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December 20 2011 3 20 /12 /December /2011 00:34


We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Twilight Sad, Mazes

21 September 2011, Botanique, Brussels


Cool! 3 bands on Fat Cat records, including one I'd been wanting to see for quite some time now. All for a reasonable price...



I can confirm that Mazes have at least one decent song to them, a good stage presence, a great sense of humour, and stick to the timing. Hence me only getting to see the one song. Oh well.


The Twilight Sad

It would be easy to think now-a-days that Rock has lost its innovative or spiritual side. The Twilight Sad will prove you wrong on both counts.

I'd seen live footage from 2-3 years back when McFarlane was a bit shouty, but his vocal control here tonight is simply amazing, not unlike Elbow's Guy Garvey at times, but with the distinct charm of that Glaswegian accent. He is genuinely touched by the welcome here at a close to capacity Rotonde. His emotion and intensity is matched only by the band's  frenzy and commitment. James is up there singing like - well there's really no 'like ' about it - his life does depend on it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the wonderful world of clatter and expansion that The Twilight Sad dish up, think what Coldplay could be like if their songs were good and really meant something and were played by Sighur Ros with the intensity of Arcade Fire.

I quite like this band. Like I sort of quite like the Cocteau Twins.



We Promised Jetpacks

Their indie-grunge-pop is a big change from the brutal subtly and emotion of TTS. But they do seem to have brought along a core fanbase who are singing along to all the tunes.

Despite screwing up the 3rd song, they can be a bit Big Country-ish at times, doing Green Day covers.

Ooh - this is one track that does decide to start off with a very long intro, then drops off for the vocal, rather like Sighur Ros on speed. In fact, each song is pretty much better than the other, and despite a slow start, by the end of the set, we're getting material which has enough depth and maturity to be close to Mogwai-like and might well stand it's ground in a Twilight Sad set.



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December 18 2011 1 18 /12 /December /2011 15:53

Subsonic Hornet

DNA Café, Brussels

2nd December 2011


The rich, intense blend of guitars and bass draw you into that deep comfort zone of nothingness. Visually, think of the 'Perfect Day' scene in Trainspotting with the wellbeing and contentment of sinking into the carpet on heroin and being lost to all. OK - let's snap out of initial impressions here...


The sound is excellent. The band know it. They are rising to the occasion. I really haven't heard guitars that intensely blended together since my first proper Sonic Youth experience about 3 years ago. And it's consistent throughout the set, which goes roughly from Lennonesque doom-laden ballads to almost pure vociferous nuttery worthy of an apo(ca)li(p)tical Clash. All within that total comfort zone of the sound.


Even an aggressive up-tempo track like Blind Night is smooth as dark, bitter chocolate. And the place is quiet between songs. An indication that I'm not the only one here who's completely captivated.


Now, if you're going to go to the extent of fan worship as to set up a group that not only shares half its bandname with Sonic Youth but also sports a frontman with a T-shirt with a motif similar to Lee Ronaldo's amp, then quite frankly, you're asking for a ribbing. I mean everyone quotes Sonic Youth as an influence now-a-days. But with Subsonic Hornet, there's more. Not just influence, but understanding. And it's deep. Personal. Intentional. Emotional.


Ronan Collot, the sort of brains behind the band, had started letting snippets out 2-3 years ago, including some rather enticing  videos and demos where he's played (or programmed / shot / mixed) everything himself. A good half of the people here in the DNA tonight have heard some of that material and are here eager to finally see the do done. "Good tunes, lots of  variety, very well held together, damned good sound" , said one regular pundit who'd ended up here by accident. But the punters who've heard the stuff before are universally in awe at how much better and more effective the band (Nico from Garner - Guitar, Elise from Perverted by Language - Bass, Céderic from Monsoon, etc. - drums) are. No - effective is the wrong word. It goes way beyond.


I've never seen anyone go so close on their first full gig. Or getting through it so convincingly.


