Groezrock 2015

author TL date 10/05/15

The Rockfreaks staff has covered Groezrock so many years in a row now, seven to be exact, that we are just about running out of ways to explain how much we like it. Yet like it we do, love it even, so much so that every spring for us is filled with anticipation, as we organise our annual bus trip to ferry ourselves and a contingent of local punk rock fans down to the best event for such people to attend in Europe.

Groezrock - a punk rock heaven

The festival takes place over the first weekend in May in the small town of Meerhout in Belgium. From a festival guest's perspective, Meerhout can be described as sleepy, bordering on deserted, as neat little houses frame empty streets as you drive towards the festival area. Other than that, the area is a green countryside, and the weather is mostly gentle at this time of year, if a bit cold during the nights. We certainly recommend digging out some warm socks before bed, rather than passing out naked (although sleeping naked in your sleeping bag actually will have you warmer during the night than wearing multiple layers /PP).

Unlike many of the major European festivals, Groezrock is genre specific, focusing primarily on the modern definition of punk rock, as well as genres like hardcore and emo that have traditionally been closely related to it. Needless to say, this gives the event a spirit of community unlike what you find at mainstream festivals, because here you have a constant feeling that you can walk up to anyone and strike up a conversation about their feelings on bands like Rise Against or NOFX and they'll already know exactly what you're talking about.

More importantly, however, this means wonders for especially the smaller bands in the line-up, who routinely play in basements and bars across the continent. For them to play an event, where audiences have come from near and far to give them something close to an arena show experience is amazing, not just for the band members, but also for the fans who get to see shows where loads of people know the bands and sing along.

Other festivals: learn from Groezrock organization

To make things better, Groezrock is one of the earliest camping festivals of the year, meaning that you arrive while having been positively starving for the festival experience all the time since the previous summer. Add on top that Groezrock is bar none the most efficiently run festival any Rockfreaks.net writer has been to. We're serious. Other festivals should send their organisers here to learn how it's done. The gradually expanding camping area brilliantly facilitates a stress-free camp setup even for large groups, and the adjacent camping and main areas make for a minimum of time lost walking back and forth. Staff at the camping area was also friendly and attentive, and was seen taking good care of guests that had a bit too much to drink to handle themselves.

Inside the main festival area there is of course the ticket system, which ensures that you rarely have to queue behind more than one or two people when you want something to eat or drink. Truly a blessing considering how busy you can feel when running from stage to stage to see as many good bands as possible. Needless to say, the generous availability of toilet facilities is also extremely appreciated in this regard, and in fact Groezrock feels like a rare festival in that you will be very hard pressed to find anyone wetting a fence or a patch of grass within the festival's main premises.

To sum up: Groezrock is amazing. That being said though, we will briefly bring up some points, in the spirit of improving the experience even more. Find these at the end of our article. This is it for this year's praise of the festival, but read on for the reviews. TL

Joyce Manor

Joyce Manor @ 12:00 - 12:35 on Monster Energy Stage

The honor of opening this year's Groezrock goes to Joyce Manor, whose 2014 album "Never Hungover Again" was critically acclaimed pretty much all across the board. Still, they're a strange choice for the vast open spaces of the Monster Energy Stage especially this early during the day when most people haven't arrived to the festival area just yet. Their non-placement on Back To Basics or Revenge probably has something to do with their aggressive stance on crowd surfers and the festival's realization that there's probably no way to prevent people from doing that. Unfortunately that has some bad consequences for Joyce Manor. For starters, the band stands almost completely still on stage. That the sound is absolutely drenched in echo does them no favours either - especially since their garage punk sound is very noisy on record to start out with despite also being highly melodic in its nature. The end result? The sound is way too bad to appreciate, and the band's stand still approach makes them appear a little bit pretentious given the speed and urgency in their sound. Sure, they cover "You Gave Your Love To Me Softly" by Weezer, but other than "Heart Tattoo" and "Constant Headache" it's too difficult to recognize the songs from each other. Combine that with the fact that nothing really is happening? Meh. [5] PP

Beach Slang

Beach Slang @ 12:25 -12:55 on The Revenge Stage

In contrast to the debacle on the main stage, Beach Slang just look and sound so much better in comparison. Their EPs sound like they were recorded live anyway, so the buzzing guitar sound and Goo Goo Dolls style vocals work like magic even in a half full tent this early on. At the same time, the band's on stage performance is great. When they're not busy throwing their guitars around and jumping across the stage, they look passionate and while they rock out in their own spaces. "American Girls And French Kisses" sounds fantastic, as does "Filthy Luck", manifesting a few small, but passionate sing alongs in the crowd. Because once you get this band, you really get it. The same applies for "Dirty Cigarettes" and later, "Get Lost", which are much calmer songs in comparison to the frantic punk tunes we saw before. This is their first ever European performance, and you can tell from the way they connect with the crowd that this is a pretty special moment for them. "I'm just pausing because I don't wanna leave", their singer says, completely out of breath from moving around so much, right before introducing us to a new song called "Ride The Wild Haze". The feeling is mutual. A lot of people left this show impressed. Don't be surprised to find them much higher on the lineup in 2 years time when they are eligible for return. [8] PP

Jarhead @ 12:35-13:05 on Macbeth Stage

I begin Groezrock this year at the Macbeth stage where a Belgian post-hardcore band opens the festivities. Their slightly mathy compositions are interesting on record but with just one guitar to carry all the melodies, it ends up lacking some coherence in the live setting. The sound mix is alright but where the music should sound layered and feverish, it feels a little too light and unfocused here even as the desperate screams from the vocalist are spot on. As they are the first band on the stage, there are not a lot of people in the crowd to begin with but the amount does increase through their set as people that have just entered the festival grounds stop up in front of the very open stage to listen before they move any further. The compositions in themselves are not exactly the easiest to get into which makes this opening spot a hard one to tackle, but they do what they can on stage and checking out this smaller but talented band is overall not a bad start to my festival. [5½] LF

The Swellers

The Swellers @ 13:00 - 13:35 on Monster Energy Stage

Next up, The Swellers on main stage. They're the first of many bands either playing their last ever show or on their last ever tour at Groezrock this year. Sadly, they are faced with exactly the same problems as Joyce Manor earlier minus the lack of activity on stage. The tent is nearly empty still, which helps ruin "Runaways" with a horribly echoing sound that does the song no justice. That pattern continues throughout the set combined with way too much bass in the mix, making it difficult to get anything out of their last ever show. But at least the band are jumping around on stage (compared to Joyce) and even get treated to a small sing along during "Do You Feel Better Yet?" from their debut, which is by far the best album they wrote. Speaking of which, were The Swellers ever a good enough band to have a "final show party" like this at Groezrock? Is it just me that feels like after 13 years as a band they haven't accomplished much if there's only a handful of people familiar with their songs, which they are playing as one of the first bands of the day to a virtually empty tent? Maybe with a better sound songs like "2009" and "Running Out Of Places To Go" would've worked. Meh. [6] PP

Gnarwolves @ 13:30 - 14:05 on Revenge Stage

That Groezrock is a popular travel destination for British music fans seems more than likely entering the Revenge Stage already for its second show. The place is impressively full considering the modest career of the productive young Brighton trio so far, and the same goes for the response given by the audience to their unruly and unpredictable tunes. The crowdsurfing commences in force, and the boys look as happy to connect with their fans as you would expect considering that the audience is likely four times bigger than what they normally play to. At the least. Their expression makes it through the sound decently as well, and overall the conditions for their set are solid enough that it's only really held back by the band's material, unrefined as it still is, raging ahead like a British Polar Bear Club with ADHD. A song like "Smoking Kills" has potential for translating instantly to curious festival listeners, but otherwise this is a party for the already initiated, though a pretty good one at that. [7] TL

