Groezrock 2009

author PP date 30/04/09

Obviously learning nothing from our Rock Am Ring experience last summer, the Rockfreaks.net entourage comprising of PP, TL, AP & photographer Jill (and faithful fanboy Anders) left Denmark the night before the festival at 11pm, driving through the night on the German Autobahn with Belgium's Meerhout and Groezrock as our goal. All of us were visibly excited despite the lengthy 1040km of driving ahead of us, but who wouldn't be? Groezrock is pretty much the who's who festival of punk rock and hardcore. Some people have gone even as far as calling it the Warped Tour of Europe, such is the concentration of amazing bands this festival boasts of each year. Rock Am Ring may take the yearly prize for having the biggest names, but with names like NOFX, Rise Against, Thursday, Taking Back Sunday, UnderOATH, Comeback Kid, Darkest Hour, The Academy Is... and countless other awesome names on the bill, Groezrock always takes home the prize for the best punk, hardcore & scene lineup year after year. Yeah, I can imagine your drooly lips already, so lets get to the point, shall we, and introduce how the festival looks to someone with plenty of experience from other festivals across the continent. If you wanna skip the part where I'll just blabber on about how the festival looks and feels like, you can scroll straight down to the reviews further down this page.

First Impressions

The first thing you notice upon arrival is the picturesque scenery of a small Belgian village, Meerhout. All front yards and gardens look like they're straight from Desperate Housewives, everything looks perfect, as if dozens of gardeners are employed on a daily basis on each street. Everything looks so clean and ideal that it's kind of scary, but enough about that. The camping area of the festival is scheduled to open at 8am on Friday, with the first bands taking stage around 5:30pm. Arriving at 7am in the morning is probably very different to arriving at 15:00, considering the few people present this early, but nonetheless you get an idea of how things function when there's less chaos. There's about half a kilometer walk from parking to the camping areas if you arrive early (it can be up to 1.5km if you arrive late), where you'll find a short queue to exchange your camping tickets into camping wristbands. And here's the first interesting thing about Groezrock: after a quick security check of all bags for glass bottles, weapons and that sort of thing, the vast camping grounds aren't opened the way they are at Rock Am Ring or Roskilde Festival, where a "every man for himself" type of chaos ensues as people rush forward in order to grab the best camping spots. Instead, the volunteers at the festival slowly open sections of the camping area at a time in order to give everyone a good chance of camping as close to the festival as possible. It also ensures that space is used optimally as possible. Thumbs up from this magazine.

Like so many other festivals that are more about the music than the social experience, the facilities at the camping grounds are very limited. There are the usual port-a-loo toilets (impressively clean throughout the festival, I might add, even if toilet paper did run out a few times) and a place to do some basic washing, but essentially it's a spacious grass field where you'll set up your tent and sleep. You'll actually have to exit the camping area entirely to find food stalls, and aside from the very good breakfast offering on Saturday and Sunday mornings, there's just a basic fast-food stall just outside the camping grounds. The idea is clearly to have people only spend their nights at the camping grounds and the remainder of time on the festival area, which is usually the norm at weekend-only festivals anyway.

Festival Area

The entrance to the festival area itself opened at around 16:00 on Friday, around two hours before the first bands were scheduled to jump on stage. That left quite some time for us to explore the area, evaluate the food offering, and get hyped up for the retarded amount of good bands waiting for us in the next two days. In order to avoid a chaotic hours-long queue like the one at Denmark's Roskilde Festival each year, early comers were able to exchange their tickets to festival wristbands a few hours earlier. Thanks to this system it is possible to divide the main queue into two sections, one for those who already have a wristband, and one for those who are still waiting to get theirs exchanged at one of the stalls. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand the benefits of this approach, but lets just make it clear anyway and state that as long as you had a wristband, you could get into the festival area reasonably quickly. Roskilde Festival, if you are reading this, please take note.

The first impression of the festival site itself is good. The only ads you see around the place are by Eastpak & Jägermeister who are the two main sponsors for the festival, so you're not immediately bombarded by pure commercialism like at Rock Am Ring, which is probably good considering the political and social opinions of most people attending. There's plenty of space for the 15,000 or so expected guests (30,000 across two days) to lie on the grass during good weather, but unfortunately it had been raining for the better part of Friday morning, meaning that all that nice space was essentially a watery grass field waiting to be turned muddy. There were a good number of biergarten-styled tables near the bars (we'll get to that soon), but doubling or even tripling the amount of seating areas definitely wouldn't hurt. Fortunately the weather subsequently turned good, and on Saturday people were already suntanning across the festival area. Good times. A quick glance of the food offering signaled further good times, as the choice varied from Asian food (wok), the usual hamburger/French fries/hot dogs, mini pizzas, kebabs, spaghetti, pancakes, and to my surprise, even a fresh fruit stall. Everything seemed to taste great as well (on a festival scale), and aside from the high price of the otherwise excellent wok, the pricing system seemed fair on all counts. Especially the beer was from the cheapest end of festivals that I've been to, with 5 Euro getting you 3 x 0,33L (can-size) mugs of the local beer, and showing an extra Euro or so could get you the same amount of the 'special beers'. Still, I have to voice my disappointment of how crappy the standardized beer was considering we were currently in Belgium, a country much like Germany renowned for its great beer, but fortunately you could get some Desperados and some other fairly decent beers at the Special Beers stall.