Listen on Bandcamp: http://subsonichornet.bandcamp.com/


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December 5 2011 2 05 /12 /December /2011 10:13


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.



Horse Antlers


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



Sons of Disaster


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



Sensey Shogun and the Oldschoold' Man


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



OK Cowboy


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



We Stood Like Kings


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



Sabina Toll


"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")




Jury results:

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.

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November 30 2011 4 30 /11 /November /2011 22:39


Sensey Shogun is creating quite a buzz in the Brussels underground and far beyond usual  Hip-Hop circles. Jazzy tunes and engaging text, let's make better acquaintance with this Kampioenschap van Brussel finalist.

Français en bas (après la vidéo)

Yo Man! Your SoundCloud showcases some fine tunes with excellent production. How did you get to that?

Yo man. Let's say I started with harder rap, and in meeting Loic Moreau (who is my official beatmaker), I immediately fell in with the feeling with his tunes. It brought out more fun lyrics and made me focus more on jazzy stories :-) Basically, it just happened.

Texts, stories ... Where do they come from? What do they talk about?

I think my writing and my stories emerge from my past. I am a big fan of old movie, like "Chicago" everything from the time of Al Capone and beyond, we can feel it in the clip "show man" and I did not hesitate one second to reproduce the atmosphere, then the other texts are also my desire to travel to see the world. say that it speaks mainly of freedom, of escape.


Are there really 9 of you on stage? Is that the Showman side?


Ahahahahaha 9 on stage can seem to be a lot, but every person has their job within the band and then as we keep telling ourselves, "that's the show mannnnn" (our bad motto)


And who is Sensey Shogun?


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Sensey is the one that a friend calls "sweet dreamer", quiet, laid back, without the fuss, and is a addicted to music, now I am far from knowing everything, but just hearing good music during the day makes me happy and gives me wings, so it's not just redbull that can give you wings (lol)


Final Kampioenschap van Brussel, it will open doors, but especially in the north. The challenge of presenting the show has a non-public speaking?


I'll admit to being very surprised in being selected at first in the competition, and that was very motivating, but to go through to final in the AB gives me yet one more boost, so yes I am really motivated to play to a non-francophone audience, and that will sort out once and for all if I have the groove or not.


Are you going to win?


You know in some ways, I have already won! I won the chance to play with talented musicians, whether my own gang or other bands, I've been selected for the final, even just being selected to start with. To be able to appear at the AB but also I've won the right to play before an audience and that, is worth all the gold in the world (take my money - you can have it, let me play before an audience). But I wouldn't say no to going al the way (lollllllllllllllllllllll)




Sensey Shogun fait plutôt un buzz dans l'underground Bruxellois et bien au delà  des milieu Hip-Hop.  Avec des compos jazzy et des textes engageants, ça donne envie de mieux découvrir ce finaliste au Kampioenschap van Brussel


Yo Man! Ton Soundcloud nous présente des compos fins et super bien produits. Comment en es tu arrivé là?


Yo man. Disons que j'ai débuté avec du rap plus dur et que en rencontrant Loic Moreau (qui est mon beatmaker officiel) j'ai tout de suite senti un feeling avec ses compos qui ont fais ressortir en moi des lyrics plus fun et plus axé sur des histoires jazzy :-) en bref je ne me suis pas forcé !


Des textes,  des histoires... Qui viennent d'ou? Qui parlent de quoi?


Je pense que mes textes et mes histoires ressortent de mon passé. je suis un grand fan de vieux film, style "Chicago" tout ce qui est de l'époque d'Al Capone et même après, on peux le ressentir dans le clip " show man" ou je n'ai pas hésité une seule seconde à reproduire l'ambiance, ensuite les autres textes sont du aussi à mon envie de voyager de voir le monde. disons que ça parle essentiellement de liberté, d'évasion.


Vous êtes 9 sur scène? C'est le côté Showman?


