The Tales of Meerhout – Volume III : Groezrock 2016

Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

First things first, it’s day 1, weather is wonderful (joking) and the very first steps that led us into the field only confirmed one thing: our stop at the campers’ shop earlier in Brussels was the best decision we made. In fact, at this right moment, our wellies made us feel invincible…Which wasn’t – exactly – the case for our friends and other colleagues. Setting the tent once again in the dark has been wonderfully adventurous, but we knew drinks were waiting for us, as well as a long opening party-night. Good thing is that day one does not officially kick off until 4pm the next day. I mean…It’s comforting to know that you are actually going to have enough hours of sleep, no matter how long you party at night.
It feels like Groezrock 2016 had something refreshing (not the weather) as it happened to be slightly different from the previous years, in terms of setting and in terms of line up as well.

-THE MUD-

This year, a high maintenance physique was definitely required. And good gear. We checked both boxes thankfully and despite being swallowed by the mud every two steps or so, we were ready to rock the festival grounds. Or should we say, the festival bayou.

—THE CHANGES – So, what’s new?

Orientation changed, stages changed, new names and the Macbeth Stage is no more. Therefore, there’s no “public” voting system to bring up and coming bands to the festival, but there’s  still an outdoor “Watch Out” stage. In the end, its purpose is relatively similar. All in all, there are less bands on the bill, but it isn’t too bad.
There used to be an acoustic stage a few years ago, at Groezrock, where we could enjoy the likes of Dustin Kensrue or Rob Lynch playing heartwarming unplugged sets and this is probably one of the “good old” Groezrock things that we’ve been missing. However, this year, the cool people over at American Socks hosted some (semi) acoustic performances, including Frank Turner and that crazy one from Call It Off in their tiny, tiny stall.

Speaking of acoustic, some hidden gems recorded behind the scenes of Just Like Your Mom catering stand have made an appearance online recently. We’re not going to say anything more, just watch it here : Mom’s Living Room Sessions.

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– THE LEGENDS –

Rancid – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

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Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

Of course what’s everyone’s expecting from Groezrock is to be able to see some punk legends at least once in a lifetime and the festival proudly provides. Rancid put on of the best ever performances we’ve seen at a festival and despite not even being pressured in the middle of the crowd, the atmosphere was fantastic, great songs have been played played in addition to ‘And Out Come The Wolves’ in its entirety. Happiness was palpable and that’s what we love about Groezrock.
Speaking of legends, No Use For A Name and Friends offered us a solemn moment of music, with numerous guests such as . Led by Joey Cape, No Use For A Name played as a tribute to Tony Sly.
To some extent, The Movielife also brought that same kind of vibe, where it seems like your role models are showing you what real shit is. While their return was an event itself, frontman Vinnie Caruana, however is a regular of Groezrock (he already played solo and with his other band I Am The Avalanche.) The band made a super appreciated performance, as their never forgotten “oldies” were much awaited in our shores. Fair play to Groezrock for bringing The Movielife to Belgium!

Second headliners of 2016 were punk rockers in Sum 41. A safe bet, since many people of our generation were happy to welcome Sum41 back on stage, after a few dark years, due to singer Deryck Whibley’s serious health issues. In all seriousness, I even caught myself smiling every time I saw Deryck smiling. Sum 41 are good performers and know how to involve their crowds. Delving through all their classics, such as Still Waiting, The Hell Song, In Too Deep, their set was nothing but a gathering of joy and positivity, where this atmosphere of enjoyment and acceptance that is very particular to Groezrock could show.

Oh wait…Have you ever attended fully Groezrock if you haven’t seen Me First and the Gimme Gimmes? Awarded Best Cover Band In The World 1996-2017.

This is probably what makes us come back every year. Yes line ups are always awesome, but it takes more than just one bill to make a festival great, to make a festival feel like home (almost. Our homes aren’t as cold)

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-THE FEELS-

Moose Blood – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

See, sometimes you know what’s coming and you are definitely ready to be overwhelmed with feelings and emotions of all sorts. What you’re not ready for is the intensity that comes with it, which is exactly what happened for us as we watched Pup and Moose Blood on Saturday evening (second day). What we were definitely not read for, either, is the collateral damage that both sets caused, with the surprising, endless stage dives, crowdsurf, and all sorts of mosh pit shenanigans. Pup had those lively punk tracks and sort of performance that allows a little bit of mess, which didn’t come as a complete surprise, when things started heating up . The outstanding scenery made it even more magical, as we got to witness the performance, while the sun was beautifully setting. The landscape somehow fitted the music so much, we could drop a little tear.
But for Moose Blood, the surprise was pleasing and gave an entirely different mood to their music and what their performance can be all about. Emo is a gang and the gang got hooked. The gang even went out of control. Other than that, Moose Blood performed the very first single taken from upcoming album ‘Blush’. You said Honey? We say explosive.
There’s only one word to describe these two performances succeeding : Overwhelming.
But just one thing : what’s with all this kissing-the-performers-on-stage hype, Belgium?

