Ieper Hardcore Festival 2014 review

Photos by Zac

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Last year, Sherry (JS) and Hackett (MH) came back from Belgium with smug smiles on their faces and stomped around London in that classic mosh pit swoop-a-penny-off-the-floor gorilla stance for a week after. So this year, myself (ZC) and James Batty (JB) followed them back to Ieper Hardcore Fest to get some ourselves, and we were not disappointed!

We loaded up the car and hit the road to the Channel Tunnel as my brow sweat pure rum and beer following no sleep and a hangover on a 9 from the House of Vans opening. Within four hours we’d arrived at the legendary war town just in time to see the dregs of ex-hurricane Bertha dumping heavy rain across the site. We arrived as drowned rats but were stoked on what these guys have created within minutes of getting our first beer down. Oh and if any people who run the festival are reading this, could you have massive beer glasses waiting for us next year? Thanks.

This festival is made up of three stages, vegan foods, merch and beer tents hosting over 100 bands from various ‘hardcore’ genres. It’s also surrounded by World War 1 battle fields that have just reached a 100 year anniversary this week so we felt honoured to pay some respects to the people that gave their lives to the cause and take in the history of this area. The mighty may have fallen here and that’s where I guess Ieper Hardcore Fest gets its strength from.

25 years ago, two crews, Republyk Vort’n Vis and Genet Records came together to launch an annual get together with guest bands. Originally set up as a vegan, straight edge festival, the line up of today consists of all forms of hardcore incorporating stoner, doom, metal core, grindcore and even pop punk, attracting legendary 80s punk bands, to current bands raging from all areas across the planet. If profit arrives then it’s split between both collectives to re-invest into future events, so essentially, Ieper is run from the heart with precision planning and a quest to entertain. And boy is it the best festival you will encounter anywhere! No stage security, no police presence, no branded marketing bullshit, just one big family getting together to share good times and amazing music. What more do you want? Enjoy what we witnessed and start planning your 2015 trip now.

Ph: Adolescents showing the Dead Kennedys how it’s done.

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Walking in to windblown Ieperfest site and we are met with Backtrack doing their best against the European weather to get the crowd in the mood. Their energetic brand of what a friend of mine terms ‘tough guy’ hardcore should really be winning them as many fans as bands like Turnstile (see later). Crunchy and memorable with something to say perhaps their steadfast refusal to simply recycle old riffs means they will take longer to break through.

One of the bands that I (and I’m sure a few others) were eager to see was Baltimore’s Angel Dust. Fairing a little better against the weather and relying heavily on their recent ‘AD’ record Angel Dust provided the crowd with a mix of melodic hardcore and that peculiar brand of punk that blends indie rock into the mix as well. These East coasters brought more than a bit of the West coast to a farmer’s field in Belgium and when they played ‘Big One’ it provided me with my first genuine shivers up the spine moment of the weekend. (JB)

Martyrdöd was up next and after being addicted to their new record ‘Elddop’ for the past few weeks (and yes all their songs do have titles that sound like furniture from a certain Swedish shop) I was expecting good things. Great band playing in a wonky little tent to even wonkier people their brand of innovative and uncompromising crusty punk/hardcore was almost perfect. I was hoping they’d be rocking the full stenchcore look and was a little disappointed to find a band that looked like rockstars (probably the only band this weekend) but at least it was a welcome change from the usual sloganeering hardcore garb worn by EVERYONE else at the festival. (JB)

So rad to see the Adolescents make the journey all the way to Ieper this year and they did not disappoint. Led by OG members Tony Cadena (vox) and Steve Soto (bass), this Californian crew raged through a mix of classic early 80s blue album tracks and brought the snarl of Rip It Up, to the speedy L.A. Girl, to the stomping Democracy, alongside a few new ones from Presumed Insolent and much more. The energy this lot still have is phenomenal and they even came back from a pulled guitar lead in style proving their professionalism ahead of full tent participation in a sing-a-long to Amoeba. Absolutely top draw. (ZC)

Ph: Skip (we don’t love you) McSkipster gets on his cabaret in front of the DKs.

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When was the last time you waited for the Dead Kennedys to follow an Adolescents set? Dream stuff right? Well, it was until East Bay Ray and his original team of D.H Peligro and Klaus Flouride hit the stage and forgot how to play songs they have been jamming their entire lives. I mean, to fall apart in a field on at least four songs with their experience and caliber is nothing short of a total disaster. Peligro seemed to be playing in another band at one point and foolishly took to the mic to piss on what’s left of their legacy by telling us how the Dutch have a long illustrious history of resisting fascism. Wrong country and wrong war my friend and that’s exactly where you miss Jello tenfold.

