In an interview with Dark Entries, Waveteef organizer Mat Zwart said that the alternative scene will die if you don’t give new upcoming bands a chance. It’s nice to see legendary names on a stage, but the music scene also needs new blood in order to attract a young audience. For us, thse are just a few words on paper, but it’s a hellish job for organizers to accomplish it. Waveteef is a festival that manages this in a brilliant way. The festival doesn’t seek success (after all, it all started in a squat), but it is pleased when it has reached its initial goal: satisfying two hundred music lovers of synth music during a weekend. Whether Waveteef succeeded? If you are willing to close your eyes (or better, the ears) for some hiccups like the lesser sound at times, then Waveteef deserves to be in the top of the better alternative festivals.
The location is something to remember: an old fort, just outside Antwerp’s city center and the ideal place to let you wash over with talent that comes straight from the belly of the underground. Orchidée Noire was the first act, the one-man project of Xavier Soquet. A troubadour, but the acoustic guitar was replaced by an analog synthesizer. Minimal romantic synth between the experimental approach of Guerre Froide and the melancholy of Etienne Daho. Music that almost breaks your heart. However, better not, because three other bands would play this Friday night.
Connoisseurs who bought a copy at Wool-E-Shop, know the sound of Alles. The Polish duo, formed by Marcin Regucki and Paweł Strzelec, had a technical problem during the first song, but fortunately it had no effect on the rest of this fine gig. Because Alles was the unknown band of the night, it was also the relevance. This band from Łódź turned back the clock to 1982. Tight post-punk rhythms, cold wave keyboards, an icy voice and dance moves that reminded us of the guy who once sang Transmission.
Ash Code was without doubt the band the audience was most curious about. After the brilliant debut Oblivion, the three Italians managed once again to charm the post-punk audience with Posthuman. The inspiration is obvious, but this is a band with an unique sound. Powerful uptempo songs with the perfect balance of melancholy and ingenuity. This was proven in Wommelgem. Ash Code is a band that knows how the use of a stage to conquer the listener, and that is what Alessandro, Claudia and Adriano did without difficulty.
And then it was time for the last band: Parade Ground. You can have a lot of opinions about the performances of Pierre and Jean-Marc Pauly, but eventually, you will have to admit that the two brothers always provide an intense show that leaves you speechless. Meanwhile, Parade Ground made some concessions: the current shows are less chaotic and experimental than before. The former hits (well) like Gold Rush, Action Replay or Strange World, are more recognizable. Less noise, but in terms of passion and drive, Parade Ground is still one of the best acts. As a confirmed fan (and more than that), I was pleased to see how the two brothers were welcomed as heroes in Wommelgem.
A few hours of sleep and some energy drinks armed us to see another four acts the next day. The French band Dear Deer proved that Waveteef is more than a festival for synth music. The sound of Federico Iovino and Sabatel (yes, of Cheshire Cat) came pretty close to no wave. Not everyone loved it, but those who adore Swans and (especially) the early days of Wire, were fascinated.
Would anyone manage to describe the sound of Adam Usi? The German is alone on stage with his keyboards. He can’t choose between clean vocals which strangely enough tend to sound like Richard Ashcroft, or screaming. Adam Usi impresses especially during the latter. A man who cries out his demons to the sound of minimal electro. Nice, not? It was so beautiful that we were dancing for an hour, far away from everyday problems.
The man behind Doric is a small legend among minimal synth fans, because he is indeed Stathis Leontiadis of the Greek band Human Puppets, and also of Exetix and Plexiglas. The side project Doric is more danceable, and the analog synth parts are never far away from those of The Neon Judgement during its heyday. A cool sound, with the only downside that the set could use some more variety.
Waveteef ended with the legendary act The Frozen Autumn. Funny when you realize that Diego Merletto and Froxeanne are around for almost 25 years. It is ten years since the Italian duo stood on a Belgian stage, and it was lovely to see that the fans had not forgotten this electro/darkwave band. All the big hits were played: danceable, but above all very melancholic and a worthy ending of a very successful third edition of this underground festival.
Review: Didier Becu
Photos: Xavier Marquis