FESTIVAL REVIEW: W- Fest 2019, the fourth edition of the wave and synth-pop festival

W- Fest 2019

The Fourth Edition of the Wave and Synth-Pop Festival

Killing Joke – Photo Credit Vincent Ducate

A dark period for the municipality of Waregem. Literally thousands of people dressed in black found their way to Waregem. About 22,000 people attended this 4-day festival. There were 37 different nationalities, including people from Australia and Peru, who came to Waregem especially for the festival.  The festival brings a unique mix of wave and synth-pop from the eighties combined with more recent bands that are loyal to the genre. So many famous names and also some new bands to discover.

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There were 2 stages inside and outside there were another stage and 2 DJ booths. The DJ booth at the main entrance, in particular, was visited by those who wanted to dance

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Day 1

Empathy Test can start the festival. This duo from London was founded in 2013 and brings electronic pop.

The next band is Der Klinke , a well-known name in Belgium. The room was well filled and there were many Der Klink t-shirts on display. Those who did not yet have a T-shirt could catch one because frontman ‘ Chesko ‘ threw in the audience.

Time for Signal Aout 42 or SA42 , another Belgian band but this time one from the eighties. After 2 Belgian bands, it’s time for a German electro-industrial band for In Strict Confidence. Then it’s time for Tristesse Contemporaire a trio with 3 nationalities (Japan, Sweden, and the UK) followed by Solar Fake an electro- act by singer and multi-instrumentalist ‘Sven Friedrich’ Time to go and watch the first performance outside. The Obscure, a The Cure tribute band known in Belgium. The outside square was completely full for this performance. The Blow Monkeys had to change places with The Primitives because they had problems at the border. The Blow Monkeys are a British new wave/indie pop band.

One of the first larger names may take up The Cassandra Complex. Their synth-rock pulled the audience back into the room and they put down a good and solid set. The Dutch Time Bandits may enter the stage next. They are mainly known for their hits ” I’m Specialized in You “, ” Endless Road” and ” I’m only shooting love.” 

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Merciful Nuns follow and have risen from the ashes of the legendary Garden of Delight they made the revival of Goth in the 21st century. They played their last show in Belgium at W- Fest. The band ceases to exist. And now on to the headliners. Echo & The Bunnymen is the first of them. The room was again well filled for Ian McCulloch and his Bunnymen.

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I have been looking forward to The Stranglers for a long time and after many years I see them again on the W- Fest stage. One of the longest surviving and most successful punk bands in the UK. The Stranglers put down a very strong set. The Americans of She Wants Revenge was allowed to close the first day. That their music is very much appreciated was evident in the numerous audiences.

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Day 2

Day 2 is kicked off by True Zebra a Belgian sound & vision wizard who brings tight grooves and industrial rhythms.

The next band on the stage is Ultranoire . They describe their music as electro-noir ( dark electro ) Inertia was founded in 1992 by Reza Udhin . Their first album was an immediate success. The eye-catcher of the band is undoubted ‘Blue Jigsaw ‘ the drummer. His whole body is tattooed like a big jigsaw puzzle. Then we get to see Toyah,  punk princess to ultimate stage actress. She put down a very strong set. She also brought a cover or ‘Echo Beach’ a song by Martha & the Muffins.

After Mlada Fronta a French one-man project, we are getting ready for 2 Belgian bands again. The first is Allez Allez . With their funk with African influences, they were the odd one out at the festival. The Breath of Life, which originated in the 1980s, has a unique musical style and the magical voice of singer ‘Isabelle Dekeyser ‘ brings many to rapture. Time for a live PA set from Kosheen . Among other things, the hits ‘ Slip & Slide ( Suicide ) ‘ , ‘ Catch ‘ and ‘ Hide U ‘ were not missing. The following band, Lebanon Hanover , pulled many people back to the venue. This duo brings ice-cold post-punk with a very pronounced sound. Time for some lighter music with Nik Kershaw. A bit older, but his voice was certainly fine.

After a long wait, the time has come, Siglo XX enters the stage. This Belgian post-punk band celebrates its 40th anniversary and plays its farewell concert for Belgium here after many performances songs like ‘Waiting For A Friend’, ‘Endless Corridor’, ‘Everything Is On Fire’, ‘Sister Suicide’, ‘Sister In The Rain’ was brought with full dedication. The crowd enjoyed it to the fullest From the dark music of Siglo XX to the cheerful tunes of Howard Jones and then Tony Hadley who did bring the hits of Spandau Ballet to the great pleasure of the audience.

Photo Credit: Vincent Ducate

The headliner on day 2 was VNV Nation. Less known in Belgium but a large number of Germans watched and saw that it was good. Ronan Harris was, as always, extremely energetic on stage and the interaction with the audience was great.