Not even the efforts of stand in vocalist Skip McSkipster could pull this disaster back from the dead as they fumbled through classics such as California Über Alles, Too Drunk to Fuck, Let’s Lynch the Landlord and more. But Jello’s lack of presence is not really a talking point, remembering the basics of how to play songs is. After reading Alex Ogg’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables: The Early Years book only last week I was hyped for this show, but unfortunately they just had a stinker.(ZC)

Ieperfest may bill itself as a ‘hardcore’ festival and largely the cap fits but they do stick on some moments of respite here and there, well when I say respite I actually mean variation because you won’t catch your breath watching the non HC bands. There’s always a smattering of grindcore on the bill and this year saw the return of the death-grind behemoths Terrorizer. This trio, back in action after legendary, former Morbid Angel drummer Pete Sandoval recovered from a back surgery operation and today he’s playing to win. The utter intensity, heaviness and precision speed noise that these three people make is crushing as tracks from the seminal ‘World Downfall’ record steamroller by. Sure, the drums sound a bit triggered but his percussional dexterity is second to none. A welcome assault on the senses and break from all the beatdown around us. (MH)

Ph: Terrorizer fucking ripped!

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In total contrast to the earlier grind-out it’s time for some straight up Oi! street punk by Mr punk rock royalty himself, Lars Fredrickson and his Old Firm Casuals. Put to one side all the Fred Perry’s, Millwall chants and pseudo hooligan imagery and this is Lars doing what he does best, playing great punk rock tunes, backed up by a more than capable band. The Old Firm Casuals tear through many an anthemic song culled from their debut ‘For The Love Of It All’ and the newly released ‘This Means War’, Lars switching vocals intermittently with growlier bassist Casey Watson. Sure, tracks like the cheesy ‘Lone Wolf’ makes it sound like they wish so bad they were born in Canning Town but this isn’t rocket science, its good old pogoing, street punk and done fucking well. There’s a reason this guy is where he is, he can write damn fine song after song. Believe. (MH)

Ph: No Warning get ready to drop bombs.

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Friday’s headliners No Warning have awoken from a ten year slumber, a brush with a major label and a misplaced Linkin Park sounding second album only to be greeted with rapturous applause and lemmings flying from the stage right from the off. Crunching out the majority of their 90’s HC influenced, riff-monster debut album ‘Ill Blood’ this Canadian five piece prove their headline worthiness with ease and you have to laugh at their reluctance to play the tracks from their Nu Metal approved’ Suffer, Survive’ album the way they recorded them. This is forty five minutes of proper hardcore ferocity, complete with flying bodies and muddy pit warriors and is the perfect way to end day one of the annual European gathering of the hardcore hordes. (MH)

Cold World are a bit of a square peg in a round hole at times. On record they mix a Life Of Agony style powerhouse chug flanked by atmospheric hip hop intermissions, in a live environment without all the backing trimmings they become an riff monster beatdown machine and the main stage this evening buckled under their weight. The menacing double guitar attack turned the pit and stage into a mosh frenzy all conducted by their man mountain frontman marching up and down the stage, throwing back the pouncing moshers into the pit in his wake. The duration of their set resembles some bizarre tag team wrestling match of invaders grabbing for the mic only to be tossed aside as the biggest of their beatdown numbers from new album ‘How The Gods Chill’ are unveiled. Don’t mess with this lot. (MH)

Ph: Chi Pig from SNFU knows that If You Swear, You’ll Catch No Fish.

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But you can mess with Chi Pig from SNFU as it seems he is bang up for it. Especially after he launched onto his knees in his sparkly dress and looked like he mouthed the penis of his bassist who stood naked with his two-pence worth hanging out towards the end of a great set. It may have been a rather torrid surprise but SNFU were on great form smashing out hits like it was 1985 and entertaining a crowd who were simply in awe of these Canadians. The set spanned through the years with She’s Not On The Menu from their raging first album ..And No One Else Wanted to Play, to far too many others to write about. You should have been there! (ZC)

Ph: Leonard Graves Phillips from The Dickies proved they were no muppets.

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A firm favorite of mine in the 80s and 90s, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Leonard Graves Phillips and his Dickies live and it’s immediately apparent that they’ve lost none of their fun and energy. Sure, their act and set hasn’t changed since their inception in the late 70s, banging out their infamous amped up and cranked up cover versions (‘Nights In White Satin’, ‘Paranoid’) and their own hits ‘Gigantor’ and ‘Your Drive Me Ape’, complete with Leonard’s various puppet shows and props. Their fun and energy is as infectious as it ever was. (JS)

Ph: The Dickies brought the best props of the weekend..

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Ph: Repulsion were filth.

