Can anyone else believe that Groezrock is TWENTY FIVE YEARS OLD? Us neither, but there’s nothing we enjoy more than a trip to Belgium for a punk festival, so we jumped on the Eurostar to spend the weekend celebrating this momentous occasion with them.
We’ve been to Groezrock a bunch of different ways, and it has to be said that taking the Eurostar if you live in London is probably the least stressful way to do it. It also means no one has to be a designated driver, so the beers were out the second our 8 strong group took our seats (let’s not talk about what time it was). Needless to say, we were in high spirits by the time we reached Brussels, and by the time we reached where we were staying, we were in full holiday mode. Oostappen Vakantiepark is a holiday park that’s about 20 minutes in a taxi from the festival site – we’ve done camping and stayed in similar places before, and it’s all down to what you want to get out of the festival really.
This year’s Groezrock didn’t land on a national holiday as per usual, so proceedings kicked off a little later on the Friday, but this meant a leisurely morning of improvised coffee and nearby, fairly terrible trombone playing before we headed to the site to sink our teeth into the amazing line up ahead.
Before we knew, wristbands were attached, The Aggrolites were on and Just Like Your Mom’s delicious vegan burgers were being swallowed whole. As a long time veggie and very new vegan it was love at first bite, and we worked our way through the menu across the weekend (to the delight of our tastebuds).
The later afternoon involved Four Year Strong, Less Than Jake and Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls all being brilliant before we took a well earned break to check out the first of two merch markets.
Fairtrade, eco-friendly, and generally good-for-everyone was definitely a theme of the festival extending from the bands to the markets to food vendors, and plenty of the traders represented more than just a t-shirt. Animal Rights, PETA2, Sea Shepherd and Hardcore Help Foundation were all in attendance to shine a spotlight on their important causes.
The weather attempted to be an issue but thankfully Germany’s Homesick Merch had me covered in their signature black beanie keeping me snug for the walk to the Band Merch Market on the other side of the site.
Selling everything from lighters and patch packs to t-shirts, windbreakers and joggers (ahem, Hatebreed) from across the line up. In between the wears of Rancid, Frank Turner and of course the official Groezrock merch, one Four Year Strong shirt caught my eye thanks in no small part to the white type on black jersey which apparently I just can’t get enough of at the moment.
A beer or two later, Hatebreed got their mitts on us in a truly beautiful manner, warming us up perfectly for the main event in one big lovely mosh. Naturally, Rancid’s performance of “And Out Come The Wolves…” in full was Friday’s tour de force, especially with a few b-sides chucked in for good measure. The rest of the evening got a little out of hand (as is tradition), but Groezrock really felt like home after we missed last year, and even the chilly weather didn’t put us off.
Surprisingly, Saturday morning came and went in a blur, and in good time we were back on site raring to go. Our first band of the day was the excellent Bad Cop / Bad Cop tearing up the Watch Out Stage, and they were easily one of the top bands of the weekend for us.
Taking a short respite between The Movielife and Mad Caddies on the Monster Energy Stage, we revisited the two markets, the larger of which extended outside of the big top into a sort of shopping cul de sac. Inside the tent vendors such as Fat Wreck Chords, Call It Home, Holy Roar, and Death Shred tempted us to the exact point of SHUTUPANDTAKEOURMONEY. Whatever they did, it worked and we came away with treasures from Mysticum Luna and one very wicked Madball cap.
Paying a visit to Bite Back proved positive and after a motivational natter with them, picked up the “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World” cookbook. We fully vouch for the peanut butter cupcakes I baked on our return to London.
After this, we got a dose of the UK’s own Moose Blood, who looked right at home closing the Watch Out Stage for the weekend. The likes of “Honey” and “Bukowski” trickled out to enthusiastic ears. Seeing PUP and Moose Blood’s brands of punk and emo led us to Saturday’s main event – Sum 41.
The Canadian pop punk heroes dug out the greats from their effervescent back catalogue running in most part from “All Killer No Filler”, “Half Hour Of Power” and “Does This Look Infected?”. No complaints here. Sum 41 played a rip roarer, quite perfectly closing the 2016 weekender and 25th anniversary of Groezrock. ‘In Too Deep’ into ‘Fat Lip’ leading into the encore was something else, and it’s great to see the band back commanding the big stages with ease.
Groezrock 2016 was a blur of Jupiler, punk, great merch and friends, and we cannot wait for 2017 as it’s right up there with the best festivals in the world.