosh pits and great sing alongs (for hardcore songs). The people at the front are going mental, and both sides of the stage are rammed with people and bands watching on stage. The sheer amount of emotion present in their expression tonight is incredible, not to even mention the edge as the band consciously play their older songs tonight leaving only two songs from "Fever Hunting" on their setlist. "I love you guys, you are my friends", their singer says in an emotional breakdown which comes to define the community surrounding Etnies Stage during their show. There's a loud, passionate response to every song they play, and why wouldn't there be? They are this year's Verse, a hardcore band that have almost godly status within the style. Me? I'm left wishing for some faster and more straightforward songs from their new album instead of the depth-laden hardcore tracks of their (admittedly respectable) past. Great show nonetheless. [8] PP

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada @ 20:20-21:10 on Impericon Stage

The band enter the stage to an Inception-like intro that fades into the song "Gloom" from their latest album. It all sounds massive and both vocalists are especially impressive as they pierce through in the gut-punchingly heavy mix to create a truly sinister sound. This is a band that continues to intrigue me with their melodic brand of metalcore, and they certainly strike a devilishly imposing figure in this tent as compared to when I saw them in a smaller venue back in Denmark about a year ago. The electronics are a little low in the mix at least during the first couple of songs, but "Sailor's Prayer" sounds amazing nonetheless as vocalist Mike Hranica climbs up to strike his almost demonic poses on one of the amplifiers next to the drum kit. The Devil Wears Prada deliver a performance as solid as one would expect for a band of their reputation, but perhaps not as amazing as one could have hoped for. [7½] LF

New Found Glory

New Found Glory @ 21:05-22:05 on Main Stage

Celebrating the 10th year anniversary of one of my all-time favourite albums "Catalyst", New Found Glory finds us in quite the best of moods by the Monster Main Stage. It's late in the evening and surely a lot of us have had a few beers; the general feeling in the audience is one of heavy anticipation and utter joy. As the band open with "All Downhill From Here" from the aforementioned album, the entire crowd goes amok, even here at the very end of the pit where I'm standing. It doesn't take long for our editor-in-chief PP to open up a second circle pit, imitating the front of the crowd around our current position. The set is stuffed with highlights like "Understatement", "Better Off Dead", "Something I Call Personality", "At Least I'm Known For Something", "Truth of My Youth", "Failure's Not Flattering", "Forget My Name" and the written-for-sing-alongs "Hit or Miss". Somewhere in the middle we press our way through to the front and even though the feeling in the back was great - down here it is euphoric. As I look at my clock and see we're close to the end, I actually feel like listening to another 20 songs, but alas all good things must come to an end. The band chooses absolutely right by going for "My Friends Over You" for an absolutely shattering audience-yelled end to one of the best pop-punk shows I have seen in a while. Scratch that: Ever. Unlike Blink-182 I saw back in 2010, these guys are still on top of their game. Chad Gilbert (lead-guitarist) is very cute when he goes on rants about "being yourself", but when you only have 1 hour: shut up and play more songs. [9] HES

The Hives

The Hives @ 22:35-23:35 on Monster Main Stage

What strikes me the most about The Hives' live show is how good it looks. Everything is well-coordinated, from the ambitious lighting to the all black and white colours of the big screen, of their uniforms, and of the massive backdrop showing a devious looking man with actual strings going from his fingertips down to the stage like the musicians are just puppets strings. Their groovy garage rock sounds excellent in the big tent and there's a lot of singalongs throughout the set, as the crowd is commanded by front man Pelle Almquist, who is his usual flamboyant self complete with peculiar explanations for why the crowd needs to dance and cheer. He gets a little tiring to listen to towards the end of the set with all his dramatic gesturing, and about halfway through the similarities in the rhythmic build-ups of the songs get a little too similar for the uninitiated listener. However, their show is refreshingly elaborate compared to a lot of the other acts here, and their music certainly starts a party for most of the people present. [8] LF

Falling In Reverse

Falling In Reverse @ 23:05-00:05 on Etnies Stage

I'll be honest, I fail to see much artistic relevance in any of the top three bands on Saturday's bill, meaning that I would either be drinking or passed out somewhere if it wasn't for LF insisting that I man up and go see what's up. So since we're on our feet and nothing else is on, we decide to check out three or four tracks of the notorious Falling In Reverse to try to decide if their booking for this of all festivals is either a sellout move, a joke or just completely mysterious. Regardless as we approach the unsurprisingly sparsely populated Impericon, Ronnie Radke is prancing from one "ego box" (as Drug Church singer Patrick Kindlon so memorably named the raised, between-monitor platforms earlier in the day) to another, bare-chested, with his jacket/hoodie tied around his waist in touristy fashion and not really looking impressive enough in terms of physique to pull this look off.

