Soap&Skin – Narrow

No update for the 15th and this update is just over a day late. This week I’m working on my novella, you see. There will be an update for the 25th and a bonus update on that rarest of days, 29 February.

When logging into the Avenue, I noticed the Soap&Skin concert review was this week’s most visited but one. Not without a reason: Anja Plaschg has just released an EP, Narrow (Europe only – the rest of the world will have to wait until March). One of the songs is a cover of “Voyage Voyage”, in a way you instantly decide not leaving home may be the better option.  “Did I just watch a concert or an exorcism?” was the question I asked myself after the concert and that is still a good way to describe Anja in action. (Don’t believe me? Then watch her in action during her cover of a Clint Mansell track.)

The “single” (if that is an appropriate title) of the EP is “Boat Turns Toward The Port”. For days Anja’s cry/chant has been hollering in my head. Much like many of the other tracks of the EP, by the way. If four stars indicate a masterpiece, Narrow deserves at least three. And the missing star is left out because sometimes the tracks seem a bit too arty, too created – but accept my apologies for what’s up next: I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. The world of Soap&Skin isn’t always like the world of us, mere mortals. Opening track “Vater” is an elegy to her deceased father and we don’t know too many that have lines like “I drink thousands of bottle of wine in your honour, but I preferred to be a maggot”. Much like we don’t know too many artists who have chocolate as merchandising, especially this kind: “Black cumin is hiding under a cream of white poppy seeds and white incense, followed by a jelly of dense red wine. In the centre an antique pink beetroot ganache with pig’s blood. The blue flowers (cornflowers) come to rest next to black sesame on a blanket – of dark chocolate, manufactured in the tradition of the American Indians whose cocoa was very carefully processed and not heated.”

Any two-word summary of Soap&Skin should contain the words “extraordinary” and “intense”.

Forward tales to tide
The boat turns toward the port
With fire and mud stained sky
Bright aft time
Bright aft time
My whole burden is laid down
Stay here
Stay here
Stay

Pain Teens – "The Basement"

Have you ever been shocked by a video? Really shocked? To the extent that several years later you still remember some images: a shaking lamp, a girl behind stairs, violence… Well, as you can tell from the introduction, I have. I once saw a short documentary about a band called Pain Teens on the Dutch television. It included the video for “The Basement”. And like I said, I still remember it. Not only because the song is about a girl that’s being kept in a basement and tortured, but also because some of the lyrics were re-enacted.

Well, thanks to YouTube, I was able to see it once more. I still found it disturbing. Anyway, here it is. Watch it at your own risk.

Death in Vegas – Dirge

A couple of days ago, I posted a compilation of my favourite songs of the past fifteen years. The best song of 2000 was Dirge by Death in Vegas, which saw its reputation grow as the naughties progressed. Most people know it from being used in the Last House on the Left remake, but it’s also a song that inspired a couple of people to make their own video to. This one, made by giampib73, features a lot of clips from classic movies. Six minutes of classic heroines, here is my Christmas treat for you.

The Raveonettes (10/12/09, Leuven)

Leuven, proud owner of one of the oldest universities in Europe, but also the place of a decrepid concert venue. It still had some seats, some of the seats had torn backsides, the sound wasn’t great (or do we have to look at the sound engineer?), the bar was difficult to reach, the place where you had to buy tokens for the bar was conveniently located next to the hall’s entrance (thus blocking both the entrance/exit and the way to the venue)… the night surely didn’t look too promising. Even the opening act, a local act whose main influence was The Cure (so much so that after the concert one heckler shouted “Play A Forest“) and whose singer had the age-old look of someone who urgently needed to have a shit, right after he was done collecting all the pins from the stage floor with his bare feet. The guitarist, clad in a silly bonnet, was mocked for being red-haired by the singer and after a while the guy showed he needed to piss as much as defecate. Good times were had.

So yes, by the time Sune Rose Wagner, Sharin Foo and their two companions hit the stage, all my expectations were gone. But do not fear… The Raveonettes proved they were much better than that. Even though the sound wasn’t great (which hindered a couple of songs), the band shone. Furthermore, after nine years in business you’re noticing the great songs the band didn’t play, proving the band has a great catalogue of superb songs. For every “Attack of the Ghost Riders” there’s an unplayed “Beat City”, for every “Love in a Trashcan” (welcomed by an ovation from the crowd) there’s a “Sleepwalking”.
The Raveonettes is a band which dedicates itself to the 50s and 60s. Yet it’s more than a retro band, adding some contemporary influences. Some of the songs features words and themes which would be highly uncommon in the 50s or 60s, like “Boys who rape (should all be destroyed)” from their latest album.

That the band loves their crowds as much as they love the band was proven by the fact The Raveonettes didn’t just return for an encore (how ironic to start your encore with “Last Dance”) but that they returned after their encore for another two songs. Plus, shortly after the concert, front woman Sharin Foo rushed to the merchandise stand to sell (and sign) the band’s T-shirts, albums and mugs. If anything, it shows dedication to rock’n’roll. “This is whiplash rock’n’roll,” an old T-shirt from the band used to say. It’s a great way to describe the band’s music (both pleasing and lashing out at the same moment), a band whose songs would do great on soundtrack of both nostalgic movies and pitch-dark spaghetti westerns (try “Aly, walk with me” from their previous album).

If you’ve seen the Twin Peaks series or Mulholland Drive, you’ll understand what I mean if I say the concert went all Lynchian after a while: first a song by Sune (spotlight on him, the rest of the band invisible), then Sharin’s moment to shine (she all alone performing “Oh, I buried you today”, the spotlight only on her). Here’s a band managing to draw you into their atmosphere of contemporary nostalgia. And the proof that concerts can be good, even if the sound engineering isn’t up to scratch.

In and out of control has been in the shops since October. It may not be a crime if you don’t own the album, but don’t try and convince me you like rock if you don’t own at least an EP by this Danish combo.

Stereolab (Nov 12 2008, Brussels)

I went to the Stereolab concert in Brussels earlier this month and oh my, what a ****hole the Botanique is: lots of unfriendly concertgoers and when more than 50 people (constantly) ignore the smoking ban inside the concert hall it can only be a sign that the venue itself doesn’t care… oh, and I didn’t like it how some weed-smoking tosser didn’t give a damn about using my coat as a seat when his marihuana-loaded legs couldn’t support his ugly body anymore… so yes, a good concert can be ruined by other people in the venue and it’s especially sad when it’s your favourite band.  So don’t expect a review of that concert. Anyway, after that concert I decided this may be the very last time I’ll go to that venue. Up to November I’d always claimed the Botanique’s concerts were often ruined by the crowd, except for Stereolab’s concerts. Well, I can’t say that any longer.

