With the absence of Groezrock this year, we found ourselves on the lookout for a new European Festival to go to. As soon as we caught the first lineup announcement, we knew that Jera On Air would be the one for us. As more and more bands got announced, we knew we’d made the right choice.
We arrived onsite on the Thursday night just in time to watch the disappointing England vs Belgium match that was being shown in one of the side tents. There were other things happening on the Thursday evening, but through sheer exhaustion after a full day of travelling in such hot weather, we decided to head back to the tent pretty early and get a good night’s sleep ahead of what would prove to be an incredible weekend.
You certainly get your money’s worth at Jera On Air. The bands start at noon and the headliners don’t go on until midnight, giving you a good thirteen and a half hours of bands each day.
First up were Generation 84 on the Buzzard Stage. We weren’t familiar with them beforehand, but their melodic pop-infused punk rock made for a solid start and offered a good preview of the standard of bands that we had coming up for the rest of the weekend.
After a little wander around the site to get a feel for the place, we were back at the Buzzard Stage for Beat The Red Light, a UK band who blend ska-punk with metal and thrash. Their high energy show which will have you skanking one minute and moshing the next is well worth checking out if you get the chance.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes were up next on the Eagle Stage. This was our fourth time seeing this band live, and we knew going into it that they wouldn’t disappoint. It didn’t take long before Frank was climbing his way along the top of the crowd, and the energy didn’t ease off throughout the entire set. A passionate speech about respecting women and treating them as equals was a nice touch as it lead into a female only crowd surfing song, with Frank explaining that if anyone in the audience was to treat these women inappropriately he would personally rip off their head to use as a football. “The women in this crowd could be your sister, your daughter, your mother, your girlfriend or your wife, but most importantly, they’re your equal!”. We’ve always argued that Frank Carter is one of the greatest front-people to ever step onto a stage, and based on this performance we’re not about to retract that statement anytime soon.
Following The Rattlesnakes, we headed off to interview Templeton Pek. As we were leaving the press area, Blessthefall were just starting on the Eagle Stage. After sticking our heads into the tent to see what it was all about, we quickly decided that despite doing what they do very well, their metalcore stylings just aren’t our bag, so we didn’t stick around.
By this time, we were ready for some food. We don’t usually mention things like this in a review, but the Just Like Your Mom vegan caterers deserve a special mention. Their kebab wraps and chilli burgers are absolutely awesome, and make a great addition to any festival line-up. Getting to eat some good vegetarian or vegan food at a festival that isn’t just fries is always wonderful. They’ve been at Groezrock for the past couple of years, and even back when we were still meat eaters, they were always our food of choice there. As we were eating this delicious vegan food, our buddy ScrXtch was entertaining us with some acoustic punk covers, ironically, from the top of a beef burger van.
Feeling suitably refreshed, we headed back to the Buzzard Stage for Red City Radio. The Oklahoma punks are currently out on the road in support of their brilliant new EP, Sky Tigers, and they managed to pack the small tent right to it’s capacity. They have a great stage presence, and seemed genuinely humbled by the amount of people watching them, which always helps to create a real connection with the audience.
On the Eagle Stage, Neck Deep also seemed incredibly grateful to be there, explaining that the Netherlands was one of the first places outside of the UK to give them a chance. We’re big fans of pop-punk here at One For The Road, but despite our best efforts, we just can’t form a connection to Neck Deep. They’re a tight enough band with decent energy onstage, and they’ve put the work in, but there are so many more UK pop-punk bands that do this thing a lot better.
Templeton Pek on the other hand are a band that don’t get anywhere enough credit. The fact that the Buzzard Stage was barely half full as they went on is criminal, although it did get steadily busier as their set went on as passers by caught on to what they were missing out on. Their melodic punk rock played at breakneck speed really hit the spot.
If you’ve ever visited this website before for any festival reviews or just general browsing, you’ll be well aware of our opinions of Anti Flag. Basically, their live show has everything you could want – massive singalongs, crowd surfing, bags of energy both on the stage and in the crowd, a righteous message in the songs, it’s all there. We’ve lost count of the times we’ve seen them play now, yet there was something that stood out about this show. As previously mentioned, the energy is always a key part of their performance, but they seemed to step it up a notch here. Bassist/vocalist Chris #2 is always a focal point during their live show, climbing on things and jumping around while somehow flawlessly playing intricate bass lines, but his energy on this occasion was something to behold. Like a kid that has had too much sugar, he didn’t stop moving from start to finish, throwing himself around the stage like a man possessed, still somehow playing and singing perfectly. If Anti Flag keep putting in performances like this, we don’t ever foresee them not being our favourite live band.
