Jera On Air 2018

author PP date 04/07/18

Jera On Air is best thought as a little brother to their larger and bolder Belgian counterparts in Groezrock, or at least that's what people were saying about the festival during the last couple of years. No Groezrock this year meant that my annual punk rock festival fix was in deficit, so I book a flight to Holland in order to travel to the tiny rural town of Ysselsteyn to check out the growing three-day festival.

Getting there is pretty easy, thanks to cheap, €5 (return ticket) shuttle buses from Deurne st, which is about 20 minutes train ride from Eindhoven or just under two hours direct from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. The bus picks you up regularly and drops you off right by the entrance, where it's a short 100-meter walk to the camping check-in.

LINEUP

The lineup for the sold-out 2018 edition is the biggest yet for the festival comparing to previous year's posters, where the booking style is pretty much identical to that of Groezrock: a couple of cult bookings sandwiched between punk and hardcore legends and newcomers alike. With a capacity of almost 10.000 guests this year, it's about a third in size in comparison, which means it has a cozier and more relaxed feel especially schedule-wise than we're used to from other festivals. It's also held in late June which means the weather is almost guaranteed to be good, and this year it was perhaps a little too good: a solid 29C from 2 pm until almost 10 pm is a little much for us Scandinavians to handle.

CAMPING AREA

The camping area is divided into three sections: Camping A, which opens straight away on Thursday morning, housing all the necessary amenities like the camping shop, the camping bar, a breakfast stand, and most importantly, showers (although why were these not open during Sunday morning?). The other two campsites B and C are much smaller in comparison and closer to the stages, which means you have more noise earlier in the day and later at night due to the proximity to the Raven afterparty tent specializing in Dutch hardstyle and electronic music till late at night.

Camping Facilities by Portraits By Trix

The campsite is also fairly disorganized so it's best to show up early. No controls where to set up tents means that those who show up early have set up enormous camp circles with little regard to the fact that the festival is sold out and space is sparse to start out with. The people we asked about the possibility of setting up an extra tent or two also weren't willing to budge at all despite having 20m2+ of space available, which is something that the festival needs to fix in the future. At Groezrock, for instance, volunteers open the campsite little-by-little to ensure maximum efficiency, which still allows people to set up pavilions and the like.

Otherwise, it's your standard fare grass field, coupled with a small artificial-grass football field that probably offered most comfort due to it being mostly flat. One thing that was missing, however, were pissoirs at the toilets. Each morning it meant that half the people queueing were guys wanting to just take a quick pee, which could've easily been rectified by a few strategically placed pissoirs. People are also very nice and nobody was peeing in the bushes or the fences, which is a very different experience to many other festivals where it's standard fare to do if you don't have toilets nearby.

FESTIVAL AREA

The festival area is literally like a Groezrock Jr: even the tents look like they're the same ones that Groezrock uses. There are three stages: Eagle, which functions as the main stage, Vulture, a medium-size stage housing most of the hardcore and metalcore bands, and Buzzard, a cozy indoor tent that probably could fit a few hundred people at most that almost always felt packed as a result.

Groezrock Jr?

Additionally, the festival features a craft beer bar doubling as a stage for cover bands and local bands dubbed as Van Moll Punkrock Bar, which had five beers on tap that you could get either in the small 33cl plastic cups or, if you paid extra, in actual glasses for five tokens a piece (with 2.5 token refunds if you returned them intact). This was a really cool hangout especially after they brought some fans in there so it wasn't so awfully warm like the rest of the festival and a welcome change from the regular Jupiler that the rest of the festival site served.

Speaking of Jupiler, each stage had its own bar inside the tent, which is awesome. Makes it so much easier to go for a refill in the middle of the show. What's even better, all bars at the festival served also pint-sized beers so you didn't have to run back and forth like an idiot, which you have to do at most other festivals in central Europe.

Camping Facilities by Portraits By Trix

TOKEN BASED FOOD/DRINKS SYSTEM, BUT NO CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED!?