Instead, I’ll treat you to a video of one of their songs. In this day and age “Ping Pong” seems to be as topical as it was 15 years ago (you can find the track on the album Mars Audiac Quintet) and here are the lyrics to prove my point:

it’s alright ‘cos the historical pattern has shown
how the economical cycle tends to revolve
in a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop
a slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more

bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery
huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery

you see the recovery always comes ’round again
there’s nothing to worry for things will look after themselves
it’s alright recovery always comes ’round again
there’s nothing to worry if things can only get better

there’s only millions that lose their jobs and homes and sometimes accents
there’s only millions that die in their bloody wars, it’s alright

it’s only their lives and the lives of their next of kin that they are losing
it’s only their lives and the lives of their next of kin that they are losing

it’s alright ‘cos the historical pattern has shown
how the economical cycle tends to revolve
in a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop
a slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more

bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery
huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery

don’t worry be happy things will get better naturally
don’t worry shut up sit down go with it and be happy

Pukkelpop Unlive 2008

2008 may be remembered for a lot of things, but it’s the year we decided not to go to Pukkelpop. Instead, we watched it LIVE on our computer and wrote four articles about it. Given that the internet is full of pages trying to grab your attention, it may have been difficult to keep track of those pieces. For a time, my website’s frontpage led you to them, but those links are only there temporarily. So here’s a handy link to the reviews:

Prelude: Pukkelpop 2008 – The Home Edition
“if you look up “Pukkelpop 2008 line-up”, your second hit would be a blog saying this was the worst line-up in years. It is.”
(read more)

Pukkelpop Unlive (day 1)
The Subways gave me mood swings, Amy MacDonald is overhyped and Mercury Rev raise the bar for the next bands. That and reviews on Die! Die! Die!, Triggerfinger, Santogold, Tricky, Editors, Danko Jones and Stereo MCs.
(read more)

Pukkelpop Unlive (day 2)
In which we didn’t become fans of Robyn: “What’s the difference between me and thousands of people at the Dance Hall? They seemed to like Robyn, I didn’t. I listened for two and a half songs because I’d told myself I couldn’t dislike them more than ‘Who’s that girl?’. And while that’s technically true, that still doesn’t mean I liked them. Well, the second one was bearable.”
Reviews of State Radio, Dusty Kid, Spearhead, Girls In Hawaii, A Brand, Deadmau5, Foals, Robyn, Miss Kitten and the Hacker, Boys Noize and more than a dozen of video links.
(read more)

Pukkelpop Unlive (day 3)
Samim & Miguel Toro play percussion, Lykke Li is almost awake, The Black Box Revelation show their potential, The Rones are ynnuf, Black Kids are no Fiery Furnaces, The Wombats are the flavour of the month with an upcoming expiry date, Plain White T’s and Anti-Flag are clones, Girl Talk benefits from the rescheduled line-up, The Dresden Dolls are very good, Bloc Party are good and popular, Étienne de Crécy gives people who like cubes with electric light an erection, plus the jury’s verdict.
(read more)

Pukkelpop Unlive (day 3)

Day three and the uncontrolable urge to look across the border and see how the Dutch festival Lowlands is coping. We noticed bad reviews for Santogold’s concert and found Amy McDonald’s line-up eerily similar to what we’d seen at Pukkelpop the day before (now that’s disappointing). Never mind, it’s Pukkelpop we should review, so here we go for the third and final day of the festival.

Samim & Miguel Toro (Percussions) was what it said on the tin: those two guys on percussions. Ideal for those who wanted to dance but not too much early in the morning (dance hall, 11.20), ideal for intermission music, but how the hell do you review half an hour of percussions? So early in the morning the audience decided to soak it up rather than dance it off. Not much movement in the front rows. And no, we didn’t dance either: we hurried off to the Marquee…

But first an important question: can we ceremonially sacrifice the person responsible for scheduling Lykke Li at 11.20am? Lykke Li sounded and looked even more asleep than the audience and “Dance Dance Dance” sounded nowhere near the record version we so love. Nevertheless, the crowd applauded, a sound that seemed to awake Lykke Li and her band. Vocally she wasn’t in optima forma, but she was clever enough not to demand too much of her voice. As this was one of my most anticipated concerts I did feel a bit disappointed afterwards, but to be honest, so early on a festival morning I wasn’t even awake myself. The jury gave 5.5/10 as a verdict (though the execution could’ve been a lot better, we still like the songs) and commented: “Lykke Li’s next concert in Belgium will be at 9pm. We’ll be more awake. We expect the same of her.”

VISUAL PROOF:
Lykke Li – Dance Dance Dance
Lykke Li – I’m Good I’m Gone (special version)

The Black Box Revelation followed in Lykke Li’s footsteps and awoke everyone present with a noon portion of rock. If sports and music are indications, the brand new Belgian generation is doing more than okay. The BBR recently played a couple of concerts in America and mentioned to get noticed there. Home again, the duo were keen to show this had nothing to do with promo talk and all with talent. A tight set and if you closed your eyes, you could’ve been fooled into thinking there were more than two people on stage. Yeah, they’re young and they still need to mature, but the room for improvement we’d like to see is potentially there. Best of luck and do us proud!

VISUAL PROOF:
The Black Box Revelation – Set Your Head on Fire

The cancellation of the 5pm act was the reason all the artists could stay in bed another extra 80 minutes. Lucky bastards. Anyway, it was half past one when the main stage finally awoke. The bad on stage were Senor Eht, which is The Rones written backwards in an attempt to be funny. Sorry, ynnuf. The Belgian boys came to the festival to promote their new album, Sinner Songs. Listening to their album preview (which you can do here), I had to think of QotSA a bit too much and the same could be said about the concert (notice a vague similarity between Josh Homme and Rones frontman Lenn Van Meeuwen). Standing in the shadows of QotSA and Nine Inch Nails (“The Bitter Taste”), The Rones are good as a pleasant ersatz for when QotSA or NIN can’t make it to the Lowlands or if you want to listen to – as Last.fm would put it – “similar artists”. Not bad, not bad.

VISUAL PROOF:
THE RONES – Nonsense & Crackwhores

Over to the Marquee… where Black Kids (13.40) were announced as “funny fun from America”. The first song sounded like they’d forgotten the soundcheck and wanted to test their equipment live on stage. Some of their songs may have brilliant names (e.g. I’m not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you), but what I saw on stage wasn’t that brilliant. It’s rock with dance, but not enough dance. Or rock. It’s pop with experiment, but nearly not enough experiment. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to a Fiery Furnaces album.

