For three days the fields of Flanders were host to one of the biggest hardcore festivals, namely Ieperfest. Three days of great music, moshpits, vegan food, refreshing beer and bio-lemonades and so much more. They say time flies when you’re having fun, Ieperfest definitely was a blast. Now we’re back into reality. Counting our bruises, scars and times we hit the ground. Dealing with our post-festival depression and already looking forward to next year’s edition. But for now we’ll give some rest to the peaceful town of Ypres. Because we’re sure they’ve heard what hardcore is all about.
This year’s edition welcomed a wide variety of genres. One moment you’d find yourself in the midst of chaos only to be in front of a wall of sound that takes you on an emotional trip. It definitely keeps the festival fresh and offers something for everyone to listen to. We can only hope that the line-up of 2017 will be as good as this one.
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Hardcore food and drinks
If the odd chance might exist that there is absolutely no band at all you want to see, there’s still the food. A 100% vegan festival and no, that does not mean you’ll live off lettuce and grass for 3 days. As some people might think.
The famous Ghent based Frietketel provided your daily dose of fries. Virginaise (mayonnaise), Belgian Fighter Sauce (samurai sauce) or torture sauce (tartar sauce), clever names and great taste. They even had “cheese” croquettes without actual cheese. Delicious but still a mystery to us. You’ll have to go taste them yourself. You want a burger to go with those fries? Why not a Dutch Weed Burger. Seaweed that is, in case you got your hopes up. Heavily recommended by a lot of people, it didn’t disappoint. Your regular vegan burger was present as well, and plenty more of vegan food. Just in case you don’t like things out of the sea.
Ieperfest also have their very own catering team. A nice hot meal for each day of the festival made with local and even self grown vegetables and ingredients. Even vegan pizza slices fresh out of the oven were waiting to be consumed by all those hungry people.
A hot meal goes perfect with a nice cold drink. Beer probably got consumed the most, but there were plenty of alternative options. In case you’re not into beer or alcohol. From Almdudler to a regular coke. In the More Than Music tent there was a stand that sold Whole Earth lemonades and they were delicious. A refreshing start to your hung over day.
More Than Music
Ieperfest is not just three days of bands playing their music. Hardcore usually is about a message. That message can be politically inspired, be about veganism or just having fun. With the More Than Music tent Ieperfest offers a platform to a broad selection of organizations to reach out to the festival goers. Animal rights activists, anarchists, lectures, movies and workshops. A cosy tent with seats and sofas offered a nice place to catch your breath or hide from the blazing sun.
Besides the More Than Music tent, Ieperfest themselves try their best to be more than just a music festival. A green festival isn’t something easily achieved but every bit helps. The camping site still had trash laying all over the place once everyone was gone but compared to other festivals this was nothing. Trash bins came in three because sorting isn’t all that hard. They made it even easier by placing clear signs on the bins so there was no mistake as to what goes where. Before I forget, have you ever flushed a toilet by pouring some sawdust down the hole? Yes, that’s the way it goes at Ieperfest. The dumps we’ve taken will be used as fertilizer. For all we know we have taken a shit on the food of next year’s edition…
But enough about food, drinks and so on. We all went to Ieperfest to see our favorite bands in the end.
The first band in the Ieperfest Trench (of course a WOI reference here) was Turbowarrior Of Steel or TWOS. This local thrash metal band from the village of Kemmel was very honored to open this year’s Ieper Hardcore fest. Thrash metal on a hardcore festival? Yes you heard it right. The Kemmelse party thrashers started to play their fast, straightforward riffs for a kind of empty trench. Slowly but surely more and more curious visitors came to check them out. After a couple of minutes there was a good amount of people enjoying themselves to the alcohol fuelled music of TWOS. They only played a 25 minute set which meant they didn’t have time to build up to a massive climax. Nevertheless they played a tight set with already local classics like Polonaise Pit and Cher Ami. The crowd also started to move around during the third song and besides the early setting, the Ieper hardcore fest had a nice turbo thrashing start.
Hemelbestormer took us on a journey through the vast nothingness of space. They didn’t take us by the hand, we just followed as sheep and they led the charge to the heavens. Their name translates quite literally into Stormer Of Heavens, and they sure did. Like a huge battering ram shrouded in dark clouds “knocking” on heavens doors, their music was a beating sound. Despite it being just past noon, the marquee felt like a dark cold place for the 30 minutes Hemelbestormer took the stage. As four statues they stood there and as sudden as they began it was all over again. Seeing Hemelbestormer live for the first time left me hungry for more. Hemelbestormer is a relatively new band. They made their debut in 2014 in collaboration with Vanessa Van Basten they released Portals. Earlier this year they released their first full length album called Aether. Combining sludge with post-metal laced in a black feel.
