A while ago the latest edition of Wildfest took place in Belgium. The place to be for fans of the hard rock, glam and sleaze rock genre. Belgian reporter Hugues Timmermans went to the party and came back with a personal report (including photos) for HeadBangers LifeStyle.
On the eve of general and European elections in our small country, the charming town of Geraardsbergen has become the capital of (hard) rock, glam rock and sleaze rock straight from the eighties for a day. A few days before the event, the organizers of Wildfest announced that the pre-sales had exceeded their historical peak and as a matter of fact, the attendance record was broken for the 2nd consecutive year, which is rather good news as far as the future is concerned.
A first surprise awaits me as I enter the already crowded room: the walls are decorated with pictures taken during the 2018 edition and I note that the organizers have selected several of the pictures I took back then for this year's decoration. In the audience, enthusiastic festival goers dressed in appropriate clothing for this glam/sleaze/hard rock high mass. The crowd is quite cosmopolitan since I hear people speak several different languages: Italian, Swedish, English, French, Dutch, Flemish, Spanish... It would even seem that some rock-addicts flew over across the Atlantic to attend the 2019 instalment of Wildfest. It must be said that this year's program is particularly appealing for all those who appreciate bands with a spandex look and eccentric hairstyles.
Barely do I have time to harness myself with all my image hunting gear when the first group is already making its entrance. To open the hostilities, the organizers chose Raider
, an old school hard rock
combo founded in Ghent
in 2013. Its members come from Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent: Alec Ryegers on vocals is accompanied by Gilles Reuse on guitar, Mathieu Tröbec on bass and Bastiaan Andriessen on drums. With their ball-mould pants, they fit perfectly into today's theme. As for singing, it was not until the second half of the set that Alec found his cruising rhythm. In his defence, the sound balance is not very good and the guitar tends to crush his voice, especially in the beginning. Musically, the band's music strongly reminds us of the early 80s and even the late 70s. You can hear the influence of legends like Van Halen, Dokken, Mr. Big, Yngwie J. Malmsteen and Extreme. Some songs from their setlist are ,,Last Call", ,,Affection", ,,Sweet Delight" (with a superb bass part), ,,Gunslinger". Completed with covers from Winger and Mötley Crüe they kicked off the festival in style.
Next up it is the Germans of Snakebite
. Dominik "Nikki" Wagner (voice/guitar), Julian Fischer (drums), Alex Lacroix (bass) and Chris van Kough (guitar) delight us with uncompromising hard rock songs. With a rock look mixing leather, jeans and nails, without forgetting an arm covered with scales (snake obliges!), the band already displays a high degree of professionalism since it continued as if nothing had happened during the cable failure on the guitar in the second part of the set and their drummer is really impressive. This band is an excellent discovery, thanks in particular to the singer's beautiful voice and the effectiveness of the tracks they play. Songs they performed today are ,,Freedom", ,,All Your Loving", ,,Heroes", ,,Two Desperate Hearts", the AOR anthem ,,Princess Of Pain", ,,Feels Like Fire", ,,We Rise" and ,,Road To Nowhere". The sound is definitely 80s and Snakebite is a very nice discovery!
The next group is completely unknown to me. Initially they were not on the bill but after the band Art Nation had to cancel, the organizers needed to find a replacement. Good for Aerodyne
, that had the opportunity to perform for the very first time in Belgium. Sweden is strongly represented on the Wildfest stage, and this is no coincidence. When you see the vitality of the classic hard rock, sleaze rock and glam rock community and the multitude of bands that excel in this field, it's not surprising that Sweden plays a major role in this music style. Aerodyne is led by Marcus Heinonen on vocals, together with Johan Bergman and Daniel Almqvist on guitar and Christoffer Almqvist on drums while everybody sings in the choirs. A small technical problem at the beginning of the set forces the singer to improvise to fill in the gap. After this small talk, our patience is rewarded and the show starts in a hurry. It didn't take long for Marcus to find himself bare-chested, criss-crossing the stage in all directions, he’s like a bouncing ball. Aerodyne's heavy metal is faster and probably less melodic, however, we can detect the influence of giants like AC/DC, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Motörhead. The band has its fans in the audience who sing like crazy. On the vocal level, I find that Marcus has a little bit of a punk pull and that his voice sometimes lacks accuracy, but these are probably the hazards of playing live. The Gothenburg-based band offers a selection of tracks from their 2017 album ‘Breaking Free’, including ,,Out For Blood", ,,As Above So Below", ,,Kick It Down", ,,March Daval", ,,Comin' for You", ,,We All Live a Lie" and ,,Breaking Free".
The temperature went up a notch in the room, which was well filled to welcome Wildheart
, the local band of the day, with Farty on vocals, Foxx and Juice on guitar, Stevie Dee on bass and Thunderberck on drums. It's a great day for the Ninove-based band since this concert is also the release party of ‘No Love’, the band's excellent second album. On the menu of this highly anticipated concert are tracks from the two albums that make up the band's discography, with a particular focus on the release of the day: ,,A Stranger's Eyes", ,,Tonight We Rock", ,,Rumours", ,,On My Way", ,,No Love", ,,One Way Ticket", ,,Dutch Courage", ,,Lovehunter", ,,Good To Be Bad" and ,,Never Let Go". The group is very acclaimed by its numerous fans in the audience and, truth be told, this music has everything to seduce with its very American sound, its choirs and guitars that hit the mark, its fluid compositions and an ever-improving stage presence. The group clearly continues to grow in strength compared to last year (when they had already blown the roof off). In other words, this concert takes you back to the rock scene of the 80s with stunning realism. And the audience is overjoyed. The set ends in apotheosis under the acclaim of the audience.
