Very early on the festival I noticed a post about the price of a parking ticket on Eurorock. This would be the start of an avalanche of complaints about this big new wave and gothic festival. Many of my friends and acquaintances are 'goths' and I've been one too for a while, until I eventually moved to other styles of music. For the record, I regulary shift genres. For many years I was an electronic music fan during the winter and a metalhead in the summer. I loved the gothscene and I was a DJ at several parties, including my own monthly 'Goths Go Gaga' events. For me, gothic never really was a style of music, just a darker, more intense version of other genres and that's why I adored it.
Oh, and gothgirls are hot, there's no denying that.
I wanted to go to Eurorock but I had already bought my Dunk! tickets and I was about to meet some very good friends there. For Merchants Of Air I reviewed and/or interviewed bands like Alice In The Cities, Cecilia::Eyes and Thisquietarmy and the companionship we got from these bands, was nothing like the goth-scene ever gave me, even though it was quite strong in those days. Yet, when I watched the complaints and the news about the Eurorock-fiasco, I was stunned by what was going on there. This was nothing more than the swansong of a dying subculture, the final blow for a once very strong scene.
For a big part, goths are quite intelligent, social and loyal people. I would even go as far as to name them above average in the IQ-department. Many of them are engineers, software developers, financial journalists or medical personel. Some of them still wear cute black dresses at the age of 45 - which no longer look that cute - so yes, there are exceptions, but for the main part, we're dealing with pretty smart people here. Besides, goths have exceptional social qualities as well, at least on average. They work together, they party together and they even sleep together.
For people who didn't follow the news, let me summarize what happened. A few months before Eurorock would kick off, the organisation published a message that all combi-tickets (6000) had been sold out. The festival area would be expanded and new tickets would become available. Then, suddenly Belgian bands started selling tickets at a third of the price and local shops even went as low as 25 euro for a three day pass. Eventually only 2000 people showed up. Furthermore, and that was the worst part, the main organiser got heart problems after noticing that 80.000 euro was stolen from his (closed and guarded) cabine.
That is widely believed to be a blatant lie by many people who visited Eurorock.
There's more. The 80.000 euro was at one point 65.000 and at another 40.000. For an hour there was absolute silence on the festival because the bands realized they wouldn't get paid. Other people working there also decided to leave because there was no money. Nobody believed (and believes) the theft-story. The catering company took it upon themselves to try to take over the festival in order to regain some of the money and in order to give the audience what they had come (and paid) for. This wasn't easy because the company that supplied the backline also decided to leave.
Days after the debacle, it became clear that there had been some serious forgery in the administration and finance of the festival. The organiser still claims he didn't steal the 80.000 or 65.000 or 40.000 euros and in that I believe him. He didn't steal it, nobody did. The money just wasn't there on any give time. The festival was not sold out, that's for sure. To make it worse: 12 years ago Eurorock went bankrupt because of the exact same reason: the money was stolen.
Bands like Killing Joke, Anathema and Therion decided to play anyway. Partially because they already got some of the money in advance and partially because there were now about 2000 victims of all this, confused and amazed, on a festival terrain that was way too big. There's no denying that these bands now got a lot of respect from what's left of 'the scene' and the Fields Of The Nephilim, Praga Khan and Front 242 lost that respect a little bit.
Especially Front 242. They refused to play because they wouldn't get the 7.000 euros that the festival still had to pay, even after receiving some money in advance. Yes, 7.000 bloody euros, which is only a part of what the band asked to play there. This raised some serious questions. After all, I remember Front 242 as an idealistic band that refused to play on Pukkelpop and Werchter because 'those festivals belong to the Clear Channel Group which is all about money in stead of music'. Those are Front 242's own words in an interview I read some years ago.
I have no idea how much money Front242 would eventually get but it would be way over 7.000 euros. Not bad for a band that could drive to the festival area by bike and pack their stuff in a bicycle-trailer. That's a shitload of money for an hour of buttons-pushing, way more than the average visitor earns in a trimester by boring himself to death at a mindnumbing office-job.
I know, at one point in history Front242 were the originators of EBM with many bands following them, even creating the biggest musical thing Belgium has ever had, New Beat. But now? Are they even relevant today? Isn't Front 242 just another band that still drives on the flow where bands like Absolute Body Control, Vomito Negro and A Split Second are still able to do
their thing? This scene, at least in Belgium, mostly drives on one label/agency and always attracts the exact same people wherever they play. It's a bunch of hardcore EBM fans who desperately hold on to the success of the eighties.
I read the band's version and I tried to see things from their point of view but I just can't. Their point of view is very similar to that of a chain store manager who blames everyone when one of his shops fails. 'It's the continuous roadworks in the streets, it's the competition, it's people not
seeing the true value of my products'. In the end, it's those people who made it possible for him to have those stores in the first place, just like it's the fans who made Praga Khan (because Front242 isn't the only culprit here) become a huge band.
Yes, there was no backline anymore but that's a problem that could have been solved by working
together. In my years of going to gigs and festivals and often even playing live with my band, all
technical issues have been solved rather quickly. Why didn't that core-group of artists get a bit of
money together to pay for it themselves (and, if they so desperately need the money, demand the costs back from the organisation through court afterwards). The fans would have appreciated it and maybe even helped with that plan. Oddly, I think a bit of cooperation and communication could have solved everything and even made it an awesome weekend for everyone involved.
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate these bands, on the contrary. I respect what they did for our music industry but now it seems that they have been bitten by the exact same virus that holds the financial world in its grasp. They seem nothing more than bank managers looking for their next big bonus. By neglecting their die-hard fans, they clearly proved that the focus is on cashing in before it all fades away.
And it is fading away, there's no denying that.
Nonsensical regulations, stupid safety measures and sheer greed have increasingly been scratching the surface of the music industry for years and have been making one victim after another, just like the corporate greed that owns our society. How much of a disappointment must this realisation be for the people who showed up, looking for a good time away from the stress of work, family and other social commitments they maintain just to stay alive? What went through their mind when they heard that their favourite band(s) showed them a huge middle finger, because of money?
Of course, a lot of things went wrong on Eurorock and a lot of lies have been spread about the whole situation. But the endresult is a lot worse than losing some money. Possibly the organisation will spend the rest of their lives paying off something that they never even enjoyed. 2000 people, and by expansion many fans who read the complaints and articles, lost their faith in their scene. For them the door is open to become one of the corporate sheep that they have been fighting against for thirty years.
Thirty years down the drain, because of greed and ego. That's the sad conclusion of the Eurorock debacle. I don't think we'll ever know for sure what happened in Neerpelt but the goth-scene in Belgium now is shattered, laying face down in a puddle, dying. In the aftermath of it all, I ask myself one question. How many of the bands that decided not to play, will pay back the advance-money (maybe minus the transport costs) in an effort to prove their loyalty to their fans? Sadly, I think I know what the answer is...
But I'd like to end this column on a positive note. There is hope. The goth-scene might be dying but a new, and equally dark, scene is becoming a rising star and a new source of pride for our little country. What I witnessed at Dunk! was a clear symptom of this. Every band rised to a higher level of themselves because of the professionalism of the organisation and because of the enthousiasm of the audience. The Belgians ruled, Amenra blasted, Cecilia::Eyes enchanted and Ilydaen surprised. Even now, days after the festival, I am almost moved to tears by what I've witnessed in Zottegem. Several years ago Dunk!Festival faced financial problems as well but they were honest about it and reached out to their fans and bands for help. The result: one of the finest festival experiences I've ever had and so many beautiful memories which I will still be talking about on my own deathbed...