Officer Bradford of Masked Intruder

Masked Intruder @14:00 - 14:40 on Monster Energy Stage

Alright so this band is a gimmick right? Sure they dress up in ski-masks and only write songs about going on crime sprees, stalking your teen crush or being in the slammer – but that’s still better than the common thematic of anything on the Billboard Top 10. What sets Masked Intruder apart from bad pop music lyrics and even being the jokester punk version of THE HELL is that this band can write a hook like there is no tomorrow. The setlist today is clearly packed with one sing-along after the other, starting with the short fast and stupid “Stick ‘Em Up”, thoroughly pleasing the guy in the pit next to me who brought a plastic knife from his lunch just to shout along to the lines “I got a knife, I got a big knife”. But honestly it’s hard not to get a bit infatuated by the naivety of lead vocalist Intruder Blue’s boyish and melodic stylings. Whereas many gimmick-bands really fall short when they finally have to prove their pudding live (I’ll get to you later THE HELL), Masked Intruder actually have solid skills vocally as they harmonize and instrumentally, as the soundscape stays mainly unimpacted by a severe amount of jumping and kicking. Halfway through around the song “I fought the law (and it beat the shit out of me)” we’re greeted by “Officer Bradford” – a beefcake geared in a wife-beater styled police uniform and Go-Pro-helmet. If gimmicks attract big companies to support your tour like this, I am starting to understand why these guys are wasting their obvious talents on those gimmicks. But no matter how annoyed I get with the overall concept of this band, there’s no way of denying that it’s working, as the now slightly more awake pit yells along and dances with Officer Bradford to “25 to Life”, “Unrequited Love” or “Crime Spree”. The predictable peak of the show is the duet between Intruder Blue and Sima Brami of Israeli Not On Tour in the shape of the once again funny/stupid “Heart Shaped Guitar”. If you can overcome the gimmick, there is a lot to gain from going to a Masked Intruder show, unless you are allergic to having fun. [7½] HES

The Hotelier

The Hotelier @ 14:40 - 15:15 on Revenge Stage

More and more discerning underground rock fans have recently been discovering why we regarded The Hotelier's "Home, Like No Place Is There" as one of the very best releases of last year, which probably explains why the band is now over for a rare tour of the European continent. The Revenge tent is hence fairly well populated with people anxious to see how the band's anthemic and emotive sound translates live, and fortunately, as things get started, the Massachusetts quartet prove to sound even tighter than the times we've seen them in the US. Bassist Christian Holden's voice slices through the air like a white hot knife as rises from affected verses to screeching highs.

Songs are aired from both the band's new album as well as their first, from when they were called The Hotel Year, among them "The Scope Of All This Rebuilding", "Life In Drag", "An Ode To The Nite Ratz Club" and "Weathered". As well as the band plays though, it's feels like they're a reserved bunch who hesitate to trust new audiences with the same urgency and open-heartedness that their songs otherwise evoke. And similarly, people here seem like they're only at the beginning of their relationship with the band, acting a bit hesitant outside of the set closers "Your Deep Rest" and "Dendron". As a showcase style set, the performance speaks volumes of the band's sound and songwriting chops, but their material speaks of a vulnerability and depth that could make for some shows of pure legend, yet that connection is kept at bay by the band's slightly guarded and business-like approach. [8] TL

The Dwarves - naked bass player

The Dwarves @ 15:05 - 15:45 on Monster Energy Stage

The first thing you noticed about The Dwarves is their bass player who is completely naked. The second thing you noticed about The Dwarves was how offensive they are. The third thing you noticed about The Dwarves is that they're still nowhere near as offensive on stage as for example NOFX are. The fourth thing you noticed is that, while they play old school punk from the 2nd wave, their songs are just not very good and sound mostly generic in 2015. The end result? Most people are merely hanging out in the crowd while the band performs a boring stand still show on stage, where only the vocalist shows any form of movement whatsoever. It's forgettable and the shock value isn't there, that is, unless you know the lyrics to every single one of their songs today. That's not the case for most of the audience, so the show never really becomes the celebration of old school punk that it was supposed to be. [5½] PP

Set It Off @ 15:15 - 15:05 on Back To Basics Stage

Most of the bands at Groezrock are clearly "punk rock" in a sense that is immediately identifiable by all guests at the festival, yet each year there are exceptions, some of which do better than others. Florida's Set It Off is one such wild card, and arguably too wild at that, for while some would call them emo, the more accurate description would be something like "theatrical r&b rock", and if there's one thing Groezrock guests have skepticism towards, it's anything to do with pop or r&b. The set is a train wreck you can spot from a mile away, entering the Back To Basics stage as the band comes on before a sparse audience and immediately sounds lower in the mix than their pompous back track. Things get amended somewhat, and the band's standing members are all bouncing around and smiling wide like committed entertainers with the best intentions. You have to give them an A for effort, but the attitude deployed by singer Cody Carson is completely out of place, sounding more like the kind of thing you would expect to work on kids at the Warped Tour than the down-to-earth honesty punk fans expect from their bands. The disconnect only widens even while the band plays rather catchy tracks like "Forever Stuck In Our Youth" and "Bleak December".

If this were to ever work, the challenge for the band would be to know their audience and lure us in to have some casual fun with their catchy yet superficial pop. Instead they act like they expect to be taken seriously, which falls completely flat, and behind his mates, you can see the utter dismay on drummer Maxx Danziger's face as people leave in droves. We stomach roughly 3½ songs before it becomes too hard to watch. [2½] TL

While She Sleeps @ 15:45-16:25 on Impericon Stage

While there is room enough on many of the stages in the first couple of hours of the festival, the Impericon stage seems to be constantly packed with engaged crowds from start to finish. Just so for While She Sleeps as well and thus there's a good energy in the tent from the moment the band enters. Initially the guitars are very loud in the mix, pretty much drowning out most of the vocals from where I stand but at the same time this also serves to really emphasize the melodic aspect in their music. This evens out a little as the set progresses but the band never really sound excellent today. Still, they're an incredibly energetic band to watch as they bang their heads and get wilder and wilder, and this is reflected not just in the pit but generally in the front part of the tent. They play a focused set dominated by songs from their latest record "Brainwashed" but with some older favourites mixed in the form of "Crows", "This Is The Six" and last but not least: "Seven Hills". They are notably joined on stage by Jordan Widdowson (the first vocalist for the band) for their very first song, "New World Torture", which he also features on in the recorded version. This is just another element that spices up their performance today and overall it's a solid show from a well-playing band that unfortunately could sound a little better. [7] LF

Not On Tour @15:45 - 16:15 on MacBeth Stage

Not On Tour’s Sima Brami just visited during the Masked Intruder set and the effect is positive on the size of the crowd in front of the up-and-coming Macbeth Stage. The band hailing from Israel has a bit of a generic sound with short, fast and loud punk - the winning factor of course being Brami’s surprisingly harsh voice. The energy of the band is tangible in the spring sun as many join either for the mosh pit in front or perhaps a sit in the grass, while all heads nod along as the fast-paced “Silly Thoughts” wrecks your standard 4/4-rhythm with surprising intensity. Unfortunately, as a result of the too frequent sound problems - the show never really transcends your average basement hardcore show, but Brami’s energy makes up for the lack of melody and hooks. [7] HES

Against Me!

