Arts & Culture: Groezrock Festival 2011

In search of hardcore: Nadia Ramoul finds punk solace in Belgian rock festival Groezrock



Following a lengthy treck across the wilds of Belgium, we are greeted by the loving arms of the Groezrock Festival. Celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in what promised to be a toasty warm weekend, spirits are high on the multilingual campsite even when a brief yet savage storm threatened to wash the weekend out.

They do festivals differently on the continent. Groezrock is a fraction of Reading’s size and all the better for it. Walking from one end of the campsite to the other doesn’t feel like a 6 hour hike and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, a far cry from the burning tents and rampaging 16 year olds that plague ol’ Blighty. Despite a few annoyances (separate drinks, food AND pub tickets?! You monsters…) the running is smooth and chilled, complimented by the unseasonably fine sunshine and shockingly reasonable prices (take note, UK.)

After erecting a tent in the dusty sand-flea ridden ground, we bounce with great joy to the main stage, to be faced, maddeningly with the sonic abortion that is Danko Jones. Our hearts sink at the staggeringly awful ‘banter’ of the frontman and the tepid chugging ‘songs.’

Danko Jones

The forty minutes that constitute their set feels like the passing of eons peppered with shout-outs that bordered on parody, eg:



YEAH…?! Spare me.

Happily though, Cancer Bats are soon on and the blip of Danko Jones is forgotten in a flood of buzzing distortion and crazed yelps. For a band relatively low down on the ‘upcoming’ bill, their speedy thrash draws a hefty and appreciative crowd.

Cancer Bats

In a cruel twist of fate, Cancer Bats overlapped slightly with aging heroes Millencolin, who you all surely recognise for ’No Cigar,’ the soundtrack to glitch digital kick flips on the Tony Hawk’s games. Ah, memories. They run through what could be considered a ‘greatest hits’ set, with choice morsels from ‘Pennybridge Pioneers’ and ‘Home From Home.’ Unlike Danko Jones, the crowd interaction is warm and friendly, and their rendition of ‘The Ballad’ brought salty (but still punk) tears to the eyes of the crowd.

Every Time I Die are tight, loud and impressive before Hatebreed, a band who certainly do breed a great deal of hate, headline the mainstage. Clearly not thinking man’s music, the assorted meatheads begin to gather in ominous circles pumping their fists in a fashion not unlike a National Front Rally. Scary.

Hatebreed are a passable band to work out to or angrily scrub a floor, but live they are little more than an outlet for tubby bald men to beat each other senseless in a big sweaty mess. Perhaps this is too cruel an observation – the music was loud, tight and vitriolic, and yes, does kinda make you want to punch the guy next to you several times about the chops.


Following a brief nurse of a hangover triggered by dirt cheap Jupiler and Jager, we begin our dicey clamber back onto the booze horse.

Sugarcult provide the perfect antidote to morning after grogginess with a light, bouncy set that got even the most queasy pogoing around the grass, grinning inanely. Not exactly musical innovators but what better soundtrack to being ragingly drunk on a Saturday afternoon? Ahhh…


As the days plods on, those overloaded with punk seek solace in the obligatory dance tent, with DJ s playing a hefty mix of Dubstep and D’n’B that warm the cockles of well-travelled East Londoners in need of a break.

Saves The Day provide the finest performance of the festival. Chris Conley’s wholesome voice is as pure as the driven snow. There’s a guy who gets his 5 a day and washes it down with milk. They play a flawless set of old and new material, with the debut of new tracks from upcoming record ’Daybreak’ welcomed warmly. The technical problems of early on in the set are soon forgotten.

Groezrock makes a welcome change from the sheer size and stressful nature of the large British rock festivals. Despite the relatively small profile of the bands playing, they draw rabid crowds intent on having a good time.

The atmosphere was, for the most part amazing, despite the occasional language barrier everything functioned well. Definitely one to consider for next year! Just don’t get too confused with those tokens, now.

Music: Poly Styrene – a life in punk

“I know I’ll probably be remembered for ‘Oh Bondage, Up Yours!’. I’d like to remembered for something a bit more spiritual.”Poly Styrene

If not for the spiritual, then Poly Styrene will certainly be remembered for her spirit. Poly Styrene, born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, was the original riot girl. Growing up in Brixton and mixed-race (her father was allegedly a Somalian aristocrat), Poly Styrene ran away from home at 15 to live a bare-foot existence, moving from hippie-pad to music festival.

After seeing The Sex Pistols play Hastings Pier on her 18th birthday in 1975, she placed a newspaper ad looking for “young punx who want to stick it together”, and X-Ray Spex were formed. They were a band to rival the Pistols; exciting, assertive and topical. As a punk, if you had any two albums in 1977, you had Never Mind the Bollocks and Germ Free Adolescents.

At the height of X-Ray Spex’s fame, Poly Styrene shaved her head. “I’d read that girls in concentration camps did that after being raped by the Nazis, to get cleansed.” No man was going to stand in the way of her liberation, not even Sid Vicious, who once threatened her with a scythe.

She certainly didn’t care whether people thought she was cool or not. She wasn’t interested in being a pin-up, in fact she was determined not to be one. “There’s nothing wrong with beauty,” she said, “but whether it’s actually helping the female cause of being equal to men, you have to judge for yourself.”

Entering the scene that levelled the playing field for women in music, she was an icon to my mother Jackie, a fellow young punk, because she was an outsider; a dark-skinned woman with huge dental braces who loved her body. “With punk, you weren’t required to be beautiful,” says Jackie. “Poly Styrene wasn’t pretty, she had a mouth full of metal, and a result, she was perfect. We could all relate to her. The ‘real girls’ were united.”

Poly Styrene continues to be a heroine for girls, even after death. 30 years later Heather, who is in her early twenties, thanks her for the inspiration. “She had a hugely positive influence on me growing up,” says Heather, “even though it was long after she gave up music. I loved her with all my heart! She was a goddess to my teenage self.”

Poly Styrene didn’t want to live in a world where everything was “made of plastic”; when punk became the mainstream, it was time to move on and by 1979 she wanted a new sound. She quit the band in 1979 after being pelted with tomatoes during a gig in Paris. “We’d tried to change our sound,” she explained. “They didn’t like that, the anarchists in their black leather jackets. They thought it was the French revolution all over again.” She recorded her first solo album, Translucence, the next year.

Marianne, having survived being hit by a fire engine in 1995 and being sectioned in the 80s, with misdiagnosed schizophrenia, lived up to the Poly Styrene legacy:
“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard but i think….OH BONDAGE, UP YOURS!!”

Poly Styrene (Marianne Joan Elliott-Said), musician, born 3 July 1957; died 25 April 2011

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[Poly Styrene quotes are taken from The Guardian and NME]