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Gary Numan 2 Gary Numan 2 93The Max, Heusden Zolder, Belgium
30th October to 1st November 2021
Sinner’s Day 2021 Day 2 with Gary Numan, Funeral Dress, Covenant, Your Life On Hold, A Slice Of Life, The KVB, Diary of Dreams, Enzo Kreft, And Also the Trees, Such Beautiful Flowers, A Split Second, The Mars Model, BFG, De Delvers, Leaether Strip, Korinthians, Haujobb, Empathy Test

After arriving a little late yesterday, I was determined to not miss any bands on the second day. However, confused (and confusing) security and the problems entering the festival I previously mentioned meant I was still a little late for the first band EMPATHY TEST.

Press are allowed to photograph for the first three songs of each artist - if the organisers read this and noticed me photographing this opener for one song longer - my apologies but I love the band and wanted images! After the continuing issues getting back into the festival I decided not to leave for the rest of the day to return to the car, I didn’t want to miss anything. As always EMPATHY TEST were exceptionally good, brilliantly musical with Isaac’s fine vocals - so powerful and emotional. A band that deserves to be much higher on any festival bill. An unusually large crowd for an opener suggests I’m not the only one to think this.

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HAUJOBB, another that surely deserves to be way up on the bill, arrives as the second band of the day. Continuing the electro theme, HAUJOBB, never fail to impress with their atmospheric take on the EBM pattern. Mean and moody at times, solid beats pulsate around you - vocals and lyrical content matching the mood. This band paints a picture in front of you, as a watcher of the performance you cannot resist getting drawn in.

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The Belgium Stage opening act for day two is the KORINTHIANS, a rather splendid Belgian post-wave band. They managed to impress almost immediately with their mix of synth sounds, power and guitar - some tasty melodies and fine vocals to complete the mix. I love it when a band surprises me, especially when I have been introduced to them cold - I hadn’t heard of them previously. I’ll be checking out their back catalogue.

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LEAETHER STRIP, what can be said that hasn’t been said before? It’s certainly a difficult task to write new descriptions of enthusiasm for LEAETHER STRIP’s live performances - they are always awesome. Claus has an enviable stage presence and delivery - and his music seems to come alive on the stage. I must say though, I was pleased to see that he still managed to perform in the usual lively manner. After the death of his husband, and of course the keyboard player, he must be feeling lost - but on stage it didn’t show with his confidence levels high. Claus has always said that LEAETHER STRIP is him, and only him - he has ably proved this. As difficult as it must be, I was very pleased to see him looking so well and performing brilliantly.

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DE DELVERS are a new band to me, as they start to play I thought to myself, these aren’t too bad at all. It’s a darkwave post-punk overall sound, sang in Dutch. I don’t speak Dutch - but I’m told their lyrics are poetic. As they progressed through their set, synth based melodic tracks, they are a pleasant way of spending a few minutes at a festival. However they didn’t grab my attention, I plan to listen to their material at home - so not all is lost. There is a good band there, I’m quite convinced - I think they will be a grower. Perhaps it’s just the Dutch lyrics that is the problem for me?

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BFG are next on stage, swapping to the Main Stage. A Manchester, UK based band that have always been around since my early days of music interests. I’ve never been a huge fan, but have partaken in one or two of their more popular tracks over the years. Their live sound is scarily similar to their studio sound, this is the first time I’ve seen them play live - despite them supporting some of my favourite bands such as NEW ORDER. Dance style beats in a similar vein to NEW ORDER are the order of the day over layered with THE CULT style guitar work. It’s an enjoyable set.

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THE MARS MODEL are a darkwave gothic metal band, playing on the Belgium Stage. In many ways a similar sounding band to BFG - certainly in a similar vein. Perhaps verging a little too much into metal territory for my own tastes, but it was a highly listenable gig.

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A SPLIT SECOND hit the floor of the Main Stage - with their usual pummelling relentless EBM beats. One of the originators, they pack a powerful punch playing live - today is no exception, full on Industrial EBM. A greatly impressive set covering a wide span of their history. Marvellous.

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SUCH BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS come up next, a different take on dark electro. My first time with the band, one of the greatest accolades you can give a band - first listening and I loved them! Synth dominated sounds with the darkness of a troubled soul, wrapped up in melody and poetic lyrics. Seriously, probably my greatest new find of the festival, and I’ve not stopped listening to SUCH BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS since the festival.

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A change in musical direction yet again, certainly Sinner’s Day covers a broad spectrum of music to appeal to us sinners. AND ALSO THE TREES have been producing dark romantic gothic rock for several decades. I’ve seen them several times live, they are good at what they do, in a slightly pompous over the top way. This gig is no exception, NICK CAVE eat your heart out, doomy and thoughtful.