Still, I summoned up all possible reserves of forgiveness before even going in here, so I try to remain open-minded as the much maligned singer gives a passable vocal performance in the departments of both standard growling, nasal emo singing and Eminem-style white boy rapping, the latter part of which is particularly weird to behold, because it has the band members that Radke has seen fit to allow in the band today running around not touching their instruments at all, rather dropping palms and trying to get the crowd "hyped up". In what seems like an effort to remedy the complete lack of sympathy FIR suffers in the conscious music scene, a fan of no more than ten is invited on stage, who completely freezes once up there, making the spectacle spectacularly awkward. On the upside, the band closes with Escape The Fate classic "Situations" as we leave to see The Offspring, but then is it really an upside when you have to play a song by your former band to seem even remotely decent in your new outfit? I'll leave that up there, but in the mean time I wonder if Radke realises how many people are laughing at him, and if so, I feel a sting of sympathy for him. Still, based humbly (and with room for error) on the three and a half songs I had time to witness, the joke is entirely on him indeed. [2½] TL

The Offspring @ 00:05-01:05 on Etnies Stage

Before you go on, go ahead and click play on the embedded YouTube player below. You won't regret it.

Let me guide you through the events that transpired moments before The Offspring get on stage. For about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled start, there is a constant stream of people from every conceivable direction towards the main tent. There's an eerie sense of excitement up in the air because The Offspring are about to play "Smash", the definitive 1994 record of the band if not the entire genre of punk rock. 22 years of Groezrock have all been leading to this one moment. Most of the 18.000 people at the festival are here because at some point in the last 20 years they picked up "Smash", either by recommendation, by chance, or through sheer curiosity, and discovered an entire world of music out there they never knew existed.

Fast-forward 15 minutes and we're ready - all 18.000 of us. And then it begins. The timeless spoken word intro sample of "Time To Relax" sneaks in through the speakers. You know you're in for something special when even the words to a freaking intro track get a sing along from the crowd, but I don't think anyone could've prepared us for the sense of euphoria and ecstasy of the next hour. First, "Nitro (Youth Energy)" practically transforms every corner of the tent into one ginormous open pit with its opening riffage. Then, it punctures the last remains of our collective eardrums not because it's louder than other bands at the festival, but because the sing along that follows is absolutely RIDICULOUS in proportion. From here onwards, it's an euphoric celebration of the album that brought us here exactly as we remember it from that worn-out record on our shelves that we played over and over again 'til it didn't work anymore. The band sounds nothing short of perfect - and all the notions and remarks about The Offspring being a terrible live band vanish in an instant, because the band and the crowd simultaneously realize that this is a unique moment in history where we've gathered the greatest possible audience for the ceremonial first-ever start-to-finish session of "Smash". So Dexter & co no longer look like statues on stage without emotion. They are smiling. They are jumping. They are cracking jokes. They are utilizing the entirety of the stage. . "What a fucking punk rock crowd", Noodles shouts. The band are visibly loving playing for once to a non-mainstream audience, and can you blame them? You will NOT hear a more dedicated word-by-word sing along of every single song anywhere else in the world than here at Groezrock. Even the riffs to "Gotta Get Away" and "Come Out And Play" are hummed along at a volume that nearly deafens the original guitar melody underneath them. Yes, people don't remember what track comes after the next, but this is a 20-year-old record give them a break. It's only fitting anyway that "Self-Esteem" is skipped in the middle and moved to the back of the "Smash" set instead - and by god is that sing along massive when it finally arrives.

They could've ended it here and it still would've been perfect. But instead, we get treated a humorous "Intermission", and a perfect selection of four "Americana" hits ("Staring At The Sun", "Why Don't You Get A Job?", "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)", "The Kids Aren't Alright"), alongside all-time classics "All I Want" and "Want You Bad" of course. Sure, you could argue for exchanging "Youre' Gonna Go Far, Kid" and "(Can't Get My) Head Around You" from the new albums with something like "Walla Walla", "Have You Ever" or "Million Miles Away", but are we really complaining at this stage? 21 songs of Offspring at their very best in a community of people who probably wouldn't be at Groezrock if it wasn't for this band introducing them to punk rock. The sense of joy within the crowd manifested not only in the ridiculously sized pits and the blasting sing alongs tonight, but also in the conversations afterward, and most importantly in this: we may speak of The Offspring in a negative light these days, but tonight, we were all Offspring fans wearing our hearts on our sleeve. [10] PP

Final Words

I was just about to write some final words about how awesome Groezrock 2014 was, but then this was released by the festival at the same time:

Enough said? See you next year. PP

All photos by: Lykke Nielsen and Lauren Harris.

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