Festival Review: Nova Rock 2024 – Day 1 (Thursday 13th June)

Hot Milk (c) Jack Barker

It’s hard to believe it has been five years since we last attended Nova Rock Festival. Upon entering the site, I instantly felt right at home again. Punctuality has never been my strong point, and we were originally planning on arriving with enough time to explore the festival site. However, due to an unplanned stop at Primark enroute to the festival, we had to run to the Blue Stage to catch the first band of the day. After traveling 1208 miles from our home in Yorkshire, the first band we saw in Austria was Manchester’s rising stars, Hot Milk.

Hot Milk opened their set with the first two tracks from their debut album A Call to the Void: “HORROR SHOW” and “BLOODSTREAM.” With a little help from lead vocalist Hannah (Han) Mee’s scream of “Wakey wakey, Nova Rock!” the crowd came alive, ready for a long weekend of excitement. Both Mee and Jim Shaw on guitar and vocals poured every ounce of energy into their performance. You could tell that the meaningful lyrics were intended to convey strong messages.

Long Distance Calling (c) Jack Barker

We stayed around the Blue Stage for Silverstein, a band celebrating 25 years in the industry next year. “Infinite” saw the crowd go crazy, as did “The Afterglow.” Looking at their popularity on streaming services, I can see why! It’s good to see a band playing songs from their first albums and still being able to pull such a reaction from the crowd. “Smashed Into Pieces” showed that Silverstein has been able to retain diehard fans while continuously gaining a strong following. Lead vocalist Shane Told expressed their gratitude for being able to play before bands such as Green Day and fellow countrymen in Billy Talent at one of the greatest festivals. Ending on arguably the band’s biggest hit, “Smile In Your Sleep”, they left the stage to chants of “One more song!” from the sizable crowd.

We’re suckers for trying to see as much as possible at festivals, even if it’s bands we haven’t heard of. Over the course of the long weekend, we made sure to see at least a few songs from as many bands as possible. Long Distance Calling was the first of this category at the Red Bull Stage. An instrumental band is something I’ve never seen at a festival before, but the gathering of people were all bobbing their heads along to each track. The synchronicity between the band members shows just how talented these guys are. We couldn’t stay for long, as lunch was calling.

Until I Wake (c) Jack Barker

As with previous years, there were plenty of choices for food all around the festival site, ranging from the basics such as burgers and chips to more unique options like Austrian sausages and Hungarian lángos. One thing we did find to be a little lacking this year was the choice of soft drinks, which appeared to be limited to drinks made by Red Bull, one of the festival’s main sponsors.

Sticking with the Red Bull Stage, we made our way to see Until I Wake. We’d recently heard some of their songs, “Less of Me” and “Octane”, on some suggested playlists and were excited to see them perform. After filling in for some shows last year, it became official in January that Jaali Cypher would be the new frontman for Until I Wake permanently. Spending a lot of time down on the barrier, Cypher has definitely taken the position in his stride.

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I tend to stand near the sound desk when I can, and it seemed like either the microphone for Cypher was a bit too quiet or the music coming from the Blue Stage was slightly too loud, as the noise from both stages seemed to be clashing a bit. Finishing on “Inside My Head”, they were filming “for the Insta story,” and the crowd did not disappoint with their energy throughout. Ending the set with a positive message stating, “You guys are special, keep going!” the band posed for a final photo.

Dogstar (c) Jack Barker

Another band that I surprisingly hadn’t heard of (maybe I can blame my age) that had a very large following, possibly due to a certain actor in the band, were next up on the Blue Stage—Dogstar. With a crowd full of signs aimed at Keanu Reeves, it was obvious how much attention he gains for the band. Having begun touring again last year for the first time in 20 years (something we can actually thank Covid for), the fans were definitely ready to see their comeback. I hadn’t seen such a large crowd this early in the day at any festival I’ve attended before! We didn’t stay for long, needing a coffee before making our way back up to the Red Bull Stage for Missio.

Missio is another band that I hadn’t heard of prior to doing some research before the festival, but I was looking forward to seeing the live performance from the electronic alternative duo, having liked the tracks I had heard. Being a duo, both Matthew Brue and David Butler take on multiple roles on stage, switching instruments mid-track from guitar to keyboard on multiple occasions. Tracks “Twisted” and “Sing to Me” were particularly impressive live.

