Groezrock 2017

author PP date 07/05/17

Nine years straight has this magazine traveled from Denmark to Groezrock, located on a field by the idyllic small town of Meerhout, Belgium. Looking back at those years we’ve seen some unbelievable lineups that for many years seemed like they were just getting better and better each year. More bands, more stages, wilder reunion appearances, epic album set bookings, backstage acoustic sets, bigger beers, more memorable sing-alongs. Between 2009 to 2014, the festival was indeed very much in an upswing, annually capturing the title of the best non-metal lineup within European festivals with remarkable ease.

And then, something happened. The headliners in 2015 weren’t as strong as before, so considerably fewer people showed up, or at least that’s what it felt like. Then last year, rumours about a conflict with a landowner and a loss of a major sponsor (Macbeth) resulted in a much smaller festival and fewer band bookings, even if Rancid’s “...And Out Came The Wolves" and No Use & Friends topped the lineup nicely. And this year? Impericon pulled out so one less stage to do with once again. Even fewer bands. Less interesting bookings. Sure, Choking Victim reunion is a scoop but is it really comparable to The Get Up Kids, Quicksand, or Texas Is The Reason? Parkway Drive topping the main stage lineup on Sunday where they really should’ve been the Impericon headliner on a ‘normal’ year? Not to even mention how much smaller the festival area felt like this year.

To state that the festival is still on an exciting upswing does not match with reality. If anything, Groezrock is starting to feel like a festival in serious decline from just about every perspective except for the awesome organization which still makes everything run so smoothly once at the festival. Looking across Europe, the momentum has shifted to the likes of Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia, Slam Dunk in England, and others still, which is a giant shame considering the iconic status Groezrock holds in the minds of many of us who have been loyally going for almost a decade straight now. Can you call it the best punk rock festival in Europe anymore? I’m not so sure, whereas in previous years there was simply no contest. Something needs to change for 2018 - and I would start by booking and announcing 80% of the lineup by the end of 2017 considering the late April time slot, instead of missing 50% of the announcements two months before the festival starts. PP

Camping & Festival Area

Just like last year, the camping and festival area has been combined into a single entrance to ease up queues and optimize ticket control. Our group arrived 6 am on Saturday morning, meaning we were the only ones there and check-in/out was a smooth process.

The camping area isn’t much changed from previous years: showers, a good amount of toilets, a camping shop, and big grass fields to set up your tents on. With fewer people attending this year (based on my rough estimates), there was plenty of space to set up tents with space in between them for hanging out and drinking beers in the camp in the mornings. The camping shop seemed very well-equipped with most needs covered - with the exception of hammers but that’s for safety reasons.

The festival area is a shorter walk away than usual thanks to some optimization in terms of the camping and festival entrances. A few minutes walk from your tent and you’d be at the festival - that’s perfect. And by the festival entrance, there’s a separate 24-hour beer / food truck cafe that had pop-up style food trucks. I spotted at least a Mexican food truck there but probably more was available. Cool addition - this should be there next year also.

In terms of stages, only three stages in total this year: Monster Energy Stage, which is today only marginally larger than the old Impericon Stage used to be a few years back, the Back To Basics stage (same size as last year’s small Impericon tent), and the outdoor up-and-coming Watch Out Stage. Back To Basics should’ve been designed better as for any even remotely popular band, it was impossible to get inside due to the tight middle lane to the tent.

Food this year was of average quality - albeit not particularly expensive. As a carnivore, it says a lot when the best food I had at the festival were the Vegan burgers sponsored by Anti-Flag. But those were quite delicious and surprisingly Burger-like to an extent that if you were drunk enough you probably wouldn’t even have noticed.

The 0.5L beer tent was positioned slightly different this year - right next to the Monster Energy stage. So if you were seeing mostly Back To Basics bands, you would have to buy two small beers and a Monster Energy cup and use that as your beer mug. Not ideal as the cup can hold exactly 0.5 liters and the two small beers amount to 0.6 liters...meaning you would always have to chug the last bit of the second beer to make it fit. More importantly, the festival added a craft beer tent so you could actually buy a nice pale ale or two for a slightly inflated (but still cheap) price. If I recall correct, a 0.3-liter craft beer was 2 tickets, compared to 0.5 liter Jupiler costing the same. Even better, there was a cocktail bar readily available for 3 tickets a piece to get your Caipirinhas or Long Islands if you grew tired of beer or Monster/Jäger combination. Drinks-wise a thumbs up from here.

