Little Waves Festival 2019 – review

Indeed, it was upon us again in this corner of the world: Little Waves Festival in the beautiful buildings of the C-Mine in Genk, Belgium. In December, the first acts were announced and it bode well to get tickets. This is a smallish indoor festival taking place in early April and it is always sold out quite early. You can rummage through reviews of earlier editions of Little Waves festival here and here.

En route to the festival, there were a few bummers. First of all, I was eagerly awaiting a bigger international act (well, big in the alternative sense, you know what I mean) such as Villagers or Grandaddy a couple of years back. But no, it was not be. Headlining were Whispering Sons who are originally from that area in Belgium. Granted, there have been quite a few headlining acts from Belgium over the years (and you know I’d be the first to say that Belgium possesses an awesome music scene) and Whispering Sons are quite big internationally, so, fair enough.

Five days before the festival, Sam Amidon was added to the bill, hurray. Alas, it was not an additional performance but replacing Ryley Walker who had to cancel his whole European tour including this gig. More of that later.

Then, we felt a little tired and ill on that day and also it was bitterly cold, but no stopping us now. On arrival we found that the food on offer had been restricted to just the chipper outside. Maybe serving a variety of food inside in the entrance hall was a tad too messy and also too loud for the concerts off the entrance hall. But, despite the chips being great and the service friendly, 4 Euros for a small portion when this is the only option (or because of it) is a bit disheartening.

Several alternatives have been tried out to actually quieten down the noise and the human traffic in the entrance hall such as moving the free festival acts up another level and into a room at the side. This year that smaller venue beside the usual theatre style venue and the big (standing) venue offered music to the non-ticket holders alike and diverse and daring it was, featuring Tristan, Sergeant and Niklas Paschburg. The upper level was reserved for a quiet seating area with DJs dishing out some fine tunes. The vinyl stand and the merchandise stands had been shrunk considerably as well, presumably all in the effort to make some space and to quieten the entrance down.

Still, there was overlap and people milling in and out of the gigs not to miss anything. It is probably unsolvable. This year the programme was so tight that we could not take in any of the aforementioned acts on the free festival stage and had to really cut short our visits to the big venue.

Little Waves Festival 2019 - review

Annabel Allum was the first act on the stage and as if that was not hard enough, she also had some problems with her guitar. Kudos to her and her equally young drummer and bass player, they managed this with humour and flair. Annabel Allum plays a mean guitar and rocks, supported by a melodic bass and some ace drumming by a female drummer (yay!)

Next up for us: Gabriel Kahane. The New York based classically-trained musician introduced himself quickly and amidst lots of laughter when he rattled down his biography followed by an “any questions” without awaiting an answer. All the more time for the music was Gabriel’s motto and thankfully so. His masterful performance at the piano and on guitar and some truly impressive singing of songs in the purest singer-songwriter style (lyrical story-telling accompanied by music that is unashamedly wistful and catchy and poppy). Gabriel Kahane has written musicals and orchestra pieces and collaborated with numerous people, his latest solo album is called Book Of Travelers (written after a long train journey through the U.S.).

Unfortunately only a quick peek possible at Crayon Sun from Antwerp as food beckons and nature calls and a seat has to be secured: I would really have loved to see and hear more of their rough, guitary, psychy sound.

Little Waves Festival 2019 - review

Back in time to catch one of Belgium’s finest: Isbells. Isbells are celebrating their ten-year anniversary and yet I had not managed to ever see them play before. Understandably I was excited. Gianna Marzo of Marble Sounds is a member of the band, thus I came across the name Isbells first. Five people spread out on the stage, each with an array of instruments, Isbells managed to pull off a big orchestral show and really strive for perfection and yet, they did not lose the fragility, the warmth and the indie charme of their songs on the way. A real highlight.

Little Waves Festival 2019 - review
Little Waves Festival 2019 - review

A short snifter at the music of Portland, a Belgian dreampop band who had already started and were finishing while we were awaiting the arrival of Marissa Nadler with abated breath. And there she is, all ethereal beauty, wearing a black dress and having two white electric guitars (six- and twelve-string) at her side. Rendering a selection of her songs from “Srangers” and her latest “For My Crimes” (on which the emphasis lay) she manages to spellbind with her amazing lingering voice, minimalist but effective guitar playing and truly hauting songs. Marissa felt a bit flustered as her cellist was not there, she had to get acquainted with looping and felt a little alone on the big stage. That the spotlights were right at her, did not help, but I felt that the little hectic and slightly chaotic intermezzos made the otherwise otherwordly performance all the more grounded and charming.

Little Waves Festival 2019 - review

Another trip over to the other stage (was just getting cosy in that seat but sometimes I find, even if feel comfy and can really concetrate on the music when sitting down, that it is slightly disconcerting for the artists on stage – the applause seems so measured, so quiet, you hardly dare to clap and holler and whistle). Pinegrove were up on the rock stage, a young band from New Jersey, happily rocking away to much appreciation of the audience.