The Wombats (main, 14.50) asked if the audience was ready for some serious music. Yes, and we also want to know where you hid it? The first fifteen minutes are best described as “an abomination”, later came a few improvements (i.e. “Christmas comes early”), but the concert hobbled up and down. Right now, The Wombats sound like the flavour of the month and an expiry date nearing them at a fast pace. 4/10

Five o’clock and a raised middlefinger to yesterday’s line-up as all three stages allowed the cameras to have a look at their set: the hippies went to Plain White T’s at the main stage (16.30-17.15), the rockers and punks went to see Anti-Flag at the Marquee (16.25-17.15) while Girl Talk (17.00-17.50) in the Dance Hall catered to the beautiful people. Apologies to the insulted, beginning with the hippies. As you know sound is quicker than image and so I heard of Plain White T’s before I saw them. My initial thought: oh, have the children of Creedence Clearwater Revival formed a band of their own? A thought that never went away…
Before we head over to the Marquee, let’s open a brand new can of expletives. Yes, Anti-Flag is to punk what Plain White T’s is to the flower power: a cloned band that comes at least a generation later than planned. The tattoos, hair standing up with gel, a drummer with earrings rolling with his tongue and, above all, expletives. I counted five fucks and three motherfuckers in five minutes. Hey, at least they’re still relatively young and their anger sounds a lot more sincere than The Sex Pistols (currently playing at Lowlands). No complaints here, except I’m someone who is exposed to archive footage and has seen a lot of similar acts. But for now, it’ll do.

VISUAL PROOF:
THE PLAIN WHITE T’S – Hey There Delilah
ANTI-FLAG – Turncoat

Also on stage: the “Anti-Flag Army”. Read: five girls with black dresses who looked freshly plucked from the audience. So not unlike Girl Talk then, where Gregg Gillis had himself backed up by a dozen people he’d picked from the crowd, dancing to the beats. Girl Talk wasn’t scheduled for this stage: he should’ve appeared at the Chateau (my beloved stage) a couple of hours earlier, but since he couldn’t make his 2pm appointment he found himself rescheduled to this bigger stage. Well, it looked as if he had no trouble filling the Dance Hall. (By the way, there are a lot of people who walk straight on past the entrance gates and never look back for three days. The Dance Hall and the Boiler Room have the most persistent audience, which is a bit of a shame if you’re in one of the other tents with dance-based music… they won’t budge.) Girl Talk was there to have fun: early in his set he loop voice and beats in his computer and dived into the crowd, to dance with his audience. Girl Talk is 50 minutes of samples, some of them slower or faster, but all of it organic. With occasional moments where Gillis programmed his computer, grabbed his microphone and boosted up the crowd. A welcome change, we must say.

VISUAL PROOF:
Girl Talk – Bounce That

It’s 7.30pm and the Marquee invites another power duo, albeit a rather different one. And, speaking of differences, Dresden Dolls didn’t even look like their usual selves: gone is the make-up, now it’s just Brian on drums and Amanda on piano. (Well, there’s still some stuff underneath Amanda’s right eye.) Formerly described by themselves as “Brechtian punk cabaret”, the duo may be less cabaret but is still every inch as much Brechtian punk as they used to be. The absolute highlight was penultimate song “Girl Anachronism” played with so much power and at such a high speed you’d think Brian and Amanda had to catch a train. With Brian signalling he was out of breath afterwards, Amanda gave him a minute to recover by addressing the crowd and informing them of the upcoming tours of Brian (as part of The World/Inferno Friendship Society) and Amanda (solo album, Who killed Amanda Palmer?, coming out soon), but then it was back to business with an adrenalin-boosted finale. Almost the best concert of the festival.

VISUAL PROOF:
THE DRESDEN DOLLS – Night Reconnaissance

Kele Okereke only has to raise his hands in the air to get thousands of people clapping, even if it is to one of Bloc Party‘s weaker songs (the one where Kele advises his audience to cut an arm off when it annoys you). The massive applauses (which sometimes sounded like a collective orgasm) may give the band a bit too much credit for their value, but Bloc Party are good and popular.

Headlining tonight: Sigur Ros on the main stage (with an afterparty by Soulwax), Elbow in the Marquee (we didn’t see their concert, but the next day in Holland they were apparently superb) and Étienne de Crécy in the dance hall. The light effects were minimal (image 3×3 cubes lighting up in variations, with de Crécy in the middle one), but played out with maximal effect (and in alignment with the beats). Did Kraftwerk perhaps design his set? If you’re the sort of person who rates a concert based on the visual effects, this was a triumph. If not, it was still a treat. And if you like to watch cubes with light effects, it was orgasmic.

VISUAL PROOF:
ETIENNE DE CRECY – Live performance (excerpt)

And now for the jury’s verdict… The jury decided not to end this Pukkelpop with a top ten, but with a couple of prizes:
* Best concert we watched: Mercury Rev
* Best runner-up: Dresden Dolls
* Twat of the year: the idiot with the Flaming Lips balloon at the Ting Tings concert, with the message “The Ting Tings suck” on his balloon
* Least deserved headliner: The Killers on Thursday (this, by the way, seems to be a general conclusion by reviewers and audience)
* Most out-of-place headliner: Metallica
* Worst line-up in several years: Pukkelpop 2008

Pukkelpop Unlive (day 2)

Welcome to part two of our Pukkelpop review, which this year focused on only three stages: the main stage, the Marquee and the Dance Hall. Sadly this meant being unable to see a couple of concerts I really would’ve wanted to see: Tunng, Nina Nastasia, Martina Topley-Bird at the Chateau and The DØ and Blood Red Shoes at the Club? The latter playing on the same stage as The Ting Tings on Thursday night. As Friday’s line-up was unfulfilling, we moved (albeit virtually) to the Netherlands: the Dutch organize Lowlands in the same weekend as Pukkelpop (but from Friday to Sunday) and with often a lot of similar bands. Speaking of which, that this was an exceptionally poor summer for music is proved between how many bands appeared at Rock Werchter (Belgium’s biggest festival) and Pukkelpop (Belgium’s biggest alternative festival): Tim Vanhamel, Hercules and Love Affair, The National, Soulwax, 2manydjs, The Black Box Revelation, Hot Chip, Editors, Sigur Rós (yes, even the same headliners), Roísín Murphy and MGMT. The times when people cried murder when one band played two concerts are apparently over.

Anyway, Lowlands… in an interview with The Ting Tings the band said they’d feared they would have to play for an empty Club at Pukkelpop (because they played at the same time as The Flaming Lips). It turned out “okay”, the band reviewed their own concert and crowd. I hope they didn’t notice the twat in the audience with a Flaming Lips balloon with the words “The Ting Tings suck ass” scribbled on it. The Tings even played a session for the Dutch tv, reducing their songs to two vocals and two guitars (and sometimes even less). It proved that calling them just another poppy duo with a cute face is doing them unjustice. “Great DJ” and “Shut up and let me go” were okay, but “That’s not my name” became a cute lament when only sang by Katie and backed by Jules De Martino on guitar (and occasional backing vocals). Furthermore, I saw the footage of “Great DJ” being played live. Yes, the first minutes gave you the impression it would’ve been better to listen to the cd, but once the crowd interacted with the song, Katie and Jules found extra energy and gave the song a boost. From what I read, this was similar for the rest of the concert. Some critics said the band had their success because Katie is cute, which I hope is not true. Definitely not for me: I’d heard the record for a month before I saw their first video and her looks. Unless their songs contain a subliminal message: “I’m cute, I’m cute, I’m cute.”