Other than that, Groezrock look and felt like it always does - except a little smaller. Great organization with virtually no queues at any point, and some good performances. Speaking of which, let’s get to the reviews, shall we? PP

SATURDAY

Red City Radio @ 12:00-12:35 on Monster Energy Stage

Groezrock opens with a bang this year as one of the best bands of the bill has been handed the task of opening the main stage. With little more than 30 minutes to spend, the Oklahoma quartet foregoes their otherwise customary entrance singing a barbershop version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Midnight Special" and instead launch right into it. They get going with newer songs "Whatcha' Got", "Rest Easy" and "Electricity", yet while some deserved singalongs get going to these songs' good hooks, it's clear that while sizeable, the crowd for the opening show hasn't loosened up just yet. Guitarists Ryan Donovan and Garrett Dale brandish their instruments with energy though, the latter acting host to proceedings, seemingly eager to party and set a slightly higher cadence for proceedings than what the audience has come in with. Being the first to grapple with the sound challenges of the main stage, Red City Radio does better than most, yet do not emerge unscathed, as Donovan's guitar, in particular, is low in the mix, and things do blur a little bit. But Dale's unmistakable, soulful voice still comes into its own when there's room for it, and the band proves to be commendably well-prepared for their small time frame, as they squeeze several older choruses into a much smaller period than you would have expected, giving fans opportunity to sing along to "Show Me On The Doll Where The Music Touched You", "Joy Comes With The Morning", "Two For Flinching" as well as "In The Meantime..." On one hand, then, it's hard to say that RCR could've done much better with the time they were allowed, but at the same time, the experience as a whole inevitably feels a bit amputated, leaving you with a clear appetite for more. [7½] TL

The Flatliners @ 13:05-13:45 on Monster Energy Stage

One of the most requested bands for Groezrock in recent years has been The Flatliners. With incredible consistency, they have churned out punk rock classics five albums in a row, with only latest album “Inviting Light" moving them in a more alternative rock-oriented direction. As a result, the main stage is packed early on with fans eager to hear their favorites, and that’s what Flatliners deliver: a setlist that reads like a best-of album with the timeless “you will never be forgotten, you will always be celebrated" lines of “Eulogy", followed by the aggressive melodicore of “Resuscitation Of The Year" and new song “Hang My Head". To much surprise, the latter sounds the best so far highlighting that despite the new direction, the band can work in new tracks that sound great. On stage, the guys are as energetic as ever, thrashing and jumping around in a manner that suggests they should have played much later this evening. Perhaps the sound would have been better then as well? “Birds Of England" receives a decent response and sounds good, “Human Party Trick" from the new album likewise, although the vocals tend to drown into the mix too much. “Monumental", “Sew My Mouth Shut", “Indoors" and “Counting Bruises", followed by “Carry The Banner" with its "Live strong" sing along complete a setlist that’s as good as it gets for these guys. Questionable sound and too early of a timeslot drags down the rating somewhat. [7] PP

Skyharbor @ 13:45-14:20 on Back To Basics Stage

Seeing a post-rock group like Skyharbor at Groezrock was not something I would have really expected ever and the group seems kinda surprised to be here themselves. They rise up to the challenge though and hit us straight on with their layered guitars and captivating vocal melodies. Their vocalist spends some time adjusting his in-ears to get the notes exactly right, and the whole band comes off as very meticulous technicians in the extremely precise way they control the sounds of their instruments. "Evolution" as well as “Allure" from their latest album "Guiding Lights" seem magical as usual, even here in a dusty tent on a sunny day and even though the sound mix doesn't quite do justice to their atmospheric songs. The musicians seem as though the sounds that envelop them are transporting them to a different, beautiful place, but at the same time they stare out at the crowd defiantly from time to time, as they play some of their more impressive or heavy guitar parts. The place is never more than half-filled throughout the set, but the group does the best with what they're given and I leave the tent with a conviction to see them again as soon as possible under better circumstances. [6½] LF

Swingin’ Utters @ 14:15-14:55 on Monster Energy Stage

Somewhere right in between Bad Religion and Social Distortion, we find Fat Wreck veterans Swingin’ Utters. They specialize in rowdy, upbeat punk rock with no frills attached, which translates into good afternoon energy on stage where especially singer Johnny Bonnel’s exaggerated movements come across as hilarious. Whether it’s dragging the mic stand across the stage, robot dancing, or flailing around his arms around like a mentally unstable person, there’s plenty of action to keep your eyes on. Setlist-wise, the band perform a balanced selection from six different records which, to be perfectly frank, sound more or less exactly like each other. The result is a set that feels like punk rock on autopilot despite a number of good cuts in between. "Thanks for watching us - we don’t care if you don’t like us, thanks", Bonnel proclaims at the end of the set. Decent stuff, no particularly memorable highlights or huge sing-alongs to report back on. [6½] PP