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Drummers are such sluts. Chris Moore has and still plays drums for a heap of incredible hardcore and grindcore bands; Coke Bust, Magrudergrind, Sectarian Violence, Sick Fix and DOV have all felt the insane power of his blastbeats and now he can add eighties Michigan grindcore/death metal legends Repulsion to his CV. And boy does he rise to the challenge for Repulsion! It’s unlikely he had much chance to rehearse with the band but when they kick into ‘The Stench Of Burning Death’ from their one and only cult album ‘Horrified’ (a riff much copied by Napalm Death, upon whom Repulsion were an enormous influence), Chris leans back and peels out an insanely brutal hard-hitting blast beat as original members Scott Carlson (vocals/bass) and Matt Olivo (guitar) carve out guttural growls and grinding guitars, whilst I just stop and perv at the drummer. (JS)

Ph: Antidote smashed it. Please come to the UK soon.

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This is, believe it or not, is the first ever European gig for New York hardcore veterans Antidote. They recorded the incredible ‘Thou Shall Not Kill’ EP in 1983, followed it with a ‘rock’ album in later years but barely played outside of the NY area. Like many of these bands, their cult status has swelled over the years and as the they hit the stage tonight in the small ‘Trench’ tent, they couldn’t look more excited to be here. “We’ve waited a long time to come here,” bellows vocalist Drew Stone. “Let’s make this special.” And they do, detonating across the stage as they charge through tracks from that debut EP and their recently released new album ‘No Peace In Our Time’ as the crowd goes totally nuts. Their sheer enthusiasm and joy to finally be playing in Europe makes this one of the best sets of the whole Ieperfest weekend. That, combined with covers of Black Flag’s ‘Rise Above’ and a Minor Threat medley pushes the crowd to whole new levels of lunacy and showcases everything that is special about hardcore. Let’s hope they get their collective butts over to these shores again for a full tour as soon as possible because you NEED to see this shit. (JS)

It’s tough to think of many better ways to end a Saturday night at a punk rock festival than a headline set from NYHC legends Gorilla Biscuits. One of the most fun, positive and melodic (without being cheesy) bands to emerge from the era, they look like they’re having as much fun as the crowd tonight as stage divers fly through the air and everyone jumps around to the likes of ‘Big Mouth’ and ‘Start Today’. Sure the sound isn’t great and the guitars could be louder, but when the tunes and the vibes are this good who gives a fuck. Gorilla Biscuits legendary status is very much deserved and on tonight’s evidence, unlike other older reformed bands, they are not pissing on it. (JS)

Ph: DOA’s Joey Shithead and SNFU’s Chi Pig put the Canadian’s right on the map on Saturday

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While there has been some very disappointing cancellations to the line-up this year, most notably Infest, Poison Idea and Night Birds, the last minute addition of legendary seventies Belgium punks The Kids was a very pleasant addition to the bill. Having originally formed in 1976, their original 1978 self-titled album is a stone-cold classic that has grown in cult status over the years and the band are greeted like the local heroes that they are today as the heavy rain that has been pounding the festival site this morning begins to subside. The Kids bring out the sun!

Ok, so they’re not ‘kids’ anymore obviously, but as the band charge through the classic first wave punk sounds of ‘No Monarchy’ and ‘Do You Wanna Know’, alongside charged up covers of The Clash’s ‘White Riot’ and Wire’s ‘I2XU’, the youthful energy of the music radiates through. This stuff never ages, it’s just classic rock n’roll and all around, even the most hardened metalcore beatdown kids are grinning from ear to ear. The Kids have an infectious energy that denies their age and it was a real treat to get to see them today. They sound fantastic.

Another real treat of the weekend was the chance to see eighties Italian hardcore originators Indigesti. There was always something unhinged, wild and crazy about Italian 80s punk. Bands like Raw Power, Wretched, Negazione and Indigesti spearheaded the movement and it’s great to see some of those originators are still cutting it. Sadly, only a few Ieper punters come and watch the band tear through a set of jarring hardcore but it’s their loss and it doesn’t stop the band from throwing their all into the music as singer Andrea Franchino prowls the stage barking out the lyrics in that thick Italian accent we all grew to love from these records in the 80s. Having originally disbanded in 1987, after a 14 year break the band got back together again and the fire still burns strong in their collective guts. Long may it burn. (JS)

Ph: Colin Conflict is an Unstoppable Force.

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Ph: East Bay Ray listens to the sound of disbelief as the DKs die at Ieper.

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The More Than Music and vegan food area was a real treat at times providing a welcome oasis of calm and an opportunity to gather your thoughts in amongst what is a truly relentless barrage of music. Yes it’s a bit naff (there was a fanzine library ffs!) but it is impossible to create an seemingly open forum for meaningful debate and education at an event such as this without being a bit corny and the organisers had really put their heart and soul into it and it would be needlessly virulent to hold it against them. Same time next year it is! (JB)

Ph: An amazing selection of vinyl was on display.

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Ph: And tees…make sure you don;t miss this next year..

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