I could keep this short and simply say go see Alkerdeel when you get the chance to. When you’ve seen this band at 30 degrees in a local pub, that fits maybe 50 people, but somehow managed to get what felt like 300 people inside. Well, I don’t think it can get any better than that. As soon as the first note left the speakers, people started moving and sweating. Nonetheless I was excited to see them again at Ieperfest. Without constantly having people bumping into you, I had the chance to carefully watch and listen this time. I definitely enjoyed the show, their sound on stage has an extra dimension to it. The screams echo through the marquee, your bones and soul, leaving you with a chilly feeling. The music feels like a constant chaos that only make sense to yourself. Try to explain it to someone else and they’ll probably say you’re crazy. But in the end we’re all equally crazy once we’re done listening to the dark, sinister sound of Alkerdeel.
They came, they played their music and they left. Wiegedood‘s show in a nutshell basically. They simply played their entire album, De Doden Hebben Het Goed, from first to last note. No interaction with the audience whatsoever. As if there was no audience at all. It gave the show a barebones feel to it. Fast, aggressive, atmospheric black metal that’s what you wanted and what you got in the end. Was it a bad show because of that? I feel that everyone would think differently of that. I liked it to be fair. Because once they all left the stage and the red lights started to dim, it took me a while to realize I had finally seen these guys live. And they were definitely good!
Violent Reaction is a straight edge hardcore band that is getting a lot of respect in the scene for some years now. They combine the old school Hardcore Punk sound of bands like Dead Kennedys and Negative approach with a rock and roll feel and of course the straight edge lyrical themes. The show immediately drew a lot of people to the Trench. As soon as the show started, people were dancing and flying through the air. The short but powerful songs appealed and the show was tight. Of course sometimes when I go watch straight edge bands they have the urge to talk a lot between songs and sometimes this is kind of annoying to people who just came to enjoy the music. I have to say, Violent Reaction understands music and tried to play as much songs in there set as possible without talking too much in between. The show ended in a sweaty and dusty Trench with satisfied people. For the fans of no nonsense Hardcore Punk this is a real recommendation.
One of maybe the most legendary hardcore punk bands played this year’s Ieperfest. No other than Negative Approach. This band is one of the first hardcore bands who existed. Fuelled by the anger of the youth in Detroit and inspired by the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag and the Ramones. This band made a statement in the punk scene and now they came to Belgium once again. They maybe looked old but sounded as fast, fresh and violent as ever. All the lovers of the old school hardcore sound gathered in the Marquee and were ready for a party. The set consisted of all classics by the band. Songs like: Tied Down, Can’t Tell No One, and Ready To Fight got the whole place moving. The band still plays like they are 18 years old and the simple straightforward riffs, catchy bass lines and raw vocals made you understand where all the hardcore bands nowadays got their inspiration from. The 45 min set was done before we knew it, that’s a sign that it was good. And the people left the Marquee satisfied and ready to watch Broken Teeth.
Broken Teeth played at the main stage which I thought was a pity, because they would have fitted better in the Marquee. Considering the style of hardcore they play. I expected a show with a lot of traditional hardcore riffs and the occasional good breakdown. I didn’t get disappointed. The band is fairly new but know how to put on a hardcore show. The down-tuned guitars, heavy bass and slamming drums supported the screaming vocals perfectly. The band played a 50 minute set and it didn’t take long to get the people at the main stage going. The songs, which are mainly about the frustrations of life are often very relatable to people. In the end we all have dreams, love, work, and so on. When you take a moment to look beyond the aggressive music you’ll find that deeper meaning to the songs. Which makes this band and hardcore in general a lot more enjoyable to watch. They sure can start a party but they are also nice to just watch and listen from a distance. Broken Teeth won’t disappoint you if you are into hardcore and if they play as good as they were on Ieperfest.
Six. That’s the amount of times I’ve seen Reproach live and every show was better than the previous one. But I believe this one will be very hard to top. These skater punks from the far away Overpelt have a straight in your face attitude on stage. The same goes for their music. It’s hardcore, it doesn’t try to hide itself behind anything special. And that’s what makes these guys so good. You’ll go see Reproach live and know what to expect and still leave afterwards, realizing that wasn’t even close to what you expected. They might sing Geen Gevaar Voor Volksgezondheid (no danger for public health). But I wouldn’t exactly say that about their shows. It’s a miracle that the trench was still standing afterwards. It was hard. People bumping into eachother, jumping off the not so high stage, falling on the ground dragging 10 people with them. They ended their show with Bleed For The Cause, the crowd went even crazier all shouting along. When the final note left the drum, someone decided it had seen its best time and jumped into the drum kit. It’s one of those shows where you cherish every bump and bruise you have afterwards. Well worth the pain!
