It's my birthday today. I'm listening to a post-rock, shoegaze and ambient playlist on my media player. A fresh cup of coffee will have to keep me awake to write this thing, and if it doesn't, I'll just take a new one. Sometimes my eyes close for a little while but then I think of all the stories I'd like to tell you. It doesn't really feel like it's my birthday today but I do feel like I had a huge birthday party that lasted for three whole days. My body doesn't really agree with that behaviour. My feet hurt, my legs are constantly tired and my heart refuses to beat faster than the abolute minimum bpm to stay alive. But my brain is wide awake and sends tons of signals to my fingers, which wrote two intros for the exact same review in five minutes.
Since there would be a few hours left before the first band climbed on stage, we decided to take a walk through the woods which surrounded the festival area. A few garbage bins were attached to some of the trees, in order to keep the woods clean. During the festival the audience proved this worked very well. The effort of making this a clean, vegan- and eco-friendly festival was welcomed by most of the visitors. At times the cantine, or catering-area, was a mess but even there many people cleaned the tables when they finished their meals. We'll get back on those meals later by the way.
We made some pictures of baby frogs and tried to photograph a squirrel but the bastard was way too quick for us. A snail climbing a tree was a bigger succes since it had about the same speed as our legs after the festival. At our feet, a little shrew stared at me for a second and then ran off, into the grass. The weather was quite nice by then but the KMI (the Belgian weather institute) forecasted a lot of rain. Back at the bar I ordered a cola and received another great effort in eco-friendliness: a reusable cup. I wanted to keep one of those but I simply forgot.
Second in line was Cecilia::Eyes. This is Belgium's finest post-rock band and, sorry Mike, a solid competitor for being the best live act in our little country. We witnessed their greatness in Trix a while ago but on Dunk! Cecilia::Eyes lifted themselves to a higher level with an intense and mesmerizing set. This was a very early highlight of the festival and an early victory for Belgium in this international line-up. Most of the tracks came from the latest album 'Disappearance' but they premiered a new one as well. Sheer beauty...
While enjoying some coffee, we met a nice Chinese girl who studied in France. She came to Dunk! especially for Wang Wen, a Chinese band that does something very beautiful with post-rock. Adding trumpet and trombone to the somewhat traditional post-rock line-up, their music sounded fresh and warm, as if Ennio Morricone would have started a post rock band. A simply beautiful set with a lot of variety and pretty intense pieces.
Another album I love is 'Black On Black' by Monophona. This Luxembourg based trio presented quite a beautiful live set as well, fragile and dreamy at the same time. Their multi-layered trip-hop was highly enjoyable. I think at one moment I was even dancing a little bit, which rarely happens. This set had a genuine touch of magic and a peaceful atmosphere that was very welcome after all the crushing guitars we had been witnessing so far.
Mono is one of the biggest post-rock acts on the planet and are widely known for delivering fantastic live shows. On Dunk! this was no different. These Japanese sounded as epic as this genre can possibly become. However, after a few songs we realized we had a 40 minute walk in the rain ahead of us, plus two more days of high quality music so we slowly wondered off, into the night.
Hemelbestormer is a Dutch word. Google translates it to 'idealist', but literally it means 'one who assaults heaven'. They did. With their intense mix of post-anything, black metal, ambient and doom they blew the clouds away and the sun came out. However, we were still in that huge tent, dwelling in absolute darkness with this mindblowing Belgian band. Actually, they were so good that they immediately sold out their album so I got myself a t-shirt.
Then things got a bit confusing. Doomina cancelled because their van broke down. They were replaced by Stories From The Lost. This post-metal band actually made us forget Doomina cancelled by playing a very solid, and loud, set. However, before that, we witnessed the beautiful post-rock and ambient from Lehnen and the groovy, stoner related, sounds of Katabatic. Huracan blasted their foreful sludge through the speakers in the Stargazer stage and Solkyri brought us more shoegazing loveliness but it all passed so quickly for some reason.
