Live Review: Groezrock 2015 – Meerhout, Belgium – 02/05/2015

If Friday ended on a bit of a downer then at least Love Zombies are on hand to put a smile on our faces. Although not for the right reasons. Laughably bad, not even a keytar can save them from ridicule (in fact, some might ridicule them for having a keytar anyway…). There’s nothing remotely redeeming about them and it does anger me somewhat when bands such as this get prestigious festival slots over much more deserving acts. (1/5)

Riled up, we head to The Holy Mess – only to discover that if our morning got off to a slow start, then at least it wasn’t as bad as theirs. Having flown in especially for the show, they look like they’ve taken the festival vibe a little too seriously. Steve-O Niemoczynski shows up a couple of minutes late with stories of getting arrested with Pennywise’s Flether Dragge, arriving late and having difficulty scoring drugs. He doesn’t remove his sunglasses for the entire set, perhaps adding credence to his shamefully hungover stories. Even if the stories are pure fabrication, The Holy Mess are still good fun and enough to feel like Saturday’s festivities at Groezrock are well and truly under way. (3/5)

Making a change from the relentless metalcore on the Impericon Stage, The Interrupters bring some much needed bounce to Saturday morning, as well as a heavy ska vibe and some killer pop tunes. Clearly overwhelmed by the rapturous reception, vocalist Aimee Interrupter sports a huge grin as she gallops around the stage. A cover of Operation Ivy’s ‘Sound System’ unsurprisingly goes down a storm, but it’s their own material, and in particular the rousing ‘Family’ that leaves a lasting impression. (4/5)

Timeshares have already won over Already Heard thanks to their brilliant new album, ‘Already Dead’, so we were excited to see if they can deliver live as they hit the Revenge stage. They’re a hugely likeable group – and another to somewhat overwhelmed to be playing to a packed tent. As ‘Already Dead’ has only been out a week, it’s fair to say this was the first time a lot of people had heard the new songs, but you can’t deny the quality of the songwriting, especially on the likes of the killer ‘Spend the Night’. (3.5/5)

Next up was another one of our favourites, Lincoln rockers Bad Ideas. Having won a competition to appear on the Macbeth stage, the group were making the most of the opportunity, delivering a strong set of punchy punk-edged rock songs. Having attended Groezrock for the last 4 years as fans, it was great to see them get a great slot, and even some pre-show technical issues weren’t going to derail their plans (in fact, their pals in Ducking Punches were on hand to help with some equipment issues). That said the likes of ‘Clumsy Hands’ sounded great and with plenty lined up in 2015, expect to be hearing a lot more from them before the end of the year… (4/5)

Ducking Punches were another group to make their way to Meerhout courtesy of Macbeth. And, like Bad Ideas, fully took the opportunity to shine on the festival stage. Drawing a sizeable crowd, their infectious folk punk was the perfect accompaniment to a bright Saturday afternoon, and you couldn’t fault the gusto with which they attacked their set. Throw in a couple of genuinely heartfelt moments – not least of all a tribute to a friend who committed suicide – and you can understand why there’s a lot of love for, and buzz around, these guys. (4/5)

Another band feeling the love is Minneapolis’ ace pop-punkers Banner Pilot. Again, the tent is packed for them, which is always nice to see. They’re an odd one in so much as they don’t really sound like a Fat Wreck Chords band (although that’s where you’ll find their last couple of albums). A friend described them as a “baby Dillinger 4” (who were ironically on Fat) and I can kind of see it – but they still play outrageously catchy, heartfelt pop-punk of a style I wouldn’t normally associate with Fat, and they also put on one heck of a show. It culminates in a spectacular rendition of ‘Skeleton Key’ with people throwing themselves off the stage with reckless abandon. Vocalist Nick Johnson looked genuinely stoked and humbled at the reaction, and I love it when bands are genuinely surprised when people sing their songs back so loudly. (4.5/5)