Back to Belgium for day two of Pukkelpop, which was all about one band: Metallica. They’d claimed the main stage for nearly two and a half hour, but didn’t feel obliged to be on stage for the first twenty minutes. And to think this band made the tickets three euro more expensive. Did the people get good value for the money? Let’s review the Pukkelpop Friday.

And it’s good morning to you. The American band State Radio (marquee, 12.20) kicked off the concerts at the Marquee tonight, with rock music you’d forget the minute after it’d penetrated your ears. Until they dedicated a song against the current President of the USA. Which only proves that anger is good for rock.

Video proof:
STATE RADIO – Gang of Thieves

Raise your hand if you want dance for lunch (or breakfast)? It’s 12.30 and the Dance Hall’s second act (Autokratz didn’t allow footage – well, boo hoo to you) is Dusty Kid. The (live) addition to his name means he’ll tweak his buttons in front of the audience. There was cheering from the crowd and some danced their butts off, but a lot of them just nodded their heads and upper bodies to the sounds. The camera noticed the giant clock on Dusty’s table, which informs you of this guy’s biggest enemy: time. It was nice, but I won’t remember this forever. Let alone a week. And what does a Dusty Kid do when he thinks the audience could be more enthusiastic? Raise his hands above a semi-sour face (was it boredom or concentration?) and clap. And of course the crowd will follow.

VIDEO PROOF
Dusty Kid – Milk

One might be excused for thinking Michael lives in the fields of Hasselt because Michael Franti and Spearhead (main, 14.35) played Pukkelpop yet again. Even if the first notes weren’t in the key they should’ve been, one can forgive Franti because he was singing off stage. Which was a little odd. Anyway, Franti appeared on stage and managed to captivate the audience within the space of one single minute. The bravest question: “Is there anyone who likes reggae?” on a stage waiting for Metallica. And while the folks may not be big fans of reggae, they like Spearhead and its message of love and peace. One of the few bands who manage to combine a message with funkiness. Franti and band have been playing on status quo for several years now, but their level is high enough to keep appreciating the band and their message. Peace and love.

VIDEO PROOF
Michael Franti and Spearhead – Say Hey

The Wallonian band Girls In Hawaii (marquee, 14.40) greeted the audience in Dutch after being annouced as “the most stupid name on the festival, but one of the best bands in Belgium”. Just two hours later Deadmau5 would play and what about Plain White T’s? Those are my favourites for most stupid name. The Girls are the sort of band that are successful because they’re good, but not globally because most countries have a few of those good bands. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a handful of Girls In Hawaii songs on your MP3 player/iPod. And no disrespect to the singer, but the band’s best song… was an instrumental. I wasn’t sure whether this concert was a 6 or 7 until the singer explained that, due to having to drive to another concert in France, they weren’t able to see Metallica and he was gutted. So a 6 then.

VIDEO PROOF
Girls in Hawaii – This farm will end up in fire

Next up in the Marquee: A Brand (15.50). Their logo resembles an aspirin tablet, which was what I needed after the godawful introduction by the announcer (shouting bad jokes doesn’t make them better). Which reminds me: I neglected to complain about a late addition to yesterday’s line-up. Mostly because I tried to ban Adriaan van den H. from my memory. Yes, you can be an actor who hosts a tv show with stand-up comedians and you may think you are funny, but your stand-up lines are written by others. The main proof is that you hosted another festival with your own jokes and everyone I know who attended Werchter has complained to me about the incredible lack of comedy you displayed. Adding this **** to the line-up was what kept me from running after a ticket. Pukkelpop, you should know better.

A Brand (photo by Esther Kenis)Oh yeah, weren’t we here to talk about today’s line-up and more importantly the band currently on stage? Forget about the awful introduction, “Hammerhead” opened the set and created for instant good vibes. Though it is of course dangerous to start with your biggest hit. But it’s a good way of starting a concert on the day you release your new album (Judas): start with a hit, an uptempo song from the new album and a new song which is a slow starter. Everyone but the drummer dressed up in their best white suit and A Brand delivered a tight and professional set. Even if the highlights were the hits from older albums (“Hammerhead” and “Riding Your Ghost”) and some songs were a big letdown (I fail to remember the title of the track, but it’s the one with the lyrics “Would you like to hear a guitar?”), the band proved they were Belgian subtop hoping for a chance to get international recognition.

VIDEO PROOF
A Brand – Hammerhead

Over to the Dance Hall or was it the Kindergarten Stage? Some DJs try and conceal their identity: Dr. Lektroluv has an exuberant outfit and wears green paint on his head. And then there’s Deadmau5 (16.40). You move to the Dance Hall with a heavy heart because of the foolish name and then you see a guy with mouse mask on his head. Well, I deduct it’s a mouse’s head because of the guy’s name. It looks as if a mentally handicapped five-year-old was forced to draw a mouse after playing too much Pac Man. After ten minutes he changed his stupid mask for a stupid baseball cap. Sometimes it helps being blind, it would’ve kept me focused on the music. Now I just can’t…

VIDEO PROOF
Deadmau5 – This Noise

Foals (marquee, 17.20) is one of those bands who allowed live streaming and then asked to see the material so only the best songs would be kept. The first notes of the first song sounded technically more daring and okay than a lot of what we’d heard before. Still, it took me a bloody long time to get into this concert. But just when you’re thinking “Good: yes. Memorable: no”, the band geared up and gripped me.

VIDEO PROOF
Foals – Balloons

Meanwhile on the main stage: Cold War Kids, quite a popular band with kids these days. If the question “Did you see X at Pukkelpop 2007?” was asked ten times, nine times the X would’ve stood for Cold War Kids. The band’s biggest claim to fame is the single “Hang me up to dry” and this was the penultimate song of the concert. Like the last song (“Saint John”), all I could think of was: what’s the fuzz about? Did this deserve a 5.30pm spot on the main stage?

Which brings us to the next question: do Stereophonics deserve to be on the main stage at 7pm? Don’t ask me. The answer has always been no and my nickname for the band is Stereophoneys. Still, a large crowd watched them (though some were probably there to get a good spot for the headliners of the night), so good for them.

“Who’s that girl?” That’s what it said on Robyn‘s T-shirt. Reminds me of a Madonna song and so does Robyn’s poppiness. Combine that with the Roxette hairstyle. What’s the difference between me and thousands of people at the Dance Hall (19.55)? They seemed to like it, I didn’t. I listened for two and a half songs because I’d told myself I couldn’t dislike them more than “Who’s that girl?”. And while that’s technically true, that still doesn’t mean I liked them. Well, the second one was bearable.