But with all positives there's always a negative: the drinks & foods purchasing system in use is fucking retarded. Instead of paying by cash at the stalls, you had to take your cash to a separate place to exchange it for food&drinks tickets at a rate of 5 Euro for 6 tickets. While I applaud this system to the point that it removes all unnecessary waiting at the food stalls, I completely fail to understand why the exchange rate has to be 5 for 6!? Why not just have it 5 for 5, for god's sake? The effect of such a strange conversion system is that you have absolutely no idea how much the food you are buying: the wok, for instance, costs 7 tickets. Given that the conversion rate is 5 Euro for 6 tickets, you'll have to do some way-too-serious mathematics in a semi-drunken state to figure out just how many Euro you are spending, whereas a 5:5 exchange rate would've made it so much easier. I guess it's one way to conceal the real price of the goods on sale, but when the festival simultaneously makes a point that the beer price hasn't gone up since 2005 (applaudable!), it feels little less than a knife in your back. The merchandise stand more than made up for that feeling though. Seldom have I seen such a well set-up system for you to browse through the shirts of your favorite bands - the merchandise stall was essentially another giant tent where all bands of the day in question would be set-up on tables selling their merchandise. As a huge plus there was a massive scene/hardcore/punk CD collection at cheap prices, and lots of t-shirts by bands not even playing at the festival as well. Another 'thumbs up' moment, for sure.

There are three stages on the festival, all underneath giant tents. The first one you'll see coming in is the Main Stage, which houses all the genuinely big-name acts capable of pulling a crowd of at least 10,000 at a punk & hardcore festival. NOFX, Rise Against, Taking Back Sunday, UnderOATH, etc all played on this stage. The second one is the Eastpak Core Stage, which features all the cool 'scene' bands and stuff who everyone knows by name, but not that many people actually listen to. Bands like Emery, Bane, Misery Signals, Darkest Hour, etc played on this stage. Finally, the Etnies Back To Basics stage housed all the local acts and those bands who are still on early stages of their career, trying to build up enough support to eventually graduate to the Eastpak Core Stage. While some people don't count tent-stages to be true 'open-air' shows, I actually prefer these at festivals because it ensures that things like weather conditions don't affect your experience at all. The other obvious benefit is the ability to hear echoing sing-alongs from even smaller crowds, which all adds to the atmosphere nicely. Also, the complete lack of pit-systems meant that if you wanted to see a band badly enough, you'd have no trouble moshing your way to the very front of each show, allowing you to check out as many shows as possible without having to come hours in advance to await your favorite band to come on stage. Speaking of seeing many shows, the brilliant scheduling meant that if you were here for any band with at least a decent following, you were able to see their show without having to miss more than five or ten minutes of another show - the smallest bands excluded, of course. Just consider the following sequence that you could've done on the Friday: Kid Down -> Escape The Fate -> You Me At Six -> United Nations -> Catch 22 -> Senses Fail -> Mxpx -> Poison The Well -> UnderOATH -> Bring Me The Horizon -> Taking Back Sunday -> Thursday -> Bullet For My Valentine. Sounds pretty sweet, eh? That's because it is. But now for the reviews.

Reviews

FRIDAY 17. APRIL

Kid Down @ 17:40-18:10 on Main Stage

One of the very best things I have to say about our trip to Groezrock is that so few of the bands I were disappointing compared to my expectations for them - And by few I actually only mean one, the very first one.. - And by disappointing I'm not even sure that's what I mean. Because after hearing the disastrous pile of suckyness that was Kid Down's second album "I Want My Girlfriend Rich", I already got the feeling that the band wasn't going to be too great live after all. So when they appeared as the very first band on the main stage, with next to no people in the festival area yet, performing a minimal setlist dominated by songs from the latest stinker of an album and seemingly doing so before the sound guy had even shown up - can you blame me for not remembering the performance in detail? Not really no, but trust me, it was boring at the very best [3] TL

Escape The Fate @ 18:10-18:45 on Eastpak Core Stage

After a brief glimpse at Kid Down's insipid festival kick-off on the main stage, it was time to tie knots left untied because of exams in January and finally experience the scene-conscious rock n' roll of one Escape The Fate in the Eastpak pavilion. With vocalist Craig Mabbit's former band, Blessthefall's frenetic live show still fresh in memory, the expectations were high (at least from him). Nothing like it to be seen here though, with lone guitarist Monte too preoccupied with providing both the flesh and bone of the band's metallic guitars and the occasional back-up growls to make an impression (his technical aptitude aside), and even Craig showing an unusual amount of restraint in his stage antics. It's all fine and dandy for those of us who are happy rocking out to songs we know, but as a band reborn from troubled times one would expect these boys to put more effort into convincing would-be fans to do the same. Instead most of the crowd settles for crossing arms and shyly bobbing its heads up and down while the band ploughs through its material (some old, some new, we are never quite told) without raising many eyebrows. What I get from it is a nervous and hastened feel, as if by taking the slot on this large-ish stage the band took a bite too big to swallow. [6] AP

