Text: Susanne van Hooft and Florian Baudouin
Pictures: Bente van der Zalm
After a two-year hiatus due to the corona virus, Belgium’s Pukkelpop festival pulled out all the stops with an amazing line-up and some great headliners. This year, the organisers also wanted to pay attention to the psychological well-being of the festival-goers with the “We Care A Lot” programme, which was developed in collaboration with various experts and organisations to promote a sense of security and goodwill among the approximately 70,000 attendees. Add to that the sunny weather and all the ingredients for a good weekend seem to be in place. The festival started on Thursday, but we enjoyed it from Friday onwards. We saw big names, but were also curious about relatively young acts. We give you an overview of ten acts we think you should see live.
Between all the guitars and electro beats is the delightfully quirky singer-songwriter Pitou and her four-piece backing band. We are not the only ones who like this variety, as the tent is fortunately filled to capacity. With fun eyes, Pitou does what she does best: singing. Characteristic of the songs is not only her accurate voice, but also the successful harmonies of the vocals. Pleased, Pitou tells us that her new single ‘Angel’ was released today. Soon we can expect her debut album. Judging by today’s reactions, there are quite a few people who are eagerly looking forward to this, because the audience is very enthusiastic. (SH)
Killthelogo is a Belgian post-hardcore band formed around former members of Facedown and .calibre. The band is named after the name of .calibre’s only album, released in 2002. Anyway, the various protagonists have been paving the way for twenty years without ever really managing to establish themselves on an international level. This kind of homely environment seems to suit them well. At the beginning of the afternoon, there is still little audience in the Backyard, but it will gradually fill up as the set progresses. Killthelogo uses nice contrasts between melodic atmospheric parts and other devastating parts where singer Daniel Mies screams angry lyrics about different political issues. Killthelogo performs old songs of .calibre intended for the “over-45s”. The singer does not hesitate to go into the hall and sing in the middle of the audience. What this group puts down is interesting and we will follow them closely! (FB)
Not unknown in Holland, but this band deserves a wider audience. De Staat has slowly started conquering Europe after accompanying Muse on a few dates of their 2016 tour. A short intro sample reverberates across the field before singer Torre Florim suddenly appears, a static, unhealthy smile on his face. Just as suddenly, the band begins to play. The bass and synth sounds take centre stage and give the band’s style an electronic edge, while the square riffs that don’t stick out to the left or right give an industrial edge. Florim’s vocals are powerful and sound like he is scanning slogans, like on “Who’s Gonna Be The GOAT?”, which is a real earworm. The management of the multiple voices is also remarkable, with some songs featuring some incredible question and answer games. They end their set with their biggest hit, “Witch Doctor”. (FB)
It’s still pretty quiet when the day is in full swing and even when Scottish alternative rock duo Vukovi appear, that doesn’t really change. They don’t let it get them down though and front woman Janine Shilstone, guitarist Hamish Reilly and the accompanying session drummer do their best to wake everyone up. Their alternative rock is catchy with accessible pop melodies and an electro edge through syncopated rhythms and the use of synth samples. It’s a pity that there are not enough people to set the mood for this set, because their music is made for dancing! (FB)
Fans of post-punk will enjoy The Clockworks. Just like Fontaines DC and The Murder Capital, this band is from Ireland. If we have to compare, The Clockworks is more like the first one than the second one, but it sounds a bit more pop. The four-man band is on stage with no less than five people today. Guitarist Sean Connelly has recently broken his arm and has therefore temporarily exchanged his guitar for a tambourine. Fortunately, a replacement has been found in the short term who can conjure up beautiful, meandering melodies from his guitar. The band’s strong suit is its tempo changes. It was a pleasant introduction. (SH)
When we arrive, the show has already started for a few minutes. So we can immediately see Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle perform for an audience that is listening attentively. In those first minutes, the music is indeed very calm, relaxing and it has something hypnotic about it. We only hear the clear arpeggios of Craig Whittle upon which the soft voice of Hannah Merrick is placed. The latter stands very static on stage for the moment and assumes postures that might indicate that she is a bit intimidated. This seems to change when she picks up the guitar and seems more at ease. Some songs have an ethereal atmosphere, like when there is only a guitar-vocal duet, but others, where the bright and reverberant arpeggios are exchanged for distorted riffs and long solos, are definitely heavier. (FB)
Ghostemane takes us into his special universe during his performance. Here we are treated to an unusual mix of trap, black metal and industrial metal. To sum up, it’s mostly rapped or shouted vocals, always with that vocal saturation that is typical of black metal, all this on very dark instrumental pieces and lyrics, with a strong industrial inhuman side. The performance is daring, special and quite successful as long as you appreciate the end result. You either hate it or you love it, and we tend to choose the second option! The same goes for the audience in this crowded Backyard, who were immersed in a kind of macabre trance (FB).
The Belgian band Slow Crush plays a home game in front of a fairly full house. From the first minutes on, we quickly understand the post-rock/shoegaze universe they want to take us into. It is very atmospheric with lots of effects, reverb, a very soft voice that is used as an instrument and blends into the whole and reminds a bit of Sylvaine. The rhythmic bass and drum parts bring just the right amount of heaviness. The audience listens attentively to all this, but we had expected something more. (FB)
We already knew a bit about the world of Nova Twins before seeing them today, especially by listening to their first album Who Are The Girls?, which came out in 2020. That said, we didn’t expect to get such a slap in the face! First of all, the many electronic sounds we hear are all produced by the duo’s guitar and bass, to which many effects are applied. The mix between hip hop, R&B and metal, although unusual, is very fluent and successful. There is undeniable talent in these two girls, both in the originality of their style and compositions, and technically, especially when the bassist Georgia South handles an ebow with staggering dexterity. They have no problem diving into the audience. The dup goes into the audience up to two times to play in the middle of the room. (FB)
Following their 2017 first album United States of Horror, Ho99o9 released their second opus Skin this spring, produced by Travis Barker of Blink-182. There are no instruments present on stage. Eaddy, responsible for the guitar, bass and synthesizer parts, will just be armed with a microphone, and the instrumental parts will be sung by theOGM, second vocalist, who will be behind turntables. The latter is disturbingly decked out, with clawed fingers and some sort of bonnet that he eventually removes to reveal a made-up face, or a mask, we can’t really tell what it’s supposed to represent. But Ho99o9, what are we talking about? Well, it’s an infinite number of influences ranging from hip-hop to metal to punk. You could say it’s “a kind of big hardcore metal rap”. It’s pure madness: the two guys scream and rap furiously over metal instrumental pieces with big menacing riffs, always being very agile and not hesitating to get closer to the audience. (FB)