The very first headliner was Sick Of It All. It was already an exhausting day with a lot of moshpits, jumping off stages and yelling along in the microphone. I was going to take it easy I said to my co-author. He was going to party a bit at the front of the stage nothing too special. Five minutes later I see him flying in the air as he jumped off the stage. I couldn’t resist the urge and jumped into the pit. New York Hardcore represent. Sick Of It All played an amazing show and when we compared the crowd with the other headliners this one definitely was the best. I don’t know how else to put it as a fun show. Everyone enjoyed themselves, everyone was happy. People got on stage, were jumping around, falling on the ground. They played all their classics and everything we wanted. Day one couldn’t have ended in a better way.
Cocaine Piss at 5am, again in this local pub, it’s hot and crowded. Where moving is the key to survival and your only escape is to get on the stage, only to get a mic shoved in your face so you can yell along. How do you exceed such a show? You simply don’t. Cocaine Piss left a mixed feeling after their show. The female fronted, highly energetic band quickly expanded their stage into the crowd. People were polite and made way for the singer so she could jump and scream around. It was too calm for a Cocaine Piss show. I guess it was too early on the day for some people. As they were still waking up, and far from the same state they were hours before (read: drunk). I can only highly recommend that you go see them again. Preferably in the evening, in a small venue where you know it’ll get wild. In the right conditions, they’re something you won’t forget, ever.
I had no idea what to expect from this band. I hadn’t even given them a good listen at home. I only knew Der Weg Einer Freiheit played black metal. Although it doesn’t feel right to just call it black. The band members don’t look like your stereotypical black metal band. And it is definitely not the reason I’m so hesitant to strictly speak of black metal. They approach the genre on their very own way. Giving it a unique twist and taking inspiration out of other genres as well. As for their performance, it was captivating. Their mesmerizing riffs kept going throughout the entire set, the screams were raw and the drums tight. Long after they had left the stage they kept me enthralled. A pleasant surprise and a very nice discovery!
The veterans of MDC (Millions Of Dead Cops) played the main stage Saturday at Ieperfest. Their old school punk sound filled the air in Ypres with a sense of nostalgia to the punk bands of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Just some old fashioned punk drum beat with a hard riff and a big fuck off attitude, pleased the old school punk fans. The show wasn’t very dynamic or active but we understand that considering the age of the band members. I was surprised that they even pulled a show like that off. Suddenly a couple of Mohawks appeared and got the party started. Only the somewhat too hateful speeches in between the songs got me annoyed after a while. But music-wise a great show and a must see for those who haven’t, because I don’t know for how long they will go on.
“We make music with computers to destroy Fascism” said Alec Empire during their show. They definitely did, if there was any fascism at that show they sure destroyed it. Atari Teenage Riot hails from Germany and rose to power in the 90’s. In 1999 they played a live show during a massive anti-NATO protest in Berlin. Which resulted in their arrest for “inciting violence”, to give you an idea. At Ieperfest they were aggression, mayhem and wild. For a moment we might have been at a German underground rave. Atari Teenage Riot keeps the punk spirit alive with songs about anarchism and anti-fascism. Headlining the Marquee on Saturday they made sure they’d be remembered. With just a couple of computers they managed to get everyone moving. It was a hard and exhausting show, one I won’t forget any time soon.
The headliner Saturday was nobody less than former Dead Kennedy’s front man Jello Biafra with his band the Guantanamo School Of Medicine. After being thrown out of Dead Kennedy’s because of royalty issues (doesn’t seem so punk, does it?) he went his own way. I saw the Dead Kennedy’s two years earlier at Ieperfest so I expected somewhat of the same show but with the original singer. I was wrong. A lot of his own material was kind of good but sounded like a desperate cry for the good old times. In between songs there was an overdose of speeches of Jello himself about the world, some things that weren’t even relevant. He got one hour to please Ieperfest, but because of his endless talking they played longer. The crowd went wild when a Dead Kennedy’s song was played and those songs still rock and were played tight. Jello his stage presence was also pretty amazing for an older guy like him. Still very active and expressive. It was still a kind of disappointing show with a bit too much talking. But maybe that’s just part of the act and we need to live with that.