Little Waves Festival 2019 - review

A big fan of theirs is also Sam Amidon who luckily promptly was able to replace Ryley Walker. Now, I wish Ryley Walker well, truly. A fantastic musician who unfortunately has been marred by mental problems and addiction quite a bit, but on the other hand I am relieved that we did not have to experience Ryley Walker in that condition as the music just drifts off and the communication with the audience becomes pretty narky veering on non-existent. Ryley Walker had to cancel because of those afore-mentioned problems that sadly have reoccured. Sam Amidon turns up, chirpily, funny, talkative, guitar and banjo and an amazing drummer/bassist/electro fiddler/general master of invention Chris at his side and within seconds everyone is just right there with him.

For me that is the way to preserve traditional music: Keep it pure as in, inherit it as unfiltered as possible and then transport it to the present. Don’t polish it and cut away on it and only keep the parts you like and then put it in a shrine. Sam Amidon has done great things to and with traditional music but meanwhile he also plays his own songs and puts on a real foot-tapping, tear-inducing and rolling on the floor laughing show and there seems to be no barrier at all between him and the audience. Truly wonderful.

Little Waves Festival 2019 - review

And no, I do not have any misgivings about Whispering Sons as a headliner nor do I find anything wrong with their music. Any other day I would have loved to watch them but it was late, the journey home was looming and after Sam Amidon I simply could not switch over to another genre so quickly.

So, that’s another year gone. Looking forward to next April. Thank you C-Mine and thank you all the artists there and a wonderful and appreciative audience!

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 – a feast of a festival

Much looked forward to, our annual family outing to one of the finest festivals I know is already over and done with again. Last Saturday saw us driving excitedly to the C-Mine in Genk, Belgium, a former mine building, now converted to part museum, part art exhibition centre and part very fine venues to enjoy this year’s Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 – a feast of a festival.

The fun starts when you arrive: Plenty of free parking, a short stroll to the building that houses the venues, a friendly and easy entry procedure. This year there was an additional venue upstairs, the Compressorenhal, the newcomers were moved from the foyer to a separate room and then there were of course the standing only venue with gallery and the big theatre with seating. Everything as expected: Fine food and drinks at reasonable prices, super friendly staff and a line-up to die for.

Sadly the problem with overlaps of the performances that will make you miss quite a few acts you would like to see or has you rushing in and out of performances, still remains. I would say, it probably has become worse. It so happens that we never made it up into the Compressorenhal to see Wartaal, Bonfire Lakes and Holly Miranda. Especially the latter I would have loved to see but Holly’s set was at the very same time as Mercury Rev’s. Pity for the very talented musician to have everyone flocking off to see Mercury Rev.

It also means that you have way too little time to fully enjoy the bustle and the fine catering…well, a couple of Krieks and original Belgian chips had to do the trick.

On arrival we had a short gander at Bed Rugs from Antwerpen who delivered an engaged set of songs to unfortunately not yet many in the audience. I thought their music, though well-crafted and with heart in it, was a bit all over the place but was very happy with the last song we heard, a guitar-laden psychy tune.

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 - a feast of a festival
BlitzenTrapper

But then it had to be off for us, Blitzen Trapper from Portland, US, were starting their set. Americana in the purest sense garnished with typical country lyrics, in some songs not unlike The War On Drugs oeuvre, there was a very professional band who also seemed very down-to-earth and likeable. The audience was still not quite awake yet, sadly, but I think, Blitzen Trapper did not take it to heart and were enjoying their set and were way too polite to comment. I am only guessing here but given the day that was in it (warning strikes of the US, UK and France in Syria), people were probably expecting a bit of a political comment from this so very American band but Blitzen Trapper remained on neutral ground.

A short peek into Catbug‘s set on the newcomer’s stage…she was playing to a full room and entertaining with singer-songwriter compositions. Quick bite to eat and we were ready for Mick Flannery from Ireland.

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 - a feast of a festival
Mick Flannery

Even though – can you ever be ready for Mick Flannery‘s bitter, bitter songs about heartbreak and hopelessness? Yes you can if they are delivered with such wit and warmth and amazing guitar and piano playing plus the stories in-between. Mick Flannery probably would not think of himself as a stage person but his performance is very compelling. Could have heard a needle drop if the girls behind would have stopped chattering (in the best possible way, about the music, but nonetheless). Mick Flannery was attending his merch stand, selling, signing and talking afterwards and came across as not only a very gifted songwriter and musician but just a normal guy which we all were very impressed with. If you can catch him on his continuing tour through Europe and the US, do!