You know how Anthony Green’s trademark is “real magic”? That’s how we would describe Saosin’s performance on day 1 of Groezrock 2016. Seeing Saosin reunited on stage was one of our highlights of this festival. What a delight to watch Beau Burchell’s endless smiles, as crowd was bonding with the band’s music, with an intensity that is so rare nowadays. Silver Linings sounded fabulous and only got us even more hyped for the band’s next release, that was due on (xxx).

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-THE HIGHLIGHTS-

Letlive. – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

The one band that will always “steal the show” is without any doubt, letlive. The chaos that originates from their performances is certainly one of the most delightful experiences anyone can have in this musical landscape. Jason Butler is such an incredible performer and shares so much passion and intensity, that it’s difficult to remain imprevious, The band gladly shared their stage with the crowd that had no barricades keeping them away, Butler destroyed everything, hugged everyone and sang with his listeners. He even climbed the tent structures. People stage dived, 1 member of team P/I’s fell under one of them. And still, we ALL love letlive., we really do. The band even offered us a foretaste of all these beautiful things they were preparing for us, including that Good Mourning America song. What a beautiful piece of art!
We would never, ever get enough of letlive. So obviously, we left the tent wanting for more, speculating about the new album and making mental memos to check if there were any other tour dates we could attend after the festival.

Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

Other than that, the coolest Franks we know brought along their friends, namely The Sleeping Souls and The Rattlesnakes to show Meerhout ways to have fun. As in really have fun. Frank Turner (and the Sleeping Souls) have such class and as the set unfolds, it’s easy to notice these guys are actually punks at heart. Frank is also quite a fun character who tells a good story. We learned later that the phenomenal performance included medical issues from Turner’s side. Phew!

To those of you who are looking for absolute madness, always count on Frank Carter to do the trick (to exauce your wishes). That redhead is arguably one of the best frontmen out there. And the Rattlesnakes are just the perfect match to his insanity. He won’t let you stay put, and obviously, he won’t stay put neither, he will climb the structures… Remember when he made half a tent run in a circle pit that goes out of the tent two years ago while having his last moments on stage with Pure Love? Well he did again. And despite the mud, people had to obey. And things probably just got more impressive when the crowd invaded the stage during ‘I hate You’ and Frank kept singing while held by the fans. So as he says, rightfully, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes are you new favorite band, because the genuine joy, love and passion coming out of their stage is contagious.

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-THE NEWBIES-

Hellions – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

It is no news that Hellions are some of our favorite current hardcore (with a twist) bands, ever since their (re)birth from the ashes of the infamous The Bride. We’ve been keeping close attention to what they were doing, each release sounding one step closer to international success. 2,5 years in, the finally stepped on the old continent, first drawing curiosity (while supporting Northlane on a decent headliner), then catching attention. They’ll be causing trouble next! It also comes with no surprise that with our constant bad luck, we’ve been keeping on missing half of their sets because they always play first and we’re still queuing outside. Groezrock was no exception. And the rain didn’t help. However, the few minutes spent under the tent where the aussies were playing were well worth the run across the festival field and the little pressure coming along. No worries though, we eventually made it safe and sound to our destination. Hellions, fronted by an overly energetic Dre Faivre were pleasing and pleased. They even took advantage of their short slot to test the waters with a new track (editor’s note: Quality of life, which will be featured on their upcoming album ‘Opera Oblivia’). Other than that, they played their classic tacks such as Nottingham, Hellions, The Great Fab

Rozwell Kid – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

We kinda fell for the cute set Rozwell Kid played, because the tent was far from being packed but people definitely showed up, including that guy who knew all the lyrics and somehow decided he wanted to perform with the band.
But really, Rozwell Kid’s tunes were enjoyable, their tunes made everyone smile, as for us…we couldn’t help but think that SideOneDummy Records never fails in picking the right bands, to release music with! So in sum, here’s another band you should at to your list of…”To listen and follow closely.”

What’s also worth a mention was that triumphant performance of a band we’re truly fond of. Our story with Modern Baseball started at the end of 2013. Back then, they were kinda outsiders, kinda gaining some weird Internet popularity. Does anyone remember their first euro show in Europe, in Eindhoven in 2014? One of the highlights of that show that day was “Hashtag The Internet” and who knew Hashtag The Internet (and many other things obviously) would take them to Groezrock two years later? Not us. Their arising popularity wasn’t easy for us to jauge as we still see them as this underground punk band no one really knows but everyone has heard of. Or at least, that was the case before we saw them at Groezrock. But Modern Baseball went through a lot, as humans and they sing about all these things. Things that build people’s lives, issues a lot of people can relate to. Modern Baseball are somehow your life in introspect and that undoubtedly speaks to our generation.
The show went nuts pretty quickly. You could tell the guys were genuinely surprised and also overwhelmed by the (unexpected?) response they’ve been given in Meerhout.

