Groezrock 2014: Five Things We Learned
Every year in the small village of Meerhout, Belgium, 40,000 festival goers from as far as Germany, the UK, Netherlands, France, Spain, the USA and Russia (as well as Belgium, of course) congregate for Groezrock, marking the beginning of the festival season. With the finest in punk rock, hardcore, metal, ska and emo across 2 days with 4 stages, it has become a permanent fixture on many seasoned punk’s calendar. Here’s what we learned...
Mainland Europe does Festivals Brilliantly
This is hardly a huge revelation, with an increasing number of Brits choosing to flock overseas for high profile festivals such as Benicassim and Primavera Sound in gorgeous, exotic locations. Groezrock might not offer the beautiful scenery that you’ll get in the south of Spain, Portugal, or Croatia, but the weather is more often than not great at this time of year (and indeed throws the odd scorcher), and you do have the chance to see a very picturesque Belgian countryside.
Most importantly, the festival offers incredible value for money – just £90 over two days. Eurostar or budget airline flights are very reasonable, and you can even drive it relatively easily on a tankful or so, meaning the reality is it can offer much better value than the UK festivals, particularly if your taste is a little bit less mainstream than what the UK has to offer.
The Old School Are Still Flying the Flag For Hardcore
Gallows brought hardcore to the mainstream, Enter Shikari and Bring Me The Horizon brought it to arenas, and the likes of Architects, Northlane, Trash Talk and Touche Amore are doing their part leading the way for the new breed of hardcore, but here in Belgium the old school still rule the roost.
Face melting sets from Terror, Cro Mags, Judge, Madball, H20 and Ignite proved that, whilst the future of the genre may be bright, legacy bands are just as relevant today as they were in the 1990s and 2000s. The likes of Boysetsfire, reunited after splitting in 2006, proved that some of them are even in better shape before, with their set filled with anthems from last year’s While a Nation Sleeps LP displaying a band in the finest form of their careers.
New Found Glory Are Stronger Than Ever
It has been a difficult few months for New Found Glory, with the much publicised departure of guitarist Steve Klein creating a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding the band and a number of questions – notably what will they be like without their founding member and key lyricists.
Nothing to worry about – even with just 4 of them they sounded as massive as ever, and the recent difficulties seem to have only made the band more determined than ever, with an added urgency to their set filled with crowd-favourites across their career, and impassioned speeches from iconic guitarist Chad Gilbert going down a storm. Catch them on the UK leg of the Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour later this year.
Haters be damned: Falling In Reverse are here to stay
The elephant in the field – a credible punk and hardcore festival adding Gucci Sneaks pioneers Falling In Reverse – the most divisive band in rock today – for their first European show. Some thought it was genius, others thought it was spitting in the face of “real” punk rock. Whatever your thoughts on the band might be, you’d be lying if you denied any interest in how it was going to go down.
As it was, it was surprisingly subdued at first. The tent was just over half full (which had been packed for the likes of The Ghost Inside previously), and the band seemed visibly nervous as they began their set bogged by sound difficulties. However, we get a song in and, energised by a small but impassioned crowd, Ronnie Radke comes into his own. More and more curious onlookers initially wanting to see what the fuss was about find themselves unable to resist joining in the fun, capitulating into a mass circle pit featuring hardcore veterans in Judge hoodies 2-stepping to the likes of 'Bad Girls Club' and even forming mass conga lines, united in the understanding that whilst Falling In Reverse aren’t big or clever, sometimes all you need in a festival act is just big, stupid fun.
The Offspring definitely still have it
Their more recent studio outputs have been questionable at best, but celebrating the 20th anniversary of the iconic Smash album, the biggest selling independent album of all time, seems to have set The Offspring straight and came out with the set of the weekend.
No nonsense, playing Smash from start-to-finish (admittedly re-ordering the setlist so that Self-Esteem was the pre-encore closer) and then following up with their extensive catalogue of additional hits – the set was packed to the rafters with thousands screaming ‘whoa-oh’ in unison for punk rock anthems such as 'The Kids Aren’t Alright', 'Staring At The Sun' and 'Pretty Fly For A White Guy'. The perfect end to a great weekend.