Festivals are something rather rare in Luxembourg. Apart from the Sonic Faces festival which mostly features local bands, there are a couple of other festivals that are more or less regular, and then there is, since last year, Liberation Day. In some ways it can be seen as the major hardcore punk event every year in Luxembourg (although last year it was just across the border in Belgium, so that this was actually the first LibDay in Luxembourg ever).
Finding Keispelt was already quite a feat, even with an outdated map from the outdated Christian Conservative party in Lex' car. He was driving, and I was giving directions, in a way that we would see villages we hardly ever heard of. OK, I admit it, my directions were crappy, but that didn't prevent us to arrive on time to see Bora, a Lithuanian hardcore band. Up 'til then, we already missed out on the French Gameness (who according to earwitnesses were really great), The 4 Sivits from Germany and the Luxembourg-Belgian collective of Bogey. But then we aren't the youngest anymore, something which becomes most obvious at punk shows. Still, Bora were a nice way of starting an early evening of full blown hardcore overkill. Their music was very intensive and wild, fast-paced and played at a very precise level. Only the singer didn't give a too lasting impression, as his mouth was at times too far away from the microphone, which made hearing his vocals not an too easy task.
Next up were Luxembourg's instrumental post rock hopefuls Actarus, one of the very few not so aggressive bands on the festival, and also the band which motivated me to come so early. Actarus may not be the first local band to have played this genre, but they certainly are the best. Where Balboa lack power, and where Tvesla and Drive Until He Sleeps lack experience, Actarus are a true fireworks of innovative instrumental rock, with the emphasis on the work rock. The switch instruments between every song, most songs have two drummers which gives their music terrific dynamics, and when there is only one drummer, you can be sure that there is a wall of three guitarist and one bassist. Even Mogwai seem lame in comparison. Actarus is a band you should try to see live every time you get a chance to.
Deluge from Holland played already on last year's Liberation Day, and they have already quite some following. Their music combines fast emo hardcore sounds with occasional slower keyboard moments, and even if that sounds original, I think they would be better off without the keyboards, as they have in my opinion too much of a gimmick function. Seldom did they fit into the overall aggressive stage acting. Deluge still are a great live band.
The weather was still nice outside, we were getting closer to six o'clock, and I think Lex and I had already some of the vegan food you could buy there. Not that we have been converted to vegetable eating recently, but we decided that it was not worth it to make the trip to downtown Keispelt as we didn't except to find a decent Italian or Asian dinner place there. If there are any places like there, I hope that we haven't insulted the locals.
Anyway, the first real highlight, after Actarus (ok, there was only one band inbetween), were the French Judoboy, a band I didn't expect too much of. Judoboy are one of the many bands of late that play emotional screamo hardcore, but their way of playing it was totally different from big names like Converge or Complete. Judoboy, dare I say it, sounded quite progressive, and they added breaks to their music that left people with open mouths and gaping eyes. Even if you are not that much into overtly aggressive music, you must have respect for bands with such a high grade of skill.
Time to relax, or rather a small step into mellower music, but mellow only in comparison to what preceded. The Coalfield were one of the bands I also anticipated, and not only did they have a regular keyboard player who was much better integrated in the overall sound as we had it with Deluge, but - to the surprise of many - Osama Bin Laden played the bass guitar. Now that the CIA has been looking for him all over the world, it happens that he plays at a festival that criticises American foreign policies. Interesting in a way, because on the one hand it fits Osama's world view, but on the other hand, it's surprising to see him in a place where women don't have to wear something to hide their faces. You can love him or hate him, but he's a damn good bass player, the best one I ever heard from Saudi Arabia. But back to reality: The Coalfield played a kind of emo hardcore where the music was rather melodic, enhanced by cool keyboard sounds, but the vocals were screamo. If there had been more variety with the singer, they could have been terrific, but this way they were just a very good band.
Kafka from Italy have been playing in Luxembourg already before, but I think I missed out on them back then. Today they were presenting their split-7" with dEFDUMp, but that doesn't mean they play the same kind of music. Kafka are a very dynamic band with fast songs and very charismatic vocals. If I listened correctly, most of the vocals were Italian, and even though it sounded to me as if he were singing the menu from an Italian restaurant (which subsequently made me hungry), it is a well known fact that there is more depth than that to their lyrics. A great band, one that grows to their best qualities when playing live.
Chaos core was the leitmotif of Engrave, and although normally I enjoy that kind of music, I was starting to become a bit tired, especially my legs were complaining, as there were no places to sit down except the floor which - at that time of day - was already quite a mess, even though it became worse later on. Engrave's vocalist was rather small sized, but he moved like bitten by the Devil across the stage. Lex felt reminded of Born Against. Their music was precise and chaotic at the same time, probably quite an achievement, but at that time of the day (ok, it was only 8pm), people would have yearned for something more relaxed.
Which we got from One Dimensional Man. This Italian three-piece had already a whole different way of adjusting their instruments. The drummer was sitting up front in the middle of the stage, with the guitarist and bassist standing beside him. Their music was a combination of very different styles: groove rock, angular math core, blues roots and much more. People moved to their music, and even if there was no stage diving, I guess that most were thankful for a little break, for this interesting high quality music that didn't have to be extreme, aggressive, wild, angry. One Dimension Man are not at all one dimensional, and although they had the fewest musicians, the had the widest array of sounds. It would have been cool to have had more bands like them at the festival, because too many bands played more or less the same genre.
dEFDUMp had the most people standing in front of the stage, and it seems to me as if they might be very close to becoming the first Luxembourgian band to become really big. They will be touring France with Soulfly pretty soon, and they truly deserve it. Do I really need to say much about their music? Emotional hardcore, with totally great instrumentation from everyone involved, and psychotic vocals from Usel. Apart from their drummer, I decided to collect money for decent haircuts though. Their bassist didn't have one since the last Ice Age, and - according to Lex - Usel sports the same haircut as does Helge Schneider.
For those of you who wanted to read how great Yage and Oi Polloi were, read it somewhere else, because although it was only 10pm, Lex and I decided to make it back to the South, as we were totally tired. Now that we thought that 4 Emergenza preselection days had made us rough and tough, we saw that after "only" six hours of standing upright in Keispelt was then too much for us.
As long as we were there, people behaved quite socially (according to the Terrorgruppe the worst insult you can make to a punk), but as the day became night, some people became more and more drunk, and at a certain moment, Lex pointed out a huge space of puke (vegan food combined with a lot of alcohol, we tasted it for you) which then grossed me out. Apart from that, organisation was quite good (there are always possible improvements, but then let's not complain, because it was really good), and in my opinion very professional. It's just sad that some punks, and unfortunately some people who probably earn double the money than I do, started bitching about the entrance price of 15 Euros. People like dEFDUMp, Winged Skull, Schalltot and many more are the ones that keep Luxembourg's underground music scene alive, by organising 1 to 2 concerts nearly every weekend for a fee of only 5 Euros, and when you have to pay a little bit more for 14 bands (11 from outside Luxembourg), you should accept that as a still very reasonable price. Drink less beer then and enjoy the music.
I am looking forward to Liberation Day in 2004.