30th October to 1st November 2021
Sinner’s Day 2021 Day 1 with Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, Suicide Commando, Praga Khan, The Bollock Brothers, Blancmange, Absolute Body Control, Red Zebra, Siglo XX, Struggler, Glen Matlock, The Juggernauts, I Am The Shadow, This Can Hurt, The Foreign Resort
Arriving at Sinner’s Day in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium was quite a special thing to do. This was my first festival outside my home country of the UK since Covid - that itself was special, but it was the venue that impressed. I parked in the press car park, between a mineshaft winding tower and a huge industrial building where the festival was taking place. I arrived in the car park as the second band was on stage, as I opened my car door the sound of loud live music echoed around the industrial landscape. What a perfect way to get back to mainland European festivals!
I was pleased to see there was stringent Covid protocol before entry, however the communication from security to festival goers could have been better with much confusion slowing down the entry. Misinformation and language barriers created some scenes of frustration and anger. A problem that didn’t seem to improve throughout the festival.
There was a large food court area, marketplace and tents to sit under as you gain entry into the festival. A great choice of food including BBQ, Thai and of course the Belgium staple - cones full of potato fries. There was a caravan with DJs playing a great mix of mainly Goth orientated tracks (as far as I could tell, I wasn’t there for much of the festival) and a large area became a dancefloor - this was known as the Batcave. There was a fine selection of clothes stalls, but again I didn’t spend much time looking as I was busy covering the festival. The cashless payment system seemed to work better than I expected but chatting to others there was a negative view of the fact that any remaining money left on the wristband would not be refunded (however it is carried forward to the next W-Fest or Sinner’s Day event).
With careful planning I only had three or four euros unspent on my wristband by the end of the festival. But in all honesty it did restrict my spending a little, I didn’t buy a festival T-Shirt for example as I couldn’t be bothered to queue to top up my wristband. For UK credit cards there seemed to be only three machines that were accepting them, this made topping up the wristband a little more stressful if it was busy and you were hungry! I’m guessing that the Covid protocol and cashless systems will be improved, and neither spoilt a fantastically organised festival - despite all the odds being stacked against holding such an event in the current times. Well done to the organisers.
Inside the main building (and what a building) the two stages are next door to each other. This allows seamless transaction from one band to another - with no clashes and no delays. Sound checks are completed on one stage as the other is occupied with a band playing to the crowd. Bars and merchandise are spread around the sides of the main hall, VIP area to one side of the stage. There are three floors above ground level, not open to the public, but it makes for a fantastically impressive venue. The bricked sides allow for some weather protection from chilly wind, but there are large open gaps (once glazed when the building was a working building) which allowed good airflow as another protection against Covid. However this did cause some issues later in the festival when the weather changed for the worse…
Advanced apologies to the reader for only covering two days of this three-day festival - I was ill on the third day - a 24 hour bug put me out of action.
I unfortunately missed LA LUNE NOIRE and MINUIT MACHINE on the main stage, and APPARAAT on the Belgian stage due to traveling from the UK. First bands are on very early each day, just after 11am. This makes for a very long day, with headliners leaving the stage after 1.30am the next morning! Even though I am old now, I was determined to not let that concern me! The first band for me was THE FOREIGN RESORT - what an opening band for me, putting any concerns of being old and not resilient aside instantly! Upbeat dark post-punk obviously in the mould of THE CURE, great synth hooks, reverb laden guitar and bass.
Up next on the Belgian stage is a band that I find a little difficult to place into a file within my brain - THIS CAN HURT. A band with a couple of albums behind them they mix several genres together, but my brain only registers mainstream rock. I listened, as they played live, and still struggled to hear much more than snippets of industrial and darkwave influences. For me, their sound is unfortunately too far into something like the pop-rock of NICKLEBACK. However if you happen to like that flavour, you will love them, as they undoubtedly are very good at what they do.
IAMTHESHADOW arrived next and restored the darkness into my soul! A fine performance of dark 80’s inspired melodic sounds filled the air from the main stage! A stunning selection of tracks from a band I’ve long wanted to see play live – and there was no disappointment.
THE JUGGERNAUTS are next on the bill and put together an energetic set of EBM with their own stamp. The familiar outfits look great on stage as they pound through a monumental selection of their dance hi-energy tracks - good stuff. The crowd is now growing in numbers, and certainly dancing was in order!
Next up on main stage was a legend, a pillar of the alternative music scene GLEN MATLOCK. I must admit, and I hate to say this, but I was disappointed. Yes, I know we are all growing older, but for some reason the outstanding feeling of easy going cabaret style music was just a bit too much for me to stomach. I am being unrealistic I guess, but I wanted snarls and attitude. I got a watered-down version of something similar to a cruise ship band. Not for me at all - it couldn’t even be recovered with a weak SEX PISTOL cover.