You Me At Six @ 18:30-19:05 on Main Stage

After running from Escape The Fate's show, damning what I felt was the worst of the schedules conflicts, I arrived in the middle of You Me At Six's set at main stage, half expecting them to fail at making good on the promise their debut album gave me as it utterly seduced me last year. There's really not much more to say than that I was very pleasantly surprised to find that YMAS are in fact also good live. Having taken the stage only shortly after Kid Down, the young Brits had quickly gathered a larger crowd and engaged a fair share of it with their music. Something I can easily understand, because before the song that was playing when I arrived was over, I was swept up in it too, not just because YMAS's songs are pretty God damn good, but also because they band simply emitted a contagious feeling of loving to be there. The sound had improved a bit too, and while many more seasoned players might have the whole "dropping to the barrier with the mic" thing as just another tool in their box, unless Josh Franceschi is a better actor than most, he seemed to be just as happy about being close to his fans as the fans themselves were. Rock solid boys, rock solid! [8] TL

United Nations @ 19:05-19:40 on Eastpak Core Stage

Prior to their show at Groezrock, the mystery surrounding the band hadn't settled: who exactly was going to take the stage today? The only officially confirmed members of the band is Geoff Rickley of Thursday fame, but would we see Daryl Palumbo tonight? What about the guy from The Number Twelve Looks Like You? And who exactly does the ear-piercing screams for the band? Turns out Geoff Rickley would deliver a huge surprise (at least for this writer) and did the singing AND the throat-killing screaming tonight. I never thought Rickley would have that much sheer power and rawness left in his emotional voice, but god damn did he deliver tonight. And this wasn't just your ordinary stand-still with one-foot-on-amp type of thing, Rickley was everywhere on the stage. Storming back and forth like a lunatic on steroids, Rickley made sure that the controversial nature of United Nations stayed afoot in a live environment as well: the band was a spectacle to follow as they tore apart the stage. [8½] PP

Catch 22 @ 19:25-20:00 on Main Stage

"Keasbey Nights" is the best ska album ever recorded. "Permanent Revolution" is an incredible third-wave progressive ska concept album about the life of Trotsky in the Russian Revolution. The band has enough danceable rhythms in their discography to cause a riot. So how the hell are they able to be as boring live as tonight? The only songs that initiated any skanking / circle pitting tonight were "The Party Song" and the two songs from "Keasbey Nights", everything else was received with apathy and simple nodding by the crowd. That the band didn't bother to move around on stage at all despite such energetic material just added to the insult, but I suppose creating an album about as complete artistically as possible in ska does not go hand in hand with enjoyable live show. After all, the small nuances and intricate detail of the band's latest album drown in the average-at-best sound quality tonight, and truth be told, they were never going to be particularly interesting outside the comfort of your headphones - and all this coming from a huge fan of the band's work. [4] PP

Senses Fail @ 20:00-20:40 on Eastpak Stage

Prior to coming to this festival, I had more or less decided which bands would deliver the best performances, ticked those boxes as must-sees and filled my iPod with their songs for the journey down, largely ignoring the scores of other bands that could be relevant to my interests. Senses Fail were among the latter, though the hype that used to surround them in the past was enough to warrant listening to at least one of their songs in the car. I honestly couldn't tell whether it was played or not ("Bite to Break Skin") but in the puddle of surprises Groezrock had in store for me, this was the first. Unlike Escape The Fate, these boys had the crowd inside their fists from start to finish and put on the kind of rock show that makes a festival. You see, it is my incredibly biased opinion that most bands are unfit to perform at these events (and willingly so) and that it takes a special sound and bucket loads of confidence and self-satisfaction to own a festival show. All of these things Senses Fail had rehearsed, and when it happened that the performance was about to slip into the repetitive, the band pulled out the ace from its sleeve and delivered a quasi-faithful cover of Metallica's "Battery" to spice things up. Armed with arguably the best sound quality thus far (it should be said that other present scribes had a word or two to say about Buddy's singing in a live setting, but then, it didn't strike me as particularly bad), Senses Fail were able to broadcast the good times and fun vibes that make up the spirit of these occasions, and this achievement puts them on my fictive list of great festival bands. [8] AP

Mxpx @ 20:20-21:00 on Main Stage

After Catch 22 delivered a huge disappointment earlier, I was sure that Mxpx would outshine the band in every way, because each time I've seen them previously they've put up an energetic and fun punk rock show. Turns out I was wrong again, because although the band's first song got the crowd moving, some strange selections in the setlist made sure for an average-at-best early-to-middle part of their set. It also seemed that Herreira & Wiesniewski bass/guitar duo weren't having as much fun on stage as they usually are, leading me to ask the obvious question: are they finally getting too old to sing about the stuff they wrote in high school? Perhaps the considerable size of the main stage had something to do with it as well, because the distance between the two resulted in the band appearing much looser than they usually do on stage, and that's never a good thing. Luckily, once they moved onto their more popular material with "Responsibility" and "Chick Magnet" leading the way, people started moving and the temperature in the tent begun rising slowly but surely. By the time the set closer "Punk Rawk Show" arrived, everyone in the tent was singing along to "We ain't got no place to go, so let's go to the punk rawk show!" Decent, but far from great. [6] PP