Against Me! @ 16:10 - 16:65 on Monster Energy Stage

Against Me! have gotten a fair share of attention on top of being a great band, from the coming out of Laura Jane Grace, and considering that they're a band that seems to have separated themselves as a success-story above and beyond the rest of the punk scene, it makes sense for them to be on the main stage at Groezrock. Theoretically. In reality, Grace and her revamped band sound as solid as ever and smile as wide as they have since her coming out, but you sense that they feel disconnected from the audience in a way that's completely different from their own shows. Their reception is thus also a lackluster one, from a half-filled Monster tent filled with people who have reached the point of the afternoon, when thinking about moderating ones alcohol consumption in order to not pass out is becoming prudent. The band keep their game faces on and get through a number of their awesome songs, throwing "White People For Peace" - which was omitted at their recent Copenhagen show - in with newer songs like "I Was A Teenage Anarchist" and "Black Me Out". Rumour from the backstage area has it though, that Grace exits the stage swearing that this was a shit set, and while that's a bit harsh, anyone who's seen how the band normally does, can sort of see where she's coming from. [6½] TL

Stick To Your Guns - captures their entire show

Stick To Your Guns @ 16:55 - 17:35 on Impericon Stage

In between sets by Against Me! and Motion City Soundtrack, you could squeeze a good 20 minutes of Stick To Your Guns into your schedule if you wanted to. Having performed with impressive energy in Copenhagen a few nights earlier, I figure they're due for a second (brief) opinion. Thoughts upon arrival? The tent is rammed. It's difficult to even fit into Impericon Stage as the band's new album has clearly elevated them to a new status within the melodic hardcore scene. And much like in Copenhagen, the band do their best to kill it live via a prevalence of swirling jumps, relentless energy and plenty of other stage antics to keep it interesting. So for the most of the show, we're waving one fist in the sky and singing along to the melodic parts to for example "What Choice Did You Give Us?", which draws a massive sing along as a first of many during the 20 minutes I caught. At this point I've seen the band kill it live so many times I might have to confess my opinion of them on record might be mistaken. Great melodic hardcore tracks and insane energy. Still, we've seen better at Impericon throughout the years. [7½] PP

You May Kiss The Bride @ 16:55-17:25 on Macbeth Stage

My second Macbeth experience of the day is provided by another post-hardcore/metalcore band in You May Kiss The Bride. They're from Turkey but you wouldn't be able to guess that based on their music alone as it might just as well have come out of any other European country. They play solidly and both their clean vocals and their screams shine through properly in the mix but they never sound quite as heavy as they should which is a shame, just as their backing track doesn't quite have the impact that it could with better sound conditions. They are definitely the youngest band I see on stage this year and their moves and routines as well as their fairly generic compositions point to the fact that they still need to edge out their own identity in a very crowded scene. The show never gets really wild even though the band is jumping around and banging their heads almost constantly but they do get a casual pit going through most of the set and they certainly have a good musical foundation to build further on. [5] LF

The Smith Street Band @ 17:10 - 17:50 on Revenge Stage

At all festivals there are tough scheduling clashes, and this year the worst one is Smith Street Band clashing with Motion City Soundtrack. The Australian Frank Turners, as you could consider referring to the storyteller-punks, are on a continued rise with last year's great album "Throw Me In The River" and you sense their elation as they've barely entered the stage before frontman Wil Wagner's face is split in a wide smile, looking at the audience and exclaiming "This is great!". Excellent songs like "Something I Can Hold In My Hands", "Don't Fuck With Our Dreams" and "The Arrogance Of The Drunk Pedestrian" are aired quickly while those in the know sing along. The Euro audience hasn't quite learned the words the way the Americans had at the FEST shows we've seen the band at, but they make up for it by taking advantage of Groezrock's stage dive-friendliness, as people pile on and off the stage in steady streams. There's a crack in Wagner's friendly demeanour when one girl wants to hug him instead of diving though, which results in her getting bumped out of the way unceremoniously - which we agree with, c'mon lady, the man is working up there and this is not a selfie moment at some shallow hip hop show. Other than that though, the band sounds well and seems to steer things toward exactly the show fans have come to love and expect from them, so remembering that we're having them over for a Copenhagen show in August, we bow out halfway to also see some MCS. [8] TL

Motion City Soundtrack

Motion City Soundtrack playing "Commit This To Memory" @ 17:20 - 18:05 on Monster Energy Stage

"Commit This To Memory" is one of the finest keyboard-driven albums in pop punk history. When it was released ten years ago, it catapulted Motion City Soundtrack to immediate stardom, and enabled them to tour worldwide to sizable audiences. Last time they played Groezrock was three years ago, with a weaker setlist and seemingly few fans in the audience. All of that is changed today as many have come to reminisce and bathe in nostalgia, as the band is playing the entire album from start to finish. With tears in our eyes we sing along to anthems like "Feel Like Rain", "Time Turn Fragile" and of course the opening one-two punch "Attractive Today" and "Everything Is Alright". Finally it seems MCS gets the audience they deserve - a large and dedicated crowd ready to shoot back every song at the band. Echoing sing alongs fill the tent that follow word-by-word Justin Pierre's near-perfect voice that reflects just how good the main stage sounds right now. It's as if Monster Energy Stage was made for the band sound wise. They jump around on stage; display plenty of energy and passion for the album, creating a brilliant celebratory occasion for the album. One hit song after another, the crowd response is fantastic, only tiring towards the last couple of songs on the album, but even "Hold Me Down" is received well when it arrives as the last song of the evening. One of the best shows this year without a doubt. [8½] PP

Transit @ 18:30 - 19:10 on Revenge Stage

Transit have had a tumultuous career so far, getting hype for 2011's "Listen And Forgive" only to face fan disappointment in response to 2013's "Young New England" and then come back somewhat quietly with last year's "Joyride". They sound well coming on today at Revenge, with frontman Joe Boynton and guitarist Torre Cioffi both nailing their high vocal parts right from the beginning. Boynton proves an energetic and in-your-face frontman, coming off a bit aggressive considering that their east coast pop-punk is otherwise among the more laid-back and mellow paced of its kind. But otherwise things proceed enjoyably, particularly when we get songs from either "Joyride" or "Listen And Forgive", with the former's "Long Lost Friends" in particular providing a predictable highlight. Unfortunately the "Young New England" songs feel like lulls in the set, and halfway through, the currently extremely dusty air in the Revenge tent starts to mess with Boynton's voice, making the last half of the show sound a bit hindered compared to the former. [7] TL

Atreyu

Atreyu @ 18:35 - 19:25 on Monster Energy Stage

So if you were wondering how Atreyu anno 2015 would sound like live, the answer is pretty much exactly as you would expect: cliché. The good news, however, is that the band are able to command the stage well stemming from their meteoric career during the early metalcore years, where they played big stages like this on a regular basis. Still, it feels odd to be watching Atreyu play here in 2015, because is there a reason they are reuniting that isn't somehow connected to money and fame? After all, they put out so many cringe-worthy hard rock albums after they decided metalcore was dying as a genre. Sure, they can get people to wave and join in sing alongs for "A Song For The Optimists", and it's a bit nostalgic for those of us who were around when these songs were originally released, but let's be honest here. It's not exactly like As I Lay Dying came calling. That being said, they do play a setlist consisting of mostly best-of-Atreyu with 50% of the songs coming from "The Curse" or "Suicide Notes And Butterfly Kisses", with nothing from "Congregation Of The Damned" or "A Death-Grip On Yesterday" as far as I could tell. The new song they play is also all screamed so that's a good thing. Still, it's hard to not question the relevancy of this band live today. [6] PP

