GROEZROCK traditionally marks the start of the Belgian festival season and gathers Punk and Hardcore enthusiast from around the world for a weekend of partying, drinking, stagediving, singing and making new friends. Last weekend the 24th instalment of GROEZROCK once again transformed Meerhout into one big playground and [Rock-Pix / Bajo Asfalto] luckilyhad the chance to capture this thrilling experience. In this festival report we describe our highlights of GROEZROCK 2015 and consciously strive to give more attention to the smaller and lesser known bands.
Since the festival is held the last weekend of April, long before summer officially commences, we caught ourselves neurotically checking the weather forecast in preparation for GROEZROCK. We expected to be cold and packed our thermal underwear. We expected to be wet and packed our ponchos. But like most people around us we never anticipated to be struck by a small hailstorm whilst heading for the camping ground. Unfortunately hauling litres of beer, kilos of food and a shitload of camping supplies isn’t an activity most enjoyed while being soaked. Luckily the weather cleared once we received our wristband and started hunting for a favourable location for our tent. We succeeded rising our giant ‘absolutely-longer-than-the-marketed-two-seconds’-tent and subsequently celebrated with a warm meal and a refreshing beer. This was Thursday and we were more than ready to start the weekend. After enjoying part of DJ MIKE ROCK’s set in the crowed breakfast tent we headed for the nearby pre-GROEZROCK show and witnessed the punk rockers from GINO’S EYEBALL performing all time classics from Bon Jovi, Beastie Boys, Blink 182, Greenday, Lustra and even Marco Borsato. The ridiculously cheap beer (3 for 5€) and sing-alongs proved to be a golden combination and made everyone party like there was no tomorrow.
That tomorrow unfortunately came and it came hard. By dawn, after having spent a short and intoxicated night in a literally frozen tent, most attendees looked like they had already been raising hell for days straight. The festival hadn’t officially started, but the tone was already set for the remainder of the weekend. After easily making our way through the main entrance of GROEZROCK we headed to the Revenge Stage for BEACH SLANG. The crowd quickly gathered to observe the trio’s first European show and loudly sang along with their catchy, mid-tempo mixture of fuzzy pop punk and indie. What appealed most to us about BEACH SLANG were the energy and the dark, almost British-sounding vocals of James Snyder. The band genuinely seemed to relish every second of their performance in front of a surprisingly full Revenge Stage and perfectly kick-started our first festival day.
Next in line was Belgium’s own BRUTUS. This three-piece for Leuven has an eclectic approach to writing music and brings an intriguing combination of shoegaze, noise rock and metal. Avoiding all musical standards and conventions BRUTUS achieves to deliver a unique and rhythm-oriented wall of sound, which feels powerful, yet intimate. While it is mainly Stefanie’s vocals and drum-work that draw attention to BRUTUS, it is the specific sonic combination with the eerie and cavernous guitar sound and the heavy, fuzzy bass, which drives the band forward. Watching and hearing BRUTUS perform at GROEZROCK was a welcome fresh wind of air between the other bands filling the bill.
TOXIC SHOCK, hailing from Antwerp City, is known for delivering a fast, loud and unrelenting crossover between early 80’s thrash metal and hardcore punk. Living up to their live reputation TOXIC SHOCK quickly turned the Back To Basics Stage into an old school gathering of stagediving, moshing and stomping. The stage presence and energy of the singer, Wally, makes their music even more powerful than it already is. Climbing up into the stage lightning, choking himself with the wire of his microphone, stagediving and screaming the lyrics to ‘The Survivalist’ – a song about his recent battle with cancer – with an unbelievable sincerity and force. TOXIC SHOCK’s set was a perfect warm-up for all the moshers who were counting down the hours for the first European show of IRON REAGAN.
STICK TO YOUR GUNS easily filled the Impericon Stage and initiated moshing and crowdsurfing from front to back. From beginning to end the whole tent easily sang along with their catchy and melodic metalcore, proving that the band has a loyal following all around the world.
ATREYU officially announced their reunion in 2014 and GROEZROCK was lucky enough to attract them to their festival. Just like STICK TO YOUR GUNS the band brings metalcore with a fair amount of catchy choruses and a convincing stage presence. They played all their classics, including their cover of Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’. So what’s not to love?
IRON REAGAN shares two members with Municpal Waste and can be seen as the latter’s little, faster and more punk-oriented brother. With statements like ‘We are going to play 6 songs in under 3 minutes’, IRON REAGAN confirmed their punk attitude. The circle pits almost instantaneously covered The Back To Basics Stage with a giant cloud of dust, trapping the crowd into a category 5 hurricane of thrash metal riffs. Almost every second of the bands performance people were diving, rolling or somersaulting of the stage, making the first 20 meters of the tent unreachable for the faint-hearted. Definitely the show we will remember most of this year’s edition of GROEZROCK.
The Californian band CEREMONY is hard to describe due to their specific influences and adaptation of different styles. Their sound ranges from old school hardcore, to garage rock, to even post-punk. Their first song – featured on the new album that is coming out this month – strongly reminded of a mix between Joy Division, The Smiths and Pink Floyd. After the opening song CEREMONY seamlessly commenced playing their classic hardcore songs, drawing everyone to the stage screaming along. This 180 degree was an immense surprise if you hadn’t heard the band perform before. Halfway through their set we had already witnessed more stagedivers than we could count and observed the frontman being buried under a meat pile consisting of 20 dedicated fans.
Luckily our second night at the camping ground was less cold and therefore way more comfortable. Although we can imagine a lot of early sleepers waking up by the endless chanting of Bro Hymn during Pennywise. Our first must-see band of festival day 2 was Your Highness. YOUR HIGHNESS is well known for their sludgy stoner rock in the Antwerp music scene and are steadily making name for themselves outside of Antwerp and Belgium. With a recently released album called ‘City in Ruins’ GROEZROCK was the perfect location to gather new fans. The band made use of the already dusty tent by asking the audience to dance so hard that they could no longer see the crowd. This may be the reason why we are still seeing black snot when we blow our nose… YOUR HIGHNESS convincingly brought their tunes to the masses and left Meerhout in ruins. The band explicitly ask for so much
TURBOWOLF was our next highlight of the day and may be one of the biggest surprises of the whole festival. Their 70’s inspired looks, the quirky moves of their frontman, the glittery outfit of their female bass player and the adequate use of keyboards made their set an unbelievable 40-minute fusion of rock, stoner, metal and psychedelic. Unconventional and unforgettable.
Reign Supreme is a band that doesn’t play live too often, so a lot of hardcore and metal enthusiast found their way to the Revenge Stage to tear the place up. Too be honest we expected a little more from the band after hearing their latest EP which clearly was a little more experimental than REIGN SUPREME’s previous releases. Unfortunately we didn’t experience the same refreshing sound when watching the band play live.
The hardcore punk supergroup OFF!, consisting of Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag), Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (Hot Snakes), was next on our to-see-list. After seeing their raw and energetic set, you can’t believe that Keith Morris is close to 60 already. Short, powerful and raw.
REFUSED had the honour of rounding up this year’s amazing edition of GROEZROCK. Starting with their recently released new song Elektra, breaking their set up with The Deadly Rhythm (with some added Raining Blood from Slayer) and coming back for an encore with their all time classic New Noise, REFUSED was a perfect conclusion to the weekend.