VersaEmerge @ 20:20-21:00 on Etnies Back To Basics Stage

Having caught the end of the Senses Fail show (which doesn't count as a disappointment to one who's seen them before and already know that BUDDY NIELSEN CAN'T SING) I quickly made my way to the Etnies stage for the first and last time of the festival, wanting to see if could catch a little of VersaEmerge's performance before it was too late. I arrived just in time for the last song "The Hider", off the band's latest EP which I liked considerably less than their first one. Regardless, VersaEmerge seem to have a good little party going over here, with people crowdsurfing and Sierra Kusterbeck singing just about as good as she does on record. Of course such a short experience has limited potential, but judging from the band's performance of a song that I don't even like much myself, I'm still prepared to guess that the rest must have been pretty solid too. [6½] TL

Poison The Well @ 21:00-21:45 on Eastpak Core Stage

When Poison The Well played in Denmark a few weeks ago, they were really good. When Poison The Well was done playing on Eastpak Core Stage, the only fitting expression was to say they were fucking amazing. Everything about the band and the setting was as close to perfect as humanly possible without being precisely that: the tent was packed to its limits with a punk/hardcore oriented crowd who all knew the band, the evening was just turning dark enough for the light show to make a difference, and the sound was the best I heard all festival. "For A Bandaged Iris" and "Letter Thing" sounded monstrous live, with Moreira's vocal performance being nothing short of mind blowing tonight. His harsh grunt had the effect of making brutal pits across the tent, while his clean vocals echoed beautifully in the tent - all this happening while their colourful lightshow did its best to blow everyone in the tent away tonight. If the faster tracks were cues for the pit to get moving, then the atmospheric pieces like "Botchla" and especially "Nagaina" had the the whole tent spell-bound for their sheer brilliance. Throw in perfect execution of three new tracks from new album "The Tropic Rot", which sound better and better every time I hear them, and you had one magical performance that blew everyone away in the tent. Best performance of the festival, if you ask me. [9] PP

UnderOATH @ 21:25-22:10 on Main Stage

I was definitely starting to feel the strain of a long day of standing up all the time while I was waiting for UnderOATH to come on main stage, and accordingly I had positioned myself cautiously behind the area where I was sure the mainstay of the crowd action was going to take place. A decision probably made for the better, because UnderOATH dependably put on a demonstration of power that instantly got the people going. Obviously their reputation had gone before them though, because while their stage and light show was impeccable (it was similar to The Dillinger Escape Plan's - enough said) the sound was a bit off again. The instruments were good for the most part, but Spencer Chamberlain's trademark roar sounded like it was being shouted into an empty barrel, and effectively this rendered much of the texture in his voice unhearable. A shame considering that this is one of the very most enjoyable parts of the band's sound. However, considering the energy of both the performance and the crowd in general, this only detracts minorly from the memory of the show, which was still really good even if not overwhelmingly awesome. [8] TL

Bring Me The Horizon @ 22:10-23:00 on Eastpak Core Stage

On the drive back home, we had a discussion about the merits of this band, who, for some inexplicable reason, tickle the hearts of just about everyone who considers him/herself a part of the scene despite being but a collective of rampant, lavishly irritating adolescents living out their rock star fantasies with music that, to anyone with some sense of aesthetics, should not have become as popular as it did in such a short span of time. We talked about Oli Sykes' inability to sing and scream live like he can on record and the band's complete lack of class and how that affects their shows. This discussion concluded that what is expected of Bring Me The Horizon on stage is a reflection of their attitude on record: outrageous and controversial. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the best way to describe the band's performance at Groezrock (as it had been the two previous times I bore witness to their show, though to vastly varying degrees of awesome). Outrageous and controversial.

No other band before, and no other band after at this festival was able to pack as much crowd into the pavilion as Oli and his crew, which is a testament to the kind of following they now enjoy. So much, in fact, that some members of it climbed the scaffoldings supporting the tent to get a better view, only to be called faggots and encouraged to dive into the crowd and kill someone by, you guessed it, Oli p(Sykes)opath. Third time's the charm, they say, and indeed, on the show side of things, things had vastly improved, particularly in the vocal department, where Oli was now able to carry line after line of vicious lyric without exhausting his lungs. His colleagues, too, on the various instruments, had their share of energy to dispense and, drunk on Oli's sheer ferocity on stage today, this was quick to infect the thousands of kids with violence, which they then gladly distributed amongst themselves - hence the flow of unconscious little girls carried out of the tent throughout the show (ahem, to confess: one of those may have been caused by the undersigned, though not deliberately). Like Senses Fail, the band's sound engineers had emerged victorious from the battle with bad sound that many performers at Groezrock seemed to be engaged in and were able to convey every explosive bass slap and blast beat without compromising any of the little melody in songs like "The Sadness Will Never End" and "Chelsea Smile"; and without sacrificing any volume either. And by all these powers combined, Bring Me The Horizon were able to deliver what was unquestionably the most intense experience at the festival. Not to mention outrageous and controversial. [8½] AP