Thank the Lord for the Dance Hall, the only stage that allowed those who couldn’t make it to Pukkelpop’s biggest day ever (a crowd of 57.000) to watch a bit of the festival. Before we continue, let’s boo Metallica, Within Temptation, Tim Vanhamel, The Breeders, Tindersticks and The Gutter Twins. Anyway, the time is 21.45 and the Dance Hall opens its doors to Miss Kitten & the Hacker. Behind their names the word ‘live’. Well, we’ll take their word for it: it was hard to see anything behind the light effects and enough fog to think you’re in Beijing.
Miss Kitten told the audience it was a long time since she’d been at Pukkelpop but that it felt like coming home. Good for her and to be honest, it’s good the Miss Kitten hype is over. Now people can see the act for what it’s worth rather than having to complain about the undeserved hype. Maybe not the best act in the Dance Hall today, but one of the most professional if you looked at creating an atmosphere (with the smoke and the lights). And as for a bit of self-awareness, here’s Miss Kitten to the crowd regarding their productivity: “We are preparing our second album. Better late than never, eh?”

Anyway, I don’t know if it was me or them, but after twenty minutes (when the hyperannoying track “Frank Sinatra” started) I felt I’d had more than my fair share of Kitten and her Hacker. Stupidly enough, I waited for the next two tracks which were equal insults to my ears. So the first third was okay, the second third annoying and the final third… don’t know, didn’t stick around.

VIDEO PROOF
Miss Kitten & The Hacker – 1982

Though I did return to the Dance Hall for the evening’s finale. Yes, the final minutes were just Boys Noize (dance hall, 23.00) playing a record (The Prodigy’s “No good”) but in order to get the audience to freak out you’d better have a damn good set in the previous 115 minutes. By the way, what a curious way to thank the audience: “You’re no good to me / I don’t need nobody” The Boys must love irony. Anyway, did the crowd like Boys Noize? No, they went berserk to a band that sometimes sounded like a punchier Daft Punk (e.g. & Down – see below). The crowd reacted as lyrical as that other crowd was probably doing at the main stage (Metallica), while over at another tent people revived the forties and fifties (you could listen to music or have your hair done to fit the soirée). Pukkelpop couldn’t be more different that night. As for Boys Noize, they didn’t do what I hate about this sort of act: stopping records all the time to get more interaction from the crowd. No, Boys Noize provided a two-hour-long rollercoaster, were quite successful and not undeservedly so.
Oh, and you couldn’t get these dancing teens to listen to some experimental music, but if Boys Noize mix some Laurie Anderson into their set (“Oh Superman“, of course), the hipsters lap it up as if were nectar from the gods.

VIDEO PROOF
Boys Noize – & Down

Day two of Pukkelpop: the biggest day if you look at the crowd, the most expensive day ever and the poorest if you look at the quality. Let’s go to bed and sleep this one off.

TOP 5
2. BOYS NOIZE
3. A BRAND
4. MICHAEL FRANTI AND SPEARHEAD
5. FOALS

(Yep, nothing worthy of the n°1 spot, but then again here’s my top ten of missed artists:)
TUNNG – Bullets
BLOOD RED SHOES – ADHD
THE DØ – On My Shoulders
THE DØ – Playground Hustle (no video, hence my cheating)
NINA NASTASIA – This is what it is
GET CAPE, WEAR CAPE, FLY – Find the time
DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? – We Are Rockstars
CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN – Is That Lady Sniff?
MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD – Poison
LADY LINN AND HER MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – Cool Down

Pukkelpop Unlive

So here I am, feeding text into the internet. At home and not at the Pukkelpop festival where day 1 is taking place right now. The result of being unable to go on day three, rabidly hating day two with Metallica as headliners and weirdness surrounding the ticket sales for day one (see also this article). Never mind, my internet provider allows me to follow some of the concerts from the three biggest stages. Well, provided the artists allow them to stream the concerts (or even, occasionally, keep them online for a couple of months). In a way, it’s a sign of who the nice people are. Some fans just can’t make it and would settle for watching a concert online, even if this doesn’t have the wonderful feeling of watching it live in the fields. So this year, instead of Pukkelpop live, it’s watching the good artists online. Let’s call it Pukkelpop Unlive and let’s start with a picture of a band I sadly couldn’t watch (as they’re the headliners in the Club, which has to do without big screens and thus no feed for the provider): The Ting Tings.

No problem waking up today: if the loudness of Triggerfinger didn’t open your eyes or Die! Die! Die! over at the marquee, there was the aggressive electronica of The Shoes (dance hall, 11.25). I didn’t know them by name, but apparently I did know their song “AMERICA”. Loud and agressive beats, this French duo managed to wake up the crowd (or the small crowd that was awake and present) from the word ‘go’. One of the duo wore a hoodie and sunglasses. Erm, I’m sorry to disturb you, but you’re inside a tent. Why the sunglasses? Anyway, nothing exceptional, but great to wake up to.

triggerfingerWhich bring us to Die! Die! Die! (marquee, 11.20) from New Zealand. They got stuck on a ferry for “hours and hours and hours”, but finally made it to Belgium, which they thought was beautiful. The singer wore a Bob Marley T-shirt (the other two wore real shirts). It took him just one minute to dive into the front rows of the audience, then jump back on stage and roll over the stage. Within three minutes guitars were held near the amplifiers to create feedback. One member jumped on top of the amplifiers. One song was brand new and had never been played before. I missed Ikara Colt and Mclusky.

Belgian Triggerfinger (main stage, 11.55) may pass as a loud guitar band, but compared to Die! Die! Die! and The Shoes their first songs sounded quite soft. Five minutes later the band sounded more awake. Or maybe they were overwhelmed by the large crowd in front of them. Hell, it was only noon and the main stage was more than half full. Yes, the band’s greasy hair matched their dirty rock (and yes, someone felt the need to wear sunglasses – which sun did he see?). I don’t like watching this band because the image overpowers the music and standing with your back to the stage just looks odd on a festival. Good thing we also bring a book. In three words: dirty, loud, okay.

Triggerfinger were the first band to allow their concert to be shown on demand (only for the clients of the provider, but available for a couple of weeks). The first band to deny even a simple streaming: Midnight Juggernauts. Never heard of them and thanks to them we’ll keep it that way.

The SubwaysBecause I didn’t know The Subways either (main, 13.00) but they were available on demand, so we can give you a review. He has a guitar strapped to his bare chest and a couple of tattoos on his belly. She wears a bass over her top with some glitter, tight pants and pink shoes. There’s also a drummer in the background. They jump up and down on their music as if they’re intent to destroy the stage. People have compared them to Blood Red Shoes, which is unfair given that The Subways consist of three people and have been around longer (they already played Dutch festivals in 2004 and 2005, during which they were described as “still missing their own voice”). Another things, whereas Blood Red Shoes don’t go for crowd interaction (well, not during their last Belgian gig anyway), the Subways singer managed to whip up the crowd: “This may be our last song,” he said halfway during the gig, “but we’ll play it twice as long. And this is the chance for you, my side of the audience, to show them you’re as fucking good as the other side of the audience which went crazy during that last song.” Or by having screaming contests between the left and right side of the audience. Which, sadly, lasted more than two minutes. Heck, I can fill concerts like that too. Still, they managed to thank the crowd in Dutch (“Dank u, Pukkelpop!”) and the first part of the concert was okay. I mean the first ten minutes, that wasn’t a screaming match. Odd, I didn’t have any expectations when The Subways kicked off, found myself pleasantly surprised after two songs and hideously disappointed at the end. Mood swings à gogo.

