Ysselsteyn. Thursday 22 June. We are back in a small town than no one knows except the fans of metalcore, punk and hardcore in Western Europe. But what a place! Every year, Jera On Air delivers a sick line-up and this 2023’s edition proves it again. Headlined by Parkway Drive, this first day also confirmed another habit: the weather on the first day sucks… but the great shows are there to make us forget it. Isn’t that what concerts are for? To forget the bad things?
The site of Jera On Air got some changes this year but it’s hard to see them. Honestly, it looks the same. The good vibes are still here. The 2 big stages are still here. The bike ramp is still here. Basically, the only change is the increase of the tokens: 3,33€… all the festivals have to increase their price and it’s not a surprise Jera On Air had to do the same but it still hurts. That being said, food quality is better than other festivals we’ve attended this year (right, Graspop?!).
We’d known for at least a week that the weather would be miserable on the first day. This was soon confirmed. Luckily the stages are under a marquee. But still. It was painful to go from one stage to another, to walk in a ton of mud to go buy drinks or food. It’s sad the festival didn’t make any progress to make it easier for the festival-goers. The positive side of this situation is that many people were in front of the stages to catch the bands! Polaris canceled but they found a good replacement with Paleface. A band we sadly missed, as well as Employed To Serve, but the feedback we heard were very positive! We start our day with Ways Away, one of the many side-projects of Jesse from Stick To Your Guns. Very different again, more melodic, softer but really lovely to hear Jesse’s voice in a different mood while he’s also playing guitar. If you missed them, they’ll play a headliner show at Kavka in Antwerp on July 2nd.
Back to brutality with Malevolence. This band has played many times at Jera On Air and were supposed to play last year on the opening day but had to cancel very last-minute. Instead, we got an unforgettable second surprise show of Stick To Your Guns playing their legendary album “Diamond” in full. One man’s misfortune is another man’s gain, they say… maybe next them we can get both?! This year, the British band is here and thousands of people are waiting for them! So we are. They played an awesome set earlier this year in Brussels opening for Trivium and Heaven Shall Burn and we were looking forward to seeing them again in better conditions: meaning a huge festival with huge moshpits! We were not disappointed. During 45 minutes, they played all their best songs and all of them got a great reaction from the crowd. Alex Taylor loved it and announced it was hands down their best show so far this year! They’ll be back in Belgium later this year on November 15th on their headliner tour at Kavka Zappa supported by Sylosis.
This first day may be short but is intense as f*ck. After Malevolence, Lorna Shore is taking place on the Main Stage aka Eagle Stage. Led by their frontman Will Ramos, the deathcore band has one of the biggest hype in the metal scene right now next to Bad Omens or Spiritbox. The tent is almost full and even if the sound doesn’t sound great from the back, we can say the pit looks really good in the front! Except To The Hell Fire, all the songs played are from their album “Pain Remains”. And, honestly, after such a brutal set, pain is basically everything we have left if you spent the 45 minutes in the pit…
Set-list: Sun//Eater, Cursed To Die, To The Hellfire, Into The Earth, Pain Remains I: Dancing Like Flames, Pain Remains II: After All I’ve Done, I’ll Disappear, Pain Remains III: In a Sea Of Fire.
Back to the Vulture Eastpak Stage for the hardcore legends Sick Of It All. The kind of band that never disappoint live and once again: they didn’t disappoint us. They might be earlier than before on festival line-up, they still have so much energy and so much motivation to give us the best set possible with tons of old-school classics. Half of the marquee never stopped singing and moving for 45 minutes. We said the line-up on this first day was packed and full of unmissable shows? That’s right. Here we can take a few lines to notice a negative side of Jera On Air: there isn’t any break between bands, not even 5 minutes. The second a band finishes to play on the Eagle Stage, another starts on the Vulture Eastpack Stage and vice-versa. Wanna be sure to hear the first song of a band? Miss the last song of the band before… That’s what we did to make sure to see The Amity Affliction from the very beginning. Best idea ever! The Aussies often disappointed us live, festivals or club shows, the last few years. Their show in a marquee half empty in 2019 was one of them. But as they still provide good albums, we still wanted to give them a chance: good idea. They were literally on fire: pyro everywhere. The set-list was perfect. And the crowd was motivated as hell! Those 45 minutes went by so fast we didn’t even notice!
Set-list: Death’s Hand, All My Friends Are Dead, Drag The Lake, Shine On, I See Dead People, Like Love, Pittsburgh, Show Me Your God, Don’t Lean On Me;, It’s Hell Down Here, Soak Me In Bleach.
No time to rest. We have to run again to the Vulture Stage, noticing that it’s not raining anymore but the ground is still a mess. Billy Talent are headlining the second stage and they may not have pyro on stage, they don’t need it to play a powerful show! The sound is perfect, the band is in great shape and the whole tent is happy to see them back. One hour, 15 songs and tons of classics. From Devil In a Midnight Mass to the legendary Red Flag, from Surrender to Devil On My Shoulder, we were in a live karaoke. Benjamin was in the mood to make some jokes like when he introduced Fallen Leaves telling us that he knows people are coming to see bands in festivals to hear new songs… letting us believe we were about to hear a new song. Bazinga! It was time for the best karaoke of the evening!
Set-list: Devil In a Midnight Mass, This Suffering, I Beg To Differ, Afraid Of Heights, Perfect World, Rusted From The Rain, Try Honesty, Surrender, This Is How It Goes, Reckless Paradise, Surprise Surprise, Fallen Leaves, Devil On My Shoulder, Viking Death March, Red Flag.
We are tired and wet as f*ck because of this shitty weather but all the bands on this first day made their best to let us forget that and we need to find our second breath because there’s one more band to arrive on stage. One for all to unite: no, we’re not speaking about Lord Of The Rings but Parkway Drive! A band that has been around for 20 years, a band that we’ve seen growing up, a band that we’ve seen trying new things the last decade, a band that has disappointed us sometimes on albums but never, never, they have disappointed us live. We still have stars in the eyes from their huge show at Graspop a couple of days ago. It’s almost an intimate show tonight compared to Graspop: from 55k to 15k people. But whatever the capacity of the festival, our 5 Aussies always give their best. And tonight was literally on fire. Big up to the security who had to work for more than an hour grabbing the tons of crowd-surfers while they got huge fire in their back!
Obviously if you’re a fan of their first albums, you won’t reckon many songs on their actual set-list: Carrion and Idols And Anchors are the only remaining songs from “Horizons” while their debut album disappear since a long time now, Wild Eyes is the only song they still play from “Atlas” as Karma has disappeared since the pandemic. The rest of the set-list is full of songs released from 2015: 4 from “Ire” (2015), 3 from “Reverence” (2018) and 3 from “Darker Still” (2022). But like we said earlier, whatever the setlist, they always provide a strong show with a huge production. For sure the biggest the Jera On Air has ever seen! A real headliner with a big production but also a big heart. People love Parkway Drive and Parkway Drive loves their fans. No doubt.
Set-list: Glitch, Prey, Carrion, The Void, Soul Bleach, Vice Grip, Dedicated, Idols And Anchors, Shadow Boxing, Darker Still, Bottom Feeder, Crushed, Wild Eyes.
We could resume this first day in one word: madness. Outside of the tents, because of the weather, it was a real madness. Inside of the tents, because of the bands, it was a real madness. That’s rock’n’roll! All the bands confirmed their actual status and we can’t wait to be back for day 2 and the beautiful sun the weather forecast has promised us!