Belgium in summer… Not only does Belgium have the best beer and chocolate, and are their waffles little drops of heaven, the almost overabundant amount of summer festivals are also first class. Yes, we are famous for Tomorrowland. But have you also heard about a festival called Lokerse Feesten?
Lokerse Feesten is possibly one of the longest lasting festivals in Belgium, perhaps even worldwide. With 10 days filled with spectacular names of different genres, everyone has something to be excited for. It’s a festival for all ages, and all lifestyles. What once used to be just an attempt to make the local carnival of Lokeren a bit more interesting, now grew out to be one of Belgium’s biggest festivals, with a gigantic organization who manages to get both national talents and international titans to be part of their lineup. For over 40 years Lokeren has hosted the festival at Grote Kaai and it has held its place very strong.
Every year Lokerse Feesten organizes a day that turns the city of Lokeren into a sanctuary for the excited metalhead. The Metal Day is one of the festival’s most popular days, as they always manage to get an outstanding lineup. This year was not different: with Fleddy Melculy, The Amity Affliction, Apocalyptica, Max & Iggor Cavalera Return To Roots, Megadeth, Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson they managed to get the Metal Day sold out with about 15000 enthusiastic visiting metalheads present.
I arrived right on time for Fleddy Melculy to begin. Fleddy Melculy is somewhat a phenomenon in Belgium. It all started out as a joke, when Jeroen Camerlynck put a lyric video of “T-shirt van Metallica” online and it immediately became a hype. In half a year the band rose to the Belgian scene as one of the most popular metal acts of the last decade. With Flemish lyrics about cultural clichés, the band gets most of the Belgians hyped up. For those who don’t understand Flemish at all it must have been a peculiar sight. The interaction between the band and the crowd is immense and it’s clear that many have come to see them and many know their music very well.
The band kicked off the festival at 16.00. From the first number “Fuck You Fleddy” on, it’s clear… This is going to be insane. A small mosh pit already pops up right side from the stage, this early. It seemed almost a constant competition whether the left side of the stage was more excited or the right side. “Feestje in uw huisje“, “Ik haat jazz” and “Apu van de nightshop” caused a first climax, where the character Apu appeared on stage and threw sausages in the crowd. And yes… those sausages were only the beginning, Fleddy also threw some of Lokeren’s delicacies in the crowd: horse sausages. When they started playing “Brood”, suddenly slices of bread were being thrown to the band. The whole stage and front stage was covered with bread. While one would assume it’s not fun that people suddenly throw stuff at a band, the band seemed to really enjoy this and undeniable smiles showed their appreciation. “Geen vlees wel vis” mocks “vegetarians” who don’t eat meat but do eat fish. Fleddy claims he is a vegetarian as well because he doesn’t eat fish, but he does eat meat. The end of the show was near with a Hatebreed cover “Proven”, followed by their hit “T-shirt van Metallica“. The show was a perfect starter and got the Flemish crowd really excited.
The Amity Affliction was new to me. I had never heard before of the Australian hardcore band. The sound seemed to be a bit off balance in the beginning as the screams could hardly be heard, overshadowed by the instruments, however this mistake was fixed right away and the rest of the concert went without any bigger issues.
The enthusiasm that Fleddy Melculy brought with him, however was gone and it shows also the more reserved side of the Belgian crowd. I’m guessing the issue is not because the band is not playing well live, not at all, because they are good. The issue is that the contrast between Fleddy Melculy and The Amity Affliction couldn’t be any bigger. With more emotive and melodic songs, The Amity Affliction is just a very different band with different kinds of fans. However their fans were enthusiast and were singing and screaming along and I did see some mosh pits as well. It doesn’t seem like The Amity Affliction engages with the audience, quite on the contrary the audience engages the band and is somehow orchestrating them, which is something really beautiful to see.
The dual vocal styles of Ahren Stringer and Joel Birch, even though at times a bit messy, are a good complement to each other as they pounded out a hit like and “Don’t Lean on Me” before closing out the night with “This Could Be Heartbreak”. The seven songs the band played are perhaps a little too less for me to be able to get to know the band better, so I am definitely looking out to see them play in a venue sometime.
Do we still need to introduce them?! 20 years ago a bunch of Finns started playing Metallica on their cellos and recorded an album. The album became an instant hit worldwide and thus started off the successful career of Apocalyptica. The quartet was formed at Sibelius Academy in 1993 and the man responsible for that Eicca Toppinen. Six million albums later Apocalyptica is on the road again celebrating their first release Plays Metallica by Four Cellos accompanied by ex-band member Antero Manninen, because as promised we get to hear Metallica by Four Cellos after all.
While clutching their cellos, they enter the stage. Eicca Toppinen picks up the microphone to explain us the concept of the evening: there is no vocalist. The audience has to sing and they do so. They soon launch into a righteous rendition of “Enter Sandman” while being seated. “Master of Puppets” soon follows. After a couple of songs Mikko Sirén, the drummer joins the stage behind his somewhat strange, but somewhat impressive drumset. Paavo Lötjönen constantly calls out the crowd to clap, sing along and in general have fun. All in all, all musicians show Belgium what Finnish sisu means.
It is no secret that Apocalyptica has reinvented the cello. There’s a lot of very convincing shredding going on and often it’s hard to believe that such sounds are coming out of a cello. But it captivates the crowd nonetheless. Many people are in fact singing along on their favorite Metallica songs. I catch myself playing along cello in the air – yes, I used to play cello for a while as a teenager – and can’t help but wonder if air cello is the new air guitar. They soon play “Orion”, a song they had never played before this tour and then play a Metallica song that they have only recently released “Battery“. “Battery” is a showcase of how much these guys have developed in their music, as it has a definite and distinctive Apocalyptica sound to it. That the band has a lot of fun together is pretty clear when you keep an eye on Perttu Kivilaakso. He just simply can’t hide that he is moved by our energy and is runs around the stage enthusiastically. How are these guys able to play so smoothly while banging their heads so fiercely? The set unfortunately came to an end rather soon. After about 40 minutes, Apocalyptica had to play their last song “Seek & Destroy“, luckily they didn’t destroy Lokeren completely, but it sure felt like the earth rumbled upon their departure!
Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos is truly a unique experience. How often do you see a band of cellist banging their heads reminiscent of their idols? Apocalyptica shows us that they are a very energetic and a unique band in the metal scene, and of course sisu.
Another band to celebrate a special occasion is Brazilian thrash metal legend Sepultura who released their album Roots also twenty years ago. Roots is also the last album of Sepultura Max Cavalera and his brother Iggor played together. While Sepultura is not any time soon reuniting with its founders, the two brothers shook hands and decided to celebrate on their own under the name Max & Iggor Cavalera Return to Roots. Accompanied by old friends guitarist Marc Rizzo and bassist Tony Campos (who also played with Cavalera Conspiracy and Soulfly), they brought a selection of the best songs in the right order from the album as they had done before several weeks back at Graspop Metal Meeting. This show however, was a huge improvement.
The Brazilians fired up the place with their opening track “Roots Bloody Roots”, while Max was jumping around the whole stage. Even though Max’s voice is not as good as it used to be and he at times clearly had to catch breath, the crowd is going crazy. Iggor is still a fantastic drummer, while Marc Rizzo and Tony Campos are shredding the hell out of the place. Track after track they proved us that Brazil has some real energy, especially shown by “Ratamahatta“. Circle pits, crowdsurfing, headbanging, everything goes when you are having fun. After what appears to be part of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, they play an hommage to our dearest Lemmy by playing Ace of Spades. The fans couldn’t be more excited, when during “Dictatorshit” Max wears a Lokeren T-shirt and Iggor wears a T-shirt from the Red Devils, Belgians are proud of their football teams. The show ends the same way it started with a very impressive “Roots Bloody Roots”. As it is my all-time favorite Sepultura song, I can’t help to be excited by that surprise.
If you would think the night can’t get any better than having two big names already on the list, it gets even better. Next up in the schedule was Megadeth, part of the big four of thrash metal. With relatively new guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Belgian drummer Dirk Verbeuren, the lineup has been very strong for a while now. Even Dave Mustaine, who sometimes can be very stoic, seemed to enjoy the show a lot and even managed to conjure a smile on his face.
With “Hangar 18” the gig starts and sets tone for the rest of the show. The gigantic projections behind them are fantastic and thus the show has been one of the most impressive Megadeth shows I have had the chance to attend. The projections showed a dystopian world, referring to their latest 2016 release Dystopia. The typical Megadeth riffs and amazingly coordinated solos of Dave Mustaine and Kiko Loureiro together with the exhilarating bass lines of Ellefson are of high professionalism. Dirk Verbeuren is welcomed by the crowd as a hero, as they share the same nationality and he is clearly excited to be there, his capabilities as a drummer are almost hypnotic.
The set offers us both newer work such as “Poisonous Shadows” and “Dystopia“, but these songs fit perfectly between old classics like “A Tout Le Monde“, “Trust” and “Sweating Bullets“. When “Symphony of Destruction” starts, the atmosphere in the crowd is almost hitting like a bomb. After all, it is their biggest hit. But for me the highlight of the show is when Vic Rattlehead makes his trustworthy appearance during “Peace Sells“, a never disappointing part of the show and the concluding song “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due“. Top-notch shredding and a relentless, flawless performance, a perfect addition to the lineup.
Vincent Furnier is almost 70 years old now. However, you can hardly tell. His alter ego Alice Cooper is not only a great character, but is also an act of great excellence always entertaining the audience with a fantastic show and nowadays with a invigorating live band, where Nita Strauss shows plenty of men how guitar is supposed to be played – yay for women in metal! Alice Cooper recently released his new album Paranormal, which is definitely a you-have-to-listen-to-this-one kind of album.
The show is always very dramatic, but a lot of fun to watch. Under a veil of fire Alice Cooper Arises, during “Feed My Frankenstein” he gets electrocuted and during “Killer” watch them chopping off his head by using the guillotine. But all rejoice when Alice Cooper isn’t really dead after all. Victory for the metal community! In general we get a well balanced set list with classics like well-beloved “Poison” and are even treated with a new song “Paranoic Personality“, which turns out to be a great song to hear live. Before we knew it Marilyn Manson – who could be his son for all we know – joins the stage to sing along with “Eighteen”. With the necessary celebrative decoration, we seemed to have graduated somehow from the metal school of that day, we have been treated with many delights and indeed have been educated by professionals. The last sounds of “School’s Out” sound throughout whole Lokeren, but not without a Pink Floyd cover “Another Brick in the Wall“, which marks the end that came way too soon.
As the whole event basically drained my energy, because I’ve had an extremely low blood pressure for days, which causes dizziness, I unfortunately couldn’t stay for Marilyn Manson. I stayed for the intro but apart from what seemed to be a false start, I couldn’t make up anything. I was standing so far, that I had no idea what was going on, the intro was endless and the time between the first song as well. Perhaps this was an omen that it was indeed time to leave, because that was what I decided to do.
But not without leaving the festival with a smile on my face. The night had been exquisite and the festival that is constantly growing, is one of my favorite ones in Belgium and it is always good to see some Finnish talent internationally.
Text and Photos by Laureline Tilkin-Franssens
© All other photographs offered by Lokerse Feesten,
taken by Geert Van de Velde, Sven Dullaert or Fille Roelants Photography