Taking Back Sunday @ 22:35-23:30 on Main Stage

Of Taking Back Sunday's performance I admittedly did not quite know what to expect. Even a long time admirer such as myself is beginning to feel that the band might be on the verge of growing a bit stale, and hence I had a fear that we would witness an impassionate run-through of hits with nothing but the minimum effort put into it. Did this happen? Well, yes and no. To reference NOFX I'd say about TBS's on stage show, that they probably only gave about 60 or so percent. However, those 60 could probably match many other band's 100 any day of the week, because the crowd for this show was fantastic. Although we would later experience many great sing alongs in this tent, this crowd was the first to start a truly massive one, apparently sharing my opinion that TBS have indeed not ever penned a bad song. To many of the songs, every single lyric resounded echoing from the dedicated voices of the crowd, and while Adam Lazzara tried to maintain his cool rockstar attitude (when he wasn't swinging the mic all over as usual), it seemed like the band was also positively impacted by the strength of their bond with the fans. As such, there was nothing to fault about their delivery, and especially their new guitarist is to be commended for doing such a good job, also on the vocal parts he has had to learn. For being the first to really raise a roar, TBS also become the first to get [8½] TL

Thursday @ 23:30-00:30 on Eastpak Core Stage

For anyone with good enough taste to realize it, Thursday was the headliner of Friday night. Sure there might have been more people at main stage watching that band I shall not name, but that goes more towards saying something about the ignorance of the average music fan than towards saying anything about Thursday - a band which has crafted some truly legendary music in its time. Apparently aware of the expectations that go before them, Thursday put on a display to match. The volume had been cranked to the max, so when Geoff Rickley's screams and croons pierced the night, they also pierced your ears in a way which can only be compared to the delightful havok wreaked upon them when listening to Cedrix Bixler-Zavala of The Mars Volta. And when the band played the songs for which they are most revered, such as "Signals Over The Air", "For The Workforce Drowning" and "Jet Black New Year" the response was fanatic and as part of the audience, one felt almost like being part of something holy. Even in realizing that some of the band's newer material wasn't as substantially supported as the old stuff, one still had to stand in awe when struck by the stunning force of Thursday. It was just epic. [9] TL

SATURDAY 18. APRIL

Bane @ 11:20-11:55 on Eastpak Core Stage

Although I would've loved to catch Outbreak play at 10:30am, realistically no band playing before 11am was going to get me to wake up, and as such I only managed to catch about half of Bane's hxc hardcore set while grabbing a bite to eat. If there was one band other than Comeback Kid (who are heavily influenced by these guys) that I would pick to generalize the type of audience at Groezrock, it would be Bane. Hardcore to the bone, the band's instrumentalists were alone on stage for the most part, as vocalist Aaron Bedard spent about 90% of his time at the front barrier yelling to the faces of the hardcore kids. There was an abundance of circle & mosh pits throughout their performance providing a much needed early morning wake up to the kids, so you can't really fault the band's performance which was both energetic and...hxc, if you know what I mean. The only problem is that despite having a few cool tunes, Bane songs tend to sound the same in a live environment unless you're a huge huge fan, and as such, their set quickly became monotonous at least for this writer. [6½] PP

The Flatliners @ 11:50-12:25 on Main Stage

Despite watching the entirety of The Flatliners show, I've got very little to say about it other than the obvious things; that the band was energetic on stage, seemed to be loving their second (or third?) performance at Groezrock, and that people generally liked their passionate execution of melodic punk rock songs. I don't know their songs enough to say what they played other than "July! August! Reno!" and "Eulogy", the latter which has a particularly infectious chorus that drags on for several minutes on the album version. Today, however, the band decided to cut it short after the second repetition, telling the crowd singing along that they'd rather play an extra song than use another two minutes of repeating the chorus. Fair enough, that's always a good thing to do, even though I have to say the singalongs were quite back-chilling towards the end. A good, but unsurprising performance. [7]

Misery Signals @ 12:15-12:50 on Eastpak Core Stage

Third time's the charm? What about when the past two times were already the charm? Does that mean the third time will suck? Well, not quite, but that hypothesis is not entirely untrue. For the all-encompassing, hypnotic melodies that make up half the soundscape of Misery Signals were ruthlessly demolished by focusing on the band's chugga-chugga other self (to satisfy the hardcore kids most likely; this was a punk and hardcore festival after all) and other problems not unlike those of Escape The Fate the day before: this stage was simply too big for the intricacy of this band's music (not that much of that was dipped into), meaning that us in the depths of the crowd felt disconnected from the experience and, dare I say it, bored by its monotony. Decent, remotely enjoyable, but hardly noteworthy and devoid of the grandeur of their past endeavors. Fuck, I don't even remember most of it. [6] AP

Emery @ 13:10-13:50 on Eastpak Core Stage

Before I write a thing about Emery's performance I've got to disclaim something. I am a MASSIVE Emery fan (possibly the biggest fan they have) and the prospect of seeing them made me feel like I was in my mid-teens and going to my first rock show all over again. Now the band however does not otherwise hold the Godly status that I personally attribute them with, and as such crowd interest seemed rather mellow when they came on, just as the band themselves seemed to be taken aback a bit, from playing such a large stage on their first ever tour of the European mainland. However, led by their madman keyboardist, the band quickly established a confidence which continued to grow in momentum as they dished out one stellar song upon another. The advantages of always having at least two voices ready to either sing or scream at all times really made a difference live, as the screams especially sounded awesome. The audience seemed to be divided into three; the careless, the curiously intrigued and the few but passionate super fans with whom I went out of my mind in front of the stage, and with whom I served as a stepping stone to keyboardist Josh Head's crowd walking venture during the band's last song "Walls". I can't objectively say that this was a perfect show because truthfully this stage might have been a bit too big for this band, but when even my colleagues who are usually so skeptical of my Emery-worshiping claim to have been well entertained, we can't award it with less than [8] TL