The festival operates a token-based system for food and drinks, which I'm usually against because why not just allow people to pay with contactless cards like at the Scandinavian festivals, but since there was no minimum purchase needed (like at Groezrock, for instance), it was easy enough to buy a few extra if you were almost out on Saturday night. These cost €2.5 per token with no volume discount if you bought extra. A small 33cl beer cost 1 token, 50cl 2 tokens (an equivalent of €5), and most foods were priced at either 2.5 or 3 tokens across the festival, making it very affordable overall. If there's one minus here it's that it wasn't possible to buy tokens with credit cards or even debit cards (VISA Dankort, which is Visa Debit, and MasterCard Debit were all denied). To make things worse it wasn't even possible to withdraw money at the festival using anything but the Dutch version of the debit card (or a Maestro card), so if you didn't bring cash you had to walk all the way to the city to withdraw cash as a foreigner. That needs to be fixed for next year.

FAT MIKE WEDGIE, BMX AND MORE

Yours truly with the Fat Mike Wedgie art piece

In the middle of the festival area is a neatly located central bar that's covered with enough shade to have people hanging out when its 30C outside like every day at this festival. It's also right next to a BMX exhibit, and a spray-painted Fat Mike Wedgie artpiece, which allowed you to take hilarious photos of Fat Mike pinching you in the ass, or if you were brave enough, giving you a wedgie using the hidden clamp behind his fingers. It's a pretty iconic piece that I'd love to see returning for future editions of the festival.

Sadly, the festival doesn't operate on a pant-return system which has become standard in Northern Europe, which meant that the festival area was a total mess of crushed plastic cups early each day. Do it like Copenhell: add an extra ticket's worth of pant for each drink bought in the festival area, and give a discount for equivalent drinks returned to the bars. Everyone wins: those who want to drink cheaper can collect the empty plastic cups, the festival has fewer costs in cleaning up, and there are no aggressive collectors since you can only get discount and no actual cash-back.

Atmosphere from the festival by Portraits By Trix

The food choices at the festival area were pretty good. Especially blak blik caught my attention: a vegetarian/vegan food truck that was in the competition for the best street food in The Netherlands. Their falafel wraps were some of the best festival food I've tried in a long while. Another good one was the pasta restaurant and the ham sandwiches nearby. Plenty of vegetarian and carnivore options as well, although of course proportional to the size of the festival itself.

Finally, the toilet facilities were great. Few queues and real flushing toilets everywhere, plus a large pissoir for the guys. No complaints here.

THURSDAY PRE-PARTY

When the festival said they'd open the festival area for a pre-party on Thursday, I didn't think much of it. Turns out it was an excellent one. They opened Vulture stage with a DJ playing punk rock classics, meaning Dropkick Murphys, The Offspring, Blink 182 and the like, so you saw happy people hanging out, dancing and party all night long.

Additionally for the rest of the festival, if you grew tired of punk rock and hardcore, you could visit a smaller electronic music tent called The Raven, that was basically a vampire cave (=super dark and smoky inside) with lasers playing hardstyle, drum'n'bass and other high tempo electronic music.

But now, enough talk. Let's get to the reviews. PP

FRIDAY

Touché Amoré by Cardinals Media

Touché Amoré @ 14:00-14:40 on Vulture

My first JERA On Air experience starts with the familiar faces from emotional hardcore band Touché Amoré, who kick things off with "Flowers And You", one of the best tracks off "Stage Four". In what sadly doesn't become an exception to the rule for shows at Vulture, the vocals are way too low in the mix, as if they are only coming off the monitors, resulting in a muddy overall soundscape. The instruments sound crystal clear, however, and already during "Rapture" we have sing-alongs that help mitigate the sound issues, even if the early afternoon heatwave is keeping the crowd activity on the milder side. It's perhaps a wise choice, then, to spend almost half of the set exploring the fantastic "Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me" album which gets six tracks tonight, with another five from the new album "Stage Four" and rest from their debut album, save for "Just Exist" from "Is Survived By". On stage, vocalist Jeremy's signature style passionate croons merge with an energetic performance from the rest of the band to create yet another intensely emotional set, but it's just too warm for the crowd to absorb properly. Alas, we've seen Touché Amoré in a better overall package in the past. Sound issues and heat made this set worse than it was in reality. [6½]