Trade Wind @ 14:55-15:35 on Watch Out Stage

Way more people than I expect to turn up to watch this veritable super group today and it makes me pretty happy for them, as they're up there in my top three of bands I have been looking forward to seeing at the festival. Their rumbling, melancholic post-hardcore songs sound surprisingly good on this open-air stage and they play confidently through all three of my favorites from their newest album "You Make Everything Disappear" - "Lowest Form", "I Hope I Don't Wake Up", and the majestic and slow "Tatiana (I Miss You so Much)" - as well as a bunch of their more mellow songs. Jesse Barnett's soft vocals, the twinkling guitars, and the backing screams from bassist Randy LeBoeuf all compliment each other as beautifully as on the group's recordings and it's easy to let your mind wander and just float away to that sound. The massive crowd sticks around through the set, but are also mostly just chilling out to the music without really getting into it or singing along and the show remains a mostly calm one. It provides a comforting spot in between some of the harder bands today and I really hope they’ll continue making music even as most of the members have obligations in other bands. [7½] LF

Mewithoutyou @ 15:25-16:10 on Monster Energy Stage

While definitely being a genre-focused festival, Groezrock has traditionally been good at spreading bookings wide over the areas of both punk, emo, hard- and metalcore. Yet some bands always manage to still seem a bit out of place. And while Mewithoutyou's roots in the emo and hardcore scene(s) have always tied them to similar bills, they feel distinctly 'indie' in contrast to most of the shows here. Aaron Weiss is darting and spinning about on stage while spitting lyrics, as has become his trademark, but you quickly get the feeling that he's performing his part with a clear awareness that this isn't really his crowd. And that feeling bleeds out into the audience, widening the gap between those who came convinced ahead of time and those who came to give Mewithoutyou a shot. It's a problem, because while rather unique, Weiss' vocal style isn't exactly very varied across the band's sizeable discography, meaning the band's success hinges on getting the crowd hypnotised by the winding instrumentals and engaged with the poetic lyrics, and while their performance is both lively, tight and authoritative, it never really feels forthcoming. The fans thus get what they came from, while casuals likely leave unconvinced. [6½] TL

Petrol Girls performing "Harpy" at Groezrock 2017

Petrol Girls @ 16:10-16:50 on Watch Out Stage

I only recently became acquainted with the "raging feminist post-hardcore" of the British group Petrol Girls when I reviewed their latest album "Talk of Violence". The pure energy that burns through in their inspired music as well as their firm choice of lyrical themes that matter politically and existentially, is infectious though, perhaps even more so live than on record. The sheer size of their small frontwoman Ren Aldridge makes the aggressive music seem even more potent as she spits out the defiant lyrics for songs like "Treading Water" and "Harpy". The music is also very melodic at times although that takes second place at a confrontation like this where the message is obviously at the fore when many songs are introduced with short blurbs about the causes they're written for. The impressive and feminist "Touch Me Again" especially makes an impact today as the band announces that they have begun collecting recordings of stories about sexism and abuse, and then proceeds to play a couple including one from an earlier edition of Groezrock itself. The band is utterly uncompromising, for instance when Aldridge promptly calls out the dudes “getting all bro" to the aforementioned song for being inappropriate. It makes the band seem at the same time hostile and loving towards the mixed crowd and it is definitely also one of their strengths as they easily leave a lasting impression of conviction as well as strong songwriting. [8] LF

The Menzingers @ 16:40-17:25 on Monster Energy Stage

The Menzingers are special. Over the course of three albums, the Philadelphia quartet has become the international republic of punk rock's newest and shiniest national treasure, and while in the past the men on stage have seemed a bit awkward when faced with their sudden success, you feel that things are falling into place for them as they power through a hit-parade today. With main stage's sound reasonably under control, guitarists Tom May and Greg Barnett take turns at launching one singalong after the other off the stage. We get "Tellin' Lies", "Lookers", "House On Fire" and "After The Party" from the newest album, "Good Things", "Burn After Writing", "Obituaries" and "Mexican Guitars" from the already legendary "On The Impossible Past" and "I Don't Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore" and "In Remission" from "Rented World". And with each new song starting, each recognition of an opening bit compounds and compounds the audience's growing exhilaration, as we communally realize that this band could go on playing songs for a while before running into anything we wouldn't be pretty thrilled to hear. 45 minutes is too little then, but the Menzos waste no time and cram in as much of their power and potential as possible, leaving you suitably elated when they finally walk off. [8½] TL

Strike Anywhere @ 17:55-18:45 on Monster Energy Stage

What happens when you place an explosive hardcore band on the Groezrock main stage, where the sound hasn’t impressed throughout the day? You realize that the stage is far too big for these guys, despite awe-inspiring energy displayed on stage with everyone in constant motion jumping around and the barrier being frequently utilized by vocalist Thomas Barnett. “To The World" is a great example. As massive sing-alongs of one of the most important mission statements of modern punk - "I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE… TO THE WORLD!" - echo around the tent, you’d expect the crowd to be full-on engaged in a visceral mosh pit and energized to its limits. Instead, no pits are to be seen and we’re reduced to singing along throughout the show to the huge anthems like “Chalkline" or “The Crossing", which is preceded by a lengthy rant on the ongoing refugee crisis in the world. That’s fine - but this type of energy is best experienced on a smaller scene, especially the more hardcore-fueled tracks that fail to draw a response from the audience. They play a new song that suggests we’re finally going to get a follow-up to 2009’s excellent “Iron Front" sometime this year, but otherwise, the show left much to be desired. [6] PP

