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Groezrock - Thank God the festival season has begun! | FESTIVALPHOTO

Groezrock - Thank God the festival season has begun!


Groezrock, Belgiums festivalseason opener, brings a lot of classic punk rockers in touch with new hardcore acts. Saturday had Pennywise, Hatebreed, Rise Against and Turbonegro while Sunday brought us (Black) Flag, Billy Talent, Bring Me the Horizon and Bad Religion. We were able in finding a way to see most of the biggest bands on the last day. The sun is shining in Meerhout where Groezrock is held for the 22nd time.

To start the day of with a folk explosion, we're heading towards the Etnies stage where nine piece band Old Man Markley plays a driven show. The LA based band released their third album Down Side Up this year on Fat Wreck Chords, the label from NOFX frontman Fat Mike. Their combination of bluegrass and rock comes alive through typical instruments like the autoharp, fiddle, banjo and double bass. Most interesting instrument on stage is Ryan Markley who uses the washboard, runs around and cheers everybody up. Together with the rest of the band they all have their moments to shine. Singer and guitar player Johnny Carey constantly has a smile on his face looking at the big crowd who have a great time.

At the second stage called Impericon, there's something much heavier going on. American postcore band Narrows brings a fine set with a lot of passion. Impressive looking singer Dave Verellen throws his arms regularly in the air and screams his way through the set while his bandmates deliver strong riffs and pounding drums. There are some interesting rhythms, like the nervous sounding guitar lines that are going on with lots of interaction between fans and lead singer. While Verellen announces the last song, within a second he's off the stage, jumping into the crowd. Singing along with everybody front row. "Exactly how it should go !" replies Verellen satisfied at the end of the show.

Outside on the festival grounds the festivities go on with a lot of possibilities. To get a great look and plan ahead, it's possible to get on top of the Monster energydrink themed tent. You can see a small BMX route, various vegetarian and vegan stands next to the fast food stands off course and two festival markets. Besides the four big stages (Monster, Impericon, Etnies and Accoustic) there's also the Macbeth area where local bands can perform. We're heading back to the Impericon, to say goodbye.

Recently Attack Attack ! announced their retirement. So for the Belgian audience it's a last change to see the Ohio metalcore band. The tent looks pretty packed when the band is doing their soundcheck. ''One, two check check, hey hey!'', the mood is very relaxed. A very loud bassline is send into the crowd to make sure everybody pays attention. Guitarist Andrew Whiting tunes his guitar playing bits from Mission Impossible and Smoke on the Water. Eventually with a big hip hop beat the show kicks in. Next to the electronics, it's impossible not to hear the blast beats coming our way from the drums. A circle pit is raging, fueled by storming guitar riffs and sonic bombardments. Some eurodance beats turns the moshing into dancing. New singer Phil Druyor takes care of the screamo's and with only an American farewell tour to go, he gives his very best. Thanking everyone for sticking with the band the last couple of months.

A band that exists for more then 20 years and not thinking about quitting is Less Than Jake from Florida. With their horn section there is an immediate feel of the summer hitting the people who are moving and shaking around. The trombone player walks around acting like an interpreter for the deaf. There is a lot of interaction going on while Less Than Jake play lots of classics. Starting the show of with 'Automatic' from their second album Losing Streak and further on the combination 'History of a Boring Town' and 'All My Best Friends are Metalheads' from follow up Hello Rockview. The mix of ska and punk brings the Monster stage to a friendly frenzy. The smell of marihuana is everywhere. Dreadlocked bass player/singer Roger Manganelli dedicates a song to Pennywise, who were on stage saturday, for having the best anthem: 'Bro Hymn'.

Less party but more guitars is what we get during the reunion tour of Sparta. With former members of legendary post hardcore band At the Drive In, singer Jim Ward and band makes a come back. After five years they're back at Groezrock, bringing some kind of greatest hits selection from the three albums they released so far. 'Chemical Feel' is a new song, more well known tracks like 'Mye', 'Taking Back Control' and especially the melodic eruption during 'Assemble the Empire' give the show some energy. For the most part the gig is pretty standard, no interaction or any big surprises from the guys on stage. The music is well played but after years of absense they're could have been some more joy. The Impericon stage is maybe half full and could be a reason why there is not a lot of entertainment coming from the El Paso based quartet. Maybe we'll have to wait for the new album that will come out in Spring of this year.

The evening has fallen so time for some well deserved dutch/belgian snacks. Two 'frikandellen', a meatball and some french fries are my meal for tonight, while it goes down with some Monster fluids. With so many great bands there is little time to have a good meal. Eventhough we are in gastronomic Belgium. The music is mainly my food for today and what kind of main course is waiting for the 35.000 people attending the 2013 edition of Groezrock.