Ahahahahaha effectivement être à 9 sur scène parait peut être beaucoup mais chaque personne à sont utilité au sein du groupe et puis comme on n'a l'habitude de le dire entre nous " c'est ça le show mannnnn" (notre phrase type du groupe)


Et Sensey Shogun - c'est qui?


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Sensey c'est celui que cet ami(e) appel le "doux rêveur", tranquille, posé, sans prise de tête, et qui est un addicted de la music, maintenant je suis loin de connaitre tout mais juste le faite d'entendre des bonnes musiques la journée me rend heureux et me donne des ailes, comme quoi il n'y a pas que redbull qui peut donner des ailes (mdr)


Finale du Kampioenschap van Brussel, ça va ouvrir des portes, mais surtout au nord du pays. Le défi de présenter le show a un public non-francophone?


J'avoue que j'avais été très surpris d'avoir été sélectionné la première fois pour participer au concours et que ça ma donné une motivation en plus mais de passer le cap et d'être en final et à l'AB de surcroit donne encore un boost en plus, donc oui je suis super motivé de jouer devant un public non francophone et cela pourra vraiment déterminer aussi si j'ai le groove ou pas.


Tu vas gagner?


Vous savez d'un certain côté j'ai déjà gagné ! j'ai gagné la chance de pouvoir jouer avec des musiciens talentueux, que ça soit mes zikos ou les autres groupes, d'avoir été sélectionné jusqu'en final, d'avoir été sélectionné tout court je dirai même, de pouvoir me produire à l'AB mais surtout j'ai gagné le droit de pouvoir jouer devant un public et ça, ça vaut tout l'or du monde (prend mon argent je te le donne mais laisse moi jouer devant un public). bon, après je ne dirai pas non de gagner (mdrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr)

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November 10 2011 5 10 /11 /November /2011 13:38

Sons of Disaster dish up good hard rock & roll with as much humor as passion. A great discovery in the first round with a performance that suggested there was no doubt about a place in the final. Let's see what they have on the menu today...


(Français en bas)


What ingredients do you need to make good rock nowadays?


The same as always: leather, beer, balls and women!


But the ingredients don't make a good dish. How do you cook it up?


An Arab guitarist, who's put on leather pants and is afraid of nothing.
An African drummer - these guys have natural born rhythm
A Jew on bass, you have to make some savings... The crisis has hit rock n'roll as well!
Second-guitar from Charleroi - they are an endangered species after all.
And Fleming screaming, is the only thing they they're good for!


Then you have to serve it to the punters...


Wether there's 1000 people or 10 people, we do ​​the show full on, high speed full volume, that's the only way to work it!


A word for those who find metal indigestible?


Fuck off and Die, your mother sucks horse dicks at Vilvoorde's jaarmarkt !



In the final for the Kampioenschap van Brussel. What will you make of it? 



Flood the room and whiskey rock n'roll!


You gonna win?


Sure we'd love to! But playing the AB's is already nuts. If 10 people like our show, that's victory.







Sons of Disaster, c'est du bon rock pur et dur avec autant d'humour que de passion. Une chouette découverte aux éliminatiores, avec une performance qui ne laissait aucun doute a leur participation en finale. Voyons ce qu'ils ont à nous servir...



Quels ingrédients pour faire du bon rock aujourd'hui? 


La même qu’avant : du cuir, des bières, des couilles et des femmes !



Mais les ingrédients ne font pas le plat. Comment mettez-vous tout ça à votre sauce? 


Un guitariste d'origine arabe, qui mets des pantalons en cuir et qui a peur de rien.
Un batteur d'origine africaine, ils ont le rythme dans la peau ses gens-la
Un Juif à la basse, ça c’est pour faire des économies… C’est aussi la crise dans le rock n’roll !
Un Carolo à la 2ème guitare parce-que c’est une espèce en voie d'extinction.
Un Flamand pour gueuler, c’est la seule chose qu'ils savent faire ceux-là !



Puis il faut les servir au public... 


