Live Reviews

Groezrock Festival 2009

17th -18th April

Crossfire headed across the sea the other weekend to experience what we’d come to conclude is one of the most fun festivals ever. Groezrock is pretty miniscule compared to most UK fests (Download, Reading and Leeds etc) but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in sheer quality of bands. And the cherry beer works in its favour too! In itself, the fact that it’s slightly more on the ‘quaint’ side, makes the long days a lot more manageable and less exhausting than many other more epicly proportioned outdoor music events.

The Friday started off rather slowly with an ungodly early start to the journey in London town which ultimately led us to the Belgian countryside via a slightly un-nerving ‘town’ which consisted of one pub, a train station and a roadside trailer cafe. We stopped off for a few drinks in the pub and, joy of joys, discovered that smoking is still legal in such establishments! Downside – apparently vinegar doesn’t exist in Belgium. Chips without vinegar? What are they thinking?? On arriving at the festival site (after almost being killed by what would affectionately become known as the ‘grebo-bus’) we were faced with a jam-packed queue for camping wristbands. Not fun. That was pretty much the only grievance of the weekend though…

The sounds of YOU ME AT SIX on the main stage were filtering through as we erected our tent and we legged it to the arena just in time for the astounding UNITED NATIONS.

The first band of the weekend for our crew was, for the majority of us, the best band of the weekend. Or one of them at least – it was kind of hard to choose! Fronted by a frenetic Geoff Rickly (of Thursday fame), the assembled band also consisted of members from Glassjaw and Converge. Daryl Palumbo may have been missing but I’m at a loss to seeing how Glassjaw’s frontman could have made this any more of a thrilling, visceral performance. Driven by Rickly’s quite impressively agressive vocal stylings, the band pounded through their (too short) set which, for want of a more sophisticated description, came across as a heavier and more frenzied version of a Thursday set. What made it unique was its ferocity, speed and melding of at least three incredible, perhaps even seminal, bands’ aesthetics.

A short skip over to the second stage to catch most of INNERPARTYSYSTEM‘s set didn’t disappoint. Newbies on mainland Europe, the band brought their A-game as usual with their electro and beats-fuelled rock clearly impressing the significant crowd gathered. We saw a little bit of Senses Fail but were in need of a bit of respite before the hectic night ahead so headed to the bar for the first of many drinks-ticket-bought beverages.

The next act we wanted to take a look at happened to be the UK’s very own BRING ME THE HORIZON. This turned out to be a not-so-pleasant experience as we almost got crushed to death. However, before the stampede reached its height and running away was necessary, we experienced ‘The Comedown‘ which sounded brutal as ever and seemed to act as a magnet drawing every single person in the vicinity of the stage (if not everyone in attendance at the festival) into the tent they were playing. Very cool but a little bit scary if you’re not really up for a circle-pit. UNDEROATH incite a similar manic response over in the main tent with their unbelievably tight mix of melody and aggression whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

A perfectly measured set of crowd-pleasing tunes from a band that never seem to put a foot wrong in the live arena. And so to TAKING BACK SUNDAY… It was definitely a singalong-fest and they sure do know how to play the hits. I just can’t help feeling that there was something ever so slightly lacklustre about the performance when you got passed the immediate brilliance of it all. Don’t get me wrong, they were great. But it wasn’t their best day. It may be to be expected but they are clearly quite over playing ‘Cute Without The E‘. We’re not over hearing it though! Also, the new songs didn’t really hit home the way the classics did so let’s hope they’re growers!

THURSDAY were another highlight (this festival was pretty much highlight after highlight, mind). I think I was a bit awe-struck by the near-perfection of their set. ‘Understanding In A Car Crash‘ and ‘Cross Out The Eyes‘ rolled out over the crowd amassed with ease yet still with a vibrancy that so many other bands lack or fail to quite capture. The most recent tracks such as ‘Resuscitation of A Dead Man‘ and ‘Friends In The Armed Forces‘ crashed forth with a cathartic energy that consumed anyone with half a brain. The closer was the utterly emotional ‘War All The Time‘ which sounded poignant as ever, if slightly ruined by the crowd clapping along to start with (yeah, they didn’t keep in time. And it’s not a song for clap-alongs anyway. But I guess that’s just my opinion.) The evening couldn’t get any better for me but it did continue in the same vein with much animated enthusing about the day that had been and the day that was to unfold tomorrow.

Day two and we were all suffering slightly from the effects of tent-dwelling. The ground underneath my back was particularly lumpy. We didn’t know it yet but Sharpie-graffiti was to be the order of the day. Yes, we may as well be twelve years old with our ‘Meerhout ’09’ and ‘LOLZ,ROFL’ knuckle tattoos. There’s no lie-in here since the bands start at 10am. We take a little time getting into proceedings however and the first band of the day for us is the incredible THE GHOST OF A THOUSAND who absolutely slay the crowd in a slot which was originally H20’s. Relatively new to mainland Europe, the band show the Belgians what they’re made of and exactly why they’re so deserving of a coveted slot on Epitaph Records’ roster.

THE ACADEMY IS… provide the poppy relief on a day filled to the brim with stellar metal and hardcore. Frontman William Beckett leads his troupe in a set of oldies and new gems whilst an intent (if not packed out) crowd bob heads and sing along.

Back to the meaty stuff and DARKEST HOUR are next on our hitlist. The shredders are on good form and totally command the people there to see them with riffy goodness and excited stage antics. Following a short nap, we head over to join one of the biggest crowds of the weekend in the second tent for COMEBACK KID. After squeezing our way in, the band start up reeling off rousing hits from ‘Turn It Around’ to ‘Broadcasting...’ and proving to be the perfect soundtrack to many festival-goers’ weekends. A band that never fails to impress.

A swift move to THE GET UP KIDS‘ performance is in order now and it’s a sprint for many as tearing yourself away from a CBK set before the end is never easy.

The Get Up Kids pull out a set which is perfectly executed. Exactly what you’d expect but brilliant nonetheless. Their flawless collection of old and new material is rounded off by a trio of awesomeness – ‘Don’t Hate Me’, ‘Ten Minutes‘ and ‘Walking On A Wire‘.

Some celebratory cherry beer followed the day’s events and, excepting a slightly hellish journey home, we realised that this festival is one that’s definitely worth returning to.

Words by Sarah Maynard
Photos by Amandine Eap