Only a couple of days before Ieperfest, the line-up was changed. Six bands out, six bands in. One of those was Get The Shot. The Quebec based hardcore squad were a welcome addition to the line-up. I’ll be honest, I’m a massive fan of these guys. I’ve watched their videos featuring live footage and it left me craving. Despite their short set they blew the crowd away. Starting off with their intro At War followed by their condemning of the gods in the form of Rotting Idols. Their music isn’t exactly crossover nor is it straight up hardcore. They keep the music fresh with thrashy riffs followed by a deadly beat down. It’s a weird dynamic in the music but people in the pit didn’t care. Those at the front knew the lyrics by heart and took every opportunity to scream into the microphone. One last time going hard in the pit, one last time being reminded that we already had tons of bruises. Get The Shot woke us up and made us ready for the final day of Ieperfest.
It was already the third day at Ieperfest. People started to feel it and needed to catch their breath. Yet CHVE (Colin H van Eeckhout) left us breathless. Many know him as the singer of Amenra and one of the founding fathers of the Church Of Ra. Today he was just himself. A wooden chair, a drum, and a hurdy gurdy, nothing more. People gathered and sat down for this moment of serenity. Some were curious, others already knew what to expect. But in the end we all left with the same feeling. A rare occasion where we could see into the soul of the otherwise mysterious person behind Amenra. Our minds were in the here and now, the droning bass kept us grounded. It was an intense and emotional moment. Once it was all over, it was as if we had yet to wake up from the dream that was CHVE.
It happened, the stars aligned. Ieperfest had the honor of having Kingdom play at their festival. For the first time in I believe five years, they came back together to play a live show. I’m sure it’s because both CHVE and The Black Heart Rebellion played a live show at the same festival. But we will never know their motives for this special occurrence. They might just have thought to themselves, why the hell not. Just the fact that this live show was such a rare occasion made it so much more special. You could simply close your eyes and nod along to the music of Kingdom. Their sound resembles that from Amenra, but not quite. In an odd way it sounds cleaner. Which doesn’t mean they didn’t sound heavy. It’s one of those bands where you just take it as it comes. There’s no escaping, it goes straight to your soul and heart.
Iron Reagan played Sunday for the somewhat tired Ieperfest crowd at the Marquee. The crossover thrashers from Richmond Virginia never disappointed me before so I was expecting a nice show as always. The band of course hasn’t got as much material as Municipal Waste or DRI. So the set list is somewhat the same with more known songs like Miserable Failure and Four More Years and then something like six 40 second songs. They played a good show with just a little failure in the beginning of Miserable Failure (on purpose? Who knows?). The audience was tired or bored, I couldn’t figure it out. But the show was good as always. The fast riffs on guitars with a nice thrash beat and the typical Tony Foresta vocals are always a good combination on album and stage. Iron Reagan, a must-see for those who haven’t seen them already.
Valient Thorr might have been the biggest surprise at Ieperfest. This band combines the melodic guitar playing of old school heavy metal with the beat and feel of hardcore punk. And this combination works! Valient Thorr gave us a show full of ambiance and just plain music to enjoy. The songs are catchy and the wicked frontman is priceless to watch on stage. I didn’t know much about this band and never saw them live. But after 2 minutes of watching I was sold and kept enjoying the band at the front of the stage. This was a good addition to the festival and a nice variation.
Dying Fetus played the main stage Sunday at 19h20 until 20h10. This technical death metal/grindcore masterpiece blew the majority of the people away. Their technical playing was sometimes hard to follow if you started to pay close attention. Just 3 great musicians playing some slamming tracks to please the fans of the more technical genre. The technical shredding and drumming took turns with just plain hard riffs. It was like we were listening to a record. The show was very tight and they didn’t disappoint.
The last band of the last day was the New York hardcore band Agnostic Front. When they started playing I noticed immediately a lot of people left. Which was quite a shame for such a big name in the hardcore punk scene. The show of Agnostic Front started a bit slow. A lot of people were still grabbing something to eat and the crowd wasn’t really into it. There was somewhat of a boring atmosphere. Musically the band put down a nice performance but it took until half the set when they played Gotta Go. Upon which the people of Ieperfest went crazy. The songs afterwards were better as well. The band got some more energy and momentum after seeing the crowd get more active. They ended on a high note with a cover of the Ramones, the famous Blitzkrieg Bop! Looking back, the band did a nice job and played as best as they could.
Review by Lukas and Ellis