In this day and age, it looks almost retro to see a girl on stage with a guitar, a backing band and a little chat with the audience between her songs. The name is Amy MacDonald (main, 14.30) and her concert at Pukkelpop came at the right moment: MacDonald received a golden record at the festival. A lot of people who were responsible for that happened to be in the audience, it Amy MacDonaldseems. And they danced and cheered throughout the concert. To be honest, I don’t understand what’s so special about MacDonald: you hear she’s successful thanks to the hype of girls with acoustic guitars. I like to disagree, mainly because it’s misogynist (you rarely hear that about male guitar bands) and because she sounds different from Adele, Duffy or Kate Nash (who played her first Belgian concert at Pukkelpop last year, in one of the smallest tents at 4pm – oh, how the times have changed). If comparisons must be made, I suggest Amy is the girl with the guitar who is for 2008 what Texas were twenty years ago. Like Texas, MacDonald can offer a welcome breeze if you’ve heard enough loudness for a while.
And yes, her concert worked itself towards a climax with a cover of “Dancing in the Dark” (okay) and her gigantic hit “This is the Life” glued together to “Let’s Start A Band”. In Amy’s words: “Give me a stage and I’ll be your rock’n’roll queen”. But also: “Give me a festival and I’ll be your Glastonbury star”. She could’ve turned that name into Pukkelpop and become the festival’s queen, but she didn’t, so she wasn’t. But hey, is there a better way to end a successful concert than by the suggestion “Let’s Start A Band”? The crowd may have loved her, I’m not sure they’ll still remember her in ten years. But for now, it’ll do and there’s no real reason to hate Amy MacDonald.

Another immensely hyped name: Santogold (dance hall, 15.15) and here’s someone who had to win me over. I’ve only been occasionally exposed to Santogold, but never got rid of my initial opinion. Which is “M.I.A. Lite”. Santagold now played the same stage on the same day M.I.A. did last year (albeit at 9pm) and you may remember we were gravely disappointed by M.I.A. So Santogold, this may be your moment to prove me wrong…
The verdictsantogold: the concert was a bit uneven. Sometimes I liked Santogold’s backing band better than the artist (when she sounded louder and/or crassier than her songs). On the other hand, “Shove it” sounded better than on the record. And truth be told, in the second half of the concert Santogold shouted a couple of times she was having a wonderful time. Which is often said by artists (even if they’re not serious), but the second half sounded tighter and better organized, so we’re willing to believe it for once. Alright, “M.I.A. lite” may not have been a good description, but I still would choose a M.I.A. record over a Santogold record, even if M.I.A.’s concert was one of the biggest disappointments last year. And if we’re comparing this year’s artists to those of twenty years ago: Santogold’s ladies who provided the backing vocals and dance steps looked as if they’d espaced from Salt’n’Pepa through a time loop.

Normally Danko Jones (main, 16.00) would’ve been when I had my lunch, so I cooked some spaghetti to get through during the concert. Make no mistake, Danko Jones are loud and will absorb energy (even if you’re just sitting at home). Danko introduced themselves as rock’n’roll for rock’n’rollers and asked the rock’n’rollers in the audience to raise their hands. Not content, he asked the people who didn’t raise their hands because they were already hungover even if this was just the first day to raise their hands too. Then he ordered the cameras to swing towards the guy in the crowd with a message. The text read: “Danko, I kiss on the first date.” (based on a Danko Jones lyric) Me too, Danko replied, but not dudes. And then it was back to the good mothership Rock’n’Roll. Danko Jones pleases the crowd and crowds please Danko Jones. No surprises, just rock. Nice. (Later in the concert Danko even ordered the cameras to two girls in the audience who, when shown next to each other, had the message “We Fuck On The First Date” on their chests. Danko applauded, but booed another girl, with the message “I Fart on the First Date” on her shirt.)
Sadly, Danko’s annual question whether the crowd like “this” (plays some rock) or “this” (plays some lo-fi, hippie style) annoys me terribly. Mainly for reasons mentioned in the previous article (some fan of loud music once disturbed a lo-fi concert by shouting “Bo-ring!” and then walking out). Sure, Danko Jones wasn’t playing that year, so they have nothing to do with it, but it’s that attitude I hate. Even from good rockers like Danko Jones. Which I why I left the main stage after that message. Looking for some hippie music.

The next act on the main stage didn’t allow their concert to be shown over the internet. The name is Serj Tankian and if that rings a bell, you know more than me. (But don’t get excited, I can name twenty acts that should’ve been on Pukkelpop but you may never have heard of.) I did see interviews with Serj and Infadels, another hyped band that didn’t allow streaming. Everyone trickytried to look cool. Noone had anything to say. Or show, apparently. Both of them could learn a lesson from someone who had no problem catering to fans who couldn’t make it to the festival: Tricky (dance, 18.30). Just when articles were mentioning how none of the nineties bands Tricky was often compared to (to his extreme annoyance) seemed to be around any longer, we were treated to new albums by Portishead and Underworld. And yes, Tricky released another album too. The man is still troubled by his soul and the happiness he found in real life and on his previous album seemed to have vanished. The new Tricky is so dark putting him in the dance hall didn’t seem the best decision. Those who came to dance may have been disappointed, but as a concert Tricky and his female vocals gave a good concert. Dark, brooding, mesmerizing, haunting. Who’s happy now?

Over on the main stage: Dropkick Murphys (19.00). Again. Good, more artists sound the same every time they’re playing, but there’s really no point spending some words on this band. Let me just refer to their previous passages. And if i didn’t mention them that year either, my thoughts haven’t been altered.
Which brings us to Ian Brown (marquee, 19.50). Do you know how it feels to go to a party and be the only one who isn’t drunk or on drugs? That’s what it was like to watch this Ian Brown concert. That, plus my occasional desire to poke him with a stick to see if he was still awake.

My site sucks, said someone to me a couple of months ago. The reason? I’d been negative about Editors. So here we go again: the Editors are back and managed to go from the late afternoon to 20.45 on the main stage. Did I like them better? Yes. Here’s my problem with the band: during their softer songs the band tends to get too mellow. Editors are at their best when louder and/or angrier (i.e. the singer banging on the piano). I wonder if my site has now become mediocre.

