I'm not the world's most social guy. I used to be a lot better around people back in my years as a shop and bar owner. Nine years ago, when I quit those activities, everything changed. Even though I still lived in the same city, I never really got to meet my ex-customers again, mainly because I didn't really go to metal gigs anymore. I switched to noise, drone and ambient, the first one fueled by anger, frustration and an enormous financial hangover. Gradually, my wife and I crawled out of our misery and got our lives back together. Fast forward to that Tuesday morning when I invented The Metal Deck, and things would start changing again; for the better this time.
Rodeofest was the very first festival I contacted about The Metal Deck, and they were the first ones to say yes too. So we reserved a spot in the merchandising tent, gathered a box of decks and grabbed a heap of cds to sell to the fine people at the festival. Björn, my companion for the day, picked me up around noon and we drove off in his awesome, almost ancient, Volvo. About an hour later, we were all set-up and ready to go. We had to expand the merch-tent a little in order to make room for Dopethrone and Eat The Turnbuckle, our neighbours for the day. Before even talking to them, we knew who the guys from Eat The Turnbuckle were. One's leg was plastered, his forehead showed cheese-grater wounds. Another one was limping and still another one could barely walk. It had been a busy tour for these guys, that's for sure. And still, moments after, we saw them walking around with TL-tubes, garbage cans and hockey sticks, getting ready to bash each other's brains in (again).
I started chatting with Robrecht Van Steen, a rocker and a wrestler. In October, we will be selling Metal Decks on Rocktoberfest, which is organised by vzw Into The Pit. However, we mainly talked about wrestling and Robrecht invited us to an upcoming wrestling event. That's cool, I like wrestling and I'm sure it will be a great experience. I have been to a WWE show a few months ago, but this surely will be something different. I'm very much looking forward to that. For the record, no Robrecht, I will not be wrestling. I saw what it does to Eat The Turnbuckle and I don't want to be in a wheelchair at forty-five. I will write some storylines if you like. Anyway, back to the festival.
Along with the first visitors, the first customers started arriving and soon the beautiful fort of Wommelgem would be crowded with bearded, pierced and tattooed people, much to the surprise of the police I think. I remember seeing a man and a woman in uniform looking at all those society-critics in disbelief. They smiled nervously at first but started enjoying themselves quickly after that. Soon after, I saw three or four festival goers taking a selfie with another pair of constables. It even looked like two of the festival goers were holding a joint while taking the picture, which surprised me quite a bit.
From a distance, I could hear Interstellar Deathroll kicking off this festival in style. They rocked hard, immediately igniting the torch of success, so it seemed. From then on, things would become nothing short of awesome. Soon after, Daedalus would do something similar. Or, again, so it seemed from a distance. I didn't get to see many bands, but what I heard did not irritate me so it must have been good. At 'The Hill', The Reeves blasted a nice set of garage rock and what somewhat sounded like melodic punk rock over the grass. It was a bit of a surprise because I mainly expected metal and sludge at this festival.
Dario Mars and the Guillotines also didn't sound very metal to me. I watched them for a short time during my much-needed coffee break and I like what I heard. With their psychedelic cosmic rock, apparently interlaced with some soul, they quickly gained my attention and I'm quite looking forward to their full-length in October. In 'The Bunker', things would get violent with Marginal and the highly aggressive Carnation, covered in blood. The searing hot venue was packed to capacity, loaded with headbangers, moshers and deranged noise. Yep, party time, the heavy way. Coming out of the venue, I saw someone from the organisation with a tired but happy grin on his face.
Headliner Dopethrone did what headliner Dopethrone always does, deliver a solid set of sludge doom. It was a great set, but I felt that it missed a bit of power on that small stage. Nonetheless, Dopethrone proved to be a worthy main act for a festival like Rodeofest, and I think the audience agrees with me on that one. Back in 'The Bunker', Eat The Turnbuckle came up with their specialty: groovy but heavy rock 'n roll and a decent dose of hardcore wrestling. I didn't see the show, but I heard it from behind my table full of cds and metal decks. In fact, at the time we were keeping an eye on Dopethrone's and Eat The Turnbuckle's merch stand, because that's what colleagues do.
About that, during a little chat with Dopethrone's manager, we learned that recently they had a vinyl stolen from their merch stand. It was the first thing stolen in years but it pissed him off. Earlier, I did indeed see him taking the vinyl and the cd out of the items and I wondered about that. I never saw that happen before and I wondered where he lost his trust in the fans, but now I know. Later, I had a funny ad-lib with a fan who wanted to purchase the vinyl but couldn't because no one was there. He suggested he'd steal it then, on which I replied that it would be useless because there's nothing in the sleeve. 'Yeah', he said, 'that would look stupid when I got home'. 'Yeah, and then send them an email to complain about nothing being in an item you stole'. We laughed a bit. But people, please, don't be a fucktwat, don't steal from bands (or fans). Respect your scene because it's pretty much the only thing that respects you...
I learned a lot about respect over the last couple of years, and, although I'm still not a very social guy, I respect the hell out of the people behind this smashing festival. In times when festivals are coping with severe issues, ranging from exuberant pricing to shitty visitors who don't give a flying fuck about the artists, Rodeofest clearly proved that things can be different. The feeling of oneness can still be present. Everyone was welcome, from little children over scary looking pierced giants to gently smiling old ladies and everyone was allowed his or her moments of joy. I saw a lot of familiar faces this Saturday, and I'm sure I'll be seeing them a lot more from now on. We'll surely be at their Winter fest, as we were so kindly invited by Sharon.
In December, we will probably make another list of best-ofs and I'm absolutely positive that Rodeofest will be somewhere in the festival-section. Well, unless the remaining festivals will be ecstatic of course. This one is growing, hopefully not too big because I no longer believe in that the-bigger-the-better nonsense. All I can say is: splendid job people, from the organisation over the volunteers to the bands and the crowd. Everyone seemed to be elated by this event. I'll finish with a big "THANK YOU" to Sharon and company, to Bjorn, to our customers (including the sweet lady from Antwerp Metal Fest, hopefully we'll see you at AMF next year).