He Is Legend @ 18:45-19:35 on Watch Out Stage

There's something absurd about seeing He Is Legend on Groezrock's smallest stage in 2017. The band has been around for longer than many who play here, making noise back in the MySpace years when southern style riffage started creeping into post-hardcore, alongside Every Time I Die and Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster. And it's not that they haven't been active since then, it's more of a "why are they here after all this time if they haven't been before" kind of mystery. Now that they are here, though, they're kicking ass. The open air stage provides a good oomph for the band's hard rock guitar grooves, and singer Schuylar Croom and guitarist Adam Tanbouz look like modern day versions of John Silver and Captain Flint on stage, carrying themselves with a bit of mystery and swagger. Croom, in particular, performs like the kind of rock lifer who just lives in a different universe from the rest of us, and the band seamlessly strings together a set bridging the stylistic nuances from post-hardcore into stoner rock that they've developed across over the span of their albums. We get "Sand" from the new album "few" which they just released the day before, and as an old fan it's particularly warming to hear some love for "Attack On The Dungeon Witch" and "I Am Hollywood", the whole thing sounding great with particularly Croom's uniquely textured vocals sounding as good as ever. So He Is Legend in 2017, huh, it's surprisingly good to still have them around. [8] TL

Deafheaven performing "Come Back" at Groezrock 2017

Deafheaven @ 20:05-21:00 on Back To Basics Stage

As proponents for the blackgaze genre, Deafheaven is another surprising band to see here this year but still, the tent seems filled with curious people willing to subject themselves to some massive music for a while. As usual, the band puts on a theatrical show mainly through the antics of their frontman George Clarke who headbangs and growls as if his life depended on it while his bandmates are mostly gone in the music itself. We get a good mix of songs from "New Bermuda" and "Sunbather" and "Brought to the Water" makes a good impression early on. The audience seems just spaced out for the most part though, especially during the lighter, more post-rock influenced instrumental sections of the set. Clarke seems to notice this as he skeptically announces "Dream House" and "Sunbather" towards the end, not really expecting the audience to know what he is talking about. Still, more headbangers appear slowly through the set, and the tent is mostly filled with people that seem cautiously more and more into the experience. Without succeeding in putting on a really immersive set, the band still sounds good and might have just pulled in a bunch of new fans. [7] LF

Underoath @ 20:40-21:40 on Monster Energy Stage

In the history of Rockfreaks.net, we've seen quite a few Underoath shows, yet we've never seen a bad one. So as the sun sets on day 1 of this year's Groezrock expectations for them are considerable, and what eventually lets the air out of their performance is kind of a bummer. Because while particularly Spencer Chamberlain, Chris Dudley and Tim McTague are as hyperactive on stage as ever, Underoath is a band that needs to sound near-suffocatingly loud for their atmosphere to come across, and this is by far the quietest Underoath set in Rockfreaks.net history. Chamberlain's mic is not adjusted for him being able to both sing and scream, so his harsh vocals never really come into their right and match drummer Aaron Gillespie's clean refrains. Instead, it's the drums in particular that are overpowering, as the set becomes kind of a "we're all waiting while the blurry heavy parts play, for the clean refrains to come". With what they're capable of thus amputated, Underoath suddenly seems like a very ordinary band, which is a shame because their energy and attitude deserved otherwise. Good for them that they have plenty of gigs around the continent coming up where circumstances should be more in their favour. [6½] TL

AJJ performing "Goodbye, Oh Goodbye" at Groezrock 2017

AJJ @ 21:40-22:40 on Watch Out Stage

The indie folk/punk band AJJ, formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad, get singalongs pretty much from the beginning of their set tonight. The dark is setting and it's getting cold but the disarming and honest attitude of vocalist Sean Bonnette and his bandmates is just what we need to warm our bodies and souls at this point. Their songs are short and dominatingly fuzzy in their guitar sounds but we're held firmly by the hand by the clear lyrical style of Bonnette that makes every word explicit through songs like "Brave As a Noun", "Cody's Theme", "American Garbage", "White Worms" and "People II: The Reckoning". People are rocking out casually around the stage to the easy-to-dance-to rhythms but more brutal songs like "People II 2: Still Peoplin'" or "Back Pack", leading in with the words "You were dead by the time that I had found you", don't really feel as heavy as they ought to in this setting. The audience seems mostly ready to shuffle their feet and have a good time with the faster and funnier songs and in that regard, the show succeeds in creating a cozy feeling. Still, the very best AJJ shows balance the dark and bizarre side more with the light and funny, so this set never quite hits the highs that it could in a more intimate setting. [7] LF

