Wim drove off to The Netherlands to see Japanese doom legends Church Of Misery, American sludge metal masters Eyehategod and local noise makers Offerblok. Judging from these pictures, this must have been an impressive gig. See for yourself. You can alsofollow Wim on Flickr.
It's Sunday, early in the afternoon. It is raining, the air feels rather cold and my neighbours are once again drilling holes in the wall. I counter their noise with my newly purchased copy of Monophona's latest album. There is a time schedule in front of me and my computer is copying pictures from the last three days to my hard disc. Still tired, I'm stuck in a confusing mixture of emotions. I'm sad because it's over but I'm so extremely glad that I was one of the chosen few who had the chance to visit heaven.
If heaven is indeed a paradise filled with all the things we love, for me the afterlife would be an eternal edition of Dunk! festival. In that aspect, hell would probably be sitting through an infernal shlager festival, which brings me right to the Fries Guys DJ's. I warned you guys about the 'Macarena'. You shouldn't have seen that as a challenge. My god, where did you find all that stuff? There's a shitload of awesome CD's in the tent in front of you and you play 'In Mijn Caravan'? You rascals. If I do not hear one Eddy Wally song next year, I'll be very disappointed.
Thursday: Welcome Home (Auditorium)
So, to fall with the door in the house (*), the new forest stage is one of the best things that happened in Belgium ever. I mean, look at it. It's as if the forest stage from 2017 took heaps of steroids to become an auditorium. It actually says a lot about the people behind Dunk! festival. They listen to their audience. They to their very best to improve the festival experience, year after year. It's no surprise that I heard both bands and audience members quite often utter the words "best", "fucking", "festival" and "ever".
For us, the festival started when we met Roger The Festivalman on the train in Brussels. We saw plenty of people embarking the train, carrying all kinds of camping gear and all kinds of beverages. We looked at each other and we knew. We didn't say a word but we all knew why everyone was getting on that train. There were long-time Dunk fans, like Roger, and there were first-timers, like that young couple a few seats behind ours. They seemed nice but apparently also a bit nervous, possibly because they overheard Roger talking about his previous and many festival adventures. The poor teenagers were probably expecting the worst.
As soon as the train arrived, a line of walkers appeared. While some people preferred to wait for a shuttle bus, several others trusted their legs and feet to get them to the camping ground. We walked among them and passed them by, mostly because we were carrying only one backpack. Our gear was already on its way, thanks to Juul who had picked it up a day earlier. That really made the trip more comfortable for us. We appreciate it. After arriving, we picked up the key to our festi-hut, delivered a box of books to the merchandise stand and got our first Dunk! festival beer before we headed to the forest stage.
We missed the first two bands on the mainstage, although while unpacking we heard Tortuganonima very well. It's probably an unfortunate task to open a festival like this on a Thursday afternoon while everybody is setting up their tents, buying food or strolling around in the merchandise area. For us, I Am Wolves was the opener. Their hard hitting post rock pierced the forest stage a first time, kicking off something that would prove to become pure magic. I'll say it now, the forest stage was the best stage on this edition. You'll notice that in my gig-ranking soon enough.
The first real blast came from Belgian noisemakers Hemelbestormer. Their latest album 'A Ring Of Blue Light' is an impressive piece of post-whatever and on stage their music truly came to life. You could already feel the energy pumping out of the massive speakers. Of course, as per tradition, the stage performance was enhanced with an almost epileptic light show.
Back in the forest stage Astodan played a more that decent set of exhilarating post rock. This was one of those nice and immersive performances that make Dunk! festival such a nice place to enjoy and discover new music. Astodan did a great job, in my opinion a better one than Cloakroom in the main tent.
That being said, for some reason I wasn't too fond of most of the bands with vocals on this edition of Dunk! festival. Vocals can add something to music if performed perfectly and that wasn't always the case on this edition. No big deal however, I don't think many people share that opinion with me as the big tent was getting more and more packed, especially with Ef. I didn't see their full show so I can't really review that one.
