Guest post by Nadia Ramoul
Nostalgia has a lot to answer for. It means a great deal to me, like a big hug from a stinking cuddly dog when the real world is too disorientating and fast. It takes me back to simpler times before the weight of adulthood landed with full force on my unprepared little girl shoulders and accosted me with phone bills, rent and ceaseless responsibilities.
Nostalgia is also the reason why I dragged my pasty English ass to the sunny climes of Meerhout (that’s in Belgium, you philistine) to the Groezrock festival last week for yet another year of pretending I’m still wearing short trousers and listening to Rancid in earnest. Yes, as blighty lacks a sufficient amount of crusty punk, the only way to satisfy my raging inner child is to venture to the continent, trawl through fields of manure and poorly organized queuing systems to feast onEurope’s finest beer and revel in its foulest mud.
The eagle-eyed, all two of them, may recall I’ve written about this festival before but Groezrock itself is not the issue here. Suffice it to say a fun time was had by all, Belgiumfolk are lovely and polite and their deep fried ribs are delicious. My gripe for today is the crushing disappointment felt when you realize the rose tint you painted over your musical teenage memories was of industrial strength, not a tint at all but a great big hairy lie.
A lot like realizing Father Christmas is in fact your mum inexpertly falling down darkened stairs, the knowledge that once cherished bands are now actually pretty rubbish is a bitter pill to swallow.
I speak, dear reader, of Alkaline Trio. Fond are my recollections of standing outside the Astoria (God rest its soul) chugging tins of Stella for hour after hour before descending gloomy stairs and squeezing in front of the stage only to get beaten senseless by the elbows of large drunk men in the pit. Those were the days. We knew every word and jiggled around with cheerful intensity, emerging sweaty, beaming, planning how we would get out of school the next day. What rascals we were.
What I witnessed before me at the festival was a sorry sight indeed. The band has not aged well. Gone were the black-clad heroes of my youth, replaced by a tubby clutch of balding men, missing cues, muttering incoherently and bastardizing their own songs until they became unrecognizable. Matt Skiba resembled a bloated thirteen year old boy after his first trip to Camden Market, all poorly applied eyeliner and ill-advised clothing. The others looked very much as if going through the motions on the final day doing a job they hated, lifeless and bored, watching the clock. With the exception of one small huddle at the front, the crowd remained stationary, exchanging the odd look as if to clarify that this was actually happening.
The wise shuffled off in search of a better time while the foolhardy remained, steadfastly hoping for the set to pick up. It didn’t. The dogged determination in the eyes of my friends soon turned to defeat as we exited, grimacing into the sun.
No, it’s not a big deal at all but it does leave an odd taste in the mouth (that or the weak Jupiler) There is something comforting about the bands you grew up listening to, those you aren’t too ashamed to admit undying love for, like they’re somehow trapped in time to be always young and vibrant.
You want their shows to be like musical chicken soup, familiar and warn, not a grotesque parody. It’s true, bands rise and fall, and while others at the festival sounded as vital as they ever did (hello Gorilla Biscuits, The Bronx, Dillinger Escape Plan) it is pretty sad to see a favorite group completely miss the mark by so far.