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes by Anchor Focus Photography

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes @ 14:40-15:20 on Eagle

If you've seen a Frank Carter show in recent memory, you know shit's about to get crazy on stage in just a few moments when you hear the opening notes of "Juggernaut". "Are you ready???, Carter eggs us on, before going mental on stage and vaulting himself into the crowd early on. The usual stunts of standing on top the crowd gets an extra spice from the heatwave as he spots a dude with a water gun grabs it, and starts squirting water at people while shouting "I'm your daddy now!". He continues in the crowd, dancing on top of us for "Vampires" and being tossed around, before it's turn for all girls to crowd surf during "Wild Flowers" in what is a safe space where Carter himself will come crack our heads like an egg if we touch any of them inappropriately, we're told. Then it's time for the biggest circle pit we've ever seen at Jera, "Jackals", which appropriately leads the crowd to charge out of the tent and back in again in what is admittedly almost as big as the one at Roskilde Festival a couple years back. For "Devil Inside" we're all sitting down and jumping up Slipknot style, and "Lullaby" gets a huge sing-along. If this is your first time seeing Frank Carter - then you're OK to be in awe and wowed over what's happening. But he's now done a ton of touring and many of us have seen these same stunts enough times that it's beginning to feel like crowd control. He needs to innovate, otherwise more fans will feel like I do today: solid as usual, but pretty much the same show as every time. [7½]

Red City Radio @ 17:00-17:30 on Buzzard

Red City Radio has come a long way from the roary, flannel-laden beard punk of their debut album, today having transitioned in what is more or less a rock band with a few punk undertones left. The contrast is stark and exposed bare in the smallest tent at the festival that carries the nickname of 'punk rock bar' from previous years. Here, songs like "Two For Flinching" and "Two Notes Shy Of An Octave" come to their full glory with beer-laden sing-alongs and a pit in the crowd, whereas "Two Out Of Three Ain't Rad" and other self-titled album material both look and sound mediocre. The bad sound does them no favours, of course, but the thirty-minute set lacks energy, passion and memorable moments, especially if you compare to shows we remember from just a couple of years back. It's worrisome when your best material is now five years or more separated from you and it doesn't look like things are getting any better. [5½]

Anti-Flag by Cardinals Media

Anti-Flag @ 19:45-20:25 on Vulture

Earlier I mentioned how Frank Carter shows haven't changed much over the years. Anti-Flag has suffered from the same problem for quite some time, but tonight feels like they've done something different. From the FCK NZS shirt worn by Chris#2 to the huge logos punching Nazi swastikas to pieces to new songs, the atmosphere is great today as the band kicks off with some humour by spicing up the opening "woooo-oooh, woo-ooh" parts to "Cities Burn" with a little comment to "Terror army" in reference to all the Terror fans in the crowd tonight. The band play their songs straight today with little crowd control, resulting in a great energy and crowd interaction: "Fuck Police Brutality", which is dedicated to the likes of Tamir Rice, opens up a pit which turns enormous during "This Machine Kills Fascists" after the band initiates a "DIE, DIE, DIE" chant aimed at fascists. Here, Chris#2 vaults into the crowd while someone else takes over his bass duties. Until this point, the set has been great, but then the totally unnecessary "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" cover by The Clash is forced into the mix. It's a 40-minute set, what the hell are they doing? Think about the sheer number of great songs they could've included here from "The Terror State" material to the fantastic new "American Fall" songs, from which we only hear a single song tonight ("The Trouble Follows Me" - not even "Racists"). It leaves a damper on an otherwise great set that does finish the same way as every other Anti-Flag set these days: with the drum kit moved into the crowd during "Brandenburg Gate". [7½]