THE HELL - what is even going on here

THE HELL @19:25 - 20:00 on MacBeth Stage

I thought about topping off PP’s review of The Hell’s first album “Groovehammer”, but I am all out of caps lock and the complete lack of redeeming qualities in this set just makes me feel old and bitter. First off: The sound is so fucking off it is ridiculous. I actually took the time to listen to some of the album before the show and found it quite catchy - but I am having as hard a time detecting which of the songs are being played as the band members apparently have. And in spite of this band being known by pretty much every core-dick out there, the faith in The Hell’s musical abilities is reflected by a half-balded plane of grass, made up of either drunk fucktards buying as much into the joke as the Belgian beer industry or the rest of us that are just WTF’ing somewhere in the back unsuccessfully trying to peel our eyes from the car crash of a joke falling as fucking hard to the ground as the stage divers. I actually like gimmick bands. But naively expect these bands to at least deliver a strong backing of a minimum of actual musical talent. I sincerely hope that the rumours that some of these members actually play in “serious” bands aren't true, ‘cause these fuckers seriously need to have their driver's license to any instrument removed. Almost everything about this shit is so depressing I want to go back to slitting my wrists and listen to Hawthorne Heights. It would be a better life than this. But at least “Joris From Belgium” had a ton of fun. The guy was stupid enough to write the band asking to join on guitar for the “Billboards Top 20 of Most Idiotic Songs Ever Written”-topping “Everybody Dies”. Joris then became a star on the internet for about 15 seconds and he fits right in, not having one single stroke on point. But at least Joris had fun. I sincerely hope you had fun, Joris. [0] HES

Knapsack @ 19:50 - 20:30 on Revenge Stage

At one point in the mid 00s, not only had Knapsack long since broken up, but nobody in the music scene seemed to know where frontman Blair Shehan was. Until two years ago, the thought that the 90s emo/indie group would ever play again was ludicrous, and even when they did reunite, the idea of seeing them in Europe still seemed wildly unlikely. While many Groezrock guests are likely too young to realise it then, their show at the Revenge tent is something of an occasion. The band's latest album "This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now" came out in 1998, yet as the sun sets outside and the groups come on for a twilight set, there's no rust to hear in their performance. The sound and playing are the tightest by far of any band so far today, and you can hear Shehan perfectly, both in his lower, more eerie singing and in his high, belted notes, though this is also likely a consequence of the band arranging their songs conservatively, splitting the time where vocals and guitars are in focus quite evenly. The set is as methodic as their songwriting, as they power through the impressive line of good songs they have from only two albums, such as "Change Is All The Rage" and "Thursday Side Of The Street". Shehan says but a little, and guitarist Bokros smiles silently and overbearingly at some shouty fan down front who presumes to think he can dictate the setlist. It's like watching a clockwork version of Brand New, as Knapsack's songs are more similar and poppy in structure, yet the band has a similar enigmatic and reserved demeanor, getting things done in convincing fashion and then leaving with little fanfare. [8] TL

Ceremony @ 20:30-21:10 on Back To Basics Stage

Even though California band Ceremony has departed from their more traditional hardcore approach to music with their latest recordings, there's no doubt about their roots at tonight's show. Their sound is very 80's with wavy guitars providing the background for vocalist Ross Farrar's very non-melodic voice. As he semi-talks his way through the songs with a very distant attitude, he wanders around the stage in a sulking manner but this doesn't mean that he or the band in general does not seem engaged in the show itself. Far from it actually. There's a volatile flow of energy up front and as Farrar announces a song "for the hardcore kids" and the short track "Kersed" from the band's 2006 album "Violence Violence" follows, the stage is immediately flooded with dedicated fans. While their music is very noisy, it doesn't sound muffled here as one could fear but rather the tent seems filled side to side, top to bottom with an all-encompassing sound that makes the air itself feel heavy and vibrant and lets the music be felt not only through your ears but through your very skin. It's a magical experience and along with the two shows that surround this tonight on the neighbouring Revenge stage, Ceremony is definitely one of the highlights of the first day of Groezrock. [8½] LF

The Ghost Inside

The Ghost Inside @ 20:45 - 21:30 on Impericon Stage

The Ghost Inside are almost like the house band at Groezrock, virtually guaranteed to play every second year at the festival as per the booking rules. And why shouldn't they? They are still one of the most consistent bands in the genre as they are proving once again today. They open straight away with crowd favorite "Between The Lines", which draws the predictable "WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR?" chant from the crowd. "Let's get this place moving!", vocalist Jonathan Vigil screams, before launching into "Dear Youth (Day 52)" a few songs later. The tent is shaking from its foundations from their massive breakdowns, and given how packed the tent is, the interaction dynamic between the band and the crowd couldn't be much better. It's a little too packed though and the question that remains is whether they should not be the first truly heavy band to take over the main stage next time around? They're energetic and all over the place as usual, and thank Groezrock for being the best audience every single time they play. At this point I have to dart off to Lagwagon, but what I saw was a solid start that had potential to turn into something devastatingly good towards the end of their slot. Did it? Tell us in the comments. [7½] PP

Mineral @ 21:10 - 21:55 on Revenge Stage

As with all terms, you can have long and tiresome discussion about how to properly define "emo", but in truth, if ever there was an emo band in the purest sense of the term, it's probably Mineral. Another band that hasn't released anything since 1998, and who only recently reunited and started playing after an extended period of inactivity. The band's two albums are constantly weeping, drawn-out affairs, near to post-rock in how meandering guitars are often more dynamic in the soundscape than the prolonged, sentimental vocal notes. Yet opposed to the countless bands that could be described in a similar fashion, Mineral prove here just after nightfall, that their comeback feels more fated than simply justified, because their quality can now be put on display for a fan base that has grown slowly in obscurity while the band has been absent. Apart from virtually every other band at the festival their music is slow and elaborate, folding out in gradual increments which progress like hands on a clock towards sweeping climaxes where sounds go off in your ears like fireworks on a particularly emotional new year's evening. It's the kind of thing where you can even hear how the force of the drumming is softly intensified, and where the woven guitar patterns reach a level of harmony and euphony that Groezrock bands mostly do not have time for. Especially the dual vocal melodies of "&Serenading" sound utterly pristine tonight, and for a rare period in a day full of hurried festival sets, we finally get a performance that picks us up and temporarily transports us away from here. [8½] TL

Lagwagon

Lagwagon @ 21:15 - 22:15 on Monster Energy Stage

It's been a loooong time since Lagwagon were active. They've returned from hibernation though and don't look rusty at all today, treating us to a highlight reel set of punk anthems ranging from "After You My Friend" and "Violins" to "Alien 8", "May 16" and "Razor Burn". In between, they fit in a bunch of great new songs from the new album that fit in seamlessly into their set. "Violins" gets a huge sing along that rivals the ones NOFX pulls off on this stage on a regular basis, but the response is surprisingly good to "Obsolete Absolute" as well, which has the tent echoing from the crowd chants. For "Alien 8", mosh pits break out across the tent, and by the time they reach "Mr. Coffee", I've jotted down "such party" into my notes. Indeed - Lagwagon deliver a solid demonstration of why they are one of the biggest punk rock bands around and deserving of a late night slot on the bill. [8] PP

Title Fight @22:40 - 23:30 on The Revenge Stage

It shouldn’t really be a secret to anyone that at this point of the evening the Belgian brews are starting to have their impact on most of the writers of this fine magazine. Luckily a thoughtful Swede reminds me that it is time for Title Fight to play The Revenge Stage far away from the old school extravaganza of pretty much every band we listened to in the 90s . So it’s a tough spot Title Fight find themselves tonight. Or is it? As we arrive, the tent is pretty decently packed out with people. Knowing the severity of taking a drunk crowd surfer to the head, we stay a bit back as they lights dim and everything turns into a hypnotic performance of dark shoegazing – songs gliding into the next one as a haze of actual dust from the feet of several hundreds of people makes the experience so compact it’s almost hard to breathe – in more than one sense. The buzzing of lights and sound keeps us warm from the Belgian night outside as vocalist Jamie Rhoden manages to bridge gaps between the band’s way more hardcore background and current indie sound. I am not sure if this show is disappointing to fans of the prior albums, but the tracks off the 2015 album “Hyperview” are absolutely mesmerizing live. Forgetting beer, time and place we basically sway for the 50 minutes and leave the tent still humming melodic bits of “Chlorine”, or was it “Your Pain Is Mine Now”. Maybe “Murder Your Memory”. It doesn’t really matter. [8½] HES

