Heavy Metal Reviews

Location: Pukkelpop, Hasselt Belgien

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Pukkelpop 2012

Pukkelpop 2012

After last year‘s catastrophe Pukkelpop‘s future wasn‘t clear. Five people died and many were injured. But festival organisators said that there will be another edition of the famous festival in Belgium. Last year‘s pukkelpoppers got food vouchers, 50 Euros each for the next three years. The organisation crew worked hard at another Pukkelpop and changed some things. The campsite is now divided into three parts. Campsite A is the same as usual right across the street, but this year there are two others. Both are a few miles away. It‘s a thirty minutes walk or ten minutes via bus, which starts at the campsite every ten minutes. Of course these busses are filled with a lot of people, so sometimes people will have to wait for the next bus to get to the festivalsite or back home to the campsite.

Thursday, 08/16/2012

The weather is great. It‘s a sunny and very warm day in Belgium. The first band I am going to watch is THE COMPUTERS at The Shelter. The band, which is dressed in white from head to toe, draw some fans and some other people who don‘t know what to watch either. Their sound is a mix of punk rock, indie and 60‘s rock‘n‘roll. Although it seems like most people do not really care about what‘s happening on stage, there are a few who really enjoy the Brit‘s show. Especially their frontman knows how to deal with the crowd. Their THE CLASH cover is what draws the most attention, though. A few minutues later it‘s up to TOUCHÉ AMORÉ. The blend of melodic and emotional hardcore got famous in today‘s hardcore scene because of their most recent record „Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me“. There a far more people in the Shelter than before and it‘s obvious most are familiar with the US hardcore outfit. Even though there‘s a big stage and a barrier between the band and the crowd, they really know how to put up a great show. This is great, for hardcore isn‘t made for these big stages. TOUCHÉ AMORÉ show two new tracks to the Pukkelpop crowd which sound as great as their most recent tunes such as Pathfinder, The Great Repitition or Wants/Needs. After half an hour the five-piece say goodbye to the crowd, but they will return to Europe this fall with TITLE FIGHT and LA DISPUTE. Up next on the Main Stage is US-rapper SNOOP DOGG. The MC draws a huge crowd, far bigger than many bands who will play at a later settime during the next days. After a five minute long intro he finally enters the stage. His performance is kind of strange, he plays two tunes of his new raggae project SNOOP LION and often only his part of a song like California Gurls by pop princess KATY PERRY or 50 CENT‘s hitsingle P.I.M.P.. Only a few songs like his colaberation with DAVID GUETTA, Wet, or his own hit Drop It Like It Hot are played in its entierty. Therefore the hip hop legend‘s one hour set isn‘t the best Pukkelpop will see at this year‘s festival. OF MONSTERS AND MEN, indie pop‘s newset hype, enter the Marquee‘s stage. I‘m quite shocked that most of their songs are laid back and quiet. I expected more up-tempo songs like their breakthrough single Little Liars. Nevermind, most people seem to dig the band‘s blend of folk/indie pop. The seven-piece don‘t put up a great show. They play their songs, talk a little bit to the crowd and that‘s it. Notably their faster songs get the best crowd reactions during their set. Then they finally play their big song, Little Liars, and people just go crazy. But this isn‘t the end of their set, though, most people won‘t notice because they leave after that tune and miss the Swedish band‘s last song.
Following are THE HORRORS on the same stage. The British electronica/indie outfit were booked to play here last year, but couldn‘t do their show because of the big storm that brought Pukkelpop 2011 to an unexpected and early end. Dressed in black their outfits fit perfectly to the mood of the songs, which are far away from sweat and rock‘n‘roll energy. I have seen worse bands and some tunes are really good. They might be better if you listen to a CD of the band, because the musician‘s performance lacks some energy. They are just standing around and their frontman is a quiet, maybe shy, guy who seems to be taped to the microphone stand. Still, THE HORRORS offer some goodies like Chaning The Rain or You Said takken off their still recent record „Skying“. Back at the Shelter YOUNG GUNS are up next. Two years before they played at first or second position of the stage billing. This year they‘ve got a good spot right in the middle. And there are far more people than before, mostly girls under twenty years old and some dudes who start a small but nice moshpit. The nice thing about a YOUNG GUNS show is that you always get a different setlist with every new tour. This time people also get to hear the dramatic Meter & Verse, which the band‘s mainland fans never got to hear during their support tours. The boys around singer Gustav Wood are in a good mood and have a lot of fun during their show. The London-based group always know how to win over a foreign crowd. Their songs attract young fans and some older ones as well because they know how to present these tunes live. They sound sharper and edgier than on their two records, which makes YOUNG GUNS always worth being watched. In the Marquee there‘s another British act, rapper TINIE TEMPAH, who played the ceremony of Olympia as well a few days before his set at Pukkelpop. Compared to SNOOP DOGG the British guy knows how to attract the crowd. This might be because of the more electronic, dance music-influenced style of his music. Tracks such as Earthquake, Written In The Stars, Till I‘m Gone or Black And Yellow make the huge crowd dance and swing their legs to the dance beats of his DJ. Up next at the Main Stage are reunited indie rockers BLOC PARTY, who will release their fourth album, simply titlted „Four“, a few days latter than their Pukkelpop performance. They start their set without any intro. It‘s just the fourpiece walking on stage, saying hello to the crowd and playing their new tune Octopus. Four men, four records and four tracks taken of their yet-to-be released effort „Four“. Of course there are old hits as well. And these tunes are what people want to hear today. There are massive crowd reactions and applause during hits such as Banquet, Song For Clay, Hunting For Witches, One More Chance, Flux, This Modern Love or Helicopter. Besides the great indie rock songs they‘ve got a very sympathic singer in their own rows. Kele Okereke knows how to entertain the ten thousand people in front of him with his funny and tongue-in-cheek announcements between the songs. Besides TOUCHÉ AMORÉ and YOUNG GUNS this was the best gig of today‘s billing. Then it‘s time for Main Stage‘s headliner BJÖRK. The singer from Island is a strange woman with strange music, which is their trademark. Her stage show is kind of strange as well. One drumkit, one rack of synthesizers and laptops and twelve background singers dressed in blue and gold as well. BJÖRK herself wears a outfit which would make LADY GAGA jealous. The focus of the singer‘s setlist is clearly her most recent effort „Biophila“. She also plays some more familiar tracks like Pagan Poetry or Possibly Maybe, though. But let‘s be honst, everyone would be happy to hear hit singles like Army Of Me, Play Dead, It‘s Oh So Quiet or Hyper-Ballad. Still, BJÖRK knows how to entertain her crowd. But I suggest most of the crowd isn‘t that sad after Island‘s finest woman‘s set comes to an end.