Another struggle for me to accept was the next band on stage (for me aptly named) - STRUGGLER - their psychedelic-rock flavoured drab sounds gave me an opportunity (and an excuse) to get some food. The food was good, a delicious Thai meal made me feel much better.
Now I was fed, I was in a better mood for some music I could love - SIGLO XX arrived; my wish was granted! This band take the best of their Punk and Post-Punk attributes, give it a shake up and present it in their own way. They deserve a huge following, it’s difficult to take such ideals along with you and still give such an original sound. From their beginnings to the present day they have given something quite special - this was a very impressive set that was devoured by an enthusiastic crowd. Next was a very sad event, after the sudden death of Stijn Kuijpers, instead of STAR INDUSTRY playing their set there was a DJ set of their music. As a big fan of the band, I appreciated the three DJ’s on stage presenting this memoriam.
RED ZEBRA had the task of lifting the mood - it must have felt quite a task as they arrived on the main stage. But they managed with a massive set from their long history of songs - still true to their roots with attitude! GLEN MATLOCK take note. The crowd responded well, the mood was successfully lifted with much dancing and pogo jumps. We may all be older, but this is what punk and post-punk is about in my book - I loved every minute!
Shortly after, a complete contrast but with even more energy ABSOLUTE BODY CONTROL took charge of the highly charged crowd - one of the fine EBM bands from Belgium. Influences range from FAD GADGET to FRONT 242 - and they wear this on their sleeves. No hiding their roots, not ashamed (and nor should they be) it’s a fest of dance electro - much more than EBM. A fabulous performance, a real highlight of the festival for me.
The day was passing quickly, and getting better and better as time passed - the crowd thought so too as the venue filled more and more. BLANCMANGE are a favourite of mine, and I was excited when Neil Arthur arrived on stage. The sound has evolved, and the last album ‘Commercial Break’ forms the backbone of the newer sound - even for the classic tracks such as ‘Living on the Ceiling’. The two-some are often behind the stage desk using their electronics, but Neil does sing from front of stage too. A screamingly good set, perfectly performed - the bass heavy edgier sounds bringing something refreshingly different to Sinner’s Day.
Then came THE BOLLOCK BROTHERS, can I really take the band seriously? OK, I’ll try… The band have a long history, and thankfully stayed true to their past as a punk band. That gives them some bonus points in my eyes. However I never really rated them as a punk band - somehow they always fell into the novelty band genre in my opinion. Ok, it was a passable performance, if not vaguely embarrassing. They seem to be very popular at this festival though, I’m told they have a big following in Belgium (and Germany). If you are from Belgium or Germany - you are welcome to this UK export.
PRAGA KAHN. Now there is a legend. LORDS OF ACID are a band I have seen several times, what a great live band to see. But I have never seen PRAGA KAHN play live solo - so a key moment for me from Sinners 2021. Was I let down? Nope, not in the slightest - in fact I was blown away by this solo set. Full of extreme energy, and presented in a way that perhaps only makes sense to the man himself, it was a gig to remember. Powerful and just daring you to lose control and move - exciting and unique. A rare special artist with a unique take on life and his music - truly outstanding.
Can SUICIDE COMMANDO, headliner for tonight on the Belgium Stage take the challenge of toppling such a great performance? Well, Johan and his band certainly took the challenge, and I’m pleased to say they gave a lively performance as always. I greatly enjoyed it, as I always do. The beat driven powerhouse tracks, with searing distorted vocals that we are all familiar with. Me and the entire crowd moving, SUICIDE COMMANDO have that affect; however there is a tiny fly in the ointment. PRAGA KAHN gave such a gob-smacking set, even this awesome big hitter struggled to fill the gap left as he walked off stage. I’m not being negative, it was the typical fantastic SUICIDE COMMANDO set, just happened it followed a very special performer that proved difficult to match.
Now, onto the last act for tonight. I have mixed feelings. I feel bad about what I am about to write. DEUTSCH-AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT are a replacement stand in for one of the many band cancellations the festival have had to overcome during these difficult times. DAF are a legend, there’s no other way of describing them. The sad death of Gabi Delgado-Lopez has left a large hole in the electronic music scene, never likely to be filled. Tonight was a showcase for the album the guys were working on at the time. Robert Görl arrived on stage, explained what he was about to do, to play the album the guys were working on. He looked visibly hurt and upset. Understandably so, I can only imagine how difficult this performance must have been. Full of emotion, he did his best to present this new material. For me, it just didn’t work as a performance. Especially as a headliner - I want to leave a day of music on a high. I left halfway through the set, it was all too awkward and not enjoyable for me at all. Maybe this project needs to be left now.
All pictures by Kevin Stevens (Coast to Coast Image Works)