This Is A Standoff @ 13:45-14:30 on Etnies Back To Basics Stage

Convinced by The Flatliners and a bunch of festival attendees all praising technical punk rockers This Is A Standoff to be a melodic punk rock sensation, I figured I should check them out since Emery was kinda boring and I had no interest in watching Architects trying to out br00tal the other bands on the bill today, and I'm glad I did. The frontman used to be in legendary melodic punk band Belvedere, which already guarantees a minimum level of performance, and sure enough these guys could play. They shoved one of the most honest, passionate punk shows of the festival in my face, constantly encouraging people to get on stage. I've seen hundreds of shows but I've never seen this many people on stage the whole time: there must have been stage-divers at a rate of about one every two seconds or so. I think the crowd crammed closer to 300 stage-dives into a 45 minute performance, which should be a record of some kind, with one dude even managing to do a superman pose and crowd surf all the way out of the tent to the festival grounds. You know how Against Me! just never stops playing at their shows? Well, meet a band who spend even less time in between the songs, and as a consequence create an overly intense and intimate setting every time they play. [7½] PP

Architects @ 14:15-15:00 on Eastpak Core Stage

Where there is Misery Signals, there is also Architects. At least this winter and spring. This was to be equally, if not more violent than the performance of their countrymen and brothers in arms the day before, what with it's slightly more hardcore tint and I was better prepared for it now. And to be fair, Architects gave it their best shot but when the sound's against you and the crowd's against you, whatcha gonna do? Despite the muddiness of the audio and the drowsiness of the crowd, Sam Carter put on his best suit, even physically flirting with the audience on a number of occasions, most notably during "Buried at Sea", which was as close to ripping that stage to shreds as the band came during their set, and inciting a rather uninviting, dangerous-looking little moshpit there in the front. No bleeding faces, dangling teeth or unconscious little girls this time though (fortunately so?), signaling that the show never reached the sort of frenzy Carter's mate Sykes successfully incited. "Early Grave" was also well-received, but if you've heard it, you, too, would probably expect nothing short of chaos and confusion on stage to mirror the sonic assault in that piece. So what's the verdict? Much too tame for a band of this caliber. C'mon, we know you can do better than that! [7] AP

The Ghost Of A Thousand @ 15:25-16:10 on Eastpak Core Stage

Replacing H2O is no easy job, but I think everyone at the Eastpak Core Stage agrees with me on this one: British newcomers The Ghost Of A Thousand were a great replacement. Only a handful of people were familiar with the band before, which is why they needed to come out with extra conviction, energy and will-power to turn over a new crowd, and that's exactly what they did. One of the loudest (if not the loudest) bands on the bill, the band made my ears hurt despite earplugs, and their stage performance was frantic to say the least. It wasn't enough for frontman Tom Lacey to deliver his ear-piercing screams at the barrier like most other hardcore/punk bands, he meant business and jumped straight over the barrier for the band's second last song, spending the entire song in a huge circle pit. It's quite a spectacle, so check it out on Youtube. [7] PP

The Academy Is... @ 15:55-16:40 on Main Stage

When time came for me to see The Academy Is... on Saturday I was still a bit star struck from having seen for the first time my all time idols in Emery, but as I ran towards the main stage (a bit late) closing in to the opening notes of "Slow Down" I was awakened by the memory of how much I actually used to like this band. Not to say that I don't like them now, in fact I was anxious to see if they could be as good live as they have been at times on record. They turned out to be like a little brother act to Taking Back Sunday. In many ways, both the music, the stage show and especially the personality of frontman William Beckett, seemed very similar to that of TBS. Again, this is not meant in a bad way, the show was indeed quite solid, however the songs of TAI aren't quite as consistently good as those TBS had to shoot at us and they didn't have the same kind of crowd either. So yeah, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it was good but yet not a complete knock out. [7] TL

The Vandals @ 17:05-17:50 on Main Stage

I'd read that each show by The Vandals isn't just about classic 80s melodic punk rock, it's at least 50% about entertainment. They're not as offensive as NOFX on stage, but they sure know how to do jokes and create a fun, feel-good vibe. Check out this video to witness the frontman create a sing-along with "blah blah blah"'s. It was all wonderfully unserious and mood uplifting, even if their songs aren't as well known as those by NOFX. Go see this band when they play near you, they'll make you laugh out loud. [7] PP