Friday, 08/17/2012

Today‘s even hotter than the first day of Pukkelpop. So the indie rock of BLOOD RED SHOES is a fitting choice for this time of the day and this weather. Two years before they had to play in one of the festival‘s tent stages, so they‘ve got bigger during that period. The duo does not talk that much to the audience, they let the music do the talking. And this seems to be something many people in front of the stage seem to like. Especially their song I Wish I Was Someone Better is a delicate indie rock tune. Up next are MAXIMO PARK. Honestly, I did not expect that much of the indie rock outfit. I never really liked their singles, which aired on MTV years ago. Though, I have to confess that their show at Pukkelpop isn‘t that bad. Of couse they attract many people and so they play in front of a few thousand heads. I don‘t really enjoy the band‘s gig, but it is nice to watch. Actually they aren‘t a bad band and know how to deal with a festival crowd, still I don‘t think I would go and buy all of their records. One of alternative music‘s recent hypes, TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB, enter the stage fourty minutes after MAXIMO PARK ended their set on a high note. The blend of indie/electronica and some psychedelic rock draws a huge crowd which dances through the band‘s whole set. They even deliver some tunes which will appear on their second output „Beacon“, which will see the light of day at the end of August. Their music is really perfect for today‘s weather, the only thing that is kind of lame is their drummer, who‘s always playing the same old dance beat. Obviously TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB are the first highlight of the festival day, though. After the British indie rockers good performance the following act is the absolute worst of this festival. FRIENDS deliver some freaky indie pop, just think about LADY GAGA goes indie with less catchy songs and less strange outfits. Fronted by a female singer the band plays some tunes, but four or five songs in, there are more people than me leaving the Club Stage.

