Groezrock 2013 Review: Saturday

By Tom Aylott

Belgium may not be the obvious venue for Europe’s premier punk-rock festival. Far removed from the waffles, chocolate, beautiful architecture and European politics, the eastern village of Meerhout is once again invaded by hordes of music fans from around the globe. Evolving from a comparably small affair over twenty years ago, Groezrock now offers a wealth of musical genres over five stages; all underpinned by a punk philosophy.

This year has seen a definite increase in hosting metalcore bands, so Punktastic heads to the Impericon Stage to witness rising Japanese stars Crossfaith. Displaying enough showmanship to rival their generation, the performance is surprisingly effective in kicking off the weekend. Filled with an abundance of obligatory breakdowns and the occasional electronics the style may follow their contemporaries; however the energy on stage surpasses the majority of bands sharing the same bill.

The Monster Stage (this year’s main stage) takes a different tact, cramming a significant number of musicians onto the impressive floor space armed with a range of brass and woodwind instruments. Streetlight Manifesto incite a ska dance party front and centre, however sacrifice some of the energy in the vast tent. While musically the band are on form and clearly enjoying themselves, the lack of any crowd interaction remains noticeable.

A Wilhelm Scream turn the energy up another notch with their offbeat combination of pop-punk and hardcore. Powering through a hit-filled set, the intensity from the stage counteracts the occasionally messy sound. By the end of ‘Famous Friends and Fashion Drunks’ the crowd is left equally confounded and mesmerised by the bands distinctive style.

During the morning leading up to AC4 taking to the Etnies stage, hype begins to circulate around festival goers  – not least due to Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzén situated at the helm. Opening with a quick gambit cementing their position as no-frills hardcore punk, the hype appears to be justifiable. AC4 encourage the crowd to use the stage as they wish as the frontman develops an endearing sense of humour. Delivering seventeen tracks from the band’s two albums to date, ‘Detonate’, ‘Diplomacy Is Dead’ and ‘Breakout’ emerge as the most immediate when strained through Lyxzén’s vocal chords. In focusing on straightforward punk, AC4 successfully deliver one of the highlights of the weekend.

In complete contrast to this no-gimmick ethos, The Aquabats arrive on the main stage head to toe in their signature costume. Taking Reel Big Fish’s accolade as this year’s most theatrically entertaining band, the onstage banter is supported by a well-executed energetic performance. Although the crowd interaction and subsequent participation only leaves time for eight songs, everyone walking away following ‘Pool Party’ is guaranteed to have a smile on their face.

Emmure have lost some of the laddish bravado that hovered dangerously close to overshadowing their performance. Foregoing his usual jacket or heavy sweatshirt, frontman, Frankie Palmeri appears visibly unconstrained on stage. The overall delivery does little to break new ground for Emmure, yet performances such as these have allowed the band to rise to the top of their genre. With metalcore firmly on the Groezrock agenda Emmure certainly pack a punch.

With his distinctly English style few could predict how well Frank Turner would sit on the bill. Fortunately a modest crowd has gathered for a set built on predominantly upbeat tracks from his back catalogue. Supported by the ever-emerging sunshine, the final two numbers – ‘I Still Believe’ and ‘Photosynthesis’ – sound particularly euphoric. Although the usual crowd participation is minimised, presumably due to time and language constraints, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls still manage to generate an unembellished cheerful atmosphere at the main stage.

The first of two consecutive unconventional bookings on the Impericon Stage arrives in the guise of Texan alt-rock band …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of The Dead. Unquestionably contrasting with the majority of performers across the festival site, the epic nature of their compositions provides a welcome variation from the norm. Perhaps not to everyone’s taste – a number of onlookers leave the tent mere seconds into the first progressive instrumental – the band produce a foreboding atmosphere within the tent. Sadly, it is difficult to judge whether Reece and Keely are enjoying themselves as they switch from instrument to instrument. The final moment sees a monitor and drum-kit being flung into the crowd in what is either a misguided attempt at “rock and roll” or a result of frustration. Either way, the band offer something different yet not necessarily appropriate.

Texas Is The Reason face a similar battle with their first European show in 17 years. Switching between old and new songs, the band are substantially more engaging when the tempo is raised. Similarly, the newer material occasionally lacks the blurred beauty of ‘Do You Know Who You Are?’ Fortunately these minor issues can be forgiven in favour of Garrett Klahn’s unique vocals and the supporting airy instrumentals. The atmosphere in the tent is far removed from the remainder of the festival, and with a little emo on the bill it is exciting to witness the forefathers of the genre.

All that is left before the first day of Groezrock draws to a close is for Rise Against to predictably own the main stage. With onlookers spilling out of the sides of the tent, it is clear to see that the band continue to attract considerable crowds. Justified by their ability to pen catchy yet meaningful tracks, and through the delivery of errorless performances, Rise Against find themselves on top form as the festival reaches midnight. Perhaps unsurprisingly the likes of ‘Help Is On The Way’, ‘Prayer Of The Refugee’ and ‘Ready To Fall’ encourage the biggest sing-a-longs, while the appearances of Dave Hause for ‘Hero Of War’ and Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly on ‘Swing Life Away’ add an interesting dimension. It may be easy to tarnish the performance as yet another straightforward Rise Against show, yet when they do it this well that is not necessarily a negative.