Stick To Your Guns @ 21:40-22:40 on Back To Basics Stage

Usually getting into a packed tent just means swimming through the outer layer of people who stopped and thought there was no more space in the middle. Not this time. Back To Basics tent is massively packed with virtually no chance in making it through the edges after they’ve started. Inside, a mass of people is flying off stage whilst others still scream the lyrics from the top of their lungs. "THIS IS YOUR STAGE", Jesse Barnett shouts to us, and the result is predictable: a flood of stage divers flying in every direction possible. Where other bands become anonymous due to the sheer amount of fans on stage, Stick To Your Guns make themselves known and visible with chaotic energy and constant movement on stage that rivals anyone else at the festival this year. And with political speeches and statements like "You don’t have the right to belong somewhere more than ANYONE else" in response to nationalist movements and Trump, the stage is set for something truly special. Just listen to the crowd roar every word in the above video. What a show - in the top 3 at this year’s Groezrock for sure. [8½] PP

Thrice performing "Black Honey" at Groezrock 2017

Thrice @ 22:15-23:25 on Monster Energy Stage

Thrice have been at the top of my too-see list for a while now since they never seem to visit my Scandinavian motherland so this show is also the one I've been the most hyped for this year at Groezrock. This, of course, leaves me with unfulfillable hopes for their setlist which they, for the most part, miss by for instance not playing a single song from "Beggars" or "The Alchemy Index Vol. III: Air". Still, they sound surprisingly good on this big stage and vocalist Dustin Kensrue’s at one and the same time fragile and strong voice carries through just great. Lead guitarist Teppei Teranishi is also on point and as the majestic "Hurricane" from their most recent album "To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere"sweeps the tent as the opener, it gets the crowd going from the very start. This is quickly followed up by the older hit "The Artist in the Ambulance" and they later play a bunch of older stuff as well, going as far back as "Deadbolt", "Silhouette", and not least a great rendition of "Stare at the Sun" that gets a massive singalong. "Of Dust and Nations" and "Red Sky" from "Vheissu" get good singalongs as well, while newer songs "Black Honey" and my personal favorite "Death From Above" also make great impressions. As "The Earth Will Shake" ends the set, there's not really a lot more to wish for except that they would just play all the other great songs as well. Still, the band seems a little tired on stage and not very personal in the way they perform to us. In the sea of relatable Groezrock bands that are good at reaching out from the stage with the things they say in between songs, Thrice doesn't really break through. Apart from this, there’s not much bad to say about their show other than how the echo in the tent gets a little much from time to time. Overall though, a solid performance from a great band that I can only hope will come and play in my country again one day, as they did last in 2006. [8] LF

Anti-Flag @ 23:25-00:45 on Back To Basics Stage

As earlier on for Stick To Your Guns, the small tent is absolutely rammed for Anti-Flag’s set. All of the songs on the setlist were voted on by fans in advance of the festival, resulting in a setlist that honestly resembles the stuff they usually play with a few rarities sandwiched in between. Behind them on stage is a giant upside down American flag to underline their political opinion that’s voiced frequently during the set. “One Trillion Dollars", for instance, is broken up halfway through: "Trump… Le Pen…We will fight fascism, homophobia...", with other remarks thrown in between songs. As for the show in general, the fans take care of it. “Die For The Government" features a huge sing-along, "Drink Drank Punk" results in an enormous circle pit, and “The Press Corpse"’s "Talk talk talk talk talk about it" is still stuck in my head after a community sing along. We all raise our middle fingers for “Fuck Police Brutality" and sing from the bottom of our lungs for “Turncoat", a pattern that continues unabated for all 19 (!) songs of the show. My only complaint is the two covers “I Wanna Be Sedated" (Ramones) and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go" (The Clash), because while decent, they should have been replaced by their own material instead. As usual, the band plays one of the last songs in the crowd (“Brandenburg Gate") before finalizing the set with “Power To The Peaceful". Great energy, great sing-alongs, great show. [8] PP

