Live Review: Groezrock 2013 – Meerhout, Belgium – Saturday (27/04/2013)

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For over the past 20 years, at the end of April, in the small village of Meerhout, Belgium, punks and hardcore kids of different nationalities gather for a festival specifically catered for them. From it’s small beginnings as a pop and rock festival, Groezrock has grown into one of the most well renowned punk and hardcore festivals in the world. Now in its 21st year, we at Already Heard venture to Belgium, to marvel at the bands, sights, and sounds. 

The first band to kick start off this adventure for Already Heard at Groezrock 2013 is the rock ‘n roll punk stylings of Texan lot The Riverboat Gamblers. Ecstatic and full of energy, the band provides the perfect dose of warming entertainment for this afternoon’s crowd. Every member of the band delivers a tightly wound performance, breathing life into every note they wield, and not willing to commit to anything less. Tracks like ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’ and ‘On Again Off Again’ are brimming with catchiness, and this is all sealed by the bounding stature of frontman Mike Wiebe. (3.5/5)

Having recently announced an indefinite hiatus, Streetlight Manifesto play one of their last European shows to an eager ska-loving crowd. The concept of fun is the running theme across their entire set, as the band brilliantly provides chorus led chants and boisterous skank-mosh activity. The switching moods and rhythms that the band can maintain in songs like ‘We Will Fall Together’ and ‘Everything Goes Numb’ deliver something that is exciting and grandly assumes their position as a festival band. (4/5)

The moment the first few bass laden notes of ‘The King Is Dead’ are played, a sudden rush escalates amongst the crowd who widen a largely prepared mosh pit for A Wilhelm Scream. A high octane performance is delivered like an adrenaline shot to the heart as circle pits and scrambling increase. The band continues to tease with new material for an upcoming album via a couple of songs, but the album can wait as it’s the here and now that matters. Finishing on fan favourite ‘Famous Friends And Fashion Drunks’ the band once again proves to be a phenomenal live machine. (3.5/5)

Over on the Impericon Stage, 90s emo punk luminaries Samiam are flatteringly heartfelt and grit laden in their performance. They play as if they were freshly delivered from a bakery, sweetly wrapped with well written punk rock songs that are huge sounding and wonderful. (3.5/5)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the festival site at the Etnies stage, former Refused vocalist Dennis Lyxzén is charismatic as ever as he fronts current hardcore project AC4. Also featuring former Refused drummer David Sandström, the band play politically charged early 80s hardcore garage punk. It’s a fun intimate set sure, but there are times when it gets slightly repetitive; the set is based on a pattern of AC4 playing madly then Lyxzén yammering passionately on socio-politics. (3/5)

Like Streetlight Manifesto, hardcore mob Trapped Under Ice is also playing one of their final European shows before a hiatus. The only difference is that TUI craft a different kind of fun, that fun being laden with a pissed off attitude and raw street filled poetry. Everything included in the band’s set is to create the first of many send offs for the band; stage dives, bruising and destruction in the pit, and a solid positive fuelled aggression from the band ensures this brilliantly. (3.5/5)

Back on the Monster Stage, folk punk maestro Frank Turner has the crowd in the palm of his hand, with help from his backing band The Sleeping Souls. It’s all so wonderfully cheesy and marvellous to see Turner have the crowd lovingly listen to his honest songwriting and sing along to every chorus that this gentleman has worked through his experience and showmanship. (3.5/5)

It has been a long time coming, but Canadian post hardcore group Grade have finally embraced the European mainland, right here at Groezrock, to play a show since their reformation. The band are full of sincere energy as they come in leaps and bounds on the stage, vocalist Kyle Bishop leads the charge as he screams and sings along with the diehard fans. (4/5)

Legend is the only word befitting to a man like Walter Schreifels, especially in regards to the amazing back catalogue and roster he has been a part of. As a form of compensation for Quicksand not being able to attend Groezrock this year, Schreifels is utterly charming as he plays reworked songs from his past and current bands including Gorilla Biscuits, Rival Schools, and Quicksand as well as his own solo material. A definite highlight being his rendition of ‘Thorn in My Side’ by Quicksand which is hauntingly drony and somewhat atmospheric; this compensation has well and truly been repaid. (4/5)

Destruction and mayhem are the key aspects to a Hatebreed set, something of which they deliver with superb results. Frontman Jamey Jasta orchestrates such a profound armageddon amongst the band’s audience; one example is during ‘This Is Now’, where Jasta pits the left side against the right to see who the louder side is, thus showcasing the sheer power Hatebreed has over a festival crowd. Several mosh pits later, the band reach grand and epic tour de decimation with crowd pleasers ‘Destroy Everything’ and ‘I Will Be Heard’ forging on an all-time high. (3.5/5)