Palaye Royale (c) Jack Barker

It wasn’t until 19:30 that we made our way to the Red Stage for the first time today for Palaye Royale. With some unfortunate technical difficulties during their second song of the set, they made it through the song with the crowd cheering and clapping them through. It became clear that it was only the monitors on stage producing any sound. However, the band chose to push on and began “You’ll Be Fine”, with the audience filling in for the lack of sound from the stage. Luckily, it didn’t take long for the sound techs to fix the issue, and the show was back in full swing. Lead vocalist Remington Leith always oozes confidence on stage. However, I think the band’s promotion from playing a mid-afternoon slot on the smaller Red Bull Stage to an evening slot on one of the main stages only boosted Leith’s confidence further. With their signature move, towards the end of “Lonely”, Leith jumped in an inflatable boat and rode the crowd, cooling (or soaking) them with a water pistol. Despite the technical issues, in my opinion, this was one of the best performances of the festival.

Billy Talent is a classic festival act, but I’ll be honest, not an artist I listen to regularly. However, with Jack being a much bigger fan, we went to check them out, and I can definitely appreciate the performance they give. Opening with “Devil in a Midnight Mass” saw an instant sing-along with what felt like the entire crowd joining in. We only stayed for a few songs as we wanted to catch the headline act on the Red Bull Stage, Smash Into Pieces. The sing-along obviously continued throughout the set, as we could hear the crowd singing along to “Red Flag” and “Fallen Leaves” from the opposite side of the festival site.

Smash Into Pieces (c) Jack Barker

We were very excited to see Smash Into Pieces, having seen them in Glasgow last year. The difference between seeing them in a very small venue with a max capacity of around 300 people compared to headlining a stage at a large festival is amazing. The synchronicity between Emanuel Magnil and Per Bergquist was flawless, and Chris Sörbye’s ever-growing confidence on stage is remarkable, having appeared a little nervous during previous performances, but commanding the stage this evening. Playing a set list made of songs from every album, the crowd was treated to a trip through the band’s history, even if Sörbye did joke that “That’s a really tough song” after “Broken Parts.” Slowing the pace down for a haunting cover of “Mad World” had the crowd singing in volumes I don’t think I heard at the Red Bull Stage for the rest of the festival. With an announcement of headline shows coming soon, the band took a bow to a huge cheer of excitement.

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While heading back down towards the Blue Stage for the headline act, there was a broadcast made through the speakers announcing the dates and a number of acts for Nova Rock Festival 2025. The four bands announced were Slipknot, Electric Callboy, Wanda, and Lorna Shore. With Corey Taylor being an almost permanent fixture on the festival’s lineup in one form or another and the sheer amount of Electric Callboy T-shirts seen around the festival site throughout the weekend, next year’s event is already shaping up nicely.

It amazes me the influence Queen still has. No matter where you are in the world, despite any language barrier, people still know every word. With a very loud sing-along to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the crowd was warmed up and ready for the final performance of day 1 from punk rock legends Green Day.

(c) Jack Barker

For those of you with tickets to the band’s upcoming UK tour dates, you will be well aware that the band is playing both Dookie and American Idiot in full. While not playing them in full for tonight’s set, presumably due to time constraints, tracks from these two albums did feature heavily on the setlist, along with a sprinkling of songs from six of the band’s other studio albums. There are probably pages that we could write about the stage presence and musical ability of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool, but to keep things simple, they really are the masters of punk rock, and no one else puts on a show quite like them. The energy from a group of guys in their 50s puts me to shame, standing and watching while thinking how tired my legs are after day one of a four-day festival.

The crowd was clearly loving the spectacle, whether it was songs that are 30 years old like “Basket Case” or a few months old like “The American Dream Is Killing Me.” By ten songs in, and with a lot of crowd interaction, it was time for Armstrong to get a fan up on stage to sing “Know Your Enemy” with the band. While this may be a dream come true for the chosen fan, their vocal ability rarely compares with that of the musician we are there to see.

Towards the end of Green Day’s set, we started to make our way back to the car park ahead of the drive back to our accommodation. While we would have liked to have seen the full set, the prospect of three more days of Nova Rock to go meant that our bed was calling. Although, we did enjoy hearing “St. Jimmy” and “Give Me Novocaine” while walking.

Photos by Jack Barker Photography

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