Live Review: Groezrock 2013 – Meerhout, Belgium – Sunday (28/04/2013)

As the sun rises and the second day of Groezrock 2013 begins, many make their way with the early morning hangover to the Etnies stage. Being the first band of the day, indie acoustic dance punks The Front Bottoms have a lot to prove to get this crowd into the festival mood for another day. And they prove this wonderfully, with their catchy vibes and witty songwriting. It is clear why this band have caused such a commotion in the punk community; once their fourth full length ‘Talon of the Hawk’ drops in June, this commotion can only go one way upwards. (3.5/5)

No festival in the morning is without the early morning clash, as San Franciscan punks Nothington take to the stage. Whiskey soaked vocals and massive choruses allow the band to be well suited on the Monster stage for a band of their size. Based on the cues of approval from the crowd, Nothington are pulling it off profoundly. It wouldn’t be surprising if the band were to become headliners on future Groezrocks to come as they have the songs for it and the gravitational power to pull many heart strings. (4/5)

When the big hand of the clock face hits 11, many walk briskly to the front of the Impericon stage to witness one of the most underrated bands UK hardcore punk has birthed. Welsh quartet Bastions are as eerie as they are cathartic which allows for a chilling and curious set from the band. Wearing pure honesty on their sleeves, Bastions successfully keep their audience in orbit as they plough through tales of demons, in the body and out. The quality of this set is measured once frontman Jamie Burne leaves the stage, calls the loyal fans to the barrier and composes a unified shout filled rendition of fan favourite ‘Augury’. Overall, a rare accomplished feat for such a small British band. (4/5)

The overflowing attendance at the Etnies stage raises this question for Masked Intruder. Are the fans there for the sweetly filled pop punk jams or to solve the identity of the four masked enigma? Whatever the crowd is here for, there’s no denying that Masked Intruder possess the art of bringing catchy fun time vibes to the stage, no matter what puzzle the band has brought amongst themselves. (3.5/5)

Hailing all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio, The Dopamines are classically trained in the style of old school pop punk, with an added flavour of shouted angst. On such a big stage, coupled with the yellow rays in the sky, the band fare quite well for this festival audience. Even with a somewhat repetitive pattern, of loud, catchy, shouted and enjoyable punk songs, The Dopamines are a nice band to clear your hangover and get you back in the mood. (3/5)

One of the best things about festivals is that you always stumble on something you didn’t expect. This is the case with Belgian melodic hardcore troupe Midnight Souls. Having only announced a month before that the band is breaking up, Groezrock will be one of the band’s last shows. And what a send-off it is; despite a small and dedicated crowd, Midnight Souls provide a coarse set of ravaged vocals and mic grabs. Despite only discovering them at this moment in time, this reviewer can be rest assured that at least he caught them on an all-time high. (3.5/5)

Introducing the afternoon to the festival crowd, Smoke or Fire are lit up and ready to extend a handful of great punk rock songs. Whilst technical difficulties with the sound make it slightly unclear, it is the band’s performance that really stands out here. Like many of their peers, the band make the most out of the big stage they have been put on, firing the energy and making sure everyone has a good time. Indeed this is the case, as fists can be seen raised and voices reach further than the hand to connect with the lyrics the band oh so rightly sing. (3.5/5)

Having recently announced a second full length in the works via Bridge9 Records, melodic punks Iron Chic cause quite a commotion on the Etnies stage. It’s as if the band are the missing piece to an electric circuit, the key to awakening an endless volley of stage dives and sing alongs. Whilst the band’s performance is a fairly standard procedure, what truly makes the band’s set is the use of great songs that have this power and effect over a crowd like this. Most importantly, it is sets like this that raise a smile on one’s face and make you proud to be a music fan. (4/5)

It’s the middle of the afternoon, and it’s the perfect time to be in a crowd of drunken punks. Hearing anthems like ‘Eulogy’ and ‘Count Your Bruises’ gives one the green light to be thankful that they’re in an inebriated happy state; Canadian punks The Flatliners take lead in this turn of events. Regardless of a few minor technical faults, The Flatliners manage to play a gritty and vocally driven set that is full of great honest songs and creates chilled out happy memories. (3.5/5)

With his past projects well and truly behind him, Frank Carter’s days in rock band Pure Love, alongside former The Suicide File/The Hope Conspiracy guitarist Jim Carroll, are certainly the highest of tides. Kicking things with song ‘She (Makes the Devil Run Through Me)’, the stage is set and primed to bring what can only be described as a quintessential festival performance. An eruption of stage dives; a make out session in a mosh pit entitled the ‘love pit’; and a ridiculous crowd surf race between Carter and Carroll are the ingredients which perfect such a performance. Even in his cheeky tongue in cheek manner, the grin on Carter’s face, something he shares with his band mates, is the crowning metaphor that everyone is having the time of their lives. (4/5)

Representing the UK with hard earned pride, Rob Lynch is heartfelt, intricately honest and believable on the acoustic stage. Seeing one individual being listened to with such intent from an audience is something to be admired about. Strumming away, singing tales of his travels, his experiences, and just his life in general, Lynch is the real deal. (3.5/5)

