BSF 2015 – The day after assessment

The day after the Brussels Summer Festival 2015 I’m wondering if I should evaluate my experience. The overall event has left me tepid. Although the size of the organisation is that of any other festival, the atmosphere was lacking. Usually, when you go to a festival, you live as if the rest of humanity didn’t exist. There’s only you and a whole bunch of other music lovers fully immersed in a world made of beautiful tunes. You’re usually exhausted by sleeping in an uncomfortable tent, yet you feel relaxed and peaceful (not only because of several joints you happened to smoke). That fenced ground becomes your little piece of paradise for a few intense days. And this was missing from the BSF.

From a purely logistical point of view, I have a few remarks:

a) How can you organise a festival in Belgium with only a choice of 3 beers? One of which isn’t even Belgian (Desperados)!

b) How can you ask for 50c each time one needs to take a piss (chemical toilets btw)? I’d much rather pay 50c more for beers.

c) I understand the need of a strict schedule to avoid delays, but sometimes allowing a couple of extra songs when the audience is on a musical high might result in a more satisfied crowd.

But let’s get to the essential part: music.

Category: Just Nice 

It was the case with Matt Simons. Even though musically he wasn’t a revelation: his pop-rock is soft and something we have all already heard from one artist or the other, he was very precise and always on pitch. His generous attitude towards the audience was also gratifying.

Sabino Orsini and Jacques Duvall had a dramatic aspect to their performance. The fact that it was in the only indoor venue helped create a dark and smoky environment and without it the show would have been less remarkable. Sabino Orsini has a pleasant voice and the focus is clearly on the texts.

Lemon Straw didn’t leave me with much, mostly because their pop-folk sound isn’t innovative. Their concert wasn’t unpleasant though and as the first gig of the day they did a better job at it than others.

I’m inclined to believe that Therapy? had an unlucky spot: right after Romano Nervoso who rocked the crowd, and just before Flogging Molly who have a modest (in size), but very devoted audience. Their show ended up feeling weak in comparison.

Finally, Alice on the Roof‘s indie-electro pop is generally not my piece of cake, but I found her charming on stage and I was surprised to find myself transported by dreamy thoughts thanks to her performance.

Category: Crowd Animator 

Two groups of chanson française, similar in sound, have earned a place in this category: Boulevard des Airs and Soviet Suprem. Both played at the Madeleine venue and in both cases the crowd was dancing enthusiastically. Good, generous and energetic performances.

Category: Disappointing Big Names

Twice I was so disappointed I got frustrated with the playing band.

I’m probably bias on this one because the Ting Tings don’t play my favorite genre, but they were the worst performance of the festival in my very modest opinion. Often off-key, too far into electronic sounds (how much of it can you digest at 19:00, under the sun and still sober?) and with a dreadful attitude towards the stage staff and the audience. Miss White acting like a diva and not delivering on stage. Honestly, it came out as unconcerned. They didn’t want to be there and couldn’t care less about their public.

The second was a different type of disappointment. Triggerfinger did deliver on stage and left a satisfied audience. I, on the other hand, was very confused by their sound. I can’t say I’ve heard it before, their rock is very experimental, but something in it bothered me. The instrumental part is raw and heavy while the voice has a soft quality and this contrast is particularly disturbing. I kept waiting for the singer to scream. I didn’t particularly like the sound of the singer’s voice (but that’s very subjective) and after a while I was just bored.

Category: Heart Shaped Eyes

Imelda May was a real surprise. Clear and powerful voice backed up by a dynamic presence on stage. An energetic rockabilly performance that put smiles on everybody’s face.

Girls in Hawaii are one of the bands I discovered since I live in Brussels, but never heard live before. I’m not a big indie-pop fan, but I’ve learned to appreciate it, so it’s become part of my musical diet. Yet I generally find that the difference between a live session and a recorded one is less impressive with the indie-pop genre, compared to, for example, rock music. Girls in Hawaii proved me wrong and surprised me. They delivered a great concert which explains the large and excited audience they gathered.

I have a soft spot for Romano Nervoso since they played at the Atelier 210 last April. I was working, and I still had a blast! As you can imagine, my expectations were high, but they didn’t let me down. For the first time, the first band on stage (at 18:00) wasn’t put off by the half-empty square, on the contrary, Romano Nervoso inspired the lazy spectators and by the end of their concert a far larger crowd was under their spell. Good old rock sound with some Italian magic squeezed in.

Last but not least, Flogging Molly. If you play some Irish music you’ll always make me happy. If you mix that with some punk-rock, I’ll start dancing. If you add to the recipe a grown man spreading energy and good spirits all around him, you’ll win me over. Like me, the rest of the audience was seduced too.

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