Rock For People 2017
Hradec Králové, Czech Republic || 4-6 July 2017
Review by Zuzi Tomková || Photos by Niwy Kováčová
Summer is the breeding ground for festivals, there is no doubt about that. From all the genres to all the venues, it is special every time and I, personally, do not get tired of it. Sleeping in a tent and still managing to look fresh in the morning is a bit hard, but that is just the necessary part of it – and the one that usually makes up the best stories for later use. This time around it was no different.
But when it comes to summer festivals, the sleeping in a tent issue is not the one that invites you in. There are several things with the bands at the top of the list, of course, to the fine beer you might find there, the competitions, different lounges and hang out spots, and the multiple stages. All of these things crammed together in one venue is the thing that makes us return year after year, even though there might be just a few bands that we would like to see. And with Rock for People it was exactly the venue that made up for a shortage of great well-known bands playing their souls out on the stages.
Leaving very early in the morning from Bratislava, and after a short stop in Prague, we headed straight to Hradec Králové. A wonderful city, I tell you, unfortunately there was no spare time to wander around. But for the early birds for sure, since Rock for People started with a light warm up day before the true festival atmosphere arrived. With only two stages open out of twelve (yes, twelve!) people could enjoy some local bands of all genres while drinking beer and just hanging around the venue. Czech people are known for their appreciation for domestic bands and they just love to see them playing at festivals. That’s maybe why the line-up of Rock for People consisted mostly of Czech bands early in the day, but later in the evening the true golden ones came up on the stages.
And this hanging out around the venue, drinking good Czech beer or ciders, continued through the whole festival. What I absolutely love about Rock for People and similar kinds of festivals is that even though you might just want to really, really see one or two band from the whole line-up, you are never bored there. There is seriously sometimes too much to do. Even a freaking zip-line or hairdresser or a stage where you could sit on a bike in front of the stage and push into the pedals while enjoying great music. Working out combined with music, a really nice one, right? I guess that pushing people around in a mosh-pit would do the same job, but in this case, you would get out with no black-eyes at least.
But after hanging around and enjoying all the perks that Rock for People prepared, people started slowly to poke out of their little nooks of pure chill. From around 4pm with the band Cocotte Minute when the sun started to set down more and more, fans gathered in front of the two main stages that hosted bands alternately. Guys from Moose Blood, Comeback Kid, or The Amazons, were a pretty nice warming up for the big ones of the first day. But the excitement was much more visible when You Me at Six took their place on the stage. Even though these English rockers started their set in front of just a handful of admirers, it did not discourage them, as they lured in much more people within a few minutes. The third song of their set, “Loverboy”, was screamed out to a pretty nice crowd – the picture Josh Franchesci took with my colleague’s camera is the proof.
However, when You Me at Six finished, I guess no one was prepared for the big migrations that took place right after – from one stage to the other, from all the chill zones and beer stands right in front of the main stage where the biggest headliner of the festival was supposed to perform in minutes. Die Antwoord, the South African hip-hop band is widely known for their unique style called Zef, and everyone was excited to see what they brought with them to Hradec Králové. Oh, and what a show that was! With huge screens on the stage, little freaky Yolandi moved with such a pace that you had a hard time knowing where she exactly was, especially when you were standing far away or sitting on the small hills that surrounded the stage. Her thin and very specific voice filled up the whole place until late hours as she sang hits like “I Fink U Freeky”, “Rich Bitch”, or “Ugly Boy”, while Ninja was running on the stage butt naked at the end of the set. And with the fact in mind that this concert may have been their last one in Czech Republic they gave us an amazing farewell.
First day ended up in quite a chilly night, but promising us two more days filled with music and fun, and boy, did we enjoy the second day! This time we decided to chill a bit more than usual, given the fact that we should be really working hard on the festival to bring you the best photos and great interviews. So, after spending a few hours in a small, pretty cramped swimming pool drinking cider and enjoying the sun, we finally got out to see some of the bands that were performing that day. Not really into hip-hop or techno and those kind of genres, we pretty much avoided a few bands, but here it was not something unusual. You can see all or nothing, but you still have lots of fun. And as the amazing Brad Walst of Three Days Grace said in one of the interviews I did during the festival, Rock for People is awesome because of the wide selection of music available. Everyone can enjoy whatever they want, no one will give a damn and you can still explore some new things that you might find in the end very enjoyable.
The best part of the evening for us came with two Australian bands: Deez Nuts and Northlane. Both of them have a solid fanbase here in Europe with a relationship built on a mutual chemistry. And you could see that at Rock for People as well, although, I was kind of expecting a bit more. More enthusiasm, more people in front of the stages. Unfortunately, that did not change even when Mastodon came up on the stage later in the evening. A band that recently won the Golden Gods award for the best live band got very underappreciated by the crowd. Yeah, there were the ones who knew nearly every song by heart, but the others were just standing there, listening, sometimes nodding to the rhythm of songs and that was it. One would have thought that with their softer sound they would draw in more people and not just the uncompromising metalheads, but not really. I really missed something, maybe the chemistry between the crowd and the band, maybe something else. Nonetheless, I guess we have to deal with this kind of stuff when bands like Mastodon are invited to play a festival where the genre scale is just too broad.