Since releasing the critically acclaimed ‘Floral Green’, Title Fight have continued to go on an endless rise of appreciation. This appreciation can be identified here on the Etnies stage; endless stage dives, the broken noses and scraped knees, and the renowned energy are the flavourings that make up a Title Fight show. That eclectic mix of coarse vocals, whirring guitar tones and ecstatic fever enable the band to produce a fun filled set for die-hard fans to remember. (4/5)

Things are certainly being kept at a fast consistent pace as far as Pennywise’s performance is concerned. Playing one of the first European shows since original frontman Jim Lindberg returned identifies a band that sees his brief departure as something that didn’t happen. Regardless, it’s great to see a crowd lap up old classics like ‘My Own Way’ and ‘Perfect People’. Yet no Pennywise set is done without the odd cover thrown in as they unfurl ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ by Black Flag and ‘Territorial Pissings’ by Nirvana to delighted punk seals of approval. (3.5/5)

It’s stupidly surprising that this is Kid Dynamite’s second European show in the history of their career. However, it’s great to finally stage dive to the catchy melodic hardcore tunes on these very shores. Whilst it’s difficult to hear what Jason Shevchuck is shouting, you can’t deny that the band have a firm grip on their surroundings. Hearing anthems such as ‘Table 19’ and ‘Cheap Shot Youth Anthem’ provide the best entertainment money can’t buy in this gang shouted stratosphere. (3.5/5)

Even within a brief snapshot of a life cycle, you can tell that Texas Is the Reason are an incredible live spectacle. The cold and serene night air compliments perfectly with the dazzling fluorescent back drop. The 90s emo legends take advantage of this setting without breaking a splinter; a fantastic moody indie rock phenomenon that has to be seen to be believed. (4/5)

Whilst one 90s band gives their influence justice, another provides nostalgic fun but lacks something to hold it together. Since their reformation became public, rock ‘n roll punks Rocket from the Crypt have caused a squee of commotion amongst punk’s inner circles. Songs like ‘On a Rope’ and ‘Born in ‘69’ are played with that vast degree of all round fun. Unfortunately what drags it down is that lack of justified relevance that solidifies RFTC’s performance at this moment in time. (3/5)

Walking up to the front of the Etnies stage is no easy task, especially since it’s bursting at the seams by its attendance this hour. Yet such a crowd is justified considering the very nature and quality of tonight’s set; in the next 45 minutes, Canadian hardcore group Comeback Kid will play under an original incarnation with Andrew Neufeld back on lead guitar and original vocalist Scott Wade back in position. Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of debut full length ‘Turn It Around’ in style, the band are utterly flawless in their performance. The eagerness of the fans can be identified instantly as they scramble around hearing Wade shout out material from the band’s first two full lengths. An endless wave of stage dives and chorus led unison envelops during the likes of ‘All in a Year’, ‘Die Tonight’, and ‘False Idols Fall’. It’s a ridiculous sight to behold but it makes so much sense; words can’t comprehend the tension and emotions displayed on stage. Not until the anthemic ‘Wake the Dead’ as a huge mass of bodies pile up, do the right words and well-constructed sentences sum up the superb carnage that has just passed. (4.5/5)

Tonight’s headliners have come a long way since the first time they played Groezrock, on a small stage, and now Rise Against are at the position they are in now through hard work and a passionate belief in what they do. The Chicago politically minded punks play with such an amazing stride that it’s hard to question their place on the stage, especially since they have the songs to keep a festival crowd going.

The likes of ‘Heaven Knows’ and ‘Re-Education (Through Labor)’ have huge choruses to sink your teeth into; ‘Ready to Fall’ and ‘Prayer of the Refugee’ evoke a hair raising tension throughout the chaos in the audience; and the sheer shift from loving hook laden melody to pure punk rock aggression is fantastic. Like a well-oiled machine, the band work through a terrific set. All this is done perfectly with Zach Blair, Joe Principe, and Brandon Barnes giving a well delivered volley, whilst Tim McIlrath leads the charge. McIlrath is very commanding and sincere in his vocal tone; either soaring aimlessly on ‘Satellite’ or giving a much needed bite on classic ‘Alive and Well’, McIlrath is the real deal.

After a brief interlude, McIlrath returns on stage, armed with an acoustic guitar and kicks into the chilling tale found on ‘Hero of War’, but the highlight of this acoustic blip is ‘Swing Life Away’. With help from The Loved Ones frontman Dave Hause, this performance is utterly moving. Once this has passed, the band comes back in full form with ‘Make It Stop (September’s Children)’ with a splendid vocal contribution from Thursday aficionado Geoff Rickly. Following on, Rise Against scold the crowd eternally with gritty anthemic renditions of ‘Give It All’ and ‘Savior’, both of which end on the audience craving for more. (4/5)

4.5/5

Words by Aaron Lohan (@ooran_loohan)

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