Sick Of It All by Anchor Focus Photography

Sick Of It All @ 20:30 on Eagle

Given the stacked hardcore roster on the lineup tonight, it doesn't make any sense that the tent is almost empty for NYHC legends Sick Of It All. Maybe the heat has finally taken its toll on the festival, but as the band kicks off with "Injustice System" and all the way until "Good Looking Out", the crowd is sparse and activity within it like-wise. So while Lou & co are two-stepping and jumping around on stage, the response from the audience is lackluster, to say the least. "Who is seeing Sick Of It All for the first time?", Lou asks, with only a couple of hands rising up in the crowd. "So you guys have no excuse!", he continues, ripping on the crowd in a joking manner. The band does their utmost to make something happen, but as Lou mentions later on, "see the problem is, the young you are too young, and the old you forgot how to dance". This seems to hit a nerve, so at least during "Machete", we get a pit that goes around the sound desk after he refers to the insane Frank Carter pit earlier. As usual, the band's high energy show that defies their age is a joy to watch live, but tonight they are given no favours by the Jera audience. [7½]

Modern Life Is War by Anchor Focus Photography

Modern Life Is War @ 21:20-22:05 on Vulture

One of the key bookings at Jera On Air this year was Modern Life Is War, a rare performance cult hardcore legends whose records are criminally appreciated given their sheer poetic beauty. It's a huge shame that they have to suffer through the horrific sound on Vulture like almost all other bands at Vulture today, where the vocals are basically only coming off the monitors, because judging by the emotional performance by Jeffrey Eaton, this could've been an epic performance. He is kneeling down, dancing and shaking intensely all over the place, while the front rows of the crowd follow suit in a level of intensity that suggests this had the potential to be another godlike hardcore show like the Verse one at Groezrock 2012. But combined with the fact that they are playing mostly material that's from their early era between 2003 and 2005 before most of the crowd had even heard their first hardcore song yet, and the bad sound, the show isn't anywhere near as intense as it should've been. The last few songs are amazing, but I'm left with mixed feelings in the end. [6½]

Nø Use Før A Name cover set @ 22:00-23:00 on Van Moll Punkrock Bar

Although announced via the Jera Facebook page prior to the festival, the No Use For A Name cover set isn't on the official program. We're at the Van Moll Punkrock Bar, a tiny craft beer bar in the middle of the festival that has an elevated bar. Word has reached us that the NØFX (cover band) has recently opted for a name change to Nø Use Før A Name and will play an hour's worth of skate punk classics at the festival, and what a performance it is. After Tony Sly passed some years ago, the closest we've gotten to re-living the NUFAN classics is No Use & Friends at Groezrock 2016, so as a result, the atmosphere in the bar is electrifying. You wouldn't believe it's a cover band based on the impassioned reception of the packed crowd, nor their accurate portrayal of NUFAN songs almost as a tribute band. For an hour's worth, we get to hear all the classics like "Dumb Remainders" and "International You Day" among many others. People are vaulting off stage, crowd surfing, singing along their hearts out, and dancing in the mosh pit as if this was NUFAN themselves. So what if the vocals are a little different, but the audience is more than happy to help. One of the best experiences during the Friday despite being a cover band. [8]

Terror by Anchor Focus Photography

Terror @ 23:05-23:55 on Vulture

"GET UP!, commands Scott Vogel in his usual aggressive fashion in an attempt to get the crowd riled up. "CRAWL OF SOMEONE'S HEAD", he yells, trying to stir up a frenzy which has become a trademark at Terror shows as of late. You don't have to necessarily know the songs, Vogel will get you into it, has been the trademark Terror concert experience for the past decade plus, because nobody lives and breathes hardcore in more invigorating fashion than he does in a live environment. The problem is, nobody's crawling. Despite countless attempts of shouting "JUMP OFF SOMETHING!", "GET UP!", "MOVE!", the intensity of the crowd isn't where it should be. It could be due to Terror playing an old-school set with plenty of songs off their 2004 debut "One With The Underdogs" and the lackluster "The 25th Hour", and none from the excellent 2013 record "Live By The Code". You can tell the set peaks every time the band throws in "Keepers Of The Faith" material, but it definitely looks and feels like the crowd is tired from the heat of the day. So even though Vogel can be found in the crowd late into the set, the Terror experience is usually the highlight of the night, whether a club show or a festival. But tonight, his BOUNCE! commands aren't heard by the crowd, and the intensity suffers as a result. [7]

