Photos: Patrice Hoerner
This year we have learned from our mistakes and caught a train from Brussels airport to the coastal town of Ostend, to attend the 2022 edition of W-Fest. We arrived in time to have the first beers of the day (we had to do it because the flat check-in was not yet open) and to get to the festival site in good time. As last year, and it seems that they have found their definitive space, the festival took place on the beach of the touristic city. To make the holiday feeling complete, the organisers provided several puffs to sit or lie down on to watch the first concerts of the day. The truth is that one is so focused on the concerts and in my case also on buying records, that I didn’t really stop to see how good the festival looks and it wasn’t until I was already in Spain that seeing some photos I realised how beautiful it looks and how in such a short time the W-Fest has managed to create its own personality.
In terms of organisation this year it was also very well organised. There were no queues to get in or to order drinks at any time. There were plenty of places to eat, the food was good even if it didn’t seem cheap for Spanish people and the toilets, again, were very clean. Perhaps a few more would be needed for the peak hours, but hey, I never waited more than two minutes. And now, let’s move on to the concerts.
We started the day with the classic punk quartet The Kids. They opened their set with “No Work” while some of us were drinking our first beers at the festival. They followed with the energetic “Bloody Belgium”, the more new wave “Do You Wanna Know”, “For The Fret” and showed their sense of humour with the funny “Money is all I need”. The band played at max. speed, and only a dozen minutes had passed and they were already starting the sixth song, which was precisely “Naughty Boys”. Obviously we sang the chorus of the anthem “No monarchy” and the band followed with the punk spirit of “I don’t care” and a good version of Wire’s “12XU” which even had a guitar solo. It was time for the band’s big hit in the form of “There will be no next time” which was followed by the energetic “I wanna get a job in the city”. They followed with the punk energy of “I’ll Get You”, the powerpop of “Baby, That’s Alright” and the insolent spirit of “Fascist Cops”. The fantastic concert came to an end with “This is Rock ‘n’ Roll”, which is just what the name suggests, and the sadly-always-relevant “Do You Love the Nazis”. Pretty good.
The surprise of the festival, at least for me, was NITS. Many years ago, when vinyl was no longer the most popular music support, the clerk of the record shop I used to go to in Ceuta told me to take a big bag with me the next day so I could take all the records I wanted. They were already leftovers and, honestly, at that time I didn’t know enough about music to make a good choice, so I was guided a little by the covers. One of those albums was NITS‘ Tall Dwarf Normal, which may not have been their best work but which introduced me to the band. So I was curious to see what this Dutch band that I had known so casually were going to offer me, and the truth is that I was delighted. They are an elegant pop group, who with their appearance made the sun come out, something that was frequent this year at the festival. They started with all the class in the world with “Nescia” and its jazzy touches. They continued with “J.O.S. days” which was ironically presented as a football song. We felt nostalgic with “Sketches Of Spain”, a song about the streets of Barcelona, which was sung with passion. They followed with great tracks like “House in the hill” with singer Henk Hofstede on the keyboard, “Dead Rat Ball”, “Cars & Cars” and “Yellow Boat” with its pop references and emotional ending. “Lits-Jumeaux” is one of the songs we liked the most, with a keyboard that sounded like an accordion and they said goodbye with the powerful “Adieu Sweet Bahnhof” and the perfect closing “In The Dutch Mountains”.
The elegant new wave/pop band Fiction Factory came on stage with no less than seven members and told us that they were going to play two years ago but the performance had been delayed for the reason that we all know. As they said in our interview, they were going to play songs that no one knew and they proved it with their first song, “Building Blocks”, a premiere that we liked a lot. They continued with the elegant pop of their second album, with “Time is right” and made us dance with the more upbeat “Dream of someone”, a b-side from ’84. We got into the groove of “Hanging Gardens” and we didn’t leave until the song was over. They continued with the eighties vibe of “Panic”, “Lose your heart in nature” with a guitar solo and Kevin Patterson’s emotive singing. Throw the Warped Wheel Out was the name of their first LP and the next track we heard: more eighties pop done right. And then it was time for the super hit “It Feels (Like Heaven)” in which Kevin proved to be a great showman and we enjoyed a great sax solo. They followed with the fun “Ghost of love” from the same album and finished with a surprising version of Joe Smooth‘s “Promised Land”, a deep house classic that sounded perfect under the Ostend sun.
One of the things that caught my attention at the Big Country gig was the great stage presence of Simon Hough, the new (he’s been with the band since 2013) singer. The band came out sooner than expected and I was caught running out of the press room, which was quite spacious and well equipped this year. Big Country presented their energetic, Irish-sounding rock to an audience who knew the songs well. As they played “Look Away” I looked behind me and saw that the venue was pretty full. They followed with the powerful “Lost Patrol,” a tune perfect for chanting. After this, the band introduced the singer who then gave a great display of passion in “Just a Shadow”. They continued with “Steeltown,” the emotional “Chance” and the Irish airs of “In a big country”. They followed with introductions of the members before “Wonderland” came in with some furious guitars. The finale to this fine concert was “Fields of Fire” with another great display of guitar mastery from the guitarists.