Another reason is actually the sheer quality of this festival. The lightshow is mindboggling, at times almost epileptic, and the sound is perfect. From the very first tones on this festival this quality has been lifting bands up to a higher level. The bands I mentioned in that paragraph were good, very good even but didn't manage to deliver a lasting impression because of the huge number of surprises and musical highlights we already faced.
Diego told us that they took a wrong turn somewhere in Zottegem and arrived at a blues festival.
Before giving the correct directions, the organisation asked Alice In The Cities to play there but the band graciously refused. At one point in the conversation, Diego mentioned that it was a big festival, 'B.B. King might be playing there' he said. Unfortunately the blues legend passed away that night, leaving us a bit stunned the next day.
Of course, Alice In The Cities weren't just there to see us. They were there to play and my god, what the hell was that? I already mentioned that the sound quality lifted bands to a higher level, and the enthousiasm of the audience helped quite a bit as well. Alice In The Cities rose to a level I could never have imagined and the entire audience seemed to agree. What was expected to be a nice, relaxed post-wave-rock concert became a glorious party. Sorry Caspian, but Alice In The Cities won on Saturday!
After the gig, the three members of Alice In The Cities were a bit mesmerized by the audience's response. The day before they had played a pretty decent concert in front of fourty people, but here were over 200 of them shouting and applauding loudly after every song, filling the band with adrenaline and enthousiasm.
I have an odd relation with Caspian by the way, mainly based on stories I heard on Incubate a few years ago. They were late then, resulting in some gossip and slander about the attitude of the band. When I saw them at that edition of Incubate, I wasn't really into their gig either and neither was I at Dunk!. It's not that Caspian is a bad band, on the contrary, I quite like the music but it seems that they once again had become the victims of fatigue. For the second time I was too tired to enjoy Caspian. They'll have to convince me another day...
As we wandered off to the bed & breakfast, I wondered what happened that day. I lost memory of some bands in a haze of friendship and companionship. It was a weird day, but a great day nonetheless.
Ilydaen are from Liège and if you have never seen them, go see them. This complex blend of post-rock, metal and hardcore is intense and immense. Besides, their set-up is quite unique, playing in between the crowd, in front of the stage. Once again Dunk! has managed to wake up the festival with a stunningly powerful Belgian band. We didn't see a damn thing by the way but who cares, this was fantastic.
Astralia gave us some very nice proto-post-rock which I loved a lot. I wasn't the only one and I wasn't the only one who decided to enjoy this sitting down with my eyes closed. Ornaments brought a highly convincing piece of instrumental doom. Somehow we completely missed Tom Wolf but I'm sure we'll have another chance soon. Same goes for Innerwoud, who we already witnessed at Incubate. This double bassist, the third on this festival, is a very interesting act to see so next time we'll defintitely check him out.
Labirinto was a lot darker than I expected, even after hearing that their new release is pretty dark itself. These Brazilians immediately grabbed the attention of the entire audience and didn't let go, at all. Surely the fantastic light show helped but this was once again a brilliant performance by a highly talented band. However, they were a bit unfortunate because of the blast that The End Of The Ocean delivered.
Another big surprise came from Sixth Minor, an electronic act that brought us some heavy beats, dark soundscapes and glitchy electronics. Once again we listened from outside the tent but we loved every second of it, honestly.
Halfway through the show however, we decided to leave. This day, and the whole festival, have had such an impact on us that Amen Ra simply became too much. So we said goodbye to our new friends and started walking back to the bed & breakfast. After a kilometer one of the volunteers picked us up and drove us to Fine Fleur. It was another example of the kind, gentle nature of this festival.
The food really deserves mentioning as well. I like food, so why not. Besides the legendary Dunk!Fries there was a huge choice of stuff to eat, from delicious (and healthy) chili, over tasty paella to vol-au-vent and meatballs in tomato-sauce, everything was freshly prepared with a lot of love and hard word by the volunteers. There was free coffee and tea all day, everyday, which was quite welcome because it's been tiring days.
So to end this review (at least for now), I'd like to send my sincere congratulations to the organisation and volunteers at this amazing festival. I'm already looking forward to next year. It's going to be quite difficult to equal this but somehow I have faith and I trust them to deliver some great days again in May 2016.