Live Reports

In the Brakrock War, The five shows that turned us around: DAY 1

Once again, your favorite journalist has delved into the heart of the Belgian punk-rock scene. Brakrock opened its doors to 48 bands and a few thousand festival-goers, who came to check out the newcomers and the legends of this genre we love so much.

The choice is too wide, the selection too good, and in the interests of condensing all this energy we wanted to pick out five shows that gave us a really good kick on this friday.

  1. Random Hand

Random Hand @ Brakrock Festival 2023 – 4th of august 2023 // Maxime Dumont for Ctrl Alt Music

What better way to start a beautiful day than with one of ska’s finest bands ? Random Hand is colorful ska-punk that sets the stage on fire with heady melodies and heartfelt breaks. Personally, I’d never heard of the band, but my photographer advised me to open my eardrums. And he wasn’t wrong ! And so we found ourselves on the Ruinstage, the festival’s smallest stage, still overlooked by Duffel Castle. Last year, we had quite a few technical problems here, and we’re happy to report that they’ve been sorted out, despite the questionable sound. But Random Hand couldn’t care less. With an energetic show and a supercharged performance, driven by a drummer on fire, this band doesn’t disappoint, bringing the party to a climax with tracks like “Play Some Ska“, “Scum Triumphant” and “Anger Management“. Pure rock with a fantastic crowdsurf from the singer and a beach ball party, Brakrock got off to a great start for us thanks to the English band Random Hand.

2. Pennywise

Expected at 11pm to close the famous Riverstage, Pennywise arrived on conquered ground this Friday. A true punk-rock legend with a screw-on cap and skateboard in hand, the Americans were back in our country after a brief appearance at Forest National opening for Dropkick Murphys a few months ago. We were hoping for something different from the American band, If the Brussels concert was a great first meeting with them, we had high expectations of the return of the godfathers of skatepunk to this festival of enthusiasts.

Pennywise @ Brakrock Festival 2023 – 4th of august 2023 // Maxime Dumont for Ctrl Alt Music

And if there’s one word to describe what Pennywise had to offer tonight, it’s simply generosity. And if there’s one word to describe what Pennywise had to offer tonight, it’s simply generosity. In front of an audience of connoisseurs and sometimes very young fans, the band quickly got everyone on board, drawing on their extensive discography. With little rarities like “Homeless “mixed with band classics like “Same Old Story” and “Fuck Authority“, the Californians hit the nail on the head once again. With a medley saluting NoFX’s career, topped off with a few jokes from Fletcher Dragge about the supposed breakup of NOFX, “They’ll be back in mid-2024“, the big giant tells us, before moving on to “Bob“, accentuated by the incessant crowd surfing of a crowd just waiting for “Bro Hymn“, accompanied by the day’s bros (Steve Caballero, Good Riddance, Satanic Surfers, …) for an anthem that lasted as long as it took to make us realize that we had experienced a punk-rock mass in the temple of the genre. Well done.

Pennywise @ Brakrock Festival 2023 – 4th of august 2023 // Maxime Dumont for Ctrl Alt Music

3. Me First And The Gimme Gimmes

The most famous cover band on the planet put on their glitter and rhinestones just before Pennywise to heat up the plains as they should. With an all-star line-up (Joey Cape on guitar, CJ Ramone on bass, the Damned‘s drummer, …) but can a mile-high CV create a good show ?

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes @ Brakrock Festival 2023 – 4th of august 2023 // Maxime Dumont for Ctrl Alt Music

If the show wants to be very second degree, with in particular Spike Slawson who added boxes in diva to the song, it will be necessary to recognize the talent of the candidates. It took a few songs to warm up to get into this theatrical show which takes up some classic American hits (“Sweet Caroline“, “Sloop John B“,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane“,…) in punk sauce to subtly remix them with Abba or Elton John ! If the show could only be a big joke, we must recognize that this little hour spent in the moshpits on tracks from the times of our parents (or even grandparents for some) had its charm and to see such talented musicians who have no nothing left to prove in their career having so much fun with their audience makes the show even more fun and family friendly. We saw much more interesting things musically during this festival weekend but the energy was so pleasant that we let ourselves be carried away by the gig of these big punk stars with a special mention for this mashup of “Love Will Tears Us Apart” and “Love Will Keep Us Together“, you had to think about it.

4. Terror

Fun’s over. The hardcore legends have come to tear up the Woodstage… HxC in its simplest clichés, effective riffs and breaks. The bushes separating the audience from the stage don’t hold back for long the onslaught of young people who have turned out in droves, perhaps bathed in Turnstile and the latest new gems from this genre. We were warned about the violence of their show, but you have to see it for yourself. In a positive and respectful atmosphere, as underlined by the band’s leadder Scott Vogel, the audience have fun giving their own shins to their respective neighbors. With their entry on “Pain Into Power“, the mood is set: we’re here to work our necks and enjoy the musicality of the Americans who, failing to follow the new modern path of HxC, respect their clear heritage à la Madball, Agnostic Front.

And they don’t lie.

For safety reasons, we’re not in the huge moshpit that has taken place on the Brakrock plain, but like a cyclone we see young and old having a blast on the band’s set, which mainly covers tracks from “Keepers of The Faith” and of course their latest project, “Pain Into Power”. It was an effective, ballsy show, but one that ended with one of the audience members feeling unwell. A slight downer on a show that was mastered from start to finish, but no “Keepers Of The Faith” for us, until next time. The show will not resume, and we wish the young moshpitter a speedy recovery, respectfully honored by band members. And of course respect to the photographers who will have braved the stage-dives but for security reasons once again, we did not try it.

5. Good Riddance

No need to present them anymore, the band of the smiling Russ Raskin was back to offer their melodic HxC which lowered a generation of thirty-somethings approaching forty. No tricks for this show. The fans have warned us, it’s worse than before. We weren’t there before and we can always be happy that they are still there after a split in the last decade.To be honest, there’s nothing special to come out of the show. It’s well played, the songs follow one another well but the group lives on its achievements and to tell the truth we can’t complain about them as the public is into it.

Good Riddance @ Brakrock Festival 2023 – 4th of august 2023 // Maxime Dumont for Ctrl Alt Music

If the faces have marks of the past, the music is nothing and young and old punk rockers will find themselves in heart on some extracts from the classic albums of the band like “My Republic” or “A Comprehensive Guide To Modern Rebellion“.

The first day of BrakRock Ecofest 2023 carried all its promises but to be honest it’s Saturday that keeps us in suspense. Between small nuggets and confirmed groups, we can’t wait to see what the next day has in store for us. We enter Mechelen for a restorative night to better tackle punk-rock early tomorrow. Be ready for surprises !

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