Pennywise

Pennywise @ 22:45 - 23:45 on Monster Energy Stage

Speaking of sing alongs, that's how to best characterize the Pennywise return to Groezrock in 2015. "Same Old Story" has an enormous sing along, but it doesn't beat "The World" or "Fuck Authority" today. "Society" is equally massive. "Bro Hymn" is the predictable woo-hoo gang anthem that has come to define Groezrock crowds, even if we don't hear people singing it along in anticipation throughout the day today as we have during previous years. They cover "Do What You Want" by Bad Religion, Joey Cape (Lagwagon) joins on stage for a heartfelt "Devonshire And Crown" cover of Tony Sly (RIP), and generally the band plays primarily old classics on top of these, avoiding newer material like the plague. The usual Fletcher rants are also present, and both sides of the stage are filled with younger bands with on stage access watching their idols play. It's a typical Pennywise set, which means it's pretty awesome. [8] PP

Defeater @ 23:30 - 00:20 on Back To Basics Stage

Boston quintet Defeater have quite some hype to their name in the hardcore scene only a few albums in, so despite the fact that we have been operating at minimum sleep through a packed Friday setting, we find a spot for ourselves in the back of a packed Back To Basics tent that's only getting fuller up to and into the band's set. The group opens with the acoustic "Brothers" and then we're off to the races with passionate screaming and ringing post-/wave-hardcore instrumentation ringing from the speakers. Things sound good, in the way where even curious newcomers can clearly hear that there's a considerable measure of extra depth to Defeater's songwriting compared to what many hardcore mobs trade in, and as the midnight set proceeds, more and more fans push their way on through to the frothing chaos down front, where stage divers are naturally careening into a mass of bodies non-stop. We're almost dead on our feet and feeling the increasing claustrophobia of the more and more packed tent, so we regretfully bow out and make space for fresher feet after a small handful of songs, but for the fans that conserved energy through the day for this very moment, it seems like Defeater are delivering exactly as expected. [8] TL

DAY 2

The Holy Mess @ 12:25 - 12:55 on The Revenge Stage

Many are still nursing their hangovers as The Holy Mess come on stage for their first ever Groezrock performance. These FEST veterans have been a hit in Florida for a few years now, so their straight up punk rock and funny banter in between songs is exactly what it takes to get a good wakeup call on a sunny Saturday afternoon. They play their best song "Goodbye 3713 (Must've Been A Good One)" early on, and "Sunset On The Coastline" shortly after, and showcase decent energy overall relative to their early slot on the stage. There aren't that many people in the tent right now, but The Holy Mess nonetheless deliver a few great songs without doing anything particularly memorable or spectacular on stage. Sometimes, all it takes is a good attitude, small-but-passionate movement, and a couple of great songs to convince the audience. That it's very straight up, no bullshit type of melodic punk rock helps too. Not as impressive as Beach Slang's opening on the same stage the day before, but quite a few left the tent with a good impression. They finish off with two songs from a new vinyl that's coming up shortly, both of which sounded very promising. [7] PP

F.O.D. @ 12:55-13:30 on Back To Basics Stage

I start my second day of Groezrock with one of Belgium's premium punk rock bands called F.O.D. Their music resembles older Green Day somewhat and they are playful on stage and play with an abundance of energy. Even though it's an early show, the tent is entirely full of people ready to party already now and the big black balloon that's present for a bunch of shows today is bounced everywhere with no stops throughout the set. They're a fun band to watch – it is no surprise when they namedrop Frenzal Rhomb as the band they're looking forward to seeing later – and even though they're in the older half of the people to be on the smaller stages this year, they're no less energetic for it. I don't think I've ever seen a backing vocalist in a band with no instrument to play while he sings but that is the case here, and while he delivers some spot on harmonies he is also freed up to dance around the stage and engage with the crowd. The band plays a cover about halfway through their set from what I understand to be another Belgian band whose members are also present here and join the band on stage, and this only heightens the mood even more. All in all, a surprisingly energetic party to start the day with. [7] LF

The Real McKenzies

The Real McKenzies @ 13:00 - 13:35 on Monster Energy Stage

Thank god for folk punk bands playing early on. If there's one way to get the party started it's definitely this. The band come on stage with their kilts and bagpipes, and get the crowd involved early on by teaching us the "Can we drink some more?" chant for the song titled, yes you guessed it, "Drink Some More". "THIS IS A DRINKING SONG", we are told, and people respond accordingly. Their upbeat bagpipe anthems are as danceable as they are mood lifting, but at this point there's still not much movement in the crowd. A good start to the day, but if we think back a few years to Zebrahead's total wake up ceremony around the same time, this feels a little tame in comparison. [7] PP

Timeshares @ 13:30 - 14:05 on The Revenge Stage

Timeshares have always been a hit or miss band for me live. Today they show some more life than previously, probably due to the excitement of having a new, pretty good album out, and being able to do a better setlist mix instead of having to fill weaker tracks in between. But the contrast is quite starkly visible in their performance. When they're playing their best songs off their debut - like "Chinese Coffee Torture" - the band are enjoying it far more live, displaying movement and energy, whereas during the weaker songs the band are virtually standing still. Sadly the tent is still almost completely empty at this early stage, so it dampens the crowd dynamic somewhat. Still, this is the best I've seen Timeshares look in a while so here's to expecting a solid set in a smaller club environment when they hit our shores in Denmark later this month. [6½] PP

Bad Ideas @ 13:35-14:05 on Macbeth Stage

Bad Ideas from Lincoln, UK are one of the must-see bands for me this year on the Macbeth stage, and as I arrive just in time for their very first chord, I am glad to find that their low-key indie/punk rock fits the smaller stage perfectly. The sound mix generally treats them very well throughout the set as their emotional music fills the air and especially their vocalist's quivering voice makes an impression. The music is generally upbeat while the lyrics provide some contrasting and brutally honest insights like "I prefer you way beyond inebriated / To be honest I prefer somebody else". The band provides just the right amount of positive energy from the stage as they casually play through their songs to the fairly big number of people that are chilling out in the sun, standing or sitting in front of the stage. As the band's new single "Clumsy Hands" ends the set, there's no doubt that this is one of the best shows that I see at the Macbeth stage this year. [7½] LF

Off With Their Heads

Off With Their Heads @ 14:00 - 14:40 on Monster Stage

What did one Rockfreaks.net reviewer say to the other during the Off With Their Heads set? "It's amazing that they can play almost exactly the same beat in every song and still have better songs on average than most punk-rock bands". The latter part is probably a good bid at one reason for why Off With Their Heads have made it to a position where they are now playing the main stage, and while they omit many past hits of theirs such as "Keep Falling Down" and "Trying To Breathe", the Monster audience gets a barrage of songs that are the very definition of no frills punk rock. A simple up-tempo beat, four chords applied forcefully and the main variation coming from how fast frontman Ryan Young is barking. In "Nightlife" from the band's most recent album "Hope" there's some Red City Radio-style backing singing to spice things up, but otherwise these songs are as simple as they come, and thrive entirely on energy and on the grit in Young's gravelly voice. And as was the case with Against Me!, it does not really translate as well here on the huge main stage as it has done when we've previously seen the band in smaller venues, where the rooms were packed with people singing back every word. Without the synergy and spirit of communion, you get to feeling the lack of musical diversity halfway through the set, and this can't really be remedied even though Young is a bit livelier than usual, going for a bit of crowd-surfing towards the end. [6½] TL

Direct Hit!