For those of you who don’t know Scritti Politti‘s first singles, I recommend you check out Early, a compilation of edgy, angular post-punk that is sure to please our readers. Although the band came to fame with sophisticated pop tunes like the opening “Sweetest Girl” that opened the concert. In 1985, Cupid & Psyche 85 was released, one of their most celebrated albums at the time by the public, from which they recovered “Small Talk”, a more danceable track in which the singer’s sweet voice stood out, and “The Word Girl”, one of their most famous compositions. They followed with “A day late and a dollar”, a rarity released in 2011 and “Oh Patti”, recorded with Miles Davis. Green Gartside continues to sing beautifully and fill each track with sweetness. The next track, “Trentavious White” was dedicated to Bankroll Fresh and Green’s rapping brought some freshness to the set. They followed with “Perfect Way”, more sophisticated eighties sound, tropical rhythm and good abrasive guitars. Next was the slow “The Boom Boom Bap” with a very good vocal part and continued with “Hypnotize” a composition with the eighties sound that all the attendees expected in a festival like this. Green presented “a really old song”, the first one he wrote, which was “Skank Bloc Bologna”, my favourite and the one with which I knew the band. They followed with “Wood Beez” which the audience chanted, the slow and tender “Petrococadollar” and the blue-eyed soul of “Absolute”. Pretty good overall.
The next concert was Anne Clark‘s, who, as she said in her interview, came with an impressive band. They started slowly, first the cello and then violin, guitar and drums. Finally, Anne Clark appeared and started singing “The Spinning Turning of the Summer Earth”. The audience, at that moment, was already quite large. As song progressed, the band gained in intensity. They followed with “Alarm call” from the legendary Pressure Call, which was followed by several songs from the eighties like “This Be The Verse”, the great “Poets Turmoil nº364”, with a nice use of keyboards and violin and the magnificent “Heaven”. They also played some collaborations like a peculiar version of “The Hardest Heart” that Anne recorded with Blank&Jones and “Take Control” that she sang for Solomun. We went back to the classics with “Now” with beautiful keyboards and guitar, but they also dared with more modern songs like “When you think your time has come” with a Latin feel and another great demonstration of the band’s power. Anne Clark continued to show that she is in top form vocally with “Full Moon”, and “Off Grid” was a real treat thanks to the incredible acoustic guitar. Before starting “Blue Bird” she told us that the song was inspired by a bird she used to see when she was sick. Back to the classics again with “Echoes Remain Forever” with a very interesting percussion work. There was also a stop in the nineties with “The Healing”, which was another demonstration that they are a great band. It was time to introduce the musicians who proceeded to play the instrumental “Morrison’s Jig” with its folk feel. During that song, Anne Clark had left and when she returned the typical synth line of “Sleeper in Metropolis” was played and was greeted with delight by the large crowd. They followed with the energetic “Boy Racing” with another good display of the violinist’s mastery, “Abuse” and a fantastic version of the classic “Our Darkness” which sounded even better than the original. Fantastic.
And then came the highlight of the night: none other than Bauhaus. A lot of people had gathered in Ostend to see Peter Murphy and his band, and seeing that they had cancelled their North American tour due to the singer’s health problems, we were doubly glad to have been there. Before the concert started, the stage was filled with smoke and noise and for a moment it looked like it was going to blow up. Suddenly, Daniel Ash came out and started with a tremendous version of John Cale‘s “Rosegarden Funeral of Sores”. They followed with “Double Dare” and some tremendous work from Kevin Haskins. On “In a flat Field” we saw the grim image of Peter Murphy under a spotlight while Ash was in full guitar mode. Ash continued to triumph on “A God in the alcove” and switched to sax for the more experimental “In Fear of Fear”. On “Spy in the Cab” it was Murphy who excelled thanks to the theatricality and sense of menace he conveyed with his performance. One of the key moments, with a great responce of the audience, was “She is in parties” with its classic melodic solo and its most danceable part. If we are talking about dancing, we have to mention “Kick in the Eye”, a song close to disco music and with a tremendous bass. Then, came the legendary “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”, with a great intensity and perfectly executed. They followed with “Silent Hedges”, just another proof that they were and are a unique band. They continued to leave us open-mouthed with the intensity of “The Passion of Lovers” while in “Stigmanta Martyr” we had more doses of guitar and a Peter who gave the image of being crucified with the microphone stand. Another of the best songs of the day was “Dark Entries” with a magnificent beginning by Ash. For the end, we could listen to “Adrenalin”, a song that they had recovered for the tour recently and they finished with the two versions: “Telegram Sam” and the great moment of “Ziggy Stardust”. Incredible.