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– THE USUAL SUSPECTS-

Four Year Strong – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

Northlane – Another band that doesn’t need introductions. Nothing has changed: These guys are still talented musicians, who play some real sharp performances and obviously know what they’re doing and where they’re headed. What we weren’t expecting, however, was their new stage “dressing”: all black, with black body painting and even full black (scary) lenses for guitarist Jon Dolley. It somehow added an interesting aesthetic dimension that fitted well with their music, confirming once again that these guys have a sound knowledge of was to craft a band’s identity. Despite some vocal adjustments that are still to be made, Marcus Bridge keeps on proving that he is the frontman Northlane needed. He’s evolving quite the right way with his band and it only shows that the obvious hard work they put into Northlane’s future as a collective has definitely started to pay off in (the less than) two years since he has joined the band.

You can always count on the daddies of (ska) Punk to provide you with exciting party-vibes any time, anywhere and Groezrock’s mainstage was perfect fit for them and their wide array of gear. The confetti on top of all this They put on such a fun show – literally a show – that even the sun started showing up outside the tent, acting like instant mood-riser.
In the same “mood-rising” perspective, Four Year Strong made a well appreciated appearance, although we would have appreciated a smaller format than mainstage. Not that they don’t deserve it, but it’s odd having them so high and so far.

There are bands that never fail to impress and who could pack venues and stages even if they played both festival days probably. If you want to actually watch the performance, you’d probably need to get there well in advance (and also fight for your life, but that’s another story). So we mostly heard the likes of Hatebreed (who indeed do destroy everything, every time), Terror and Sick Of It All from afar and guessed the chaos as we witnessed bodies and belongings flying in the air.

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-WOMEN OF PUNK – 

Bad Cop, Bad Cop – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

Women in music, especially in punk, still sometimes need to impose their presence, which can come as a little struggle at times. Groezrock seems to keep this aspect in mind and has reunited quite some badass women this year, under the spotlights, including the mainstage, for Juliette Lewis, as in Juliette and the Licks. From Hollywood to the MainStage of the coolest punk and hardcore festival ever? Hell yes!

Bad Cop, Bad Cop, won our hearts and played one of our favorite sets of the weekend,with their 1990s-inspired punk. Although you can hear the influence of the likes of No Use For A Name in their sound, these girls definitely have a unique take on that type of music. But even beyond that, we loved their ability to unite people around their performance and really connect with the people watching them.
There’s also Muncie Girls, who have been under our rather for most of the past few months, especially after the release of their awaited debut ‘From Caplan To Belize’. The trio gathered many people around them for a sweet performance, creating an intimate vibe inside the tent. Led by Lande Hekt’s touching voice and meaningful lyrics, Muncie Girls sound like an absolute pleasure to the ears that we cannot recommend enough.
It is also worth to mention that Walls of Jericho once again did a solid appearance in front of a packed Impericon Stage. Walls Of Jericho have just recently released ‘No One Can Save You From Yourself’.

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-DISCOVERING –

The Dirty Nil – Groezrock 2016 © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

Okay, we’re late to the party, but how badass is The Dirty Nil? We had just randomly decided that we could check out The Dirty Nil because why not? While putting together our schedule (a few days earlier, in our infamous HQ Canadian pub in France, yeah) and boy they did not disappoint! Even though we did only see portion of their set, we got immediately hooked on their quality rock’n’roll, and we will definitely go watch them properly as soon as we have an opportunity.

Not exactly a new name either, but catching a glimpse of The Bennies live (and hearing some of their songs in full, for that matter) was a first for us. The least we can say is that these guys know how to put on a ripper show, mate.
Yet another Melbourne export, Clowns caused complete mayhem at their stage. We unfortunately only got to only catch sight of their performance, on the go but boy, that was impressive! Clowns are exactly what we want from punk and hardcore. Wanna see what it looked like? Check this out : Clowns @ Watch Out! Stage of Groezrock.

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Groezrock 2016 ft. the mud © Gaëlle Pitrel // www.plugin-mag.com

-THE CONS-

Sadly, we had to miss both Mad Caddies’ appearances because of terribly unfortunate stage clashes & same went for Youth of Today. This is what it takes to have such a wide taste in music: you basically want (need) to watch the whole line up at quality festivals. But you don’t. Then you cry.
To be fair, stage clashes have been particularly gentle to us this year, so we’re definitely not complaining.

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Joking aside, we had YET another pleasingly successful year in Meerhout (minus the mud) and we can’t wait to hear what’s coming next from Groezrock. One thing for sure: SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

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