At the end of day 2, most of the line-up for 2020 is proposed. The headliners will be revealed at an announcement party on December 7. 

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Day 3

Day 3 started with rain and ended with rain. However, this does not harm the festival-goers.  Sono was the first to go on stage. A German band whose music is situated between pop and Electro. Next on the podium is the Belgian band Schmutz . Again a band from the eighties that has a lot of fame in Belgium. Their catchy synth-based songs made many people dance.

With Portion Control, we are once again presented with a load of electronic-industrial songs. They are seen as an influence on bands such as Frontline Assembly, Skinny Puppy, and Nine Inch Nails. Frontline Assembly played at W- Fest last year.  Time for one of the most theatrical acts of the festival Sigue Sigue Sputnik Electronic. This reincarnation of the original Sigue Sigue Sputnik takes the original songs and puts them in a new electro jacket with the necessary show elements.

On the outdoor stage, it was time for Definitivos, a Belgian punk band, mainly active in the 80s. 40 years later they are still on stage in the original line-up. They provided support for DAF at some time and played an average of 150 to 200 concerts a year. Back in for Psyche, a Canadian dark synthpop band. The band mainly revolves around singer Darrin Huss, he’s the only constant member of the band.

After Psyche, it’s time for  Escape With Romeo, Rational Youth, and Mesh. Time for an icon from the new-wave scene, Lene Lovich Band. They, like many other new wave bands, are celebrating their 40 th anniversary. Lene Lovich, 70 years old, put down a great and energetic act. Blutengel is up next. Their dark songs are mostly about love, vampires, sexual fetishism, death, and immortality. They describe their music as dark pop. a good performance both musically and visually.

Another legendary band is coming up next, Killing Joke. Jaz Coleman, face painted white and dressed in a black overalls, put on a great show. The new-wavers present enjoyed the show immensely. Again the room was completely filled for the performance of The Human League . Phil Oakey and his band are in good shape and put a very tight and almost perfect set down. One big hit machine. Nitzer Ebb ended day 3. They are one of the most important bands of the first generation of Electronic Body Music. Together with the Belgian Front 242 , they determined the style and image of the later EBM bands.

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Final day

The last day of the festival was set in motion by The Foreign Resort. The Foreign Resort is a Danish trio that mixes new-wave with post-punk. Then it was time for Je T’Aime . The band that has not been around for a long time immediately put down a very strong set with songs in post-punk cold- wave style. Kowalski is again a well-known name in the wave scene. The band who went on tour with John Lydon’s PIL is bringing a powerful industrial rock including wrenches, bolts, nuts and even a grinding machine to create their sound.

Another Belgian band on stage Lavvi Ebbel , a funk-rock band from the eighties. The band fell apart after two years and in 2013 they came back together and are still playing gigs. Again a bit strange to hear some funky tunes at a dark festival but the audience appreciated it and it was quite entertaining to watch.

Pink Turns Blue is next. Their dark wave was a great warm-up for the gentleman next on stage, And this gentleman is Peter Hook. A very crowded venue for Peter Hook & The Light. Two years ago they also played at W-Fest and decided to come back this year. A nice mix of Joy Division and New Order songs were played.

The pride of the Belgian wave scene was next on, The Whispering Sons. Almost every concert they play the sign says SOLD OUT. A solid concert loaded with the necessary aggression on the side of Fenne Kuppens . Many of the audience who never saw The Whispering Sons live couldn’t believe they had a female singer. After the strong performance of The Whispering Sons it was time for a Belgian new-wave legend. The only band who played all 4 editions of W-Fest, Red Zebra. Singer Peter Slabbynck appeared on stage with an army helmet and a poncho because they told him it could rain. A Red Zebra concert is always a big party. When they played ‘Can’t live in a living room’ the venue exploded in a figurative way.

The Norwegian band Apoptygma Berzerk is next with their catchy synth-pop songs.

Time for China Crisis on stage. Together with bands like OMD, Echo & The Bunnymen, A Flock of Seagulls,…. they were part of a wave of Liverpool acts. A nostalgic performance where the hits “Wishful Thinking”, “Working with Fire and Steel” and “Tragedy and Mystery” were not forgotten. The English rockers, punks, goths, post-punks or whatever they were once called of New Model Army are next on. We are reaching the end of a 4-day party and another well-known name makes its appearance on stage. Jimmy Somerville brought the greatest hits machine to W-Fest and everybody liked it. Even the real dark people were into it.

The last band on stage for the 2019 edition of W-Fest is And One, an EBM / synthpop band from Germany.

W-Fest 2019, you were great. See you in 2020 for an anniversary edition.

 

 

 

 

 

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