Direct Hit! @ 14:40 - 15:15 on The Revenge Stage

Direct Hit! show was one of the early favorites on Saturday thanks to their upbeat, no frills approach to catchy punk rock. Tonight, they kick off with "Werewolf Shame" and the stage divers get going straight away. Masked Intruder are having an off day today, but they are still at the festival: Officer Bradford is on stage at one point, as is a member from the band. Or it could've been a fan but nonetheless he was wearing the robber ski mask, but with Bradford it's too much of a coincidence to deny. Their straight up punk rock gets the crowd riled up into a rowdy state, and with a boatload of underground pop punk hits, pits open up everywhere, but especially "Buried Alive" sees much activity on the crowd's side. Likewise, "Getting What He Asked For" gets the sing alongs going and shrouds the venue in a feel good, upbeat vibe. They're better in a small, intense club environment where the whole band gets to crash against the crowd, but for their Groezrock debut, it's great. Finally, they break off the set with "On & On", another modern classic from "Brainless God", and leave us off with a positive memory of their set. But let it be known: you need to see them in a club to truly appreciate what this band is all about. [7½] PP

Teenage Bottlerocket

Teenage Bottlerocket @15:05 - 15:45 on Monster Energy Stage

I think Teenage Bottlerocket is served unjustly this afternoon. Monster Stage is still prone to deliver really mixed sound experiences and right now we’re in the low end of the spectrum. Teenage Bottlerocket delivers pretty generic, but party-ready pop punk - but the crowd is not really having any of it. Even as hype man/monkey Clint tries to get the party started, it’s in too big of a contrast to the stand-still crowd. For some reason the band also decides to start every single song with boisterous “1234!” primarily delivered by drummer Brian Carlisle, just in case the dead-predictable 4/4-rhythm wasn’t apparent enough. Teenage Bottlerocket has not invented any wheels, but in a usual beer-fueled setting songs like “Skate or Die” or “I Found A Girl” would’ve probably worked, but for some reason the whole thing ends up as a flat joke and quickly loses the charm. Be it the early hour of the day or just vast amounts of punk bands showing the genre is more than what Teenage Bottlerocket is serving, it still doesn’t ever really peak. [6] HES

Turnstile @ 15:15-15:50 on Back To Basics Stage

Out of the Baltimore-scene we have hardcore band Turnstile who have won me over with their somewhat unusual take on the genre which merges traditional hardcore with more wavy indie rock and post-hardcore elements along with straight up rap. They play a good mix of new and old songs here but unfortunately the sound mix only lets the more rhythmic elements in the songs through so the more inventive guitar riffs and in general the softer moments that provide contrast in their sound can barely be heard at all in the middle of the tent. Thus the music doesn't have the same kind of impact on me as it does on record and it all ends up playing like a pretty traditional hardcore show – albeit one with good energy. Thus the sound quality of course doesn't stop a horde of crowd surfers from doing their thing, and from time to time the stage is full of people, the lead singer completely covered in piles of fans, eager to shout along. While many of these fans probably get what they came for I am left sorely disappointed even as I can't deny the good mood in front of the tent and the pure energy in the band's attitude. [6] LF

Turbowolf

Turbowolf @ 15:45 - 16:25 on Impericon Stage

British rock'n'rollers Turbowolf are another odd group out in the Groezrock line-up, yet their recent album "Two Hands" had plenty of ballsy riffage to go around, so there's good reason to check out how they would do at the Impericon stage... -thought not all that many people, and neither did the sound guy it seems. The band actually comes on seeming like they intent to rock the place, and particularly the short, curvy bassist Lianna Lee Davies catches the eye, looking fierce with femme fatale lipstick and a tight, sparkling purple jumpsuit. She struts around like a woman in charge, and it's particularly the licks she lays down along with the more cautiously playing Andy Ghosh, that go to work on the audience. Unfortunately though, the mix is anything but kind to the sounds the band make whenever those riffs are not dominating the songs. Vocalist Chris Georgiadis sounds shrill and withdrawn in the soundscape, and while you sense the band has routine as entertainers, you also quickly feel that there's a disconnect between them and the crowd, making Georgiadis between-song-banter come off as automatic. It's a mixed experience then, which works well when the band is riffing away in force, but where the shenanigans otherwise fall short of making an impression due to the uneven sound. [6½] TL

The Early November

The Early November @ 15:50-16:30 on The Revenge Stage

On a Saturday that for me is not as crowded with good bands as Friday was, the indie/emo rockers of The Early November are one bunch of guys that I definitely have to see. The singles from their upcoming album "Imbue" have really impressed me lately and their back catalogue is full of catchy, emotional songs that fortunately all sound very good on stage today. The show is overall a very casual and calm experience even as a single fan jumps the stage a few times to grab the microphone and sing the lyrics. The first time this prompts the guards to come running but vocalist Arthur Enders signals to them that it's not a problem, and he tells us later that he actually appreciates the gesture as he has been coughing up blood all day before the show. This doesn't show too much in his vocals that are good throughout the set even as they're not as impressive or immersed in the songs as they could be. Despite the catchy choruses and the very well-written songs, the emotion thus never really bursts through and it makes the show lack that certain kind of intensity that would have made it a truly memorable performance. [7] LF

Frenzal Rhomb

Frenzal Rhomb @ 16:10 - 16:55 on Monster Energy Stage

I don't know if Frenzal Rhomb qualify as a reunion band, but for many of us attending their show this is literally the first chance for us to see them live. These Aussie legends don't tour Europe much anymore, which translates to lots of blank expressions on people's faces while they perform on the main stage. Their lightning speed pop punk doesn't seem to be grabbing people because nobody can remember the songs anymore. Or that's what it looks like at least. Also, where is everyone? The main stage is kind of empty and makes it feel like a way big of a stage for Frenzal Rhomb to be playing on in 2015. They play mostly older tracks, but a few cuts from 2011's "Smoko At The Pet Food Factory" make it into the mix as well such as "Bird Attack", "When My Baby Smiles At Me I Go To Rehab", which sound great alongside a 1995 classic like "Genius". This one sees at least a small pit opening up near the middle, but for the vast majority of their set, nothing is really happening. Neither in the crowd or on stage. Needs way more fans to work on the main stage. [6½] PP

Counterpunch @ 16:30-17:10 on Back To Basics Stage

Going to see Chicago band Counterpunch is more or less a last minute decision for me as I have only briefly checked out their fast-paced punk rock before leaving for the festival itself. Still, their most recent release "Bruises" convinced me that their live show could be a fun experience so here I am. The band plays well but with a sound mix that's acceptable rather than great I find it hard to really get hooked by any of their songs. They do get a good response from the fans up front that are obviously familiar with the band's back catalogue but standing a little further back in the tent turns out to be a bit of a let-down overall. Counterpunch are not a very active band on stage and their lack of energetic movement in combination with songs that sound fairly generic makes it one of the more boring shows that I attend today. [5] LF

Ducking Punches @ 16:55 - 17:25 on Macbeth Stage

Norwich folk-punks Ducking Punches are a tiny band even by Groezrock standards, having earned their way onto the Macbeth stage via popular vote. Yet you wouldn't know that from seeing the group as they appear in an afternoon slot all sporting sunglasses and calm confidence. There's a solid group of people gathered for their show, and they get treated to one of the better sounding sets the Macbeth stage has to offer, and the band can safely have confidence in their songs, which all come across as catchy and easy on the ears. Particularly the tuneful violin adds an extra melodic layer to the soundscape, while their top Spotify song "Big Brown Pills From Lynn" easily has people sing along to its infectious hook. Their set is overlapped partially by The Loved Ones, so we can't catch the end, but if you imagine a mix of The Smith Street Band and Mumford & Sons and that sounds compelling to you, then check out Ducking Punches, and make sure you catch them live if given the opportunity. [7½] TL

