Before a festival begins, there are things to do. Pack your bags, say farewell to loved ones, work out how to get there. It’s a journey, and a journey that’s up against the clock. The first acts at Jera on Air begin at 12:00 (that’s if you forget the pre-party one night earlier). This is not possible; it’s too ambitious, there’s no chance – only a fool would dare. It’s not disinterest in the acts, it’s just that there’s only so far that optimism can get you. Even after you’ve left your house you’ve got to get the stop train to Venray(!), then a deserted local bus to Ysselsteyn (where?), then walk to the gates, then get through security, then cross the hellish bridge to the campsite, then set up your tent, then avoid drunk Belgians, then walk to the main gate, and only then do you find the stages. Don’t let that bridge deceive you, you may be able to see the main stage from your tent, and it might even look close, but it’s not. A series of quadrilateral urinals, sand and drunks stand between you and the music. You see, for the rest of the year, this is just a…field. It takes time to cross fields, but we don’t always have that time. Humans have things to do, OV Chipkaarts to load up, tents to set up, places to be. We also had things to do, and places to be. Sometimes the result of these things and places cannot be explained better than with a list. Because who doesn’t love a list? Here at All Things Loud we live for the self-validation which putting together a list gives us. To round off our coverage of another sweltering Jera on Air, we’ve painstakingly analysed all of our notes in order to present you with the 20 best performances which graced Ysselsteyn’s three stages this weekend. It wasn’t easy (it was mainly just bloody hot), but we managed. Jack Parker introduces you, act by act, to Jera on Air’s twenty best performances.
Ysselsteyn hasn’t experienced a show as thunderously destructive as Whitechapel‘s in a while. The Tennessee outfit have long been one of the fiercest bands around, deploying a ferocious blend of blast beat-infused deathcore which underpins frontman Phil Bozeman’s voice like a lamb to the slaughter. With such horrific gutturals emitting from Bozeman’s vocal chords, you’d think he was having some sort of manic episode; on the contrary, he was just doing what he does best night after night. Love or loathe them, you can’t deny that Whitechapel put on one hell of a brutal show.
19 HARMS WAY
Have you ever wondered what it would look like if the Grizzly Bear took on human form? Then look no further, because Harms Way frontman James Pligge is that man. His burly muscles and massive torso bound about Jera on Air’s smallest stage – the Buzzard – with the intention of leaving no stone unturned. Together with his band, Pligge turned the tent upside down for the duration of thirty hard-hitting minutes, most of which leant heavily on new album Posthuman. If you missed out on Harms Way’s show at Jera on Air, then you probably missed one of the weekend’s best kept secrets. Just like that one stagediver who kept missing the crowd, it would’ve felt painful.
18 THE AMITY AFFLICTION
The Amity Affliction are one of Australia’s biggest metalcore exports, only pipped to the crown by Saturday headliners Parkway Drive. During their set on the Vulture stage towards the end of the festival’s second day, Joel Birch and co. treated a packed tent to cuts from across their back catalogue, with particular emphasis on last year’s subdued Misery and acclaimed release Let the Ocean Take Me. A double-whammy of Don’t Lean On Me and Pittsburgh – both from the latter album – brought the show to an end, one which served as one of the quartet’s better appearances on Dutch soil.
Dutch punks Heideroosjes are well and truly back on the campaign trail, having reunited earlier this year as part of their 30th anniversary. Local to Limburg, where the festival takes place, frontman Marco Roelofs and co. treated Ysselsteyn to a career-spanning set of hits which felt more like a celebratory homecoming than it did a festival set. There’s something quite special about seeing a local band reconnect with audiences who grew up with their music over the years, and that’s why Heideroosjes deserve a spot in this list.
16 COMEBACK KID
There’s a lot of hardcore music at Jera on Air. Some of it is good, some of it’s alright, and some of it is downright terrible. Iconic Canadians Comeback Kid fall into the first category, taking to the main stage on Saturday evening and tearing it a new one with little difficulty. As per usual, it took Wake the Dead to serve as the show’s ultimate highlight, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best modern hardcore tracks around. If you’re going to do hardcore right, then take a leaf out of Comeback Kid’s book.
“What time is it? It’s circle pit time!” declared Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta early on during his band’s set on the main stage Saturday evening, demandingly pointing at his wrist as the crowd gears up for another bout of crowdkilling. It was a declaration that neatly set the tone for the majority of the show, one which largely took its cues from 2016’s The Concrete Confessional. To some, each riff and blast beat may sound the same, but there’s something unique about Hatebreed which undercuts their contemporaries and allows them to pull massive crowds time after time again.
14 MUNICIPAL WASTE
What do you get if you cross a garbage-themed name with an aesthetic pulled straight out of a 1980s hair metal catalogue? That’s right, Municipal Waste. The Richmond, VA weirdos bridge the gap between hardcore punk and thrash metal quite well, blending the two in order to produce an end product which contains equal parts ferocity and melody. Their set on the main stage may have been a little bit too large, but that didn’t faze the band one bit, nor did it bother a crowd who had more than enough space to mosh to hits like Unleash the Bastards and The Art of Partying.