SATURDAY

A Wilhelm Scream by Anchor Focus Photography

A Wilhelm Scream @ 15:20-16:00 on Vulture

It's again 30C outside, which means its 35-40 degrees underneath the closed tents. Despite the heatwave, the tent is packed early for A Wilhelm Scream, perhaps in anticipation of an amazing setlist the band has been playing on this tour. And it does not disappoint: the band opens with the "Mute Print" classic "Famous Friends And Fashion Drunks" and leads straight into "Me Vs. Morrissey..." from "Ruiner" with excellent sound in both. The sheer technical insanity in these songs is impressive on its own, but it's all the more so when you couple it with the fact that the band members are energetically doing high jumps, swirling around in the process, doing scissor kicks and the like. The most technical bits are of course spent in twin or triple formation for good measure, but most of the time the band members are in the air or otherwise in constant movement. And songs like "These Dead Streets" ensure we're singing along when we can, and others like "The Horse" or "The Rip" make sure that we're blown away by the intricate melodies. "Jaws 3, People 0", "I Wipe My Ass With Showbiz" are both equally great, but it is "The King Is Dead" where the band gets a tent-wide chant along. A solid set of technical hardcore punk. [7½]

Dog Eat Dog by Anchor Focus Photography

Dog Eat Dog @ 16:45-17:25 on Vulture

After listening to about twenty minutes of Dog Eat Dog from the shade of the central bar, I decide it sounds too freaking weird and intriguing not to check out: sounds of a saxophone, hip-hop, funk, metal, and punk are flooding out the tent with thunderous applauds to follow after each song. They do not disappoint. It feels like the band has at least five vocalists given the rate they interchange people behind the mic from yelling to nu-metal style shouts to straight out rap, at all times supported by a hybrid funk/metal atmosphere. The smooth saxophone takes you to the world of jazz, whilst floored tempo and crunchy guitars suggest we're in hardcore punk at times. If there's one band that sticks out at the festival this year, it is these guys, and they do it in an extremely positive fashion. No grade is given I only saw about 15-20 minutes of their set, but it was good.

Nasty by Cardinals Media

Nasty @ 18:15-18:55 on Vulture

Belgian beatdown hardcore mob Nasty is probably the heaviest band at this festival with creepingly slow rhythms delivered with the lowest of the low tunings to the guitars to create the maximum impact possible. Their vocalist Matthias mirrors Terror's Scott Vogel in his approach to crowd control: it's a consistent stream of "GET UP", "WAKE UP!", "Open up! Move it! Move it! Around!" as he masterfully exhibits commanding control over the reigning karate pit before him, while leading the charge himself through violent dancing across the stage. "SING IT.... SING IT!", he shouts at the destructive pit to induce an echoing "NO ONE LIVES!" chant from the crowd, stomping back and forth the stage in brutal fashion. The tent is packed, and songs like "Shokka" show why: beatdown hardcore doesn't come much better than this, and their showmanship on stage is nothing short of fantastic. Arguably the better show between them and Terror. [8]