Deftones performing "Gore" at Groezrock 2017

Deftones @ 00:00-01:10 on Monster Energy Stage

Deftones is a band I haven't' yet had the chance to see in an indoor venue and I mention this because the four times I have now seen them play festival shows, the sound has been off every time. I imagine the balance between gut-punching heaviness and dreamy atmosphere is easier to hit just right in the more controlled environment of a closed room. This time however turns out no different than the others as the rumbling bass and kick drum dominate the sound in several of the first songs of the setlist - "Korea", "Elite", “Diamond Eyes", "Swerve City" - to the point where the layered guitar melodies that are such an important part of their music, are completely inaudible. When "Diamond Eyes" is utterly destroyed like that as the third song, I almost decide to leave on the spot, as several audience members around me have already done whilst shaking their heads in disbelief. I walk around the tent for a while though to try and find out if I'm just in an unlucky spot, but in other places, the sound doesn't exactly feel more wholesome - the bone-rattling bass is ever-present in the heaviest parts of their music. This is especially a shame because the band is giving it their all, rocking out on stage throughout the set - even vocalist Chino Moreno who disappears from view for a while during the second song, apparently because he lost his balance, fell down off the stage and broke the upper part of his foot, as announced by the band the next day. The setlist is pretty good as well: "Tempest", "Gore", "Digital Bath" and "Rosemary" all make an appearance before the hit trio of "Change (In the House of Flies)", "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" and "My Own Summer (Shove It)" have people singing along towards the end. I'm conflicted about the show because Chino's vocals were wild as always. But when his yelps and screams are all you can hear above the thundering bass half the time, many of the songs lose their appeal although they are not downright unrecognizable. The music of Deftones seems so meticulously constructed even when noise plays a big part in a song, but tonight the balance is just way off. The band were, however, energetic and dynamic on stage and that redeems the show partly. [6] LF

SUNDAY

F.O.D. @ 12:00-12:35 on Monster Energy Stage

One of the most positive surprises of 2017 has been Belgium’s own skate punkers F.O.D. whose soundscape is one in which late Tony Sly’s No Use For A Name melodies live on. Ultra tight skate punk with uplifting melodies and breakneck pace, what more can you ask for a hangover cure? Their stage setup is a bit unusual with the vocalist positioned on the left side of the stage instead of center, but given how evenly him and their guitarist/vocalist share duties, it gives him more room to dance around in high-energy fashion. Seldom do you see a vocalist so into it as the F.O.D. one, which immediately gives the show a nice flavor in my memory. What’s more, the band know exactly that their skate punk isn’t so eventful despite being excellent song-wise, so they have all sorts of stuff happening on the side. For instance, at one point they pass around 50 cakes into the crowd saying "It’s Sunday today and in Belgium, we eat ‘koffiekoeken’ on Sundays so we brought some". In the crowd, a giant teddy bear is leading the circle pit charge, demonstrating the local support these guys have, and their drummer joins the singers for the last song which has become a semi-Groezrock anthem by now judging by the "Here we are" sing-alongs that surround the entire tent. Solid opening to Sunday’s festivities. [8] PP

Arcane Roots @ 12:35-13:10 on Back To Basics Stage

The Back To Basics tent is no more than semi-filled when we turn up just in time to hear the first melodic vocals of "Over & Over" beginning the band's set. The alternative rock trio plays steadily through their songs and are graced with a good sound mix for their layered music as well, and it doesn't take long for most heads in the audience to bob along casually. Just like the post-rock group Skyharbor did yesterday, they behave very humble on stage, explaining that they're grateful we're even there to see them as they're not exactly typical for Groezrock genre wise. To me at least, they provide a nice break from punk rock and it seems the people that have gotten up in time to join me here agree. Their noodling songs seem a little directionless from time to time and the show never lifts off the ground, probably also mainly because of the early time slot. As they end with "If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves", they have played through a good-sounding set though and we're ready to face the rest of the day. [6] LF

Nothington @ 13:40-14:15 on Back To Basics Stage

As good as Nothington is on record, their music just isn’t made for bigger festival-sized stages due to its intimate, basement punk nature. It’s a constant woo-hoo backing vocals in straight up ‘beard punk’ context, but the sound is absolutely awful where you can barely hear the backing vocals due to too much echo. Sure, “Cobblestones" from the new album sounds fantastic alongside “The Lies I Need", but in general the Nothington set doesn’t leave a very memorable impression. Decent, but that’s about it. [6½] PP

Belvedere @ 14:05-14:45 on Monster Energy Stage

There aren’t many bands faster than Belvedere in the world, and at this year’s festival, there is simply no contest in terms of raw speed. Technical skate punk delivered with a ridiculous tempo and complex fretwork unfortunately also means that the band is all too often standing still without anything else happening on stage. That works in small venues but not on the main stage where they are all too exposed. Sure, when they get a chance they jump around and make a solid effort, but it doesn’t mow away the anonymous feeling you get from their set. This despite the band being cult legends within skate punk and having played here five years ago last time. The sound doesn’t make it any easier for them, so despite a few circle pits and decent energy on stage every now and then, the set feels boring especially in contrast to some of the other performances we’ve already seen at the festival. [5] PP

After the Belvedere set, I wander past the Watch Out stage where female duo Mobina Galore are already tearing the stage apart with a raucous sound that is crazy loud and energetic considering it’s only two members in the band in the first place, even more so considering they are two girls. Great garage/punk sound with hints of Distillers goes down well in the sun but didn’t stay long enough to give a proper rating. PP