Qu’il ait 1000 personnes ou 10 personnes, on fait le show à fond avec un max de volume et de vitesse, sinon ça ne donne rien !



Un petit mot pour ceux qui trouvent le métal indigeste? 


Fuck off and Die, your mother sucks horse dicks at Vilvoorde's jaarmarkt !



Finale du Kampioenschap van Brussel. Vous allez en faire quoi?


Inonder la salle de rock n’roll et de whisky !



Vous allez gagner?


D’office qu’on aimerait gagner ! Mais jouer à l’AB c’est déjà la folie, alors si au moins 10 personnes ont aimé notre concert, pour nous on a déjà gagné



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October 31 2011 2 31 /10 /October /2011 22:17


New Order

Ancienne Belgique

18 October 2011


Now. Talk about event of the year. Not only is New Order going to get back together, they have just announced 2 gigs, the first of which is in the 2000 capacity Ancienne Belgique. So tickets are like rocking horse shit, and everyone who's anyone has turned up, including Annik Honoré, lots of musicians in various bands, including Front 242, Der Klinke, Red Zebra, a large crowd from the UK, and others as far-a-field as Germany and Norway.


New Order are notoriously inconsistent live. I don't mean they have some shit days and some days where they're out of this world, I mean that they manage to cram total brilliance and utter shite into each and every gig, usually with some bad jokes and a technical hitch thrown in.


And we are all bracing ourselves, because Hooky is not on the bill, and they're getting the bass player from Bad Lieutenant, whose name I will not dignify by googling, to fill in.


I've got 2 reviews points here. They look at the event from different perspectives, and I thought both were sufficient valid to be worth publishing.


First from Jerôme Delvaux, former editor of PopRock.com, which pretty much describes the gig wrapped up in the controversy that surrounded it, then from me, as it happened.



As seen by Jerôme Delvaux

New Order live without iconic bassist Hooky. Just this announcement is enough to let passions rip. Yû, former star columnist at Pop-Rock.com, speaks without hesitation of high treason, a crime which in which he states that the audience is complicit. From our private correspondence:

"It's not a provocation, it is a fact. And the argument is simple: according to the original agreement, the group no longer existed if anyone left is well enough known to be valid, and moreover, has at no time been refuted by the people concerned, rather the opposite. As one founder member left, the group no longer exists, following the principle established by this agreement. To continue to use the name and act as if the group still exists is a betrayal of the member who left, and go to their concert is an act of complicity in the betrayal. Whether you like it or not, this is how things are. "


The prospect of seeing two members of Joy Division for the first time on stage, however, is too tempting, regardless of their internal wars and clashes of ego. Especially seeing as the keyboard player Gillian is back after an absence of over ten long years. Add to that the official justification for this unexpected comeback of the Mancunians (for just two concerts yesterday in Brussels and Paris tonight) is to provide financial assistance to their friend video director Michael Shamberg, who is seriously ill. This overrides the Yû theory about the legitimacy of the set-up: it is not about money or glory but only about friendship. And that it deserves at least respect.

In the end, everything went pretty much the way I had anticipated. This concert at the Ancienne Belgique was good, and that's it.

That's it because too short: only fifteen songs whilst Brian Wilson played another forty for the same price (42 euros), it's baffling.

That's it because Bernard Sumner sings badly, dances badly and has the charisma of a drunk Englishman on a beach in Ibiza. (which we knew really)

That's it because you can hear that this set is not run in (and how could it - its the first gig in six years, with a new line-up...).

That's it because one of my favorite songs, Crystal, was massacred right at the off: it wasn't far off like seeing a New Order cover band (The Killers?).

That's it because the first album, Movement, and the ever popular Technique are completely ignored in the set list.

That's it because  the new bass player (Tom Chapman, as seen in Bad Lieutenant, Sumner's latest side project) does not play like Peter Hook. But in his defence, nobody plays like Peter Hook.

That's it because the film by Michael Shamberg about Lebanon projected before the concert broke the festive atmosphere that prevailed up until that point.