In my nostradamic preview (read), I mentioned that (B O L T) was going to be awesome and the enthralled audience reaction right after their gig confirmed my theory. This was thé highlight of the first day. Although, I know that many people will disagree because of Caspian, but musical taste is musical taste so (B O L T) won. In fact, they were so good that I have a bit of a blackout. I don't remember seeing or hearing Nonsun and I know that I liked Ranges but don't ask me how their performance was. I just don't remember. I do remember Thot and I do remember the wild audience reaction to this band from Brussels. I also remember the wordplays made by Dutch speaking people, like "Het zit me Thot hier". So I guess they did a fantastic set, one which many people enjoyed. It was just not my thing.
Caspian closed the first day and they did it like Caspian does everything: perfect. I admit that I'm not the biggest Caspian fan. Don't ask me why. But I know why they are as big as they are and why the audience loved every single second of it. With sheer professionalism, these Americans blasted everything to pieces and the packed tent ate it all. So good job, now for a good night of sleep before I can say something very similar about The Ocean...
"Sleep", what a strange word to use in a review for something like Dunk! Festival. The only way you're going to have one consecutive hour of sleep on Dunk! is when they actually book the band Sleep as headliner. The first night was cold. I saw several people going to either the showers or the toilets, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering and rubbing their hands together. So, next year, bring a second sleeping bag and some warm clothes.
Right, I have a few lines to fill before I go to the next day, otherwise this space next to the picture will look rather awkward. So to the people who brought Cara Pils to the forest stage and let their empty cans loose in the forest: fuck you and fuck your testicles. Even closed Cara Pils belongs in a garbage bin so throw it in there you lazy, unrespectful, marginal cunts.
Right, back to happiness...
Friday: The Birthday Spectacular
After a short night, my phone woke me up. It was our good friend Wouter who called to wish my wife a happy birthday. It would become one of the best birthdays ever. In the eat and merch area we hung around with David and Spiri and Joris, reminiscing about the fun we had the day before and looking forward to all the great bands. The weather was getting better. By now the festival was basking in sunlight and the predicted rain never came. You could also see that in the clothes people wore. Jani would have had a heart attack seeing all those fashion atrocities (**).
This was an award winning day, beginning with Polish band Besides who won the award for best opener. I don't think I have ever seen so many people in the big tent for an opening act. With good reason too. Besides were fantastic. Their proto-post rock came at a very high level and the audience loved every second of it. Judging from the rush to the merchandise stand, so did Ohgod, which once again just wasn't my thing. Yet, in the next days I saw a lot of Ohgod shirts, which proves their impact on the Dunk audience.
Then the forest stage was about to be smashed to pieces by Belgian sludge metal combo Lethvm. Again there was a massive amount of people present to witness the punishment and again I was impressed by the sheer power of that new stage. The rest of the audience banged their heads to the grinding sound of the youngsters on stage but the best was yet to come. In fact, from now on this stage was about to embark on almost supernatural adventures. It was all so impressive that I actually completely ignored the main stage, at least the visual aspect. I heard Soup while having a chillout in front of our festi-hut and I like what I heard. They pleasantly surprised me with some welcome relaxing music.
In the big tent, Grails seemed to agree with the jam session idea. These Americans delivered their progressive and playful music with great flair and the audience once again ate it up. I didn't see the whole show because it was time to prepare for one of the best birthday presents ever: front row seats for a rare Radare concert.
The first time I saw Radare was at Incubate three years ago. Back then, they impressed me so much that I kept on pushing them as one of the best dark jazz acts on the face of this planet. My ego tells me that that pushing eventually got them on this forest stage. They were nervous, especially the bassist/sax-player who performed live with Radare for the first time. For him, this must have been the ultimate challenge: performing or the first time, on a festival that is highly acclaimed for its quality standards, with a band that doesn't sound like any other band on the bill. I would have pooped my pants multiple times. Besides, Radare has the stage performance of a concrete brick. There is no show, no image, no jumping around, no weird stage dresses, nothing. There is only four guys playing their introvert and cinematic music. That music and that music only got them the first (and only) standing ovation on this festival. This was pure magic.