No Fun At All @ 19:00-19:40 on Eagle

It's gotta be an age thing. Just like for Sick Of It All yesterday, the tent is half empty for Swedish skate punk legends No Fun At All who just put their first new album out this year after a ten-year break. For fifteen songs delivered in forty minutes, we're thrown back into the golden 90s sound of skate punk with tight, energetic guitars, instantly catchy choruses, and consistently high tempo. The band tears through classics like "Wow And I Say Wow", "Perfection", "Out Of Bounds", "Catch Me Running Round", "Beat 'Em Down" and "Master Celebrator" with the younger half of the band running and jumping across the stage having great fun. "Wow.." has a big sing along, but "Perfection" matches it quickly after for an a capella style sing-along where the band pause their instruments and let the whole tent shout the song from the top of their lungs. Great stuff. "Catch Me Running Round" predictably kicks off a huge circle pit and sing along, but "Master Celebrator" is, as usual, the highlight of the set reflecting the amazing atmosphere in the tent. It's not that so much is happening: high-energy jumps, twists and curls on stage, tight riffs and catchy sing-alongs, but that's also exactly what you want from a show like this; it delivers the goods in exceptionally consistent manner while holding the tent in a frenzy throughout. [8]

An accurate portrayal of the temperature at the festival by Portraits By Trix

Adhesive @ 20:00-20:30 on Buzzard

"Welcome to the warm pit of hell", Adhesive frontman Robert Samsonowitz declares after a couple of songs in his awkwardly Swedish fashion, but he's right. The tiny confines of Buzzard are only 70% full, but it must be around 35-40C inside. The Swedish skate punk legends were never as popular as No Fun At All, Millencolin or even Satanic Surfers, but the three records they put out between 1996 and 2000 are cult classics as songs like "Nothing Is Won" and "All In The Name Of Progress" display tonight. It's simply everything you want from music of this kind and then some, especially when the sound is near perfection like tonight, so the atmosphere is a perfect mix between nostalgia-laden skate punk and intense stop/start melodies that only Swedes are able to time this perfectly. "Thanks for coming to see us for the last time ever... all profits from this tour go to Doctors Without Borders", Samsonowitz lets us know, highlighting a little background on why they chose to reunite in 2017 after fifteen years of absence from the scene. Their quirky Swedish humour adds just enough light-hearted vibe to their show to create a juicy cocktail of aggressively fast skate punk and relaxing atmosphere, resulting in a superb show that stands out as one of the best at this festival for no other reason than being so god damn solid throughout. [8]

Satanic Surfers @ 21:20-22:05 on Vulture

One day you'll be with a Swedish punk friend and show him the lineup from Saturday that reads No Fun At All, Adhesive, and Satanic Surfers and he might murder you out of pure jealousy. We're only missing Millencolin from the who's who list of Swedish skate punk, but even then, the tent is half empty as the band kicks off with 2000's "Egocentric" followed by 1995's "Before It's Too Late". It's ultra fast, ultra tight skate punk with technical flair added for good measure, which helps alleviate some of the stand-still mic hogging their vocalist Rodrigo Alfaro often exhibits. Tonight, he shows a little more energy than usual, but when you're fronting one of the fastest bands around you can't help but wish he'd move around a little (a lot) more. "The Usurper" from the new album is an early highlight, but straight after "Puppet" draws in a surprisingly loud sing-along. Later, "The Treaty And The Bridge" draws another, but the closing track "Head Under Water" is the one which has the whole tent singing along. In between, not much noteworthy is happening, though. Alfaro is way too static for his own good, and the rest of the band aren't exactly energetic either. The tempo is lightning fast but that's about it, leaving it to the songs to impress us. And in this department, both No Fun At All and Adhesive are the clear winners, even if the second half of the set was awesome. [7]

Atmosphere from the festival by Portraits By Trix

Less Than Jake @ 22:10-23:00 on Eagle

Less Than Jake songs are all about the ridiculous, and tonight is no exception as the band walks on stage to the tune of the Imperial March from Star Wars. The tent transforms into a giant skank pit pretty much the instant "Sugar In Your Gas Tank" opens the show, and soon after "Dopeman" starts drawing sing-alongs. Vocalist Chris DeMakes spots a tiny kid in the crowd - he can't have been more than eight years old - and invites him to the stage to go absolutely bananas for "Plastic Cup Politics"... the problem? The kid doesn't understand any English so he ends up standing there looking totally confused as the song kicks off. Poor kid. Luckily the dad is brought in and they dance off together until "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Selling Out" transforms the pit into yet another intense skank pit while the band's stagehands fire toilet paper guns into the crowd.