13 CANE HILL
Cane Hill are the kind of band who have been able to stand the test of time by quite simply reinventing themselves in small yet effective ways. Whereas debut album Smile served as a powerful collection of nu-metal revivalism, its follow-up (last year’s Too Far Gone) streamlined that sound and took it in a fresh direction. Live, it all hits just as hard as each other, with frontman Elijah Witt the perfect entertainer for the Buzzard’s energetic crowd.
12 CRYSTAL LAKE
In 2018, Japanese metalcore behemoths Crystal Lake tore apart Jera on Air’s smallest stage during a set which felt far too small for anyone’s liking. So much so that the festival decided to invite them back in 2019 for a well-deserved set on the main stage. And boy did they smash it! Frontman Ryo Kinoshita knows how to work a crowd like it was his God given right. His bandmates, on the other hand, are able to produce a sound so powerful that it’s a miracle the tent didn’t collapse from its sheer force. As far as we’re concerned, Crystal Lake can come back every year.
If we’re to believe Beartooth frontman Caleb Shomo, then the bandana is this year’s accessory of choice among artists performing at Jera on Air. Heideroosjes’ Marco Roelofs, Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta and that bloke from Municipal Waste all donned similar headgear to Shomo, and guess what? They’re all in our list. Beartooth have a very valid reason to receive this level of praise, though: they’re just fucking good. New album Disease may not hold a light up against its predecessors, but that doesn’t matter all too much when you see what kind of power they inject into a festival set. Newer cut Bad Listener hits just as hard as the older work, of which The Lines and In Between stood out particularly.
10 THE INTERRUPTERS
Because who doesn’t love a hefty dose of ska-infused punk rock, right?
There weren’t that many singing drummers at Jera on Air this year, which made Brutus‘ set on Saturday afternoon all the more unique to witness. The Belgian rockers have slowly but surely become a force to be reckoned with over the last few years, taking on the Buzzard stage in the midst of a near-heatwave. Those who braved the sweaty tent knew that they’d just witnessed something very special. Those who missed out? Pfft, tossers.
8 EMPLOYED TO SERVE
Fun fact: Employed to Serve are the only band on the Jera on Air line-up who also appeared at Glastonbury Festival that same weekend. Glastonbury, as we know, is the largest and most spectacular festival on the planet, a world away from the sweaty dust plains of Ysselsteyn. The fact that Justine Jones and co. are so appealing to both festivals says more about the quality of their music than it does anything else, and that’s because new album Eternal Forward Motion is an all-round classic in the making. For those who were at the Buzzard tent on Friday: if you know, you know.
7 SUM 41
Who doesn’t love a bit of nostalgia, right? Because that’s exactly what Sum 41 are here to provide. Well, aside from a little bit of new album promo, that is. Heavy new album Order in Decline is due later this summer, with two of its songs littered in and amongst what was essentially a glorified greatest hits set for Deryck Whibley and co. Once Friday’s sub-headliners took to the stage, it became evident that they’d probably pull one of the biggest crowds of the entire weekend. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, because Sum 41 are definitely one of the festival’s strongest bookings to date. Classics like Fat Lip and In Too Deep – as well as set closer Still Waiting – served as key moments during the interactive show, allowing for a few thousand diehard fans to relive the golden days of their youth. Sum 41 are back, and they aren’t afraid to conquer the world once more.
A legend has landed! Converge are one of Jera on Air’s best bookings to date, and this proved to be worth it from the moment they took the Vulture stage on Friday night. The Salem punks left no stone unturned as they incited pit after pit after sweaty pit in Ysselsteyn, making their mark with little to no difficulty whatsoever. If you missed out on Converge’s show, then where the hell were you?
5 CANCER BATS
Canadian hardcore outfit Cancer Bats are like a cockroach: indestructible. But only in that sense, though, because unlike cockroaches, people actually like Cancer Bats. Frontman Liam Cormier is a captivating ball of energy as he bounds about the main stage on Saturday afternoon, treating the crowd to a career-spanning set which included the likes of brutal missive RATS, the relentless Hail Destroyer and their brash rendition of Beastie Boys classic Sabotage. New album The Spark That Moves is another strong pillar in the band’s discography, and it’s part of the reason that their Jera on Air live show has earned them a spot in our Top 5.
