What better reunion party to celebrate the return to my Belgian home after a long stay in Greece than 4 days of metal? Let me tell you about my experiences at this year’s Graspop Metal Meeting, the biggest metal festival in Belgium (26-29th of June), and make you enthusiastic for a possible visit in the future.

Originally a family festival founded in 1986, Graspop became ‘Graspop Metal Meeting’ in 1996 after decreasing ticket sales for standard acts. The change was a success and the festival has grown to one of the biggest metal festivals in Europe with 5 stages, 4 days of music, 140.000 metalheads, and 180.000 liters of Belgian (!) beer. Over the years they had an impressive list of acts playing their stages. For this year’s edition, I managed to stay awake and sober enough to remember 42 shows. This is however not nearly enough for the total of 108 bands performing at the 19th edition of the festival. That’s why sometimes friends of Grimm Gent, an association for fans of rock and metal fans from the student city of Ghent, also share their experiences.

The first day always consists of dragging all necessary survival material (read: a shitload of beer) to the camping grounds and conquer a nice spot to set up the tent. The whole line-up was Belgian on this first warm-up day and got nicknamed ‘Belgian Thursday’ for that reason. While I was enjoying my first (or was it my third…?) beer in front of the tent a friend already headed out to watch the first band.

(Grimm Gent) DYSCORDIA had the honor of opening this year’s edition of Graspop and the ‘Belgian Thursday’ on the new Jupiler Stage. Since most people are setting up their tent or dragging their supplies towards a good spot, not many people showed up yet. There were no signs of nervousness and the singer clearly enjoyed addressing the crowd, sharing it is a long-lasting dream coming true. The rest of the band is clearly having fun too and the crowd joins in spontaneously. We are amazed by the grunt-skills and clean vocals and the tight played set, even though it is only the first band. Thanks to the progressive metal of DYSCORDIA the party is good to go!

(Phoenix) Meanwhile I stumble inside the Metaldome tent for my first show of the weekend. ATMOSPHERES is the first finalist of the Redbull Bedroom Jam 2014. Their groovy instrumental progressive metal is a perfect warm-up for me. And looking back on the weekend actually one of the best discoveries of the whole festival! Their debut album will receive my attention in a future post and will surely please fans of technical metal.

Outside the tent heavy metal classics OSTROGOTH were ready to play a home show on the Jupiler Stage. The average age in the crowd had gone up significantly, but I still saw some young faces enjoying these pioneers from Ghent.

Since I wanted to take it easy on the first day I returned to the tent for some home cooking (pasta and noodles for the win!) and grab a few beers to get ready for the night. Unfortunately, because of this I missed out on the other two Redbull Bedroom Jam finalists TEMPTATIONS FOR THE WEAK and KNIVES TO A GUNFIGHT, and the thrashers of EVIL INVADERS. To compensate, have a look at some of the videos to get an impression of the atmosphere at the festival and their performances.

After three hours I felt replenished enough to welcome the night (Pink Cream 69 pun intended) and to grab a last live show for today. For Belgians, DIABLO BLVD is best known as “that band of stand-up comedian Alex Agnew”. However, having just released their third full length album, the band has proved they thrive on more than just a famous face. Their grooving hard rock drenched in southern vibes can get any crowd moving. The fact that you have a hilarious frontman is just a bonus.

After all that Belgian metal the World Cup match Belgium – South Korea was broadcasted on a large screen in the Marquee tent.

After our victory everyone was ready to party until 5am in the morning to the tunes of a ‘metal top 100’ (compiled by visitors’ voting in previous weeks). All songs were accompanied with video clips in the Metaldome, but the visual aspect wasn’t the most entertaining spectacle as most people were headbanging, jumping around, having beers and shouting along with classic songs. Beer, soccer and metal. For many metalheads a perfect evening and great start for the rest of the weekend.

Stay tuned for the report of Day 1! Until then gaze a little bit at the full line-up of the weekend so you know what to expect!