That's it because a final Blue Monday / Love Will Tear Us Apart was too predictable.

That's it because a single Joy Division song, that's really not enough.


That's it because Annik Honoré clearly loved it and we know she is not objective.

That's it because cute little couple tenderly entwined in the pit for The Perfect Kiss broke up with a crash at the end of Temptation. And that's really sad.





As seen by Jez:



I hope you enjoy it as much as we're going to, because we're going to fuckin' enjoy ourselves tonight.


Bernard lays down the mission statement, just as Eligia kicks in with a backdrop of pills, blood cells, smoke, and a few pictures of derelict buildings.


Then a shaky launch into Crystal. No, it's not Hooky on the bass, and I don't know if it was nerves, the sound engineer or a problem with Bernard's autoqueue, but by verse 2, everything is sorted, and unbelievably that is (almost) as bad as it got.


Regret, is much better, almost flawless, and has the crowd convinced that maybe it won't be that bad a gig after all.


Ceremony sees Gillian on guitar and Steve doing what he's been doing for 30 years - the tightest, must mechanical drummer in the business. In fact all these songs in the early set see; to be played live without a sequencer.


Phil & Whosisface don't get much of a cheer, but Steve does, as we've now realised that Bernard is introducing the band, and a "welcome back" for Gillian gets one of the loudest cheers of the night.


Age of Consent is immaculate, but is followed by "something from the latest album", which falls rather flat. (Krafty, apparently)


1963, which they "never" play suffers from the sound engineer mixing the guitars too high, inaudible synths and the bass playing a bass line that was never meant to be played on a bass guitar. Interestingly enough, Whosisface has swapped his Fender Precision (I think) for a Musicman 4-string that looks like it has a low B tuning for this one.


Bizarre Love Triangle is the first time they've used a sequencer in the set. It suffers only from that huge stage presence that is Hooky that ought to be up there going "turn me up you bastard so we can really annoy Bernard or I'll ram my bass up your arse". Which may well have a lot to do with Bernard being on top form an seeming very relaxed, managing to get through the whole set without mentioning the war...


True Faith has been reworked with an almost unrecognisable intro, and is evidence that the band are not prepared just to reproduce what we know from the records, but are still finding new life in old material. 586 also proves to be an absolute Gem, to the great delight of some of the hardcore fans.


Perfect Kiss would have made a good set closer, and get's by far the biggest cheer of the night so far. How could they follow that? With Temptation, which is just as good. And then off.


Back on for Blue Monday. Bernard does his rockstar thing and comes on at the last minute in cue for the vocals, and for once, the bass is close to being right. Or to use the words of a certain young bass player (whom I shall spare the embarrassment of naming), it was too loud and too in-yer-face. Just the way it should be...


Only one thing could surpass that, and surpass it, it did. A very cheerful rendition of the best song of the evening:Love Will Tear Us Apart.




Post gig consesnus? Quite possibly the best overall New Order gig ever.


But it would have been SO MUCH better with Hooky.


BLT - a personal favorite.

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October 23 2011 1 23 /10 /October /2011 08:11


Candelershuys, Ukkel, 21st October 2011




Luck of the draw has OK Cowboy on at 19:30, and traffic and difficult parking conspire to me also missing Laughing Academy.


OK Cowboy, I have heard good things about and I've managed to miss them for about 2 years now. But Flupke & Simon from the Narcotic Daffodils are out in force and assure me they are very good. Though they also missed them. Laughing Academy, they reported, had some great songs, but that it hadn't scaled up that well to the full band, and the main guy (clearly the singer-songwriter) needs to choose either voice or guitar, but both at once wasn't quite working.



We Stood Like Kings


Sort of Coldplay does Post-Rock is my first impression. 2 large amps, a drum kit, a piano and a huge pedal board leave little room for 4 musicians on stage. Post rock live tends to be either utterly entrancing or overly repetitive and clinical, but they are neither (to be fair they've only been going in this form for 3 months). Their previous incarnation as Pan-Spherics gives a fair idea of what they sound like - gentle and competent prog-post-rock.