Brutus @ 14:45-15:25 on Back To Basics Stage

Debutants Brutus only just put their first album out this February, yet if you thought that would make it easy to stroll into their show and see what's up, you (we..) clearly forgot to note that the band is from here in Belgium and the home crowd has shown up in force. Drummer Stefanie is thus the only face that's barely visible from the edge of the throng, yet she - also being the band's vocalist - is also clearly the focal point in their band. Their full-speed, noisy post-punk reminisces of White Lung, although Stefanie sings considerably more on tune than what we saw that band do at Riot Fest last year (eugh, bad memories) which is impressive considering she does both the extended singing notes and the energetic drum bashing, while her bandmates compliment her with crystalline, math-rock-ish guitar and bass that invoke memories of bands like Foals and Mutiny On The Bounty. They are limited by their format, however, as Stefanie's double role forces the music to continually zig-zag between intense instrumentation, and more simple stuff that she can sing over, and even so, enunciation is not a thing here, making it near impossible to make out what's being sung about. The band has an interesting concept then, and a strong reception, but it's clear that they have some drawbacks to figure out before feeling like a fully rewarding proposition. [6] TL

Zebrahead @ 15:10-15:50 on Monster Energy Stage

Catching Zebrahead for God knows how manyeth time continues to be a slightly awkward yet charming experience going on in 2017. The pop-punk veterans who bring a mini bar and an inflatable boat (for crowd sailing) along to their shows, feel increasingly like they're trapped as full-time employees in some joke they came up with in their college days, but hey, it pays the bills and the treat their bookings with commendable professionalism, always completely ignoring the weaknesses of their band and putting up the festive attitude and crowd-interaction techniques to make sure the mood of any crowd brightens. Classics of theirs like "Rescue Me" and "Anthem" are met with recognition and smiles, and while it remains clear throughout that Zebrahead are not a band that anyone forms a deep connection with or tips their festival ticket purchase decision over, they always, always deliver a fun time, and can thus likely continue to do so in festival sets for as long as they themselves should enjoy the interaction with the crowds. [7] TL

Choking Victim @ 16:15-17:05 on Monster Energy Stage

A huge scoop of a reunion booking this year, skacore legends Choking Victim haven’t played live in more than a decade, and haven’t really even been a band since 1999 when they broke up to form Leftöver Crack instead. Their EPs and the lone full length are known for their screamed ska-punk that’s often cited among the best ska releases of all time, which is reflected this afternoon in the huge sing-alongs to “500 Channels". It’s fast, it’s aggressive, yet it’s melodic. On stage, they are hardcore skanking, and stylistically, it’s just a feel-good vibe. That is unless you know their political stance or listen to the lyrics. Lead singer Stza goes what I imagine to be far beyond the ‘allowed things to say on stage at Groezrock as an artist" when he defiantly announces that "we feel sick playing on the Monster stage. FUCK Monster Energy, it is poison", but then again, this is one of the most anarchist bands (alongside Leftöver Crack) in the history of music, so what did they expect? "Crack Rock Steady" is a cult classic and sounds great even today. “Money Changes Everything" is also good, before the set closes off with the bouncy “Born To Die". So how was the reunion? Pretty damn good I must say. The huge stage and the fact that most people seem completely unaware of whom they are watching live reduces the atmosphere a bit, but this performance in a club show would’ve been epic. Here’s to hoping for a tour. [7] PP

Boston Manor @ 17:05-17:55 on Watch Out Stage

It may sound like a very jaded and 30-year-old thing to write, but Blackpool's Boston Manor are cute. It's like a band of driven young musicians placed in an incubator and quickly grown through phases, headed towards becoming a force of their own. Pop-punk is the normal term used to describe them, but there's clear love for hardcore in the mix, and from their appearance, it seems that post-punk is currently influencing them as well. Stylistically then, it feels like they're borrowing a lot without quite solidifying things into something clearly their own, but they compensate for it with high energy and an engaging stage performance beyond their years. Their frontman is authoritative in his rousing of the crowd and soon there's crowd surfing and activity up front in general that he seems satisfied with. You're not really feeling the impact of songwriting that will have super much longevity yet, but there's a potential in the performance that makes the group look like a band of the future. [7] TL

Counterfeit @ 17:05-17:55 on Back To Basics Stage

Despite snowballing popularity and a great debut album underneath their belt, the Back To Basics tent is surprisingly less than half full for Counterfeit’s set, and few of those attending seem to be familiar with the songs in advance. That said, the band’s stage performance proves right what I expected from how the record sounds like: they have so much attitude - in a good way. The singer is in the crowd early on to party and encourage things to get rowdy but isn’t able to capture more than a small part of the crowd. Their Papa Roach inspired nu-metal meets hard rock is perhaps a little off at Groezrock, but the songs are decent and a packed club show would surely be a better overall show than this one. [6½] PP