Then another dude is brought on stage after he crowd surfs over, but he's even worse than the kid and exits stage left after just a moment into the song in what looked and felt like a total embarrassment. Then, for "Overrated (Everything Is)", a guy with a crazy bright green mohawk is pulled up, and he ends up dancing with his dick out for half the song which has the tent laughing hysterically. Then it's time to crowd surf a guy with a flamingo-shaped inflatable to the soundboard and back, which just about rounds up the randomness that Less Than Jake shows always are. If there's one band that feels made for festivals, this one is it, as they always come up with fun stunts on the spot, varying the performance from show to show. In between, they also play a wealth of awesome songs from "Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts", "How's My Driving, Doug Hastings" to "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads" and "Gainesville Rock City". A flawless performance that has everyone up in high spirits despite the wear and tear that 30C weather does to you over two days. [8½]

Stick To Your Guns @ 23:05-23:55 on Vulture

"Nationalism is poison.". Poignant and to the point, as usual, Stick To Your Guns showcase their deep analysis of today's political environment in a rant that has us all riled up from the beginning, and they mix that with dominant melodic hardcore songs ideal for chant alongs, brutal mosh pits and displays of brilliant energy on stage. The crowd chant-alongs are the biggest at the festival, their speeches the most inspirational, and their performance the most passionate and intense. The jumps, the swirls, the chaos on stage that's reflected in the crowd, this is what a breakout performance looks like of a band that's currently at their absolute peak. The future of hardcore is here, right now, which is why the tent is rammed to its limits from cult followers. The energy in the tent is palpable and awe-inspiring, leading me to think back about the other shows I've recently seen with Stick To Your Guns at other festivals and in club environments. It's always like this. In a decade's time, these are the shows that people will still talk about. These are the shows you need to be at right now because this is how legends are made. An incredible explosion of energy, crowd interaction, and serious politics that has us all agreeing in unison, a community feeling unlike any other I've seen in the past five years or more. The melodies of songs like "Nobody" or "We Still Believe", the messages in "You Are Free" or in "What Choice Did You Give Us?", and the crowd response suggests that Stick To Your Guns might just be the best hardcore band in the world right now. [9]

NOFX @ 00:00-01:15 on Eagle

Why is there a curtain covering the NOFX scene? Usually, there's just their tiny banner mocking the metalcore bands with the band casually strolling around, before starting their set by talking for a few minutes prior to the first song. Intriguing, especially given the 1920s style piano music that's playing on the background as an intro. Then the curtain is rolled aside revealing...an 85-piece symphonic orchestra from the festival grounds of Ysselsteyn. Fat Mike, wearing a dress as usual, then quickly explains that the band will start with "The Decline", except that they won't actually be performing it rather than watching the orchestra do it.

This is an absolutely outrageous move and yet so typically a NOFX thing to do. Led by a conductor in the middle, the orchestra then goes on for about eighteen and a half minutes performing a symphonic interpretation of the punk rock classic that is so rarely played live. What an ultimate troll both for longtime fans like me who have seen the band 16 times without ever seeing "The Decline", but even more so for new fans or those less familiar with NOFX. Imagine what they must be thinking? You might find it hilarious five minutes in, but trust me, when we hit the fifteenth minute many in the crowd are starting to look either uncomfortable or totally confused: "what the hell is going on and am I the only one who doesn't get it?". Hilarious stuff that only NOFX can pull off in class, as we watch Fat Mike & co pretending to conduct the performance from the side, basically in tears over the sheer majesticity of what is happening or because they think it's so goddamn funny they don't know what else to do.