I don't think the laptop with a synth / atmosphere backing / click helped - I thought it was maybe a bit restrictive, and they'd be better if they were a bit freer. Try processing the piano instead.


Wierd choice to put an instrumental post-rock band on for Singer Songwriter night...



Little Giant


There's 5 of them, but they fit on stage better than the last lot. Seems to be built around a guitar/vocal duo (both do both), with some discrete extras on bass, drums and piano. They really haven't paid any attention whatsoever to their image, and don't even look consistently scruffy.


The first song is OK, despite being a 2 chord trick. Her vocals are quite Dolly Parton like - strident, distinctive, cuts through the mix. The lanky one in a hat has a very different Hillbilly-Johnny Cash type voice, and despite the contrast between the two voices, they work very well together both alternating and in harmony.


But this is not country. There's a lot of folk and 60's pop, and they really reminded me of The Magic Numbers. In fact, they have everything, with one but. For that style of music, you can't rely on 2 chords. You have to have great songs, with great melodies and memorable choruses. They're so very nearly there, but as they are now, they fall flat.


Work on the choruses and dig the melodies out guys. And learn a new chord.



The Sunshine Remedy


Sax and reggae Bass are clearly harder to mix, but there's no drums to balance, and once the guitar is put back in its place, the sound is verging on OK.


They remind me of what passed as reggae from Doe Maar or UB40. The 1st song suffers from the lack of drums, but the intelligent choice of musicians and a good, confident and positive delivery carry the song.


James swaps his piano for a banjo and a flute in song 2, just as an Eagles like intro pops through on the guitar.  These singer songwriters (again, 2 in this band, but not a proper 'duo') have put a lot of attention into the detail - not only in writing good songs with proper choruses, but in varying the material, and producing something I find myself just naturally singing along to.


James takes over the guitar and lead vocals for something quite English folkie a la Nick Drake, which relegates Patrick to harmonica and harmonies. Now THIS IS GOOD. Class songwriting, and performance/presentation/delivery to match.


I missed a drummer on the uptempo stuff, but that's really the only flaw. The material is good, the presentation is excellent, the bass and sax are not just there to fill up the stage, but really sound like they're part of the band. With the right production and management, I could see this becoming very radio-friendly and mass market. IMHO, they have the most commercial potential of any band I've seen so far.



Sunday Residence


This is what I expected to see on a singer songwriter's night - one guy with a guitar.


He has brought a fairly vocal fanclub with him, and whilst the songs are not brilliant, they are OK, and do not suffer from the spartan presentation.  Unfortunately, there is an overreliance on the four-chord-trick, and the set suffers from it.


Here comes another song which relies on a 4-chord pattern repeated throughout. It's a shame, as he's good at picking out melodies, but if he worked just a proper chorus and the occasional bridge into what he does, it would be so, so much better.


As the last act, he has the privilege of an encore - a cover of Tracy Chapman's Revolution. Which just like the rest of his set, is a 4-chord trick without a proper chorus...




Technical note


If you're wondering what a 4 chord trick it, these guys make a pretty good job of explaining it:


Admittedly, you can write a great song with just 4 chords, but 3 of the 4 bands I've seen tonight have dished out most of their material where there's nothing else in the song. Something like a chorus with a key change or a bridge could have given at least 2 of the acts an extra dimension. And when you can refer to Motown or Beatles tabs through the internet in seconds, it's not exactly rocket science.

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October 14 2011 6 14 /10 /October /2011 09:42


Kultuurcafé, 13th October 2011

I've been looking forward to tonight, as it's 'rough' night. And after last week, I could do with some real-proper-rock'n'roll.



Blast Year Zero


I missed them, but had reports that they were a good metal act, very tight, very energetic, not terribly original.