And the crowd is loud for Bane. Very loud indeed. Although the side tents have all been packed for most of the sets, it’s uncomfortably busy for the Massachusetts hardcore heroes. Personal space is at a premium on the floor, and at the side of the stage there must be about 40 people crammed in, excluding photographers, to witness something special. And Bane don’t disappoint. After 20 years at the top, the band have said they don’t plan to release any more new music – 2014’s ‘Don’t Wait Up’ proving to be an excellent swansong – but I don’t think you’ll ever keep them off the stage, where they thrive. And tonight, you can understand why. The likes of ‘Count Me Out’ sound so raw and passionate it’s impossible to not get swept along with the diehards. Naturally, the place erupts for ‘Can We Start Again’, with vocalist Aaron Bedard swamped by stage invaders. It’s beyond chaotic but it’s also an affirmation of why we love this sort of music. Bane are masters of it and long may they continue. (4.5/5)

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are masters of their own trade, and they also know how to put on a heck of a show. And, like the end of Bane’s set, they have plenty of bodies on stage – only here, most of them are playing instruments. It’s easy to forget both just how enormous The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were in the 1990s, and also how many songs you instantly recognize. ‘The Rascal King’ gets dropped early, while ‘Someday I Suppose’ is greeted like an old friend. Needless to say, the place goes off for ‘The Impression That I Get’. (4/5)

Groezrock is the first show in Europe As Friends Rust have played since a small run of UK shows and a quick stop off at Groez seven years ago. If As Friends Rust have any nerves as they rip into ‘We On Some Next Level Shit’, it doesn’t show though, and soon the tent is bouncing, singing and finger-pointing along in unison. ‘Coffee Black’ gets the biggest singalong of the weekend – and rightly so, as it’s such an affirmative banger – but it’s still amazing to hear so many people sing all of the words. Vocalist Damien Moyal is generous with the microphone throughout, dishing it out to fans at the front frequently, and the band is another to look overwhelmed at both the volume of people in the tent and their rabid reaction to every song. ‘Like Strings’ brings arguably one of the sets of the weekend to a close – and with a new compilation out, titled ‘Greatest Hits?’, if you haven’t heard Gainesville’s finest, it’s the ideal opportunity to check out some of the finest melodic hardcore you can imagine… (5/5)

While As Friends Rust have been semi-dormant over the last decade, Millencolin have been touring relentlessly, playing all over the world to adoring crowds. Groezrock feels like something of a homecoming for the Swedish skatepunk heroes and they’re at the top of their game from the off. With a new album, ‘True Brew’, just out, they draw heavily on this, but still throw in enough of the old hits to keep the fans happy. ‘Fox’ is a huge bouncing, pogoing, rush of excitement, with the crowd matching guitarists Erik Ohlsson and Mathias Farm, who spend the song charging across stage like a couple of on-the-run bulls. However, it’s the encore that really gets the fans moving, with ‘Penguins & Polar Bears’, ‘Lozin’ Must’ – dedicated to Refused, for whom the song title is a tribute – and ‘No Cigar’ all hitting the spot perfectly. (4/5)

Somewhat surprisingly, there’s a rush to the gates following Millencolin, but Refused don’t bat an eyelid. In fact, many of today’s hardcore bands owe Refused a debt of gratitude, and for all the technical blastbeat drumming coming from the Impericon stage over the weekend, it’s great to see one of the true innovators of hardcore go and do their thing. It’s a shame they’re not the most exciting to watch – only Dennis Lyxzen runs around the stage – or into the crowd – while everyone else remains rooted to the spot. However, they’re not dull to listen to, and they blast through a solid set of alt-punk/hardcore anthems including ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’ with purpose and conviction. A great little aside to ‘Reign In Blood’ during ‘The Deadly Rhythm’ raises a fair few cheers (and a lot of laughs), but it’s an encore including ‘New Noise’ – and a spectacular job by the lighting team – that sends everyone back to their tents happy after another day of excellent punk rock action. (3/5)

Best weekend of the year so far? You bet. See you, and all of your relentless shenanigans, next year Meerhout.

Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)

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