As I mentioned earlier, I ignored the last two acts on the main stage. Obviously, I heard what they did and I heard the outrageous audience reactions so you can rest assure that those have been awesome performances for Rosetta and The Ocean fans but for me the absolute highlight on this day was the volcanic eruption that Telepathy delivered. What I had predicted in my preview immediately came through when these blokes blasted their instrumental sludge metal through the woods. Aided by breathtaking light effects, this gig grabbed everybody by the throat and pummeled the huge audience into a pulp.
Then it was sleeping time again but by now you know how sleeping goes on Dunk! festival.
Saturday: Confuse The Cock
Nonetheless, everything and everyone present was going to be awake soon, their slumber brutally interrupted by Belgian stoner thrashers Huracán. These guys seemed to take off where Telepathy and The Ocean had left us, with a face melting array of riffs and drums. This was a morning coffee in the form of a massive kick in the nuts. I don't know if many people were ready for this level of energy so early in the afternoon but it definitely kicked ass. So did Cranial, only slower. Both bands stood for a rude awakening, one that was once again followed by a rush to the merchandise stands.
With acts like Appalaches, Zhaoze and Tides Of Man in the big tent, there was this vintage Dunk! atmosphere. Sweet music to enjoy however you like. Headbanging, sitting down or doing some often hilarious form of interpretive dancing, all was fine and all was good. Of these three, I like Tides Of Man the most. Some people were highly impressed by Zhaoze while others found them a bit chaotic. I liked everything I heard.
In the forest stage there was something similar going on. Jeffk, The Ills and Aswekeepsearching delivered some neat and enjoyable post rock. For old school Dunkers this was a fantastic walk in the park kind of thing. High quality performances, nice weather, delicious food coming at you in a wide variety. Everything was just so nice. The first real different thing came from Les Discrets who delivered a brilliant set of melodic doom metal. Heads were banged, hips were shaked and faces were melted, either by the sheer power of music or by the sun.
That rather typical post rock day eventually lead to two absolute highlights. I haven't really written about fatigue yet but you can probably imagine that we were pretty tired by now. Yet, like many, we were dancing to Worriedaboutsatan in the forest. What a fantastic act this has become. When I first saw them, they were interesting but not that impressive, now it was one of the most hypnotic and trance inducing experiences on this festival, which obviously means a lot, considering the amount of mind altering concerts we had already witnessed. I quickly had to buy their merch, including an XXL shirt that's too big but I'll grow into that.
Eventually Russian Circles would attempt to top every act on the line-up and they effortlessly became victorious. The big tent was packed to capacity, people were screaming their lungs out. Russian Circles were loud, flirting with the prefix "too", but they easily kept their grasp on an ecstatic audience. Of course this was a victory lap, of course this was mind boggling, of course this was the absolute headliner. These guys have been doing this for years and they managed to perfect their trade to extremely high levels.
And then we were standing there as the silence slowly returned to Zottegem. Dunk! festival was over. It is now a thing of the past. Frankly, we all knew that this moment was coming, the real world started calling again. That asshole always fucks things up.
Yet, somehow I wasn't feeling sad. I was glad, and I still am, that I experienced this festival once again. I wasn't even sad that I didn't sell many copies of my book, 'Cecilia's World' at the merch stand. I have been looking forward to this festival so much that I completely forgot to prepare a proper presentation for the book. I even forgot to change the price of the ebook to the one advertised. So for a limited time, 'Cecilia's World' is only $0.99 on Smashwords (click here).
I guess we can all agree on one thing: Dunk! festival is as close as any of us sinners will get to heaven. This is what happens when the right elements meet at the right time in the right place. The audience was fantastic, the bands were amazing, the organisation was flawless, the food was yummy, the weather was great, the atmosphere was chill. In the old age we would have praised our many gods for an experience like this. Today I'd like to thank each and every one who was in one way or another present at this megalith of an event. I'm just disappointed that nobody dared to propose to his girlfriend on the main stage.
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