Sons of Disaster


Good, tight, heavy, fabulous lead guitarist, these guys rock hard and loud. They evidently love what they do, somewhere between Motorhead, Metallica and Iron Maiden, and they do it with an infectious cheek that pretty much contaminates the whole audience.


First band I've seen, and they're already better than any of the acts I saw last week.

A comparatively varied set, with no room for ego-trips is rounded off with their mission statement: We want to drink, fight, rock and fuck.


Great show, pure rock, and for me, biggest grins and best stage show of the night.



Horse Antlers


Judging by the Telecasters and Fender amps that have appeared, we're in for something a bit more bluesy and intellectual.


Sure enough, the sound is heavy, psychedelic, dark blues, with a hint of U2 (around The Joshua Tree), and a good dose of Suzi Quatro.


I was impressed with the sound, the song writing, the singer, everything about this band is excellent. The only disappointment was that they only played 4 songs (and the last one was instrumental). Not long enough.


On a purely musical level, best band of the night. By far, and that's saying something. I'll definitely go back and see them for a full set.







Metal suggests a series of clichés to most of us, and Humanotronic have worked hard to incorporate most of them into their show. Vomiting unintelligibly into the microphone, a megaphone, overly bass-heavy guitars, amps on 11, carefully choreographed pogoing.


Unfortunately, clichés don't make a good song, and the audience seems to share my indifference.



Thieves of Silence


Despite being the youngest band of the night, this lot have already opened for Gang of Four and Shadowplay (with Peter Hook headlining). Will they pull of being the only band without a drummer?


Cure, Editors, Talking Heads, Gang of Four. With the most aggressive bass of the night, you can see why the local Darkwave community have picked up on them. They have brought a new kid in to press the buttons and play the synth parts. With a result that they thunder through the set almost without pause. They have done a huge amount of work on their sound since I last saw them at La Porte Noire, and the show is much the better for it.


Short and intense, the best band of the night for me. But it's only their tunes and originality that just edge them ahead. They're must be the band most likely to take off and fill the AB, so definitely ones to watch.





Kamperen in Frankrijk


A tangled mess of cables, no bass, a guy sat on the floor with a laptop, a barbeque, and a banner announcing "A new golden century". So I'm fully expecting something a bit Portishead like.


However, the sound is atrocious, with one of the guitars not going through the PA, the electronica muddy, and the bass synth suffering from painful distortion. The drummer, fortunately, has a click to play along to, but it seems even that has it's glitches. She certainly doesn't manage to vary the very straight beats, and drum rolls or other embellishment is out of the question. Drab vocals and a farcical attempt at a guitar wall-of-noise over 2 chords give a distinct impression of something more at home in a circus than on a stage.


"We do weddings" they said. If I were them, I'd stick to divorces. And I'm not hanging around for the threat of an Eric Clapton cover.





I have seen 3 excellent bands tonight. (not counting the one that I missed). I have to wonder why the Brussels region does not subsidise venues like the Flemish do. There's a message there that Brussels has a huge amount of talent to offer, and it's gagging to get out. It just needs a little help.

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October 8 2011 7 08 /10 /October /2011 12:29


La Porte Noire

7 Oct 2011



The voice is dry, the guitar is - let's say - "discrete", the synth practically inaudible. But we don't care, because it's the best sounding bass we've heard in yonks, and some concessions need to be made to the neighbours here at La Porte Noire.  Which incidentally happens to have an exceptionally good selection of Belgian beers, for those of you not familiar with the place.


First Conspiracy gig in 20 years, and singer Bruno has swapped his the grey shoulder padded suit & skinny tie of yesteryear for his birthday suit (within some limits of decency) by the second song (the first one was instrumental). Raw, angry, punchy, and yet smooth and melodic, though subtly is hard to grasp in this context, as the sound balance is not the best. There's certainly a great variety in the tunes.


