Ancienne Belgique, 3rd December 2011
We're here at the Ancienne Belgique tonight for the final of the Kampioenschap Van Brussel. 8 diverse bands, mainly here to showcase their stuff and win new fans, and maybe win something towards recording more material.
Overall, the sound is awesome - the sound team really know what they are doing. The live sound at the AB is usually the best in the business, and tonight would prove no exception. And with 8 bands all on a single stage with all their own kit to changeover in 15 minutes, that's very impressive.
Drew the short straw and were on at 19:30. And played to about 10 people, not including myself. I did get reports that they went onstage under masks, and went from electronica to a floydian prog-rock finale with guitars and voices.
Prize: You should have been there.
This is the grittiest guitar sound I've heard in ages, and the voice is just as raw. I love this bass player - Suzi Quatro sounds (though not her arse). This lot have really scaled up well to the big stage here at the Ancienne Belgique. Their psycho-glam-blues-grunge is not necessarily mass market, but I know they've won over a few new fans here tonight amongst the 150 or so audience. This has been one of the big revelations for me.
Prize: Best tunes
OK - Stage craft, here we come. Hard, fast and loud. Loads of movement, the lead singer throwing beer around and pouring neat whisky down the necks of anyone close enough to the front. They certainly got the most (spontaneous) audience participation, with a few simple and effective sing along choruses, and by cleverly incorporating the odd bit of Guns & Roses.
By now, the place is filling up nicely, and most of the audience are sporting huge grins, and those who aren't are looking utterly confused and bewildered. They're not going to score many points for originality, but Sons of Disaster came to rock, and that's a job well done.
Prize: Gutter scum
First lot to introduce themselves, have a chat with the audience and get stuck in. But he does that all rapping with a live musical backing. It's actually quite hard to write notes, as I find myself really drawn into concentrating on the lyrics. Rappers tend to talk about what makes them tick - think maybe Snoop Dogg and take away Compton & ho's, and throw in great music, travel and the buzz of great cities instead.
Full marks for putting together a proper piano-bass-drums core backline - they really did have the grove, and allowed the 2 saxes, DJ, and backing vocalists to do the do. Given that I don't usually listen to much Jazz, Soul or Hip-Hop, I was well impressed and found the whole show most enjoyable.
Prize: Don't worry, be happy
Ska likes to party, and with 9 of them onstage, with loads of movement and loads of performance, and what I reckon must have been the largest fanbase of the night, Airplane did just that.
I was wondering what was wrong with it until I remembered I was brought up on a diet of 2-Tone. Nuff said. If you disagree, try Bad Manners or early Madness.
Prize: Most entertaining fans
I bet they're fed up to the back teeth of every reviewer in creation throwing Skunk Anansie at them. I'd rather go for Tina Turner fronting The Gossip myself. The singer has the looks and the voice of a gospel diva and is prancing round the stage like a kangaroo in a gold lamé dress. The guitar nice and undserstated, and the songs carried by the bass and drums.
There's an almost Yeah-Yeah-Yeahs energy to them. Some of the best tunes of the night, and a performance up with the best of them. In fact the most surprising thing about their show was how short the applause was at the end.
Prize: Best pogo
It's a terrible thing to think, but you just know that this lot are not going to win anything tonight. They're just as tight, passionate and intense as any of the previous acts, but I can't see Post-Rock quite cutting it. They have got the best sound of the night - no mean feat - it really does fill the room magnificently, but I still think they could do with a bit more variety in the set - I think they could go quite far out with something really slow and atmospheric.
Judging by the crowd volume at the end, I would guess that they have won over some fans tonight.
Prize: Flawed genius
"I could do that with all those effects right now" says Suki. "Hell no you would not! There's no way you'd ever be seen dead on stage with an ironing board - you'd never dare show your face round here again!".
I'd actually been quite keen to see this, as I'd quite liked some of the stuff on soundcloud. Unfortunately, this has not translated well to the stage - a lot of the detail is lost and it just sounds like a laptop sequencing some fairly run-of-the-mill VST presets, and the performance is wooden.
Prize: Best overheard quote ("about as rock'n'roll as a constipated sea-slug")
1st prize - OK Cowboy
2nd prize - Horse Antlers
3rd prize - Antilux
Stoemp prize: Horse Antlers
Overall, I think that's a fair result, though IMHO, there were only 2 acts on tonight that were not serious prize contenders. I think all the bands missed a major promotion opportunity in that none of them announced where and when we'd be able to see a full set.
Did they get the winners right? On the night, I think they did. But I did think there was maybe a rather arbitrary side to it. I'd seen Subsonic Hornet in round one with disastrous sound problems, and I saw them again the night before at the DNA, and quite honestly the Subsonic Hornet was better than anything I've seen here tonight. See for yourself - they have announced their next date - at the Libre Air in St Gilles on 13 January 2012
My overall winner, however, has to be Sons of Disaster, as their fanclub bribed me with beer and stories about Union St Gilloise, and I really enjoyed their infectious enthusiasm.