After that it‘s easy for Main Stage rockers EAGLES OF DEATH METAL to top that show. The desert rock of the band isn‘t my cup of tea, though. Of course they interact with the audience and seem to be nice dudes, it‘s their style of music that I‘m just not into that much. So, I leave them after more than 20 minutes and go back to the Shelter where Canadian southern rock/punk rock/hardcore outfit CANCER BATS turn up on stage. Well, I‘m not a huge fan of the group, mostly because their last two efforts are far away from their hardcore roots. Today‘s show is good, though. Singer Liam Cormer is a beast on stage, jumping around, headbanging, running from the stage‘s left side to the right and back again. This is what makes the crowd go wild as well. For me their old tunes are their best, so it‘s nice to hear them once again. Hail Destroyer is still their most killing track, for sure! Right afterwards it‘s up to LETLIVE. to show Pukkelpop their intense performance. Their singer always knows how to be the center of attention. Jumping all over the stage, freaking out, getting blunt. He knows what to do to deliver a special show like no one else could. The furious post-hardcore of the Los Angeles based group seems to be unfamiliar to the most part of the audience. Although, there is a fine moshpit right in the venue‘s middle, it‘s their BLACK FLAG cover of Fix Me, that makes them all go nuts. Back at the Main Stage indie pop‘s biggest hype at the moment, LYKKE LI, turns up. Last year she should have played late at night in one of the tents. After the success of her single I Follow Rivers, or better: the remix of her single I Follow Rivers, she get‘s one of the best positions of today‘s Main Stage line-up. The singer puts up a better show than I have expected, honestly. Her pop is laid back, but catchy. Songs like Rich Kid Blues, Youth Knows No Pain, Sadness Is A Blessing or Jerome are nice to listen to. Obviously the crowd waits for the singer‘s big hitsingle I Follow Rivers and they get it. But the LYKKE LI has one more song to offer, Get Some, before she leaves the crowd.
Back in the Shelter it‘s time for one of metalcore‘s finest bands, EVERY TIME I DIE. Beginning their set with No Son Of Mine they‘ve got the crowd‘s sympathy from the very first notes. The setlist of the American group is a great mix of their last five records. Including old and new favourites such as Floater, Pigs Is Pigs, After One Quarter Of The Revolution, Kill The Music, Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space, She‘s My Rushmore (with one brutal as hell breakdown at the end) and of course The New Black, which everyone is stoked to listen. This one gets the most reaction by the huge crowd which attends as the tent. Singer Keith Buckley knows how to entertain his audience and his bandmates are rocking like shit. This is by far this year‘s festival best gig!
After EVERY TIME I DIE‘s great set, I go back to the Main Stage where headliners THE STONE ROSES are two songs in their set. The reunited Brit Pop heroes seem to attract the older people at the festival. With having their last studio effort released back in 1994 most of the festival crowd was to young to know tunes such as I Wanna Be Adored (which was the opener of THE STONE ROSE‘s gig). Even though the UK rockers are a big name of Britain‘s music history the show of the fourpiece is very lame. Nothing is happening. There are four people on stage doing NOTHING. Their singer Ian Brown is just walking across the stage pumping his arms to the beat. That‘s it. That‘s why it‘s nice at best to watch THE STONE ROSES play, but this is by far the worst of the three headlining acts- and they are just playing their classics, mostly taken from their self-titled debut record! What shame!

