Belgian Independent Music Festival 2003

Hof ter Lo, Antwerp (Belgium) / 27 December 2003
The Klinik, Insekt, Snowy Red and more…

It’s been a while since I visited a specific EBM event. In the first half of the 90’s I listened to quite a lot of dark electro stuff. In recent years my interests began to change and I did not follow the newest bands and trends in this genre very closely anymore. Now and then I put on a classic EBM record for old time’s sake. When I saw the announcement for the second ‘Belgian Independent Music Festival’ it began to itch. A few legendary Belgian electronic acts were on the menu which I never saw live, like The Klinik, Insekt and Snowy Red, plus some more contempory projects. I couldn’t resist the temptation and went to Antwerp, with my musical partner in crime MH.

The festival started already at 13:00 with some promising newcomers, but this was too early for us, since we had a long night ahead of us. So we spent some time in a great record shop, walked a little and relaxed a bit. After devouring a large portion of Vlaamse friet we went to the venue. Hof Ter Lo was situated outside the centre of Antwerp, in an area called Borgerhout. When we arrived it became directly clear that the place was crowded. Later I heard that the festival was sold-out, with 1000 visitors. As I expected, there was a dominantly male audience, lots of muscular guys with little or no hair. I saw only a handful of Dutch visitors, but I heard quite some Germans.

The venue was looking like something of a cross between a local theatre and a sportshall. The sound was quite hard in the hall, but not bad, and the lights were great. There was a separate bar, where also various merchandise stands could be found. I bought the latest issue of the Dark Entries magazine there, who also organized this festival. Attached to the magazine was a compilation with mostly unreleased tracks from the performing bands.

Unfortunately we were too late to see Stin Scatzor. I heard that they were quite alright, with harsh ebm mixed with guitars. When we arrived This Morn` Omina was already playing. Just the right music to put me in the festival mood, with their energetic tribal technoid tracks and nice background visuals. For this occasion they were assisted by mr. PAL, to make the party complete. I’ve seen TMO a handful of times now, and I think this was one of their better performances. The One Eyed Man is King!

Next was Snowy Red, which I was very curious about. This project of Micky Mike has created some classic minimal electro tunes in the distant past, and I hadn’t heard from them in a long time. Well, to be honest, it was a little deception. Most songs could not keep my attention and the vocals with constant echo effects were not convincing. The rockstar pose of Micky Mike also looked a bit out-of-place. Worse was the dominant guitarist, who played 80’s heavy metal guitar solos all the time (and who seemed to enjoy it a lot). Towards the end things got a little better, when some classics were played like ‘I’m allright’ and of course the new beat classic ‘Euroshima/Wardance’. At the end the crowd was begging for ‘Never Alive’, but they could not play it, for which Mickey Mike apologized elaborately. Afterwards I read that Snowy Red had planned to come with a full band, but that most musicians retreated shortly before the festival, so that Micky Mike had to improvise and quickly make a backing tape.

Insekt is another legendary name which the organisation found under a pile of dust. Bandmember Eric van Wonthergem is still very active in the present scene, with projects like Monolith and Sonar. His fellow insect Mario Vaerewijck has been less in the spotlight lately. It must be a decade ago that they performed together. But that couldn’t be heard! The show of Insekt was impressive, with a heavy powerful sound. They are legendary for very loud concerts, and they lived up to that expectation. The live drums made it sound and look more dynamic than some of the other acts. Their sounds also seemed to be a little refreshed and updated to live up to today’s standards. I even heard some drum ‘n bass influences. I did not know too many songs they played, but that didn’t matter. Surprising was a cover of DM’s ‘Personal Jesus’.

Next band to take the stage was Male or Female, a Front 242-related fairly new project. It could not entertain me very long. The guitarist was freaking out quite a bit, accompanied by complex electronics. The songs did not seem to have a clear head and tail. Male or Female seems to combine a variety of influences, but I was not in the mood to do an effort to get into it. I was also beginning to run short of energy. So after a few minutes we tried to find a less crowded position backstage.

Then was the moment most people were waiting for. The return of The Klinik, the influential band which released great records and played legendary concerts long before I had even heard of them. The crowd went wild, it was a magnificent sight to see all the people around us with a lot of adrenalin in their veins. Marc Verhaeghen was standing behind his equipment. He blew on a trumpet, the start of the first song ‘Decay’. Then Dirk Ivens came to the stage, wearing a mask, which he soon put aside, followed by his T-shirt. He made a youthful and energetic impression. From the first to the last song it was a true party. All Klinik classics were played, from ‘Sick in your Mind’ to ‘Black Leather’, from ‘Moving Hands’ to ‘Go back’. Mostly stuff from their first albums and singles. The songs sounded live similar to the original versions, but on such a high volume even more impressive. Cold, hard and merciless. It was not hard to realize that their concerts must have been ground-breaking in their days. Dirk Ivens is really a good entertainer, who made the audience even more enthusiastic. When they finished their show we were exhausted, so we jumped in the first taxi we saw.

All in all festival which I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. It showed again how many good (electronic) bands Belgium has produced throughout the years. I’m already wondering which legendary acts would be nice for a next edition. I can think of a few names…