Mercury Rev managed to win me over before the concert started. How? The band had brought some wonderful visuals with them, complete with videoclips (Opus 40’s video played during Opus 40) and slogans (“Are you a hologram?”). But before the show the band showed part of a movie, the cult classic Daisies. The ballroom scene of Daisies finished, the band let us know via text “The show is about to begin” and yes, it did. Now Mercury Rev is one of those bands I can’t decide how much I like them. They’ve made classic tracks like “Goddess on a hiway”, tracks that are both hauntingly beautiful and incredibly annoying like “Opus 40” and some songs I dislike so much I willingly fail to remember their titles, mostly songs where Jonathan seems mostly keen to show how high he can sing (is the track called “Dreams”?).
 Now was it Daisies giving me a good mood or were Mercury Rev just brilliant? We’ll settle for the latter, mainly because at one point we saw band members laughing to each other. The smile you have when you know it’s good. “Opus 40” started as “Opus 40” (with the video on the background) but mesmerized itself into a cover of the Talking Heads classic “Once in a Lifetime”, complete with adapted lyrics (“And you might say to yourself, this is not my beautiful Belgian wife”) and turned into a rock song (odd to hear, but good). Speaking of good, this was not my first Rev concert, but this was the first time there wasn’t a single track I disliked. Not even the songs I generally hate.
And then a match lit up on screen, a quote told us to “Follow our bliss” and the Rev burst loose with a song from their forthcoming album, Snowflake Midnight. Odd to close a concert with a song that’s not even out yet, but it rocked like not many Mercury Rev songs manage to do. Incredibly pleased the band left the stage, having raised the bar so much higher for all the upcoming bands.

No feed from Roisin Murphy (main, 22.45) or The Flaming Lips, the latter being the band that were headlining in the Marquee (23.45). This was one of the problems of this line-up: none of the headliners were worthy of being called that. If you’d give a music lover the line-up, you might expect the response: “Great, but who are the headliners?” Erm, them. Them? Really? Yep, them. Paul Anka, not The Killers (photo: Bianca Diels)The biggest name on the festival today was – allegedly – The Killers (main, 00.50), makers of that one song I like, but can’t remember the title and many others I find less good. On top of that, the band were amongst the first to forbid the streaming of their concert. Here’s a little anecdote: the weekend before Pukkelpop the same crew organize a festival for music lovers over 50. The headliner was one Paul Anka, who had no problem with his concert being shown to those who couldn’t make it. As a bonus gesture, the concert was also broadcast in 12 resthomes. Many of whom could remember Paul Anka from long long ago. There was only one person who didn’t allow the transmission of his concert and that was some upcoming Dutch twat, who claims being socially aware. (Apart from old people then, they can sod off.) The no-go of The Killers is similar: they should be happy to be scheduled so late, they don’t deserve that bright spot. But that’s how it goes with pompous gits who are overhyped.

Headlining in the dance hall (00.35): them again. The main reason I know the Stereo MCs is because they were at a festival and so was I. They’ve aged, but the concert still sounded and looked like it did before. I don’t know if it is because I’m not a big fan of their music, but I’ve always found them sound formulaic. Anyway, their official site (read: a direct link to their MySpace) informed us of how much they remembered their previous visits. Apparently they were performing at the Pukklepop Festvial. Anyway, it looked as if a lot of people at the vial had made the effort to come and watch them, even if their audience looked a bit older than the audience we’d seen at the other concerts today. Let’s assume the young kids were watching The Killers. Silly people. (Speaking of which, had I obtained a ticket, you wouldn’t have heard me talking about the Stereo MCs either: I’d have gone to the Chateau for Holy Fuck. Are they good? Don’t know, but the couple of songs I’d heard made me crave for more.)
“Are you gonna bring the noise?” the singer of Stereo MCs whipped up the crowd. Several times. Here’s my thing: if a concert is good, the audience will automatically bring some noise. I’m not a big fan of bands who feel the need to whip out crowds just because they’re on a stage. No, give a good performance and the rest will follow. For some proof: after another intervention about how they’d like the people to respond to their music, they played the song  “Get On It” with lots of energy.  Result: good vibes from the crowd. After a while the formula was back and the singer felt the need again to ask for some noise. Technically, a yawn is a noise too.

And so the first day of Pukkelpop Unlive. No real discoveries (I guess Die! Die! Die! was the okayest of the bands I didn’t know), one great concert (Mercury Rev) and a couple of nice concerts. Here’s my top three:
1. MERCURY REV
2. TRICKY
3. AMY MACDONALD
4. SANTOGOLD
5. THE SHOES (or Editors)

(to be continued – the next review will go online in a couple of days.)

Rock Herk 2008

The 26th edition of the Rock Herk festival didn’t step away from its core rule: Rock Herk is and remains a free festival. Spread out over two days now, the first day focuses on dance (headliners were Blackstrobe and Alex Gopher) while the second day is the sort of Saturday one can expect from Rock Herk: as eclectic as it can get.

The headliners were Battles and Roni Size & Reprazent (live) on the main stage and Bane and AmenRa on the second stage. As always, part of the line-up was great for the game “shout if you heard of any of this names”, but it remains a festival with a great atmosphere. We also made new enemies: the band The Enemy.

futureoftheleft-03-bigThe second day of Rock Herk opened at 1pm with the Belgian band The Porn Bloopers. Apparently they’re good, but you won’t hear that from me as I only arrived later in the day. Books don’t write themselves, you know, so I missed out on The Porn Bloopers, Lagwagon (which we’ve seen enough of at other festivals), Creature With The Atom Brain (the band of one of the band Millionaire, with weirdness and schlock reigning high – see earlier reviews from more on the band or check their MySpace and part of Future of the Left. Future of the Left are what’s left (sorry for the pun) of the excellent and underrated mclusky. (Jon Chapple, the third of mclusky that isn’t in Future of the Left, also has a new band: Shooting At Unarmed Men.) In short, “Wrigley Scott” and “Manchasm” are great songs, but “Alan is a Cowboy Killer” or “To Hell With Good Intentions” they ain’t. We still often lament mclusky is no longer among us, but we’ll content ourselves with Future of the Left. Albeit semi-reluctantly. (Here’s their MySpace.)

VISUAL PROOF
Future of the Left – Manchasm
Future of the Left – adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood
mclusky – To Hell With Good Intentions

You may from remember from earlier editions that Rock Herk’s second stage is not much more than a gazebo. On Saturday that’s where the rougher bands play: one such example is Cutting Pink With Knives.Their MySpace announced it already: the band is splitting up and Rock Herk may’ve been their last concert ever. Generally I’m not a big fan of this sort of music, but Cutting Pink With Knives weren’t afraid to change a song’s tune at a rate only they and The Fiery Furnaces are able to. My verdict: nice for a couple of songs, but not for a full concert. (Maybe if I had known it was their last performance, I would’ve stayed a bit longer.) Anyway, check their MySpace for a sample of what the boys sound like. Oh, and how elitist their humour is (This band exists of a.o. Alex “dipping between the cock and the arse” Fitzpatrick.)

