What we learned at Groezrock 2016

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The Dirty Nil Could End Up Being Massive

They don’t quite fit in with the rest of the punktastic bill here at Groezrock, but Canadian trio The Dirty Nil look like a band that are primed to live far higher up festival bills in the future. Yes, there’s a big dollop of early Green Day in their look, and they throw in a cover of Misfits classic Last Caress to keep the natives happy. But there is much more of a Cobain sandpaper rasp to frontman Luke Bentham’s voice, and his bubblegum blowing, windmilling stage persona is straight from the Pete Townshend school of guitar heroics. The fact that they’ve a set of perfect three minute alt-rock bangers in their collective back pockets means you shouldn’t be too shocked to see them become a bigger deal sooner rather than later.

Indoor Stages Can Be A Godsend

You’re at a festival so let’s face it; it’s going to rain innit. That’s why it proves to be a masterstroke by the Groezrock organisers to put all of their three main stages under tents and away from the elements. As Less Than Jake parp through a set of joyous, sunny, beer-drinking ska, the sky falls down outside. This would usually ruin the vibe of music so reliant on a happy-go-lucky attitude, but not today! We can skank our day away with no fear of drowning. Lovely stuff.

Walls Of Jericho Are Back, And Better Than Ever

You know when a band comes back after a lengthy hiatus with a new album? Normally you’d pull a disgusted face if they then decided to play most of that new album in their live set wouldn’t you? Well not today, and not with Walls Of Jericho. As great as it is just to see them back onstage causing umpteen levels of chaos, the real thrill of their set is in hearing new material from their excellent new album No One Can Save You From Yourself. The fact that the all stagediving, all circle-pitting crowd that stretches all the way to the outside of the tent goes an extra shade of batshit is telling, but not as much as the fact that WOJ rely so heavily on said material. That’s some return.

Hatebreed Don’t Play Bad Shows

It’s a bit of a cliché, having been said so many times since their emergence, but the parallels between Hatebreed and Slayer are so blindingly obvious that it is always worth repeating. Like the thrash legends at their finest, Hatebreed are a precision machine of neck-snapping brutality and must be truly terrifying to have to try and follow. You know exactly what you’re going to get, but that doesn’t make their meld of metallic riffs, hardcore stomp and Jamey Jasta’s hyperactive drill sergeant persona any less fucking stunning… AGAIN!

Rancid Are The Punkest Punks Here

Even for a festival that exists solely to celebrate punk rock, Rancid stand out as a glorious throwback to punk’s golden age. Yes they may have formed around the time that the major labels started sniffing around and snaffling up every chancer in a Descendants shirt, but Rancid still look like they belong alongside The Clash and Ramones far more than they do Blink 182 or The Offspring. Playing breakthrough album …And Out Come The Wolves in its entirety before heading back out for a twenty-minute greatest hits encore, they turn the clocks back to a time before punk rock became a fashion statement. They might have been tarred with the ‘plastic punk’ card over the years, but can you really argue with a set that contains Roots Radicals, Time Bomb, Maxwell Murder, Radio, Salvation, Fall Back Down and Ruby Soho? These are classic punk songs delivered by a classic band. And, in Tim Armstrong, they have a magnetic focal point – a man who can’t sing, can’t play guitar, can barely even stand up, but is still cooler than you’ll ever be. That’s punk rock.

Frank Carter Is A Naughty Boy

Early on Saturday is not the best time to be causing trouble. With the hungover hordes trying to ease themselves back into the day, Frank Carter And The Rattlesnakes step onstage and proceed to push, prod and cajole those present into putting their fragile bodies on the line. Carter continually pleas for more bodies onstage, climbs up a pole in the middle of the tent, and then finally incites a full-scale stage invasion during the closing I Hate You. That’s all well and good, but the little tinker would be nothing if it weren’t for the set of furious punk rock that he and his band dish out. Fangs and Juggernaut both slam, and they even treat us to a new song that keeps the high standards set on debut album Blossom.

If You’re Playing A Festival With Letlive, No One Is Going To Remember You

After a trilogy of jaw dropping shows in London last week, no one should be shocked that Letlive just out and out steal Groezrock. From the moment that Jason Aalon Butler steps onstage, he is the only thing you can see. A whirling, screaming, crooning, body popping devil of a frontman, he is the man that turns Letlive from a great band into a world class one. But his band are no slouches either – the reception that greets new song Good Mourning, America is feral but the music is a much more mature, measured mixture of urban soul and glorious punk rock. Letlive have been threatening for some time to be the definitive band of their generation, and on the evidence of today they are about to finally nail it.

Sick Of It All Don’t Age

The banner behind the stage proudly beams the slogan ’30 years’ below the Sick Of It All logo, and while many bands of their age group might be thinking about slowing down or mellowing out, the NYHC legends are as crushing as they ever were. Hardcore has changed a lot since they were decimating CBGB all those years ago, but the vein-popping intensity with which the Koller brothers smash out Injustice System, Rat Pack and My Life (all entering their fourth decade as songs) is something that is hard to fathom. Age really is just a number, and when Sick Of It All end, aptly, with Built To Last they still look fresher than those in the crowd who have spent their set attempting to stomp Groezrock into the ground. How do they do it?

A Small Dose Of Sum 41 Will Suffice

As Sum 41 close the festival, it’s hard to know just where they sit amongst this bill. Being elder statesmen of the current crop of shiny pop-punks we have today (who aren’t particularly well represented this weekend), they appear to represent a different crowd to the one Groezrock caters to. That said, they make the most of their headline slot by putting on the most stadium rock show of the weekend with the biggest backdrop, the most shiny lights and possibly the crispest sound. But there is nowhere near as big a crowd as the one Rancid pulled the previous evening, and it feels like many people are just waiting for the hits. Of course when they do arrive and Fat Lip follows In Too Deep, the whole place turns into your favourite rock club for seven minutes. But as most people file out, the band come back on for an encore to significantly less people. Bad call lads.

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Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.