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Now, this is where the festival starts to go a little weird. It has been a rainy day, but this has not bothered the festival much as it is under cover. Or is it? ENZO KREFT is a solo dark electro artist, he arrives on stage, totally dry. He wasn’t to stay dry for long. I’ve wanted to see ENZO KREFT play for some time, I love his CDs. I was taking photographs in the pit, I could feel splashes of water - but didn’t think much of it. The black curtains surrounding the stage started to blow around - was the storm getting worse? Or had he summoned a dark spirit? As I left the pit and went back to the first floor to take more photographs, I could now see the curtains on both stages were getting blown around. I could see from this vantage point that ENZO KREFT was getting rained on! Indoors, and he is getting rained on! He looks around nervously as the rain gets heavier and the curtains wildly blow around. The storm outside was now quite violent, and somehow the rain was pouring into the stage. It seems inevitable - soon after the gig was stopped. As the crew tried to move equipment to safety, thoughts of health and safety started to enter my head - would the festival be stopped entirely? After around an hour, the storm subsiding, and much cleaning up of water around the stages - ENZO KREFT came back and finished his set. With all the drama, it was difficult to keep focussed – but I can tell you it was my first ENZO KREFT gig and there will never be a more memorable one.

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My thoughts that the festival may be cancelled turned out to be wrong, but not unfounded. Adrian Hates from DIARY OF DREAMS arrived on stage, visibly shaken and upset to announce the band could not play that evening. Their equipment had taken the brunt of the water ingress, not safe to use and likely to be damaged. After the guy had suffered a flood at his home this year everybody felt so bad for the poor guy. But if there was a positive the festival was to carry on.

THE KVB played the main stage, which had only moments before been waterlogged. A two-piece electronic duo, that to me have echoes of post-punk darkwave wrapped in a modern production. I’m told they have elements of psychedelic and shoegaze (whatever shoegaze actually is). Their studio material is known to me, but I’ve never given them much listening time. However after this gig I will make time. This was a well put together collection of electro songs that were instantly likeable - varied but atmospheric, moody and with intentional sparse use of guitar and powerful euphoric choruses. If you are unfamiliar with the band, or like me not given them the attention they have deserved, rectify this. You will thank me.

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Due to the cancellation of DIARY OF DREAMS, the next two bands play the Belgium Stage. A SLICE OF LIFE provide a set of THE CURE / BOWIE / BAUHAUS influenced songs. They are an energetic band to watch live and provide a kind of nostalgic journey but with their own stamp – almost like all the best dark post-punk bands got together and started releasing new songs in a super-band. Entertaining.

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YOUR LIFE ON HOLD came out on the same stage next. Another post-punk style band, but this time slightly different with a bias towards gothic rock. Plenty of drama, atmosphere and big choruses with quite a different approach to the norm - with plenty of dreamy ambient guitar effects. Quite an absorbing performance.

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Back to the mainstage for COVENANT, a big name in the world of dark electronics, with nine studio albums under their belt. This band have little to prove, with an enviable track record of great live performances. This gig was though, a little different - due to the flooding problem the back curtain stayed open. This allowed the crowd to see directly to backstage - yes I know the point of a concert is to listen, but it did spoil the overall experience. Eskil seemed to spend much of his time singing from the back of the stage, this certainly didn’t help. Musically they were superb - startlingly good. Every time I see COVENANT play live I am genuinely blown away by them, Sinner’s Day was no different. I don’t want to appear negative, I really don’t, but somehow I felt this wasn’t the best COVENANT gig I have seen - perhaps the flood and resulting cancellation had put a downer on everybody? Or perhaps this reviewer is being too harsh? Anyway I did enjoy it, truly I did.

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Street punk FUNERAL DRESS were the last band for the day on the Belgium Stage. The band have always seemed to be parody of punk in many ways, but then I am no punk expert to be frank. As they pour out onto the stage, in typical over the top punk style, tonight’s performance wasn’t going to be any different. Having said that at least they have kept the punk spirit, it’s most certainly a slice of condensed punk! Lots of punk fun, I guess not to be taken too seriously. It’s entertaining, in a “how the mainstream public expect punk to be” kind of way. They played all the songs you’d expect, and the crowd loved it - pogoing the night away in great style. Perhaps not the most authentic punk band, but certainly the one to watch that has kept the spirit of punk alive. A great live band for a fun night out.

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Any regular readers of my reviews will know I am a huge GARY NUMAN fan, for me this was to be the highlight of the festival. He wasn’t disappointing. If there was a downer due to the bad weather, it didn’t show in camp NUMAN. The rear curtain of the Main Stage was now doing its job, and although the full band only just squeezed on the stage, the set was exciting and full of energy. A perfect mix of new and old tracks (with a bias away from nostalgia) blew the crowd away in spectacular fashion. NUMAN threw himself around the stage, guitar supremos Steve and Tim now just about perfecting their synchronised movements and actions - whilst still not bumping into NUMAN. The crowd were fully behind the band, with chants for NUMAN at every opportunity, afterwards all I heard was positivity. NUMAN has added yet another highly impressive festival appearance to his long career.

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Well, unfortunately for me that’s the end of the festival. There was another day to come, but not for me due to my tummy upset. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the great team behind this festival for such a great time. It cannot be stressed how difficult it is currently to put together a major festival such as this - it was a pleasure to attend. Roll on 2022, Covid; let’s hope you are starting to be history.

All pictures by Kevin Stevens (Coast to Coast Image Works)

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