After a short general power failure, the festival can resume its normal course. Coming from a country that the presenter humorously described as ‘Brexit UK’, Midnite City
comes to present their compositions inspired by bands like Kiss, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Danger Danger. Their musical universe is located between hair metal and melodic rock, with a fun factor. At the controls of the group, singer Rob Wylde, surrounded by drummer Pete Newdeck, guitarist Miles Meakin, keyboardist Shawn Charvette (whose hair reminds me of that of the members of Kajagoogoo back in the days) and bassist Josh 'Tabbie' Williams. Again, most musicians provide the choirs, which gives a very American FM rock dimension. The melodies are very catchy and Wylde regularly asks the audience to sing along. In the setlist, we find songs like ,,Here Comes The Party", ,,We Belong", ,,Life Ain't Like This On The Radio", ,,Ghosts Of My Old Friends", ,,You Don't Understand Me", ,,Gave Up Giving Up", ,,Heaven's Falling", ,,One Step Away", ,,Can't Wait For The Nights", ,,Tonight You're All I Need", ,,Summer Of Our Lives" and ,,Give Me Love". Contrary to what some song titles might suggest, Midnite City's music is a rather feelgood AOR style, music you can best enjoy listening to with a beer or two (or more). A very pleasant interlude in this festival.
We had the opportunity to recently discover Finnish band Shiraz Lane
who had completely amazed us with their enthusiasm and freshness on stage. Despite the absence of its lead guitarist Jani Laine, the band did not want to cancel Wildfest and decided to play an acoustic set instead. This unexpected choice had aroused some scepticism among part of the public. But it didn't take long for Hannes Kett (vocals), Miki Kalske (acoustic guitar), Joel Alex (bass) and Ana Willman (drums) to change our minds. From the beginning of the set, Hannes got rid of the chair he was supposed to sit on, preferring to dance and move in his particular style throughout the stage. In just a few seconds, the Finns managed to make us forget that the guitar was not electric, Hannes delivered an exceptional vocal performance and the audience was on fire. The band's compositions are very catchy but perhaps not all lend themselves to an acoustic version, which probably explains why the Finnish band also played a cover of an Oasis track as well as a very successful version of Neil Young's ,,Heart Of Gold". Other tracks performed include ,,Carnival Days" and its jazzy side, ,,Story To Tell", ,,Begging For Mercy", the very Gotthard-ish ,,Harder To Breathe" and the real signature hymn ,,People Like Us". I had never seen an acoustic set with so much energy. For me definitely one of the best moments of this year's edition of the festival.
Do we still need to introduce the German band The New Roses
? After three albums, the group, composed of singer-guitarist Timmy Rough, guitarist Norman Bites, bassist Hardy and drummer Urban Berz, has managed to build an excellent reputation and a prominent place in the German (and international) heavy rock scene. On stage, the Wiesbaden-based combo is very convincing. Timmy has a wonderful voice whose grain is not without reminding me of Steve Lee’s wonderful voice. His partners in crime are also proving to be extremely effective. A real second headliner before the official one. On the menu, titles such as ,,Every Wild Heart", ,,Forever Never Comes", ,,Dancin' On A Razor Blade", ,,2nd 1st Time", ,,Gimme Your Love", ,,For A While", ,,It's A Long Way", ,,Whiskey Nightmare", ,,Life Ain't Easy (For A Boy With Long Hair)", ,,Thirsty" and ,,Old Time". A universe between heavy, garage rock, blues rock and hard rock. A catchy show that works like a perfectly well-oiled machine. But after a while, despite the quality of the music, I start to feel like the show is going around in circles. So I leave the overheated room a little before the end of the set to go get some fresh air outside and recharge my batteries before welcoming the actual headliner of the evening.
The New Roses
The highlight of the evening was Crazy Lixx
, the legendary Swedish Hard Rock - Heavy Metal band founded in 2002 and now consisting of singer Danny Rexon, drummer Joél Cirera, bass player Jens Anderson and guitarists Chrisse Olsson and Jens Lundgren. Crazy Lixx members describe themselves as a hard rock/hair rock band that carries the torch of 80s rock with dignity. Observers often classify them as being part of The New Wave of Swedish Sleaze movement and it is therefore amply justified that they occupy the top spot in this beautiful edition of the Wildfest. The band is also promoting its brand new album entitled ‘Forever Wild’. Crazy Lixx had already made a memorable appearance in a previous edition of the festival and all the stars were perfectly aligned so this year they occupied the place of honour at our annual AOR celebration. The program is solid and copious like a good meal, with a clever mix of the group's great classics and titles from the new opus: ,,Wicked", ,,Rock And A Hard Place", ,,Blame It On Love", ,,Hell Raising Women", ,,Break Out", ,,Snakes In Paradise", ,,Wild Child", ,,Walk The Wire", ,,Silent Thunder", ,,Heatseeker", ,,XIII", ,,Killer", ,,21' Til I Die", ,,Ain't No Rest In Rock N' Roll". ,,XIII" is also the soundtrack to a video game derived from the franchise ‘Friday 13th’. It is therefore not surprising to see Rexon interpret this track by wearing the mask of the famous killer. A stunning performance, perfectly in line with expectations, but without any real element of surprise. Crazy Lixx
This amazing performance marks the end of this year’s very successful edition of Wildfest. Once again, we were given the opportunity to enjoy an invigorating and always relevant music style, loads of stunning guitar riffs, charismatic singers, eccentric outfits, great performers and a crazy atmosphere both on stage and in the audience.
Let the countdown begin until Wildfest 2020 !
All photos by Hugues Timmermans of Music In Belgium
Wildfest Festival Facebook here
Wildfest Festival Website here
HBLS interview with Danny Rexon of Crazy Lixx here
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