The Loved Ones

The Loved Ones @17:20 - 18:05 on Monster Energy Stage

Dave Hause is somewhat of a punk rock regular, touring with many a punk rock band, but seldom with his own: The Loved Ones. But it seems that Fat Wreck Chords are dominating the festival this year, and as a nice treat we get to see the 00's Philly punkers that normally don't really tour due to solo- and all other kind of projects. And it's a damn shame! Hause is the perfect frontman, energizing, humorous and welcoming. A misplaced pair of sunglasses gets ripped from his face during his first crowd surf eliminating whatever distance was left between us. The crowd responds with amazing enthusiasm. Most lovingly welcomed however are the songs off 2008’s “Build & Burn” with songs like “The Inquirer”, “A Pretty Good Year” and “The Bridge” - and even as Hause’s voice falters a bit on the last mentioned song during the energetic high-pitched chorus, the sing-along cancels out any doubt that the booking was somehow dated or unwanted. The shows ends in a soul-music like call and response to “Louisiana” as well as the classic “Jane” with the classic “alright, alright” chorus. Overall the 45 minutes slot is way too short for a band with this many great songs, but the band manages to fully utilize whatever short while they’re with us making this one of the better shows of Groezrock 2015. [8] HES

Banner Pilot

Banner Pilot @ 17:50 - 18:30 on Back To Basics Stage

I've seen Banner Pilot enough times now to expect a terrible sound every single time they play (there has been one exception, FEST last year), where the vocals are way too low down in the mix to be heard properly. That's very much the case tonight as well, which is especially disappointing considering how good of a setlist the band fires our way. They kick off with "Effigy" and "Spanish Reds", and receive a great reaction from the crowd. You can tell they're moving up in the punk rock world also by their later slot than usual. "Northern Skyline" sounds solid as well, its "Crimson skies, drinking my oceans dry." sections are pretty much the definition of feel good sunshine punk rock. Crowd favorites like "Greenwood" and "Starting At An Ending" from "Collapser" draw a huge response from the crowd sing-along wise. The scene is packed with stage divers once again, and the band's straight up, no-nonsense approach to writing bass-driven punk rock songs falls right at home with the crowd today. The only problem? The bad sound and Banner Pilot's usual static and limited performance when it comes to energy on stage. It's a shame because their records are really good. The crowd takes care of it for the most part; had the sound been better we'd probably be rating a lot higher than this one, especially considering the great finish with "Skeleton Key". [6½] PP

Raised Fist

Raised Fist @ 18:05-18:50 on Impericon Stage

Even though the Swedish hardcore/punk band Raised Fist has only bleeped onto my radar via their latest release "From The North", that album is such a solid release that I am well motivated to check them out on this year's Groezrock. As I turn up slightly late at the Impericon stage however, it is evident that it's going to be a tough job getting anywhere inside as it is completely packed with people. Understandably as well, as even on the fringes of the tent the band sounds incredible. The heavy riffs and frontman Alexander Hagman's very recognizable, frenzied voice are balanced perfectly and Hagman is furthermore very active on stage, making the band come off as nothing short of majestic from the bits I get to see. However, being a not so tall person I opt for leaving early as there's not much of a chance to really get into the set from where I stand but I have no doubt that this is one of the most solid shows of the day and that it must have been great for the people who made it there earlier than I did. [8] LF

Such Gold @ 19:10 - 19:50 on Back To Basics Stage

Most bands at Groezrock play fast, but considering how technical the melodies and strumming patterns are in Such Gold's music, it sounds like they play even faster. This would be cool if the sound at Back To Basics wasn't a blurry mess for their set. Reportedly you can hear things up front, but only because the sound on stage is way loud, which also explains why there's a steady stream of stage divers having a blast like nothing is wrong. If you're a bit further back in the tent though, you can only look at the band rocking out energetically and sigh with disappointment from how it's near impossible to tell one song from another, let alone enjoy the wealth of detail the Rochester quartet shoots at us at rapid fire pace. Especially bassist Jon Markson is moving about wildly, when not supplying the band's harsher backing vocals, but it's to little avail. The band puts in an active performance and people up front stay into it, but for anyone out of the stage divers' landing zone, you'd have to know what was good about Such Gold in advance, otherwise the dodgy mix would prevent you from finding out. [5½] TL

Bane @ 19:50 - 20:30 on The Revenge Stage

Well this is it. The last tour by melodic hardcore pioneers Bane whose work inspired so many bands that are today much bigger than them. A simultaneous feeling of nostalgia and sadness surrounds the tent, which is just about as full as it can possibly be. "MOVE UP, MOVE UP, THERE'S ONE MILLION PEOPLE TRYING TO GET INTO THIS TENT, SO LET'S MAKE ROOM". Strangely, "Final Backward Glance" is not the epic show finisher but is the first show of the set, and people predictably go apeshit for this one - there's a plastic crocodile making rounds in the crowd at this point. "I've never been much good at saying goodbye / Goodbye" would've otherwise been the perfect finishing song if you ask me. Oh well, it works here too. On stage, everything is basically chaos. From the dozens if not hundreds of crowd surfers to the band's explosive performance, it looks like everyone is simultaneously in the air, throwing spinkicks left and right, which prompts Bane singer Aaron Bedard to remind us hitting girls is not okay, neither at home or at a hardcore show. The band continues with high kick jumps and thanking the crowd for sticking around at every opportunity, while playing some of their best material alongside some rarities. It's a festival performance so it's never going to be as intense as a club show, but this was a good send off for one of the most underrated bands in hardcore. If you never saw them, you missed out. [8] PP

Satanic Surfers

Satanic Surfers @19:55 - 20:45 on Monster Energy Stage

Supposedly this is a big day for 90s punk rockers as their heroes from Satanic Surfers grace us with a reunion after 10 years with no new material. And even though these guys were the first to really do skate punk in Europe, it is pretty clear that much has happened since. The band pretty much plays a fast and loud show and all the diehard fans in the pit probably had the best time of their lives, but as we join for a quick view from the back it doesn’t really catch on. The band does what is expected of them but nothing more and it comes off a bit lackluster when there’s no real emotional connection to any of the songs. [6] HES

Comeback Kid

Comeback Kid @ 20:45 - 21:30 on Impericon Stage

Canada's Comeback Kid have been among the most popular contemporary hardcore bands for quite a few years now, so it's no surprise that the large Impericon tent is still rammed full for their performance. And in fact, there is little to be surprised about in their performance. They come out guns blazing, with the band grooving about confidently and asserting their sonic dominance while frontman Andrew Neufeld charges around the stage howling like a demon. From the rear half of the tent, it's hard to see what goes on up front, but it's fair to assume that limbs are being risked because performance-wise and sound-wise, Neufeld and his crew are putting on a power demonstration, and of course their songwriting prowess is on display as well via proven bangers like "G.M. Vincent And I" and of course "Wake The Dead". The only thing to regret about the show is that it's just too full for anyone to fully enjoy in the rear half of the tent, and while Impericon has always been the designated hardcore stage for Groezrock, maybe next time it's worth considering if Comeback Kid aren't perhaps big enough for a shot at Monster. [8] TL

Basement @ 21:10-21:55 on The Revenge Stage

The UK emo/post-hardcore band Basement that reunited a little over a year ago is another important band for me to see today. They play both of the two new tracks from their most recent EP release "Further Sky" in addition to a good division of songs from their two older studio albums and overall their sound is immense. This is true not least during "Covet" from the most recent of the two albums, "Colourmeinkindness" from 2012, which fills the tent with the band's intense soundscapes and raw guitars while vocalist Andrew Fisher's emotional and very nuanced voice winds through the air. Basement's performance here shares certain qualities with Ceremony's show yesterday in the way the music completely fills the tent and closes in on the listeners from all sides but the intensity tonight is of a different kind as there's a completely different sense of emotional expression to Basement's songs. I can't help being reminded of a band like the legendary Sunny Day Real Estate for a good part of the set and I'm happy to say that Basement end up taking the place of being the best-sounding band of the second day of Groezrock. [8] LF