Or maybe the catch was somewhere else. Maybe the people were just waiting around and still chilling, since they obviously hadn’t enough after the whole day, and saving the energy until the headliner of the day came up on the stage, Paramore. Oh, and was it really needed… Hayley Williams running around, jumping around with her silver hair flying everywhere… That was pure energy. The fans just had to keep up with that, of course. She didn’t seem to get tired a bit and didn’t even miss a note. Some people might have been a bit skeptical about their performance, as was I, especially because of their recent work. Call me an old-school rocker, but I like the old Paramore way more. That day, though, watching them perform I quickly changed my mind. Their songs might not be the genre I would much appreciate, after all, all of us like different things, but still they pretty much got me where they wanted. Not to mention that their interaction with the fans is what makes the performance even better. Always the smallest things might make your experience the best of all. Hands down, Hayley, it was amazing. And with orange hair or not, you did not change a bit.
As we headed back to the tent at the end of the second day, we still could feel and hear the beat of the few last Paramore songs. It was a very nice and indeed a successful ending of the second day, but the biggest attraction was just supposed to come. Or at least for me.
Third day of Rock for People was still floating on the waters of amazing. With just few bands on the list that I was looking forward to seeing perform, chilling zones were the place for me again. But soon Eskimo Callboy were scheduled to play and so I dragged my butt right in front of the stage to really see whether they will live up to their reputation. I heard many great things about this German band that combines metalcore with electronic music. From their quite unique style, that distinguished them a bit from the usual metalcore scene, right to their friendly personalities and great energetic show. And that is exactly what I got. With the very first beat this band made me jump and head-bang along with the crowd and even though there were not much people in front of the stage, the ones standing there really enjoyed themselves.
Even though the sun was slowly setting down and the whole festival was nearing the end, you could not really sense it among the people. As the first day, the last they were just the same. People were wandering around, chilling, enjoying various stages and that is why the space in front of the two main stages was not even close to half full for nearly the whole day. But maybe it got a bit more crowded when Three Days Grace got up on the stage, since this Canadian band is always very welcomed in Czech Republic and at Rock for People especially. Being it their second time there they received a huge warm welcome while they pulled a show worth watching. Even though they were tired as hell, those poor babies, nothing was visible for people out there, who just wanted to sing along their greatest hits.
A small a change came in the evening with a pop group Foster the People on the main stage and later with Kraftklub, the German indie-pop band mixed with a bit of rap, or as it more commonly used, German sprachgesang. It wasn’t like those bands did not draw in a nice number of fans, more like the opposite, but for some it was not as appealing as the last band of the festival on the main stage.
No one really believed that Evanescence would get up on the stage again after years of absence. Even the always beautiful and charming singer Amy Lee wanted a taste of solo waters and it wasn’t bad at all. But then Jen Majura joined the band and hope was restored again. There we were, in front of the stage, waiting impatiently for the band that meant a lot to us, that speaks to us with their music even after many years. We might no longer be teenagers that would, with tears on the brink of any eyes, sing the heartfelt words of “Everybody’s Fool” together with Amy, but we could still revive those moments again.
Amy Lee came up on stage and hit it off with such a force that I nearly had to pick up my jaw from the floor. Her voice very easily gave us goosebumps that stayed there to the very end. Alright, sometimes it really happened that she did not nicely hit one or two notes but really, no one gave a damn about it. It was not about the clarity of the singing, even though that is the main part, of course. But about what that show left in you, the warm feeling inside. And after all, Amy made up for all the little mistakes with her excellent piano skills managing to play so smoothly that I felt like she is playing it directly into my ear. They all gave us everything there was to give and we paid back with screaming our hearts out. If you could think of a better way to end Rock for People, I would say, think again and more carefully. Evanescence might not be as mainstream as Paramore or as crazy as Die Antwoord, but they can be easily described as legends of their genre.
Rock for People is one of those festivals where you don’t need a lot of great international bands for each day. Even though the truth must be said – with more well-known bands much more people would come. And with more people the front of the stages would not scream with emptiness from time to time. But to that could easily contribute also just too many stages, twelve is kind of a crazy number, let’s be honest. So yeah, for the people? Awesome as hell. For the bands… nah… maybe not so much. But who knows? Maybe the guys from Mastodon enjoyed a small and calmer crowd, I’ll be sure to ask them next time.
One thing is for sure, however. If you want to find yourself more relaxed and chilled out than ever before and still not get bored out of your mind, Rock for People is surely the place to be. See you next year.