VISUAL PROOF
Cutting Pink With Knives – Laser Cannon

Back to the main stage then for Phosphorescent. Ever doubtful between being painfully out of tune and chilling to the bone. Yes, more than once Matthew Houck started a song still looking for the right key, but the lyrics coming out of his mouth sounded so sincere you’d instantly forgive him. And when Phosphorescent tried to hit you, they hit you right. Houck is truly a rock’n’roll version of a troubadour: he even walked all over the stage, his microphone attached to very long cables, continuing his minstrel songs about peoples and places.
PhosphorescentAnd yes, Phosphorescent proved at Rock Herk we were more than right when we made his song “Wolves” n°22 in the Kurtodrome’s Best 99 songs of 2007. Moving, endearing, chilling, fragile and powerful at the same time… in one word: gorgeous.

One of the nicest moments of the festival: a four-year-old girl sitting on daddy’s shoulders with headphones as big as her head and bopping along to the music, spreading her arms as if she were an aeroplane and Matthew Houck spotting her and unable to resist a smile.

VISUAL PROOF
Phosphorescent – Wolves (live at Luminaire, London, Dec 2007)
Phosphorescent – At Death, A Proclamation
Phosphorescent – A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise

Just before Phosphorescent it became clear The Enemy weren’t planning on showing up. Apparently the singer was ill. (Thanks for the comment, Wouter.) Sadly, this also wreaked havoc on the festival’s line-up. Phosporescent started twenty minutes later and every band on the main stage after Phosporescent had the chance to play ten minutes longer. While this sounds good, it also meant that you couldn’t go from one stage to another anymore. No disrespect to the Rock Herk crew, because it’s difficult to organize a festival. As for sick singers… Well, we saw Enon (also at Rock Herk) with one member missing (Toko had to stay at the airport because of problems with her visum) and singer John hooked on medication to struggle through the concert despite severe diarrhoea… That’s when we redefined dedication. One thing is for sure: The Enemy still need to get a lot more professional. Despite cancelling their Belgian shows, the band didn’t update their MySpace (or had it updated), so no reasons or apologies. By the way, they didn’t even bother to check the spelling of the name of the festival (their MySpace mentioned the festival “Roc Herc” – yes, The Enemy can’t even spell the word “rock”). So grow up, get professional, or else we’ll have to conclude what Future of the Left used as a name for a track: a dead Enemy always smells good.

BattlesMore bad news about The Enemy’s cancellation: I won’t be able to say anything about the bands Black Friday’ 29 and Fighting With Wire. Sorry guys, send your complaints to Coventry. The good news: this enabled Battles to bring an encore track. An encore that lasted ten minutes (yes, for one track). A powerhouse of energy and, let’s face it, the same can be said about the rest of the concert. Occasionally so a-rythmical the hipster teens who wanted to be as close to the stage as possible ran out as fast as they could (one has to love Battles just for that), but always sounding as a combo and knowing what they were doing. One inhabitant of Retardville had to explain to another inhabitant what the singer had meant with his announcement: “Hi, we’re The Battles and this is a track of our new album, Sergeant Pepper’s.” We understood Battles had also deserved their spot in that same Best of 2007 list (with the track “Ddiamondd”). And it were Battles who managed to come up with the best song of the festival: at no point did we see more people move to the music than during Battles’ song “Atlas”. Congratulations, people, it may not have won you an award, but the pleasure on your faces after the concert said more than enough.

VISUAL PROOF
Battles – Atlas
Battles – Ddiamondd
Battles – Tonto

Bane are Boston hardcore and proud of it.I don’t mind going to the second stage, but I do mind that a lot of the bands there think expletives are some form of art. Let’s hope Bane would fare better… erm, the band greeted their audience with two sentences containing the words “fuck” and “motherfucker” plus kicked off with a song that started with the word “fucking”. Okay, fuck it, I’m off! After a fucking visit to the food stalls, a fucking drink and a motherfucking visit to the toilet area I gave those motherfuckers of Bane (MySpace) a second chance and frankly, they’re not so bad. Their sheer enthusiasm had won it from the kick-ass attitude that had made the start of their concert a bit annoying. Which doesn’t mean the band had grown soft: during the penultimate number one of the band members broke his guitar. A bit irritating though… near the end they pretended like possibly maybe they could perhaps play one more song. One look at my watch told me the band still had more than five minutes. So a bit of pose, but underneath that quite some talent. What a shame though that, like so many other bands, their loudness turned their lyrics into “Aaaarghhh growllll rooowwwll grrrrr aaaaargghhh fucking gggrrrr” (Yes, for some reason the naughty words always stayed audible.)

VISUAL PROOF
Bane – Superhero
Bane – Can We Start Again

Roni SizeAs some readers may know, I’m not very impressed by Roni Size & Reprazent. Ever since I’d seen them live and it bored my socks off. This combination features a lot of talking about how brilliant they are instead of just playing the songs that could prove that to us without them having to rub it into our nose all the time. Having said that, Roni Size’s d’n’b sessions are apparently quite good. Well, a fan told us that. Someone who wasn’t too excited about this concert. To be honest, this time the band were not even half as annoying as the first time I was exposed to them. Yes, Roni still brought it to our attention every five minutes how good his band and the songs were, but then they actually started playing the songs (rather than still ramble on for so long you could have read Homer’s Odyssey in the meantime). “Brown Paper Bag”, the visual proof you’ll find below, was introduced once again by Roni Size as if it were the most important song ever written. Well, judge for yourself. I for once still hope that one day, instead of “Roni Size & Reprazent (live)”, I’ll go to a concert announced as “Reprazent (and Roni Size will shut up between the songs)”. Might be able to judge the tunes then…

VISUAL PROOF
Roni Size / Reprazent – Brown Paper Bag

amenraRight after Roni Size the Belgian d’n’b DJ Murdock would provide the after party, but for this weary reviewer the night ended with the headliner on the second stage. In Herk, when a Belgian band is allowed to be headliner, it’s not because of a sudden rush of nationalism, so let’s go over to AmenRa. Well, if we can find them… the band preferred to play with the lights out, which made their music only darker. “Slow, sturdy, repetitive sludge” is how the festival’s flyer announced them. I could agree if I knew what I’d just written. The fact is that despite the singer’s screaming (still the flyer) and loud riffs the songs still sounded like songs, something a lot of their predecessors couldn’t achieve. You won’t see me enter the Church of Ra (mainly because I don’t like these hardcore bands’ obsessions with religion), but it was good to listen to and not an unpleasant soundtrack on my way from the festival grounds to the car.Don’t forget to check out the visual proof of AmenRa, if only for the imagery by Dwid Hellion (Ritual) and Tine Guns (Visuals).

AmenRa provided my last sounds of Rock Herk 2008. See you next year!

VISUAL PROOF
AmenRa – Amkreuz
AmenRa – Ritual
AmenRa – Visuals