The Monster mainstage has two, more commercial bands planned for tonight before godfathers of punk-rock Bad Religion brings an end to the 22nd edition. While August Burns Red delivers some heavy metalcore at the Impericon stage, the Used makes a bit more melodic and easier music. Unfortunately the sound is terrible, Bert McCrakens voice is overpowered by the drums and even the guitars sound too heavy in the mix. With Berts constant showmanship it looks a bit exaggerated, not hearing what he's saying. It looks forced, they don't need to ask after each song to raise our hands or jump around. It's something which you have to create while playing your music. They have enough song material, from 2012's Vulnerable tracks 'Put Me Out' and 'I Come Alive' to fan pleaser and Wall of Death inspiring 'Pretty Handsome Awkward'. Although the drums are overpowering the rest of the music, it must be said what kind of animal Dan Whitesides is behind the drums.

From one pit we move to another. Bring Me The Horizon is ready to perform at the Impericon stage. The place is completely packed but people think there's still enough space at the front. More people obviously arriving from the Used to witness the popular UK metalcore sensation. I myself don't want to miss out Billy Talent so I'm moving into the traffic jam to get outside. With the four big areas to chose from, not forgetting about punk pioneers Flag and Thursday singer Geoff Rickly, it's not too difficult to get front row during Billy Talents performance at the main stage. The Canadian band kicks off with 'Devil in a Midnight Mass', full on bass thumbing and some great distortion gets the crowd moving. The sound is great, vocals are loud and clear backed up by the instruments. Funny by the way how each band tries to announce Groezrock. Luckily Ben Kowalewicz has much more to tell, he's very thankful to be back in Belgium, especially this festival. They had some bad luck in 2012, mainly because drummer Aaron Solowoniuk has Multiple Sclerosis and had to underwent open heart surgery.

Now they're back, stronger then ever so it seems. They play a powerful set of 15 songs in nearly an hour. Ben sings with his high pitched voice while running and jumping. 'This is How it Goes' is a track dedicated to the battles drummer Aaron has fought, but the main thing tonight is to rock our socks of. Guitarist Ian D'Sa looks relaxed while delivering a bunch of great riffs. Attention goes out to Ben who keeps on standing on the speakers to make his point. Luckily he's not a show off like Bert from the Used. Ben performs, gives more then 100 % and receives the respect from the crowd. Between songs we get some honest 'merci beaucoups', thankfully some variation on the standard thank you's. Not that strange off course, knowing that the band is from Toronto, Canada. Halfway through the set we get some old school Billy Talent. Songs like 'Try Honesty', 'Line & Sinker', 'Fallen Leaves' and 'This Suffering' keep the fists pumping in the air. Everybody sings a long even with songs from the last album Dead Silence. The album was well received by critics, tracks like 'Surprise, Surprise' and 'Man Alive!' keep the catchy hooks and work great on stage. As always 'Red Flag' is the last song of the evening. With the shouting chorus it feels like one of those festival anthems. Guitar, drums and bass serve as a soundtrack so everybody can follow Ben in singing word after word.

By this time the whole Monster tent is filled with one big crowd partying, dancing, sharing beers and getting ready for main act Bad Relgion. Around 22 h the punk-rock heroes from LA come on stage. Strange enough there are only four of them. Most recognisable is Greg Graffin behind the microphone but where are guitarists Bret Gurewitz and Greg Hetson? Gurewitz is live not always a part of Bad Religion, but Hetson is at Groezrock. He wanted to check out fellow colleagues Flag so maybe something happened on the way back. No worries, the foursome with Brooks Wackermann who also drums for Tenacious D, are capable of bringing a show loaded with hits from their 30 plus year career. The red spots that were used at the end of 'Red Flag' are also active during the first part of Bad Religions gig. It set some kind of aggressive tone where songs full of the known statements like '21st Century Digital Boy', 'Sinister Rouge' and 'New Dark Ages' come live.

Off course there's new work from the 18th studio album True North, in real punk tradition most songs last for two to three minutes. Brought with fierce and direct force, circle pits and crowdsurfers are all over the place. Gregg talks a lot between the songs, but it's all meaningful and full of humor. ''There is one band older then us...". ''The Rolling Stones?'', replies bassist Jay Bentley. "No, the guys from Flag!'' When guitarist Brian Baker starts with a short Rolling Stones melody. Time for some more action during 'Generator', 'Do What You Want' and 'No Control', where one crowdsurfer loses his control and get's carried away on a stretcher. It's an hour of complete madness, one classic after another. A perfect ending for a great edition. Major classic bands meeting popular new bands ranging from punk to metalcore sharing the most important part rock 'n roll. Thank God the festival season has begun!

Writer: Lodewijk Hoebens
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