Ieperfest 2014 Review

Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerPhoto by Anne Carolien Kohler

How do I even start this review? I got to see more than a few of my favourite bands in the world, experienced a taste of the European hardcore scene, was surrounded by thousands of like/similar-minded people from all over the world, ate incredible vegan food, met some awesome people (along with some members of some of my favourite bands), and pretty much just had the time of my life. It is actually difficult to put it into words. I think my mind has kind of compartmentalized the trip into a list of highlights, so instead of just writing a regular review, here is a list of the highlights (in no specific order) of Ieperfest 2014 from the perspective of a South Africa hardcore kid…

Catching the train from Brugge to Ieper.
European public transport is amazing – safe, fast and comfy, and many trains have free WiFi. It was a bit confusing, as most announcements on the trains are made in Dutch, but we eventually figured out which trains we needed to be on.

Arriving in Ieper.
When we finally arrived in Ieper, we met Sam and Ben, two of the friendliest dudes in the world, from the UK. They showed us where the supermarket was on the way from the train station and we set up camp with them at the Ieperfest camp grounds on Thursday 7 August. Unfortunately we missed the pre-fest, but were just glad to have arrived, and to have our tent set up, ready to rest up for an intense 3 days to come.

Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerPhoto by Anne Carolien Kohler

Realising that we would have to actually plan when to take breaks.
Having got a schedule from Bruno the night before, we realised that because we wanted to see so many bands playing, and because they were playing from 11am – 12pm every day, that we would need to plan when to do things like eat, or go check out the merch or More Than Music tents. Coming from South Africa, where international touring hardcore bands don’t come through often, we wanted to see as many bands as we could, but realised that we would need to pick our favourites, and watch the rest if we got a chance.

The 3 Stages.
There were three stages at Ieperfest this year; The Trench, a small, intimate stage in a low marquee tent, the Marquee, a bigger stage inside of a much bigger marquee tent, and the main stage, which was enormous, with a really impressive sound rig. Watching bands play on the three different stages provided three different types of show experiences.

Watching 31 bands.
I had planned to see more, but honestly, you probably have to train your body to deal with that much standing and walking, never mind if you want to get involved. I had the privilege to see Bent Life, Test of Time, Conqueror, Expire, Conan, Backtrack, Adolescents, Dead Kennedys, Martyrdod, Ringworm, Converge, Jesu, No Warning, Ashes, Swamps, Redemption Denied, Broken Teeth, Angel Dust, Turnstile, Strength Approach, King Nine, Antidote, Cold World, Gorilla Biscuits, World Eater, Kids Insane, A Strength Within, No Zodiac, Cornered, Bane, and H2O.

It was such a wild experience getting to watch my favourite South African hardcore band in Europe. They played the Trench stage to a packed out tent, and killed it. I am usually quite cautious of national pride, but I’m pretty sure I felt some shouting my lungs out along to Conqueror’s set. Or maybe it was because I have witnessed first hand how hard the guys have worked to get to where they are. Make sure to check them out if you haven’t already.

Conqueror at Ieperfest 2014Conqueror. Photo by kevienpictures

Personal stand-out bands.
I have been into Bent Life for a while, so it was really cool getting to see them play. I think that my awe was a combination of how tight and solid they are as a band, and my first time exposure to the explosion of a European pit. Test of Time played the main stage after them, and ripped. I was a bit disappointed at the lack of support, but that was soon dispelled because they played with all their energy and heart regardless. I love that there are still people playing youth crew inspired straight edge hardcore. Conqueror played next, and you can read my above paragraph. Expire blew my mind, as I knew they would. They were actually even better live than I was expecting. Definitely one of my favourite sets. Adolescents was the first trip into hardcore punk history. Those guys are getting old now, but they still played such a tight set. They sounded even better than their recordings. People hate me for it, but I’ve always struggled to get into Converge. Watching them live though, was seriously amazing. They are probably one of the most impressive bands I have ever seen in my life. Ben Koller is the best drummer I have ever seen in my life, hands down. I actually couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

No Warning at Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerNo Warning. Photo by Anne Carolien Kohler

Watching No Warning was a whole new experience on its own. Wow. Their set blew me away. I have never seen a band with that much energy and stage presence, play with that much style and confidence. It was also interesting hearing Ben talk about the band’s history a little bit. Ashes are a young Belgian hardcore band that are already killing it, and they were awesome to see live. Nicest dudes too. Turnstile were really fun to watch. They pretty much just play super hard, bouncy hardcore, and do it on their own terms and in their own style. Watching Antidote was definitely one of the highlights of Ieperfest 2014 for me. Even though they are also have aging members, they played with so much authority and attitude, you could almost feel what it must have been like watching them play in New York 16 years ago. Drew Stone, their singer, is 51 years old. 51. And singing harder, louder and faster than most 20 years old ever will. I bought their “Thou Shalt Not Kill” 7″ straight after their set. Cold World also didn’t disappoint, and played their hip hop influenced hardcore even better than I imagined they would.