4 FEVER 333
A man comes out onstage dressed in black overalls, a bulletproof vest and bag over his head. This is Jason Butler, the far from outspoken frontman of politically conscious punk maniacs The Fever 333. They’ve got the tough task of entertaining a slowly dehydrating main stage crowd, using their time to demonstrate exactly why they’re one of the most sought after rock acts of the moment. From the moment that Butler removes the bag from his head, shit absolutely hits the fan and he goes off. Set opener Burn It is the perfect tone setter for Jera on Air’s first proper day, allowing Butler and his bandmates (Steven Harrison on guitar and Aric Improta on drums) to lose their shit and ensure the crowd follow suit. It’s a powerful track to open on, but then again everything The Fever 333 do is built on immense power and a sense of reckless abandon. The frenzied We’re Coming In usually marks Butler’s first foray into the crowd, but it seems like Jera on Air’s overfull photo pit has stopped him from even trying to get pas some fifty cameras. Instead, he makes an impassioned speech about America from the edge of the stage. It’s a special moment in the set, and it puts Butler right in control of everything. Throughout the rest of the set, Butler has the crowd in the palm of his hands, not letting go until the very last second. As the show came to an end, guitarist Harrison climbed up one of the tent’s supporting structures, spending a solid ten minutes perched right at the top of the tent without a care in the world. Jera on Air was The Fever 333’s own little playground, and we were just the children watching in awe.
Every now and then, a band comes along at Jera on Air who blow any and all expectations out of the water with a set that ultimately goes down in festival history. In 2018, this honour belonged to Crystal Lake, but in 2019 Turnstile have deservedly claimed that crown. The Baltimore hardcore punk crossover hellraisers managed to pack out the Vulture stage on Saturday night, pulling off a set which leant heavily towards last year’s short but sharp Time & Space. The entire set was exactly that: short, sharp, but ultimately so mesmerising that you’d wish they had far more time than permitted.
2 ENTER SHIKARI
For those unaware: Enter Shikari are the kind of band who thrive on taking risks and diving headfirst into the deepest, darkest depths of the unknown. Does it pay off? In short, yes. At least 99% of the time, that is. Their bill topping set on Jera on Air’s main stage marked the St Albans quartet’s first festival headline show in the Benelux, something which didn’t seem to faze Rou Reynolds and co., who took to the stage calm as ever before bursting into the experimental and abrasive The Appeal & the Mindsweep I. It’s somewhat of a deep cut, but definitely one of the band’s best. Despite songs from new album The Spark being a prominent fixture in the band’s sets over the course of the last two years, their Jera on Air show centred more on what came before it. Fan favourites Destabilise and Quelle Surprise featured early on, as did Sssnakepit‘s hyperactive breakbeats and Slipshod‘s, well, chaos. The tent wasn’t as packed, but that didn’t matter once the band really got into motion. A one-two of Mothership and Juggernauts served as a peak on the night, before Reynolds descended under the stage for There’s A Price On Your Head. The Quickfire round – a popular staple in the set nowadays – featured Sorry You’re Not a Winner (*clap clap clap*), The Last Garrison, No Sleep Tonight and …Meltdown, with the encore ending on a rousingly positive rendition of Live Outside. It’s become the band’s new anthem of sorts, and it’s one which sits close to Reynolds’ heart. The show – which was scattered with positive speeches – itself was not note for note perfect. But then again, live music is never meant to be the reflection of perfection. It never runs without a hitch, and it’s most certainly never without the absence of nerves. That’s because live music is supposed to be real, and it’s supposed to show the world who the real people are behind the music, music which might just help someone feel a little bit more at ease with the world around them. There’s a reason why bands like Enter Shikari will remain iconic and constantly return to the biggest stages, and their set at Jera on Air was a prime example of this.
1 PARKWAY DRIVE
From Byron Bay to the world’s biggest stages: it can only be dream headliners Parkway Drive. Winston McCall and co. have, over the years, made sonic switches so subtle and intricate that their explosion into mainstream consciousness couldn’t have come any sooner. It was on 2015’s Ire where things really started careering forward at rapid pace, with its accompanying tour ambitious enough for them to really put a stamp on the whole modern hard rock genre. There’s not one band out there who possess the ability to work up as much of a frenzy as Parkway Drive do, and on new album Reverence this has only become more and more evident. The 2019 incarnation of the live show which accompanies Reverence is an absolute force to be reckoned with, featuring more pyrotechnics than Guy Fawkes could ever dream of owning, as well as a memorable entry to the stage through the middle of the crowd. Throw some absolute bangers into the mix, and you have the perfect live show. Set opener Wishing Wells was enough to send the packed main stage tent on fire, setting the tone for the following 75 minutes. It was a set which relied heavily on Reverence’s highlights (Prey, The Void, Absolute Power) just as much as it harked back to the band’s early days (Wild Eyes, to name but one highlight). Reverence is merely a year old, but it’s already proven to be the start of Parkway Drive’s most ambitious era yet. In Parkway Drive, Jera on Air had secured their absolute dream headliner, and it was all you could have possibly wished for. This show was a memorable testament to the band’s ongoing hard work and perseverance, and it looks like the glass ceiling has well and truly smashed into the tiniest of shards. The same goes for Jera on Air themselves, who can now genuinely put themselves on the metal map.
Jera on Air returns in 2020.