Next we saw Enter Shikari for the first time. So many people we know have been following them for years as they’ve risen from tiny clubs to huge arenas, and somehow we’ve just never managed to catch them live. We’d heard many good things, so we had very high expectations. Despite a couple of technical difficulties – their set was wonderful. Overall, there wasn’t as much production as we’d expected, but that didn’t take anything away from them as Rou is one of the most entertaining front-people we’ve ever seen. (I know we said that about Frank Carter earlier too, and #2 gets a special mention, but Rou is right up there!)
There was just enough time to catch Dutch pop-punkers Call It Off on the Buzzard Stage. Their 90s pop-punk sound and catchy hooks would have gone down a treat earlier in the day, but at this point we were more concerned with getting a spot back at the Eagle Stage for tonight’s headliners. On the way back, we passed the Vulture Stage where Terror were playing. The hardcore legends sounded great, but I’ve had bad experiences with their audience before, practically getting knocked out by people needlessly throwing elbows around while stood near the back, so I’ve always been reluctant to go back and see them again. A brief look at the crowd and their movement quickly confirmed that I wouldn’t be heading back this time.
We’ve seen Billy Talent many, many times and were really looking forward to their set, because we have never been disappointed. We’re glad to report, that following their set, that record still stands. Their performance was absolutely flawless. They’re headliners in every sense – they’ve got an incredibly polished sound, a well oiled live show and a great stage set up. The hour and twenty minutes that they were onstage was perfect from start to finish, and it was great to see drummer Aaron Solowoniuk back onstage when he joined the band for Rusted From The Rain and This Is How It Goes. Top front-people was a running theme for day one of Jera On Air, and the day ended very strongly with Ben Kowalewicz who is energetic and engaging from start to finish.
Respecting the women in the audience was on the cards again, with Kowalewicz saying “Gentlemen, you make sure you take care of the ladies in the audience. Not that they need it because they’re strong as fuck!” Now, it’s great that bands like Billy Talent and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are saying and doing things like this to encourage equality and respect, but the fact that it’s necessary highlights a big fucking problem within society, so we’re going to use this review to make a little statement of our own. So lads, if you need reminding on a regular basis how to behave towards women not only at gigs, but generally in life, it’s time to make some changes.
Anyway, back to the point. Billy Talent are a stunning live band with so many great songs. Turn Your Back, The Ex and Red Flag were the highlights, with Chris #2 from Anti Flag joining them to sing the latter. The perfect end to a great day.
Just ten and a half hours later, the final day of the festival kicked off with Arson on the Eagle Stage, a band we’d never heard of before. Oh boy, were they impressive. Suited and booted, these dapper chaps had an incredible stage show, complete with a bar and bartender serving whiskey, to accompany their electrifying brand of powerful rock n roll. They were loud, aggressive and obnoxious, the way that rock n roll should be, and better still, they shared their whiskey with the front row. They may have been opening the stage, but they wouldn’t have been out of place somewhere near the top of the bill either. Do yourselves a favour and check this band out at once!
UK up and comers Boston Manor followed them on the same stage, treating us all to a preview of why they’re doing so well for themselves at the minute. The Blackpool based pop-rockers drew quite the crowd and with hooks that catchy, they should probably get used to playing to audiences that size. They’ve got a new album coming out soon, and based on what we saw here, the sky is the limit for this band.
We’re a little embarrassed to admit that bar a couple of songs here and there, A Wilhelm Scream are a band that have largely passed us by before now. Moving forward, that certainly won’t be the case because they were one of the highlights of the entire festival. Their lightning fast, technical punk rock packed the Vulture Stage from front to back and the crowd didn’t stop moving from start to finish. We were absolutely blown away by the musicianship – these guys are far too talented to be playing punk rock, but we’re certainly glad they are. They seemed to be having the best time onstage too, and even they seemed a little taken aback by the audience response.