Gorilla Biscuits was probably the biggest highlight for me of the festival. I was nervous to see them at first because I was worried that they might not be anywhere close to as good as I imagined they would have been when they were younger. They were better. I couldn’t believe how much energy they had. My favourite part was how Civ would say a sentence or two about the theme of the following song. The had as much energy, positivity, and conviction about what they were singing about as I hoped they would. World Eater are an awesome hardcore band from Germany. I originally hadn’t planned to watch them, but man am I glad I did. Check them out if you get a chance. Kids Insane, from Tel Aviv in Israel, play with so much passion you can almost taste it. It was both sad and interesting to hear them talk about home. Watching Bane has been a dream of mine for years now, and getting to watch them was really a big deal for me. Aaron’s lyrics have probably had more influence on me than any other band. They started with one of my favourite songs, My Therapy, and I kind of wish I had sung along instead of filmed it, but there it is for everyone to enjoy. Final Backward Glance was pretty nostalgic. I’ll admit that I felt quite a lot of emotion during their set. H2O was the last band I got to see, and I am so glad we stayed to watch them. Their happy sounding, fun hardcore was the perfect way to end such a good time.

Veganism at Ieperfest 2014

The food.
The food at Ieperfest was all 100% vegan, and it was damn good. It was really cool, for a change, to be surrounded by people who take veganism seriously, who understand that it is not just a diet. The stand out option for me was the Seitan Kebab from Just Like Your Mom. I am salivating just thinking about it. The fries with Vegennaise was also amazing.

The More Than Music tent.
One of the best things about Ieperfest is that it is about more than just the music. The More Than Music tent had a ‘zine library, and stalls featuring radical literature, anti fascist action groups, the Hardcore Help Foundation, and more. At the back there was a screen where they showed some rad documentaries, did interviews and hosted talks. I got to see an interview with Antidote, which was really interesting.

The Merch tent.
#dontdonvert. Actually, the prices were generally pretty good. This was probably the downfall of most people’s bank accounts, as it was always full of people, especially when the bigger bands brought out their merch. Each band basically got a table on the day that they played.

Ieperfest has been given “green” awards in the past, and you can see why. There were recycling bins everywhere, there was a dish collection tent, which was a good way to earn more tokens (which was especially easy as people got drunker and started leaving their dishes everywhere haha), and the “eco” toilets were really cool; you don’t flush, but instead put this nice smelling saw dust over your business. A farmer apparently then collected all of this and processed it to be used as fertiliser.

After parties.
The after parties happened on Friday and Saturday nights, and were super fun. It was really funny to see hundreds of hardcore kids dancing around to terrible dance songs and bad metal.

Meeting heroes.
I met Zach from Expire at their merch table and got talking to him for a bit. Such a nice dude. Most people couldn’t believe that we had come from South Africa. Charles and Todd from Test of Time are probably two of the friendliest people you could ever meet in your life, and I spoke to them for quite a while. Apparently they are really interested in touring to SA, so if you’re into them, push them to come! While we were watching Antidote, Justice from Angel Dust/Trapped Under Ice came and stood next to me. I had to say hello, and he was also just such a friendly, interested guy. He mentioned that Trapped Under Ice have been wanting to visit South Africa, so push them too. I had taken some copies of the new zine over with me, along with some of my band Peasant’s new 7″ records. Justice interrupted me and asked, “What’s that?”. So I told him, and he said, “Oh cool. Can I have one?”. I felt like a kid the first time an adult praises their painting or something. It was also pretty crazy to meet Yoni from Kids Insane, who used to play in Instinct, who I interviewed a few years ago.

Shared experience.
My biggest highlight by far, was sharing the experience with new and old friends, especially with the Conqueror guys, who camped out at Ieperfest for the rest of the weekend after their final European show on the Friday, and with Brett and Taryn (check out Minority Records and Brainwreck). They actually got engaged pretty much the day after Ieperfest, so say congrats to them! Sharing the experience with my amazing wife, Cara, was also something I will never forget.

Broken Teeth at Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerBroken Teeth. Photo by Anne Carolien Kohler

Shout outs have to go to the “Shit Workers”, or festival volunteers. They definitely had their work cut out for them. If there are any criticisms that I have, it isn’t towards Ieperfest, but more towards attitudes of some of the people who attended it. I honestly feel like many of you in Europe don’t realise what you have. It made me realise and appreciate how special and unique the South African hardcore scene is.

A massive THANK YOU to Tim from Legends Arising and his wife Elselyn for their incredible hospitality, kindness and actually making the entire trip possible, to Clayton from Revolution Skateboard Supply Co. for also playing a huge role in making this happen for us, and to Bruno from Genet Records/Ieperfest for letting us stay at your place and making us some amazing vegan food, and to Anne, Debbie, Pascal from Evil Greed, Rachael, Sam, Ben, and everyone else who helped us out, hung out with us, and opened their arms and hearts to us. It really meant the world to us.

Thank you.

Kids Insane at Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerKids Insane. Photo by Anne Carolien Kohler

Gorilla Biscuits at Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerGorilla Biscuits. Photo by Anne Carolien Kohler

Converge at Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerConverge. Photo by Anne Carolien Kohler

Bane at Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerBane. Photo by Anne Carolien Kohler

Expire at Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerExpire. Photo by Anne Carolien Kohler

Ieperfest 2014 by Anne KohlerPhoto by Anne Carolien Kohler

Vegan waffle at Ieperfest 2014Vegan waffles!

Antidote at Ieperfest 2014Antidote interview

Ashes at Ieperfest 2014Ashes

Expire at Ieperfest 2014Expire

Test of Time at Ieperfest 2014Test of Time

Ieperfest 2014Fries with vegennaise

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