Pukkelpop 2012 Hasselt Belgien

Saturday, 08/18/2012

Today is going to be the hottest day of the festival, with temperatures about 38°C. So the fresh indie rock of THE CRIBS is a nice thing to watch and listen to. The band played two years before as well at the same time. I‘m sure they will never get over that spot on another Pukkelpop edition. Two years ago they featured THE SMITHS‘ guitar hero Jonny Marr, but this time it is „only“ a session musician who stands at the side of the stage. The band is in a good shape today and deliver some good indie rock which is enjoyable to listen to, but it‘s definitly nothing special. Following in the Shelter are US-hardcore punks TRASH TALK. This band got big over the last years and they are a big name in today‘s hardcore scene. Their blend of hardcore, punk and thrash metal is aggressive as hell, but there are a lot of people at Pukkelpop who want to see them. Their singer Lee Spielman dives into the crowd to perform from the bottom, face to face with his fans. As security men want to back people up, he tells them to leave. Unfortunatly I can only watch about 20 minutes of the band‘s set (which is more than the half of it) because pop punkers ALL TIME LOW are rocking at the Main Stage. As I arrive there, they begin to play I Feel Like Dancing. The band played two years ago in the Marquee at the same time, so it‘s a sign that they got big as well. Even though they are on the cover of magazines, selling a bunch of records (still not any gold- or platinum-certification) and are a favourite to many teen chicks who like some rock music they seem to be down-to-earth. There are just four men in their twens (plus a backing guitar and a background singer) who are having a good time, telling dirty jokes and play the music they like. This is maybe the second best set of the whole festival. Tunes like Weightless, Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don‘t) or the pretty cool The Reckless And The Brave, which will appear on their new album which will be released this October, are great and fun to watch/listen. But of course everyboy is wating for the last song, which is the bands only gold-certificated single, Dear Maria (Count Me In) which is backed up by a choir of underage girls. Great show as usual!
PULLED APART BY HORSES are next on the Shelter‘s stage. The British post-hardcore/indie outfit got big as well as many of the bands who played here two years before. The fourpiece is very dedicated to their music and rocks very hard. The boys are jumping around and diving into the audience. I didn‘t know these dudes before, but they remind me of THE REFUSED, FUTURE OF THE LEFT or a heavy version of old BIFFY CLYRO. Propably I should check them out.
Now it‘s getting dirty. ODD FUTURE WOLF GANG KILL THEM ALL (aka: ODD FUTURE or OFWGKTA) is one of hip hop‘s most recent hypes. One of their singles, FRANK OCEAN, couldn‘t make it to Europe this summer, but the remaining MCs are putting on a good show still. With delicious tunes as 50, NY (Ned Flender), Sam (Is Dead), Bitches or Everything That‘s Yours they know how to make Pukkelpop‘s crowd their own. People seem to like what their hear, so there are more than just a few dancing around and waving their arms up in the air to the dirty beats of ODD FUTURE‘s mastermind Tyler, The Creator. These are 50 very entertaining minutes, for sure!
Heading back to the Main Stage indie rockers THE BLACK KEYS are up next. The band got popular the last few years and I never gave them a listen. But during the first minutes I know that I don‘t have to be sad about this. Their style is a mixture of desert rock and indie rock. There are no big choruses, hooks or anything, just a duo playing some rock tunes backed by two session musicans. After a few minutes I leave them to go back to the Shelter, because ENTER SHIKARI are up next. To me it‘s strange that they are still getting bigger. The big metalcore meets electronica hype seems to be over, but these Brits are still famous and doing well. And it‘s brave to play their biggest hit, Sorry, You‘re Not A Winner, as the second song of their set. Of course everybody is clapping hands at the right time of the song and most of the crowd is singing along to the tunes. It‘s sad a bit that the electronica became a bigger and bigger part of the band‘s sound. But when the guitar player has time to take off the guitar and sit at the stage‘s corner, it‘s an obvious sign that they should think about the direction they are heading to. Still, ENTER SHIKARI did a good job tonight.
Headliners FOO FIGHTERS are what everybody is waiting for. Because of them even the day tickets are completly sold out. They were supposed to play here last year and they came back. Singer/guitar player Dave Grohl became a great frontman, who knows how to interact with his audience. Starting their set with White Limo, the opener of the band‘s 2011 record „Wasting Light“, makes the whole place go nuts. Well, the thing about FOO FIGHTERS is that everybody likes them, even though most of their records got some real good hit singles while the rest of the songs are lacking some good hook lines. But everybody like them, as I said, which is strange to me. But the good thing about a gig by the rockers is that they are just playing the singles. So there are no fillers, only killers. And tonight they deliver such a good set featuring most of their hits. Especially the first few songs are strong: White Limo, All My Life, Pretender, Rope. Later on there are fine tunes such as Cold Day In The Sun, Monkey Wrench and of course the emotional (and by far best song of their career) Best Of You. After that the FOO FIGHTERS leave the stage. But on the screens on the sides of the stage you can see them talking about the show and joking that they won‘t come back on stage again. But after the crowd yells they promise to come back for two or three songs. Dave Grohl enters the stage alone and starts to play Times Like These on his own before his bandmates enter the song at the second chorus. Two songs later, they say goodbye after the last chords of Everlong has faded. FOO FIGHTERS are the best headliners of this year‘s Pukkelpop for sure. Having played about 135 minutes it‘s enough, though. Sometimes less is more, but this was quite perfect.

Pukkelpop is still one of Europe‘s best festivals. It‘s always worth coming back and so will I in 2013 for the 28th edition of Belgium‘s biggest festival for rock and electronic music.

Text © by Sebastian Berning