The last time we saw Blood Youth, we were fairly impressed by them as a band but not overly keen on their attitude towards the small crowd at that show. This time, they had a packed tent at the Buzzard Stage, so there was to be no repeat of that. Unfortunately, on a festival where there are quite a few heavy bands playing, there’s nothing about Blood Youth to separate them from their peers, so their performance fell a bit flat. It didn’t help that they were the band we saw after A Wilhelm Scream though, because they’re a tough act to follow. We’ll certainly check out Blood Youth again before making our minds up, because we’ve seen a mixed bag from them so far.
Things picked back up again on the Buzzard Stage pretty quickly with Bad Cop / Bad Cop who were another one of the highlights of the whole weekend. They’ve spent a lot of time on the road over the past couple of years perfecting their live show and it’s really paid off as they’re slowly starting to climb their way up the festival billing. The tent was at full capacity and a sizeable crowd was building around the entrance as they rattled through half an hour of punk rock bangers, including their best known song, Womanarchist and aggressive closer Sugarcane. Right now, Bad Cop / Bad Cop are one of the best live bands on the underground touring circuit, and if they carry on as they are with shows like this one at Jera On Air, in years to come we’ll be talking about them as genre-heavyweights.
With the evening drawing in and the end in sight, we decided to check out a band that we’ve always been aware of, but never really checked out – Underoath. Whilst it’s fair to say that their music isn’t really our thing, we did stick around for their whole show because they do it very well, and have a great energy onstage.
Speaking of great energy onstage, there are few bands that can match Less Than Jake in that department. The Florida ska punk heavyweights were on top form too, blasting through a fifty minute set packed with hit after hit, including Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts, Overrated, All My Best Friends Are Metalheads and Gainesville Rock City. Upon spotting four people in close proximity with green hair in the crowd, frontman Chris Demakes promptly invited them onstage. As bassist Roger Lima joked about them showing off their pierced genitals, as soon as the song kicked in one of the guys responded in kind, dropping his jeans and chasing Lima around the stage with his dick out. At another point in the set, a small child was invited onto the stage to dance along – talk about polar opposites. Less Than Jake are head and shoulders above any other band from the third wave ska scene when it comes to the live arena, and they reminded everyone of that in impressive style.
As Less Than Jake finished, with an hour until the headliners, pretty much everyone tried to pile into the Buzzard Stage, which is only a fraction of the size of the Eagle Stage, for Jaya The Cat. We could only manage a couple of songs in the cramped, sweaty tent before making our escape to get a good spot for NOFX. Shame, because they sounded great and were worthy of every body crammed into that tent.
With around fifteen minutes to go until NOFX were due onstage, we were just leaning on the side of the tent, pretty tired by this point, when someone on the other side, clearly seeing the imprint of my body through the tent wall, gave me a good shove and knocked me over. Upon questioning what the hell was going on any why someone had pushed me from the other side, a couple of metres further down Fat Mike was entering through a gap in the tent wall. That explains everything.
Anyway, five minutes after they were scheduled to start, the curtain dropped and NOFX were stood together on the stage with a fifth person. Fat Mike introduced this person as an orchestra conductor. At that point, the crowd realised that behind the drumkit and amps there were a few more people on the stage – eighty five more people to be precise. The set started with a full orchestral rendition of The Decline which, while very impressive, was at times a little draining for the thousands of punks that had been in the sun drinking for the past thirteen hours.
Since the controversy of their Las Vegas show, we’ve been very keen to see NOFX play – not because we support what they said, but more out of curiosity to see whether it would have any impact on their live show. From what we saw, Fat Mike is very much the same, but the rest of the band are more aware of when it’s time to reign him in and start playing a song.
They had a running gag throughout the set about being in Belgium which was regularly greeted with boos and middle fingers, and also joked that Billy Talent were stealing their act by having a brown guy that was good at guitar in their band. Mike also mentioned, several times, that people in their own country don’t care about them any more, and these were the points when the rest of the band cut him off before he said something too far.
Their setlist was strong, featuring The Brews, the Idiots Are Taking Over, Bob and 72 Hookers, as well songs from their latest album First Ditch Effort in I’m Sorry Tony, Six Years On Dope and I Don’t Like Me Anymore. All in all, they’re a fun live band and the perfect headliners for a punk rock festival, and were a fitting end to a great weekend, our first of many at Jera On Air.
If we had to pick our top three bands of the weekend, and we’ll exclude Anti-Flag from it this time because they’re always our favourites, we’d pick out Bad Cop / Bad Cop, A Wilhelm Scream and Less Than Jake, with special mentions for Frank Carter, Enter Shikari and Billy Talent.