Cons2.jpgBruno, being an echte Brusseleer, swaps with ostensible ease between English with a marginal French accent and French with a strong Brussels accent, often within the same song. Which is most impressive, as he really uses both languages effectively, despite each language having its own rhythmic signature.


A cover of New Dawn Fades confirms at least one influence in what must be a long list of 80's bands, and unlike us, they play it with a certain sense of urgency, in the right key, and without fluffing the lyrics. It does go down well with the audience, which is a decent turn out and features various illustrious characters from the local indie scene.


We've got to get these guys up on a larger stage with a bit more than a pub sound, cause I want a proper balance on that guitar (the snippets I did catch were fabulous). Conspiracy may be Old School New Wave, and would have been passed it in the early '90s, but with bands like Editors and White Lies floating about, they're definately relevant today, and well woth checking out.



Many thanks to Fred from Soirée Cerises for pics and organisation.

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October 3 2011 2 03 /10 /October /2011 01:49

Kampioenschap van Brussel

7th October 2011

Rits Café

Indie/Rock night





I've seen a load of good musicians tonight, but good musicians do NOT make a good band. In fact the best band of the night were represented through the exquisite company of Simon and Flupke of the Narcotic Daffodils. Who were not playing tonight.


This is, incidentally, is the first round of Poppunt's Campioenschap van Brussel, one of the more important events in the rock/competition year, where a number of Belgian bands have come through as a springboard to a successful career.




Classic White Stripes guitar/vocals & drums duo.  Unfortunately, the drums are tight and controlled, the guitar is smooth and discrete, and the voice is soulful and melodic. Err... Needs a bass for the balls (and to drive the songs), and a synth/organ/piano to plug the gaps.


The songs are good, but IMHO, they don't pull it off as a duo. Has potential.



Subsonic Hornet

Good. The bass has balls. This FEELS like a rock band. At least for the first song, then the bass goes pretty much inaudible. And I think the guitarist centre stage would have been better off nutting the sound engineer and turning himself down... Bronchitis (I suppose) might be a reasonable excuse for running through the whole set grunting like Kurt Cobain, but it is unusual to have the lead vocal both off centre and the most static member of the band.


However, this is their very first gig, and they do have some excellent tunes. The last 2 tunes show their roots in No-Wave with a rather sonic-youth-y tune and something pretty wild with the guitarist playing slide with what looks like a amputated dildo.


Could do better, but I know they will.


They were most certainly the most visually apealing band of the night - the drummer, lead guitarist and bass player certainly all looked both like they were having a good time, and like they were putting a performance into it.




1/2 way through the set, and we get a cover of Queens "show must go on". Which proves to be the only memorable tune of the night. I've seen a few things that are a lot worse in this indie-folk style stuff, but even with a cellist from the Flemish National Orchestra, it's not a patch on Ruacutane.


Well executed, but about as rock'n'roll as X-Factor.Susan Boyle is more exciting.


The cynic in me wonders where they found so many genuine Vlaamingen in Brussels...


Animal Wonka


A trio who made me think of early Muse (when they still rocked), Foo Fighters or Triggerfinger. A well executed McCluskey cover brings back fond memories of Dour a few years ago. Oh - and the sound engineer can more or less mix a simple trio, so the sound is passable.


I was impressed with the range of sounds that the guitarist(+lead vocal) used, and the bassplayer, not only in a pink dress, but with a huge 5-String bass decorated with flowers and pink fluorescent strings, was just class.


Best band on the night for me.



Lewis Cat


You sort of know how a band is going to sound sometimes just be looking at the instruments, and this lot (Les Paul, Epiphone ES335 copy & Les Paul bass) do not scream originality or excitement.


And sure enough, we get Beetle/Stones "inspired" (is that an anagram for "r-insipid"?) rock where everyone can count to four and all the songs are written in the same key.


They did bring a crowd. It's just a shame the crowd didn't turn up for the rest of the bands.





Americana inspired ego-rock. Not my thing. Fortunately, the Archiduc is only a few doors up, and the company is excellent.







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