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 - a feast of a festival
This Is The Kit

I would have loved to see more of Douglas Firs from Gent in Belgium because I really like some of their more sombre songs but alas, we had to be in time for This Is The Kit who I had already missed once last year at another festival. I expected good songs, performed to a high standard but This Is The Kit’s gig left me gobsmacked, utterly gobsmacked. Those beautiful songs reach another dimension live due to the immense craftsmanship of each one in the band: Kate, Rozi, Matt and Neil. (We have Rozi Plain – please pay attention also to her fantastic solo releases on Lost Map – not in the picture, that stage is just too wide and we were too close).  Added to that their playing together in such a tight way was absolutely amazing. You could ask Kate for a song, she’d wangle it in and the band played it perfectly.

Kate’s and Rozi’s duo singing was bliss. Kate’s absolutely masterful on fingerpicking guitar, banjo and of course singing and even whistling a tune. The diverse and on the point drumming of Matt, the melodious bass of Rozi and to top it all off the guitar mavericks of Neil who was allowed to show off during the last two songs – I know….I am ranting but I am not exaggerating. The set even contained my favourites “Misunderstanding” and “Bullet Proof” and both had me in tears. The audience was oh so quiet (in a good way), so my whooping was of course making me stand out like an eejit, but hey. Kate later was at the merch stand with Ben and both were again so kind and friendly and witty. Ah, true musicians do not need to be divas, I know, but it is still very refreshing to see.

Little Waves @ C-Mine, Genk, 2018 - a feast of a festival
Mercury Rev

The Academic had started a fresh set in the standing only venue which seemed to be going down well but there we had to rush again: Mercury Rev were beckoning with a very different set. Celebrating the 20th birthday of the album Deserter’s Songs, the songs were played by Jonathan Donahue, Grasshopper and Jesse Chandler in an acoustic and intimate way with many a story told around the making of the album and the situation Mercury Rev were in at the time. Apart from this being very interesting, touching and funny at the same time – Jonathan is a great storyteller, the actual songs went straight to your heart. I barely moved through the whole set. The audience did get a good dose of electric guitar though from Grasshopper during the songs, fresh from his new Sterling Stingray!

It was amazing to see Mercury Rev live. Some might have missed the typical Mercury Rev big, embellished, dramatic performance but boy, this toned down performance certainly had me by the guts.

We finished off the evening by saying hello to the very courteous Jonathan, Grasshopper and Jesse at the merch stand (their wares were selling like hot cakes) and a short look-in to Slumberland who were entrancing with two drum kits and synthesisers.

We had a very special evening thanks to the artists we saw and heard.

Certainly want to see all of these acts again and thank you Little Waves, see you next year!

 

 

Little Waves Festival 2016, Genk

Genk, a town in Belgian Limburg, near the border to the Netherlands, might live in the shadow of neighbour Hasselt sometimes a little. Hasselt is known to many music lovers as host to the huge alternative Pukkelpop Festival.

Genk was one of the centres for coal mining in Belgium…sadly the last mine was closed, so was a big branch of a car manufacturer. But Genk has loads to offer: Friendly people, a national park, a lovely city centre, interesting former mining sites, an open air museum, parks, playgrounds and on and on.

The Winterslag mine was transformed into a cultural centre – the C-Mine cultuurcentrum which offers a very arty and interactive tour through the old mine – there are workshops, courses, events in all areas of art and there is Little Waves, an intimate, smallish indoor festival in the impressive former mine building featuring quieter music by local, national and international artists.

This year Little Waves will take place on April 9th, starting at 6.30 pm CET, tickets still available but selling like hotcakes a very reasonable price.

http://www.c-minecultuurcentrum.be/programma/view/id/432/h/programma/c/Muziek

What’s stopping you to see these artists, I ask you?

Glints

Otherworldly hiphop from Antwerp

Le Colisée

Magical music from Brussels

Milo Meskens

They call him the Jeff Buckley from Deinze/B but he is so much more than that!

Glenn Cloes

He says: Back Where My World Began!
Rarely a song title has spoken more for an album.
It’s been quite a journey but now it’s time to put my face in the light.

We are all waiting to see you Glenn!

Astronaute

Have seen them before at La Truite Magique Festival two years ago and they are well worth seeing again. Or for the first time! Astronaute is Myrthe Luyten’s solo project and she hails from Hasselt.

Stef Kamil Carlens

Stef’s band is Zita Swoon and he also co-founded dEUS with Tom Barman, so really excited to see him perform.

William Fitzsimmons

William Fitzsimmons has just released Charleroi: Pittsburgh Volume 2 and what better way than see him perform in a former mine building. Beautiful, beautiful music…

Damien Jurado

You have indeed read correctly. Damien Jurado is coming too and is bringing his masterpiece “Visions Of Us On The Land” with him.

Villagers

Och, just look here. You know that Conor O’ Brien and his band are delivering a wonderful set on this tour. Great locality to see them again.

Marble Sounds

And here is another great band from Belgium, turning up with The Chamber Orchestra of Belgium. Marble Sounds have just released their third album Tautou and will end Little Waves 2016 in true style.

Read more about them here in this blog.