Darkest Hour @ 17:45-18:35 on Eastpak Core Stage

One of the reasons I dragged my royal ass to these festivities was that Darkest Hour was going to be guesting them. You see, I've learned to expect nothing short of incredible performances by this band, whether it's live or on record, and had it now followed the day's pattern and been average at best, chances are John Henry would have taken a broken nose home with him as a trophy. If a band is as good as its worst live performance, then fuck me, this band must be God, because despite the fact that this fourth time (for me) did not quite live up to the other three, it still scraped the floor with most other cabarets at Groezrock. Henry eats babies for breakfast, and it shows. It is out of their innocence and vitality that he summons the drive to go on and on and on without pause to bring you a live experience like no other. Because it never stops. Because simply a drum solo is not enough for him: he removes one of the tom-toms from Ryan Parrish's drum kit to perform his own drum solo during the three-minute instrumental finale of "Tranquil", only to throw it into the crowd when it ends, just to reinforce that fuck you attitude of his band. But in order for it to be sublime, you need the most intimate, small venue in which Henry can embrace you, personally, with a headlock and stick a microphone down your throat because you have to sing along at a Darkest Hour gig. Those lyrics are too important to pass by unnoticed. Most of the crowd here notices. But not everyone. [8] AP

The Living End @ 18:15-19:05 on Main Stage

After seeing one of the band's we've hyped the very most here at Rockfreaks, namely Darkest Hour, we all decided to go and check out The Living End to chill out afterwards. I guess we have to shamefully admit that none of us really knew much of the band before (other than that they have a song on Guitar Hero 2!), and while we're sorry about that, our attempts to gain absolute knowledge of all awesome bands in the world just simply hasn't born fruit yet. To those of you as ignorant as we were, I can reveal that The Living End are a three piece Australian punk-rock-abilly outfit, sporting a bassist who plays the good old upright bass, and while their songs maybe didn't exhilarate us something fierce here on our first listen, the band more than made up for it with sheer show-off attitude. Apart from impressing merely with his bluesy solos, singer/guitarist Chris Cheney also managed to play standing on top of Scott Owen's double bass while it was being played as well, and everything he got up on he would also come jumping down from. Playing while he was at it. Obviously this is what we like to see here at Rockfreaks, especially when we've been missing the music, so we'll award The Living End's joyful performance with a decent [7½] TL

No Fun At All @ 19:30-20:30 on Main Stage

Last time I saw No Fun At All was at West Coast Riot festival in Sweden, and goddamn they were boring. Just like Catch 22, it's inconceivable for me how a band can appear so untight and stand so still on stage with the ridiculous amount of punk rock classics their back catalogue offers. Luckily, the band had improved from that performance and were actually moving around today, headbanging and even jumping around for a change. I guess that having large portions of the main stage tent sing along to songs like "Master Celebrator" helped their cause somewhat. The band also appeared way tighter and more convincing than last time around, strolling through closer to 20 or so songs during their allocated timeslot, while the crowd was in a semi-ecstatic state creating pits in every corner of the tent (this is a punk festival after all). Still, if their frontman would just take that mic off the stand and move around the stage much more than he does, No Fun At All would be SO much better live than they are. [6½] PP

Comeback Kid @ 20:30-21:30 on Eastpak Core Stage

You know how much I hate by-the-books, puritanical hardcore? Much. You know what I expected Comeback Kid to sound like? Like that. How pleasant for both parties then, that they didn't, and instead delivered one of the best shows at the festival, second only to Thursday. There's something about their brand of atmospheric hardcore that strikes a chord with me: there's a touch of The Psyke Project in there (probably the other way around though considering the status of this band) and just enough interesting compositions to capture my attention - and I mean really capture. Truth be told, my intention was to catch all of The Get Up Kids and watch maybe half of this show, but Comeback Kid grasped me in the way that few bands have been able to based purely on a live performance (Mastodon is the only other one that comes to mind). Apparently it grasped others too, because this tent had not been as packed since Bring Me The Horizon terrorized it and I'm thinking, why were these guys not considered headliners?

It says a little bit about a band's achievements when after the show has finished and the roadies are packing shit up, the crowd is still singing "We said, we said, we said, this time was gonna be different" for many minutes. Andrew Neufeld was so touched and humbled by this gesture that he emerged from backstage with his personal camcorder to capture this memorable moment before thanking the crowd once again and awing at just how many people had come to see them. Hands down one of the best performances I have seen, despite its merits being little more than a heartfelt delivery (particularly by Neufeld on the vocals) and an overpowering confidence on stage. This is the kind of performance that sends shivers down my spine and the kind of performance every band should aspire to deliver. Atmosphere, honesty, crowd control. Check, check, check. [9] AP

The Get Up Kids @ 21:00-22:00 on Main Stage

It's no secret that while The Get Up Kids were the most famous, most of our staffers were only starting to get into rock music, and doing so all the way over here in Europe has meant that this band is one we've only gotten to know about as an inspiration for a bunch of other bands we like. Nevertheless, doing this rock-reporting kind of job, we've obviously gotten to know the status of The Get Up Kids, and thus we were all devoted to - and interested in, seeing how this reformed band of a past generation of emo would perform and be received. As for the reception, not much was left to be desired, as there seemed to be a good share of people here who had by no means forgotten about the 'Kids. As for the performance, I guess it shouldn't really come as a surprise that the band looked more like "The Grown Up Men" than The Get Up Kids. There simply wasn't much movement, activity or crowd-engagement to be had, something which was all the more clear when compared to what other bands had been playing this festival. Sure you could feel the reverence of a great band of old in the air during their show, but it also felt like a bit of a faded echo of greatness past, and as such we think that we weren't the only ones to find it just a little bit boring [6] TL