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones @ 21:15 - 22:15 on Monster Energy Stage

It turns out that most of my friends for some reason hate ska-punk and as the slot for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones gets closer I can feel the anxiety of having to see this show all by myself. I should not have been worried. I get picked up by a couple of fellow campers from the Rockfreaks-bus, but the whole audience would've sufficed as my company. A few strokes into "Dr. D" the Monster tent transforms from a moshpit into a dance floor. The band physically does not only fill the entire stage, but their presence is felt all the way in the back. I can completely understand why you wouldn't like this band: they're loud, they're not very serious and they are so much fun. But in my case after emotion-heavy performances by The Hotelier and Title Fight, this is just what the doctor prescribed. High points are sing-alongs to "Somebody I Suppose" and "The Impression That I Get" - but even if you knew none of the songs, this is still a party you are invited to. [8] HES

Make Do And Mend

Make Do And Mend @ 22:40 - 23:30 on Back To Basics Stage

It was really quiet around Make Do And Mend between the Connecticut band's second album "Everything You Ever Loved" and the new third album "Don't Be Long". Yet judging from their performance this early evening, the band is not only still tight, they're also performing with a humble yet grounded attitude that sets them apart from many other Groezrock bands, many of whom have performed in either businesslike or hyper-active fashion. Make Do And Mend perform like it's important to them that the audience feels their gratitude for the support, yet also like they're playing more because they really enjoy it than because then want to impress anyone. Long haired guitarist Mike O'Toole prances about gingerly as he plays the noodling leads, striking an interesting visual contrast to frontman James Carroll, who handles his instrument in more macho fashion. Carroll's gruff vocals don't make for the most diverse singing, but he has a good share of hooks to pick from the band's three albums ("Unknowingly Strong" and "Don't Be Long" for example), and there are touches of excellence in the twisting guitar collaborations between him and O'Toole. Combine the group's unique sound with their sympathetic attitude and these strongest moments in their songs and you have a show that doesn't blow you away, but still feels both solid and encouraging. [7½] TL

Millencolin

Millencolin @22:45 - 23:45 on Monster Energy Stage

Millencolin is one of those bands I never got into enough as a teen. The band recently released the album "True Brew" - an album that finally managed to open up the band for me personally. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones just left us highly energized and slightly drunk, but overall in a mood for rocking out. Unfortunately the sound is taking a turn for the worse once again and halfway back in the tent, even the most hardcore fan struggle to make out which song is playing. Luckily the band makes up for this with energy enough to convince us they still enjoy what they're doing. It's life-affirming to see grown men act like teenagers in the dusty confines of the Monster Stage, seemingly loving every bit of songs like "Fox", "No Cigar" or "Penguins & Polarbears" as much as when "Pennybridge Pioneers" came out in 2000. The new songs "True Brew" and "Sense and Sensibility" seem to have hit the audience's earphones pre-show and again add to the merit of this band's longevity. Had this show been less of a hassle to actually hear, it would have been outstanding. [8] HES

American Nightmare @ 23:30 - 00:20 on Back To Basics Stage

One of the most revered hardcore punk bands of all time reuniting and playing one of their first European shows in 11 years as a headliner on the Back To Basics Stage should be enough to entice people to move, right? Apparently not, because it's only a tiny portion of the crowd at front moving at all. Everyone else is standing still, which should be impossible considering the breakneck speed, screeching interpretation of the genre this band stands for. Either people don't know them or they are too tired after a long weekend, but the crowd reaction to American Nightmare is nonexistent compared to what Verse did here some years ago. Disappointed with the interaction and sort of tired myself, I leave after a few songs with the memory that American Nightmare songs sound fantastic even live, but this is not the way I want to remember them. The band itself plays a vicious and aggressive hardcore live show with explosive energy, so nothing wrong with them per se, the reception is simply missing. [7] PP

Refused

Refused @ 00:15 - 01:30 on Monster Stage

Three years ago, the recently reunited Refused took their unthinkable reunion tour to the Groezrock main stage and played a packed out show that should go down in history. Back then, they were an unbelievably good band that no one had ever thought they would see live again. This year, they're back as an unbelieveably good band. Period. The omission of that last part has its impact, and the amount of people who have opted to stay on their feet for the band's midnight show is now only enough to get Monster a bit more than half full. And that's a shame, because the band is clearly still a force to be reckoned with. We can hear each instrument coming through the mix with power and precision, and frontman Dennis Lyxzén is as iconic in his frantic movements as ever. He is all over the place and his strong screams come through with impressive clarity, making it possible to both feel the onslaught of the music which was so ahead of its time when it was written, and to also pick up on Refused's incendiary lyrical messages. New songs like the recently released "Elektra" show new ideas from the band, but don't sound out of place mixed in with classics like "Refused Party Programme" or "Summer Holiday Vs. Punk Routine". In fact, everything that happens on stage lives up to Refused's strong reputation, yet the reception is only "good". The band's decision to come back out of retirement a second time has divided opinions, and it feels like it's going to take more shows like this for the band to rebuild the hype around their name, back to a point where the Monster stage will once again be fully receptive to the undeniable quality, that the evolving group does still display. [8] TL

Final Thoughts

As usual, we like to complete our articles with a few thoughts on how the festival could improve as a service to the organizers, and ultimately, for us and the rest of the guests attending Groezrock. Because even though the festival was impeccably organized otherwise, there were a few quirks this year that we thought should be changed for future years.

Sound

A lot of the bands that play at Groezrock are young, and especially during the early parts of the day, sets last 30 minutes with 30 minute changeovers between them. Whether this is enough to facilitate good sound varies wildly. One moment, Such Gold can sound like a train wreck and later Basement can sound like a hi-fi recording, despite there being close to equal amounts of time available to prepare before the sets. We realise that A LOT of things factor in here, but at a festival where so many other things are perfect, we would like to encourage the Groezrock organisers to get creative at improving this aspect. Every band should have near-perfect sound.

Water posts

At most festivals, there's water available for drinking, washing or just pouring over yourself when it's warm. At Groezrock there's washing water by the toilet facilities that's not for drinking, and otherwise you have to buy tiny bottles of mineral water. Groezrock could take a page from Roskilde for instance, and pass out free cups of water from the stages, or maybe try to get creative with organising easily accessible water in another way. Especially if we're lucky with weather one year and get heat wave-like conditions.

Dust

This year was a dry one at Groezrock, the impact of which was felt particularly at the Revenge and Back To Basics stages, where Belgium's red dust filled the air to the point of suffocation during afternoon shows on the Saturday. Transit's Joe Boynton was almost choking while trying to sing, and we can only imagine what bands' pedals and other equipment looked like after sets in these conditions. Sprinkling out some water between sets to keep the pits a bit moist would probably be a good idea.

Merch tent

Many bands bring merch to Groezrock, but due to their wildly different schedules, it's impossible for fans to know if their favourite band will be selling things all weekend or only for a few hours. When Groezrock has bands like Knapsack for instance, that you never thought would play Europe in the first place, it can be stressful for a fan to have to anxiously keep returning to the tent to see if the band they care about have shown up with shirts. Ideally, if the festival could organise some staff to man the tables through the weekend and make sure to have portions of band's selections available, that would make the merch hunting experience feel way more relaxed.

Minimum on ticket purchase

It makes sense that guests have to buy a minimum of €30 worth of drinks/food tickets. It reduces queuing, we get it. But we suggest this rule be lifted say, the last 4 or 5 hours of the festival. Here's where you typically discover that you've underestimated your own beer consumption, and find yourself in need of an extra 3-5 tickets just to keep you afloat for the last few shows. The option of either buying way more tickets than you need or not buying any obviously is not great at a point where you've probably stretched your festival economy already. TL

That's it for now. See you next year for the 25th anniversary edition.

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