Atmosphere from the festival by Portraits By Trix

What a weird start. So about twenty minutes later it's time for the first song with NOFX actually playing and singing, and it's a classic straight away: "Dinosaurs Will Die". But somehow the rest of the show doesn't leave that much of an impact, probably because we're all still in disbelief that the band actually brought a symphonic orchestra to start off their set. Sure, "The Brews", "Murder The Government", "Bob" and "Radio" are all good, as is the hilarious "72 Hookers", but it isn't all that different from previous NOFX shows. The usual banter and jokes are there, and at one point Fat Mike takes an offense about UnderOATH once again,this time proclaiming "we finally have a bigger banner than UnderOATH" before the back curtain rolls down a giant banner that's all solid yellow, functioning as an ironic enlargement for the tiny yellow NOFX logo in the middle of the stage. Funny stuff.

"Perfect Government", "Linoleum" and "Stickin' In My Eye" draw echoing sing-alongs as usual, but the funniest remark at this time is regarding Matt Skiba and Blink 182, whom the band teases with a five-second encore. Apparently, although it's uncertain if he was joking or not, Fat Mike was asked to join Blink 182 before Matt Skiba. At this point, we're fifteen minutes over time so the band just finishes off with "Reeko" to a casual finish. What's left behind is an impression of a set that was decent, but frontloaded with the fresh surprise of a symphonic orchestra. The rest was NOFX as usual: same punk rock, same borderline racist jokes with a few new ones ("banned in the USA", etc), similar setlist as the last few times. [7½]

FINAL WORDS

And that's it for the reviews! As usual, we'll wrap up our coverage with a bullet-point list of what we thought was good, bad, and must be improved for next year's festival.

Overall, the impression was excellent: it very much feels like a young Groezrock, a festival in growth, one that wants to try new ideas and book the best bands right now. It's the polar opposite vibe from the one at the last Groezrock where it felt like the festival was in decline. Even if the latter do return, they'll face some fierce competition from their Dutch colleagues.

Atmosphere from the festival by Portraits By Trix

With affordable prices, excellent facilities, and overall upbeat atmosphere, Jera On Air 2018 was a great experience and can easily be recommended for punk/hardcore fans needing their yearly festival fix. PP

THE GOOD

  • NOFX being allowed to bring a local 85 piece symphonic orchestra on stage to play "The Decline"
  • Fantastic schedule, no major clashes to speak of.
  • Fat Mike Wedgie was a hilarious piece of art in the middle of the festival
  • Van Moll Punkrock Bar was great at all times of the day
  • BMX shows were impressive
  • Excellent Vegan/Vegetarian options and good carnivore meals too!
  • The central cover providing shade from the sun.
  • A bar in each tent!
  • Great merch areas in general, although it sucks that the festival t-shirt was sold out almost straight away.
  • Reasonably priced beers: €5 for a large beer with two tokens.
  • Camping shop was well equipped, although overpriced.
  • Shuttle buses to/from Deurne Station and Parking areas.
  • Great toilet facilities - although Camping A needs urinals to get rid of the morning queues.

THE BAD

  • Awful sound at Vulture stage for most bands, especially hardcore ones.
  • Camping A inefficient for a sold-out festival: so much space wasted by people leaving meters between tents and people wanting to have enormous camp circles. Open site gradually like they do at Groezrock to make more space.
  • No water during Friday morning when showers were open at Camping A. Was fixed for Saturday, though, but dangerous due to the heat.
  • Way too hot to be outside (30C in the shade), but not the festival's fault of course.
  • The central bar running out of beer at 16:00 on Saturday
  • Camping area cold drinks opening hours: only open until 13:00 and again from 1 am. Forces you to be at the festival area or go to a supermarket. Why not open throughout the day?

THE UGLY

  • Not enough water posts given the weather
  • No showers on Sunday morning, when travelers would have needed them the most. Needs to be fixed for next year.
  • Credit cards not accepted even for cash withdrawals or ticket purchases.
  • Lots of thieves in the festival area based on reports :(
  • No pant system - festival looked like trash most of the time.

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