You have to agree with Narrows’ vocalist Dave Verellen, playing a big stage isn’t what it’s cracked up to be as a loss of intimacy and union is apparent between fan and musician. However, this doesn’t stop the mathcore supergroup (featuring members of Botch, Unbroken, Bullet Union and These Arms Are Snakes) shred and blister the ear canals of those who are hypnotised by their chaotic noise. The sound of the bass is beastly, coupled with the guitars, drums and violent vocals, the band have a frighteningly terrific sound. Verellen dares the crowd to sneak past the security and invade the stage; this isn’t the case, as some aren’t tempted to face such muscle. Instead, the chaos master climbs down from the rafters, wrestles himself from the arms of the security, and causes a riotous joy fest in the crowd. “That’s how you do it!” Verellen declares; one can definitely agree with that. (4/5)

Taking an injection of heavy metal in their veins, skate punks Strung Out appear strategically charged and ready to assault the senses. The fact that their huge riffs and soaring speed can be heard from across the sunlit fields, along with Jason Alexander Cruz’s striking vocals, goes to show that after twenty years as a unit, Strung Out still have the ability to open new minds and awaken old ones. (3.5/5)

The setting for the next band to play the main Monster stage couldn’t be much better; gorgeous sunny weather with a brisk chill, hang outs with good friends and all round good times. Less Than Jake abuse this setting with their fun, brash pop punk meets ska style. Classics like ‘All My Best Friends Are Metalheads’ and ‘Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts’ bring out the necessary gleeful skank fest in a circle. Its light hearted entertainment of the nicest order, coupled in with the onstage humour. However, there are little nagging loose ends that cause this band’s performance to not reach all round perfection. (3/5)

Between the sets of the large name bands, the Macbeth stage allows exposure granted to new blood in the punk and hardcore spectrum. Worcester’s Fights and Fires are a shining example, as they introduce their own flavour of rock ‘n roll hardcore punk to the festival mob. Having gained favourable press for their second album ‘We Could All Be Dead Tomorrow’, this band is positively a group to be given a damn about. Their raucous behaviour may affect only a small area of onlookers, but it shows they have that potential, especially when their frontman Philip Cox launches and yells himself into the arms of the crowd. (3.5/5)

Coming out in leaps and bounds, Polar Bear Club can make even the grumpiest of old men smile. The band put thoroughly every drop of their sweat and blood to create a moment that is stress free and lively. ‘Screams in Caves’; ‘Light of Local Eyes’; ‘Another Night in the Rock’; several highlights that are bound to reflective singing sessions between the band and the audience. It may not be 100% perfect, but it’s a set that makes you happy to be alive, whilst watching a great band in a foreign country. (3.5/5)

It was a stroke of luck that Trash Talk pulled out, as it allowed Californian hardcore veterans Strife to feel more at home on the Etnies stage. Such an intimate environment allows the band to feel natural, as if a caged tiger had been let loose in its natural habitat. What follows is a punishing set of hardcore jams, where bodies are flung and mangled in the most charming way. Besides Comeback Kid, Strife are the second best hardcore band of the weekend; their guitars metallic and lethal; drums earth shattering; and vocals wonderfully raw. To sum it up, it’s as if the band have grabbed the crowd by the hair and keeps smashing everyone’s heads repeatedly onto the stage. (4/5)

Take it or leave it, Billy Talent are on superb form tonight. Despite pulling out from last year’s Groezrock festival due to medical reasons, the band definitely makes it up to their fans. Ben Kowalewicz’s stage manner is crooked, playful and charming as he takes the crowd in his hand and shakes them about like a snow globe. The sounds of the band’s instruments are captured in a satisfying raw and enjoyable quality, enabling the ensemble to deliver a strong performance. A machine gun round of hits enthathoms the tent including ‘Try Honesty’, ‘Rusted from the Rain’ and ‘Surprise Surprise’. This Hollywood stamp of approval is set in stone via the appreciated and wild reactions during the anarchistic ‘Red Flag’; all that is left is a hunger for more. (4/5)

The reappointment of Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach has brought a revitalisation to the band. With such new found pride and drive, they’re able to shred like never before, bringing freshness to songs of old. Utilising his mighty melodic vocals and face shearing screams, Leach is impressive and can be heard from across the festival. Alongside songs of his past and present eras, Leach makes much of the Howard Jones material ten times the anthems they were previously. (4/5)

2013 has seen the appearance of two incarnations of Black Flag; one under the original name, and another name under the identity Flag. The latter is playing here tonight, and despite all feelings of anxiety, the result is reassuring and watchable. Featuring former members Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena and Bill Stevenson plus Descendents’ Stephen Egerton, the band provide what is a fitting tribute to the Black Flag name. Hearing post-Morris material being yelled by Morris himself is nothing short of endearing and snotty; the band that drives his presence helps to give a fresh 21st Century life to the likes of ‘My War’, ‘Depression’ and ‘White Minority’. With the band in top form, and the kids going wild for their output, one can finally understand that this is the legitimate thing to do. (3.5/5)

Thirty three years as a band and Bad Religion can still muster up a stellar performance under their belts. Touring on the back of their solid new album ‘True North’, Bad Religion carefully plucks the mightiest tracks from across their giant discography. Rapid fire energy ensues on both sides of the timeline, from the past the likes of ‘We’re Only Gonna Die’ and ‘Do What You Want’ create that much needed buzz, whilst latest offerings ‘Fuck You’ and ‘True North’  tame and maximise it. Hearing classics like ‘21st Century (Digital Boy)’ and ‘American Jesus’ just puts one into nostalgic influenced excitement, shouting the words and fists waving in the air. Greg Graffin’s voice soaring amongst their ecstatic fans with the band that supports is nothing but charming and entertaining for those in attendance. (4/5)

4/5

Words by Aaron Lohan (@ooran_loohan)

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