Saturday kicked off with a bang for us as we were in early to see Vended. Featuring Griffin Taylor (son of Corey) and Simon Crahan (Clown’s son), the band have a lot of hype and expectation to live up to. Especially when opening the day that their fathers in Slipknot will headline later on.
Honestly it’s hard not to draw the comparison, too. Both are heavy bands not too dissimilar in sound to each other. While Slipknot utilize masks, Vended do more of the face/body paint thing. Heck, even Griffin’s mannerisms and presence on stage is very reminiscent of his dad. There is plenty of use of the words ‘mother fucker’, that’s for sure. However, none of that is a bad thing. They are a very entertaining, talented group of kids. Simon in particular was a big highlight, he beat the living shit out of those drums through the whole set. And the energy the band bring to stage is infectious, getting the whole crowd moving far too early in the day!
For a young band, these guys have got a fantastic start. Their live shows are top notch for the level they are at. I just feel like now they need that one song to make it big to catapult them to the next level!
Next up were Texas’ own Nothing More. I only discovered these recently and I am kicking myself for it. Jonny Hawkins’ vocal range is off the charts. He was wasted as a drummer in the bands early years. He’s a cracking frontman, too, being high energy and interacting plenty with the crowd. The whole band are natural born performers though, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the stage throughout. They played a great collection of tracks, too. It’s a little bit of a shame they didn’t bring their big motorbike instrument thing, but I get that they were on early and in Europe. Still, Jonny taking toms into the crowd for the finale was awesome! A fantastic live band and ones to watch for sure!
It’s super weird seeing Skindred not in the UK. Having spent the last decade plus watching Benji’s effortless charm and energy win everyone over and make them into almost a household name, stepping outside that area to watch them was surreal. Don’t get me wrong, Belgium still loves Skindred, but it wasn’t quite as much as the UK does. Still, that didn’t stop the band from putting on their typically awesome show. Rattling off crowd favourite tracks left right and center, as well as their newer (and also old) reggae number, it comes as no surprise that ‘Warning’ is indeed the highlight again. Everyone shows up for the Newport Helicopter, and it’s always a great sight to behold. I love this band live and they never disappoint!
I Prevail kick off the metalcoreness of the day in perfect fashion. They were the perfect choice for it, too. They have gotten pretty big over the last couple of years thanks to their last two albums (both are great!) and are one of the newer bands on the scene of this size. Tracks like ‘Body Bag’ and ‘Hurricane’ translate so well live, and the energy and comradery between the two frontmen make it all the more enjoyable. They already feel like a big deal and they’ve only been going ten years and have three albums out. They’re going to be a HUGE name in the scene if they carry on like this, and their live shows more than back that up!
We then scooted back over to the Jupiler stage for the amazing Danko Jones. Last time I saw him I didn’t know any of his stuff, seeing them open for Skindred. However, they won me over then and I’ve been a fan ever since. Seeing them live while knowing the tracks is even more enjoyable. It’s simple, punky rock ‘n roll, reminiscent of the likes of Wildhearts. However, not only are the songs great, but Danko is such a magnetic, entertaining personality that it’s hard not to love them live. By the sounds of things they are quite beloved to Graspop too, and the crowd showed them a lot of love throughout!
We managed to catch the back half of Halestorm after Danko had finished. Lzzy and co put on another good set. It was nice to hear the newer tracks like ‘Back from the Dead’ and ‘The Steeple’ live. However, like Airbourne before, I feel like a couple of the bits are getting overdone. I love ‘Familiar Taste of Poison’, it’s one of my favourite tracks they’ve done. However, every time I hear Lzzy extend out every line just to show off that she can sing well, it makes me hate it a little more. Still, much like before, if you haven’t seen them before, I’m sure you’d love every second of it. And still, it’s a damn good, polished show!
We unfortunately missed Architects, which is a shame because I heard about them bringing out Winston. We did, however, make it back in for the incredible Rancid. There was no way in hell I was missing this. Being maybe the riskiest band on the linup in terms of style due to them being a fair bit bigger than the rest of the punk bands so needed to be on the main stages, Rancid owned the place from the very moment they took the stage.
Sure, the crowd was a tad thin on the ground in places, but I’d say the gamble payed off. I’ve been waiting years to see them and they didn’t disappoint in the slightest. From the heavy hitting tracks right through to treating us to some B-sides, we were taken through the bands decades spanning career in the best way possible. The highlight for me of course was ‘Fall Back Down’ (it’s one of my favourite tracks, thanks THUG2), but the band put on one hell of a show for every track they played.
Next was the mighty (albeit controversal) return of Pantera. I was apprehensive, I must admit. I’ve heard Phil struggle vocally in the past and seen videos of it happening fairly recently on the reunion tour. Heck, they don’t even do Cemetary Gates any more because he couldn’t hit the notes (fair, not many can). However, clearly something has changed, as he sounded pretty damn good here.
The band rattled through the exact setlist you’d expect them to if you’re a fan of their music. Nothing flashy or left-field, just a solid celebration of Pantera’s music in tribute to the Abbot brothers. Zakk and Charlie played their parts well, filling in perfectly without taking up too much of the spotlight. And it was just nice to hear these songs live after so, so long. Phil was nothing but appreciative and clearly happy to be up on stage doing the set, and Rex seemed exactly the same. A surprisingly fitting tribute. The place was packed out too, they could have headlined for sure.
Next up was possibly my favourite set of the whole weekend. I’ve been a fan of Parkway Drive for a while now, since IRE, but for whatever reason I’ve never been able to see them live. So, for my first time to be when the band are at the top of their game and headlining a major festival was pretty special.
What a setlist it was, too. From new album favourites ‘Glitch’ and ‘Soul Bleach’ to old classics like ‘Carrion’ and a heavy dose of IRE, it covered a bit of everything. Even ‘Darker Still’ sounded better live and with the beautiful live strings behind it. And the stage show was also as good as ever. The fire-wielding druids were back, and there was plenty of other fire to go around, too. It was again nice to see the band so excited and appreciative, too, Winston stating multiple times it’s one of the biggest gigs they’ve ever done. The crowd was packed and gave the band their all, and as such Parkway give it straight back to us. I haven’t stopped listening to them since this set, and I HAVE to see them again soon.
The South headliner for the Saturday were none other than the biggest band of the 2000s, Slipknot. One of my favourite bands of all time, I’ve seen them at their peak and multiple times since. Unfortunately, the trend had been that they got slightly worse every time. However, on the fifth time, they finally bucked that trend.
There was something about them at Graspop. Maybe it was opening on ‘The Blister Exists’. Or busting out rarities like ‘Liberate’ and even finally playing ‘Snuff’ live (it was fucking awesome!). Or maybe it was the fact that they played the two good tracks from the new album, ‘Dying Song’ and ‘Yen’. Maybe it was that, even despite Clown’s absence and the recent new member, the band still hold a near mythical presence on stage. Corey didn’t need to say much (aside for his usual speech in the middle of ‘Spit it Out’), the music did the talking and everyone was there to hear the songs. It was a near perfect setlist for them in 2023 and they played it to perfection. The crowd was in the palm of their hand the whole time as they took us on a journey. Slipknot have matured, for sure, but they are an intriguing, entertaining level of polished I never thought we’d get from them. It’s pretty sick to watch!