Pennywise playing “About Time" @ 20:20-21:20 on Monster Energy Stage

One of the most anticipated sets in advance of the festival was the one by Groezrock regulars Pennywise, who returned to for what feels like the umpteenth time in one formation or another, only this time playing a front-to-back set of one of their early classics, “About Time". With the album’s classic yellow-background time bomb hanging behind them on stage, the band enters to a glorious classical marching anthem before Fletcher announces "it’s about fucking time..". From here on, things get wild as album opener “Peaceful Day" immediately draws mass sing-alongs that follow virtually word-by-word every lyric sung by the always cool Jim Lindberg, who performs with his classic front-to-back waving movement throughout the set. And boy, is every track on this album a Pennywise classic or what? With timeless skate punk cuts like “Perfect People", “Every Single Day", “Searching" or “Same Old Story", the classic Groezrock community sing-alongs are once again here as we remember them from the good old days. Or are they? Though thunderous at some points, it certainly feels like only about a third or so of the crowd knows the album, meaning it’s a far cry from “Smash" by The Offspring or “Punk In Drublic" by NOFX from previous years.

Jim & Fletcher spice the set with a few anecdotes in between the shows and give a shout out to H20 in the process. It’s tight and exactly how skate punk should sound like: melodic and catchy while still having a real edge to the guitars, but despite that, the album part of the set doesn’t feel as memorable as what happens after. Because even before “Killing Time" starts (the last track on the album), people are already woo-hooing to the tune of “Bro Hymn" so you know what’s to come. A brief covers medley that features Bad Religion’s “Do What You Want" among others introduces us to the classics part of the set, where we hear “Pennywise" - enormous circle pit here - and of course “Fuck Authority", the ultimate punk rock rebellion anthem that’s easily the largest sing-along of the festival other than “Bro Hymn" this year. “Society" is a nice touch, and of course “Bro Hymn" that closes the set in the "woo...woo-ooh-ohhh" gang shouts that have become a staple at Groezrock over the years. About a hundred people climb on stage for this one for a nice finish of what has been a rock solid Pennywise set as usual. [8] PP

Parkway Drive kicking off their set with "Wild Eyes" at Groezrock 2017

Parkway Drive @ 22:00-23:15 on Monster Energy Stage

To finish off the festival, the Australians of Parkway Drive have prepared a big show that sports loud cracking fireworks as well as firecannons, various platforms for the band members to stand on and be carried up and down to different levels, and for the finale, a spinning drum kit that places the drummer upside down during a drum solo following "Swing" (you can see a similar clip of that whole trick from another show here). Along with an extensive light show, the extravaganza is impressive to look at and soundwise, they're also way luckier than their fellow headliners were yesterday. They play through a wide selection of their back catalogue, going through a couple of songs each from "Atlas", "Deep Blue" and "Horizons", as well as a bunch of stuff from their most recent album "Ire". "Wild Eyes" successfully gets the crowd going with some singalongs, to begin with, and the excellent "Vice Grip" provides a highlight with its immensely catchy guitar riff a little later into the set. The fast "Boneyards" seems like a massive crowd favorite towards the end, along with “Swing", and after the drumkit shenanigans have got everyone riled up for the last time, the band finishes with a heavy duo of the two newer songs "Crushed" and "Bottom Feeder", with its almost funky guitar theme. The choice of these guys as the main headliner and closer of the festival seems like the right one as the filled tent proves their popularity and the big-scale show they put on fits very well on this stage. The main thing to put a dent in the experience is the bunch of drunk audience members that find it the perfect opportunity to try and crowd surf from the back of the tent and forward, resulting in us getting kicked in the head from behind a couple of times without being anywhere near the mosh pit. Overall though, a good experience and a great show to finish the festival in style. [8½] LF

Final Words

And so there you have it. 27 live reviews from this year’s Groezrock ranging from metal and hardcore to emo and punk rock and pretty much everything in between. A balanced lineup but one that falls far short from the golden days of Groezrock. It’s been a worrying trend for the last couple of years, so let’s hope that the festival is able to turn around what increasingly smells like financial trouble and returns to the ridiculous lineups of only four years ago.

And with that note, our classic ‘The Good, The Bad, The Ugly’ summary of what we thought about the festival in TL/DR mode. PP

THE GOOD

  • Toilet facilities were great: clean and plentiful
  • Great vegan burgers!
  • 24-hour food truck/beer cafe is a great addition
  • Short distances to everything
  • Craft beer bar + Cocktail bar
  • Good amount of seating available for resting, eating and hanging out
  • Finally great weather - 19C on Sunday :-)

THE BAD

  • Sound on the main stage is still atrocious
  • No app this year - much harder to figure out schedule
  • No video screens on the main stage - hard to see if the stage is full
  • Weaker lineup than usual (fewer bands, smaller names)
  • Felt like ‘less happening’ overall
  • ½ tickets. Why not do full tickets instead and change the value of tickets?
  • No 0.5L tent near Back To Basics - should be an easy addition.

THE UGLY

  • No bags allowed on festival area. Why? Just security check the bag at the entrance?

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