Rise Against @ 22:30-23:30 on Main Stage

Now, I knew Rise Against were really popular at this festival based on the amount of t-shirts I saw before the show (90% t-shirts were either NOFX, Bad Religion or Rise Against), but holy shit, I'm sure that the entire festival had packed underneath the Main stage tent. It wasn't just difficult to get into the 15,000 capacity tent, it was impossible to move forward, and getting beyond the mixer tower half-way into the tent was pretty much impossible. Fair enough, I thought, but then the band played "Give It All"...let me make myself 100% clear, hearing 15,000+ people scream along to a back-then underground punk song "GIVE IT ALL" is something I don't expect to ever experience again - outside of this festival at least. It really needs to be heard on camera to appreciate just how many people were singing along, notice how Tim's voice and the instruments are drowned entirely by the crowd's roar. Needless to say, I was sold for the rest of their performance, not just because of the sing along, but because the band chose an excellent setlist. Songs like "State Of The Union", "Life Less Frightening", "Drones", "Ready To Fall", and even a number of tracks from "Revolutions Per Minute" were played tonight, and the focus was definitely on the faster, more punk 'n' hardcore oriented tracks to my delight. There was a bit of a lull towards the middle-end of their set, but I don't think anyone can fault their performance overall tonight. Tim McIlrath looked dominating on stage, the rest of the band delivered their goods, and the crowd was nothing sort of amazing. This performance further cements the fact that Rise Against indeed are our generation's Bad Religion. [8½] PP

NOFX @ 00:00 on Main Stage

Surprisingly large portion of the Rise Against crowd had disappeared for NOFX, but I guess that's understandable, because they don't necessarily appeal to the same crowd. Their loss, because everyone who has seen a NOFX show knows that it's like being part of a stand up comedy show with brilliant music supplementing. The band arrived 'fashionably late' 10 minutes to their show, and launched straight into "Linoleum". Despite the attendance being probably at under 10,000 by now, the sing along to the chorus was still fucking massive. "Alright that was our best song! It's all downhill....well I can't say it's all downhill from here" says Fat Mike after the song, "That's a lame thing to say... New Found Glory made that statement, and it's totally uncool". It quickly becomes clear that it's band bashing time (once again), and later El Hefe makes an impersonation of an UnderOATH song: "WROOOGHGHGHGHLLLLLLL" thats what they sound like right? Taking Back Sunday gets their share of ridicule as the band finds out they have a Mexican in the band straight after making a joke about Mexicans. "You people on the pillars are seriously annoying me", proclaims Fat Mike, receiving a huge cheer from the crowd.

The band then proceeds with a rather unusual setlist containing songs like "Mattersville" and even "Arming The Proletariat With Potato Guns", the latter of which the band uses to make fun of Jews and Mexicans, even throwing in a joke about our favorite dungeon dad Fritzl. Of course then there are the crowd favorites, like "Stickin' In My Eye", "Murder The Government", "Seeing Double At The Triple Rock", and "Franco Un American" among others. Fat Mike proclaims modestly "This song is going to be so fucking awesome!" to the amusement of the crowd, a pattern repeating itself through most songs the band plays tonight. But clearly the funniest thing happens in the end after the band stops playing. The speakers being to play a strange "everyone's a little bit racist" tune with the band and their road crew impersonating various acts according to the lyrics - a laughable and unpredictable finish to an equally laughable and unpredictable show, as NOFX shows always are. [8½] PP

Final Words

And so the festival ended, and as we were walking away from the festival grounds, smiling faces could be seen everywhere. The weather was brilliant on the final day, and there were enough great bands on the bill to out-do a combined three-year Roskilde Festival lineup, so really, that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Indeed, strictly music wise, Groezrock belongs to the absolute elite of European festivals, right up there with Rock Am Ring, Nova Rock, Reading/Leeds, and Download Festivals, and it's strange that the festival can't draw an even bigger audience year-on-year.

But like so many other similar weekend-only festivals, Groezrock isn't about much more than the music. The amount of extra activities and themes is of course limited by the two-day duration, but it wouldn't hurt to throw on a Rock Band competition (there might have been one that I didn't see though?) or something equally fun and unserious to create a unique atmosphere. While everything else was there, that's what was lacking somewhat - that's of course excluding the great atmospheres during many of the concerts with a great number of circle & mosh pits all around. But hey, for that there's always festivals like Roskilde Festival, Rock Werchter, Glastonbury and so forth, so that's beside the point. In the end, people attending Groezrock should be concentrating on the music anyway. The festival has so many of the greatest and hottest non-mainstream bands playing every year that people shouldn't have time to do anything else than to run between the three stages anyway. With that in mind, lets close this article, thank the organizers of Groezrock, and say our goodbyes for great times had. See you all next year and thanks for a great festival! Oh and apologies for no pictures of The Get Up Kids, Rise Against or NOFX - our photographer Jill is useless and went to photograph crappy bands instead when they were on.

Written by PP, TL, AP & Photos by Jill

View the photo gallery from the festival

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