Tuesday, 30 March 2010

531 "ROCK TERNAT", Saturday 13 October 2001

Day 3 of Belgium, and this one's all about Rock Ternat! We packed up and left our hotel in Ghent, then zoomed along the E40 to Ternat, finding the Festival site 3 hours too early, so killed time by visiting Ikea! Returned to the site, parking the car on the road verge then wandered down a dirt track to the collection of fenced-off small fields and big tents that comprise Rock Ternat, an annual festival with a 4-5,000 capacity. Picked up free passes at the gate, big Jim coming through for us again, then after gaining entrance at 2.45, we got the beers in to watch the first band! This is YUM, whom we watch down the front in the single big band tent; they're a good start, all rhythmic and unorthodox, similar to Darkstar, but occasionally rocking in a haunting, Gothy manner. Also, their vocalist has good taste in red velvet shirts and knows how to hold a tune - he sang in English and introduced the songs in Flemish, however, which has to be confusing, or so I thought until meeting him afterwards and finding out he was half Canadian, half Dutch! Good band, though, so we buy merch.

BASTION are next up; they're unfortunately the kind of Euro disco pop bollocks that got Euro disco pop bollocks a bad name! There's 10 of them onstage and they're all shit! So we wandered around the festival site and caught the sun, killing time before the main dish of the day.

THE SHEILA DIVINE are up next, just after 5pm, and by now there's a hard core of fans down the front - including us! Once again, they open with newie "Calling All Lovers", which calls for a stellar performance from guitarist Colin Decker - and gets it! The slow-burn of "Opportune Moment", which builds like pressure then erupts in a joyous, "it's my life!" hook, follows, giving Aaron ample opportunity to exercise those gymnastic tonsils of his. Once again, the man hits every note he's called upon to hit, be it at angelic schoolboy pitch, or at a screech like a scalded badger. "Countrymen" is a particular tour de force, calling for a choral falsetto which he nails - every time!

By now, we're surrounded by a manic moshpit, and crowdsurfers - yup, Sheila Divine crowdsurfers! So much for Rachel's idea that it'd be calmer down the front today than at De Kreun last night! Also, we're being regaled with an insistent chant from the Belgian TSD massive of, "we want "Hum"," egged on in no small part by big Jim Gilbert! So the boys abandon the set order, and the familiar opening bassline is met with a rapturous ovation, as "Hum" is let loose by the Sheilas. The band lap this reception up, especially Jim, whose huge frame and extravagant gestures are totally accentuated by the big stage he's allowed to let rip on today! "Automatic Buffalo" closes the set, but the boys are ushered back on again for one final number, which fittingly is the tense, raucous "Running With The Devil", with its increasingly familiar hook, "back to the cradle," which preceded, once again, another flip-out from Aaron, his face red and pulsing with passion. Again, breathtaking and superb!

That's what we were here for! So we emerged from the front, totally sweaty, and grabbed some eats before next band MAURO. They featured a floppy fringed Jonathan Ross lookalike with a silly pencil moustache on vocals, but peddle very trad 70's AOR, like the Stones after they'd gotten too old and boring. Needless to say, we don't stick around for long but head for the bar tent instead. Back in to check out next band STARFLAM, who were an even worse idea - a French rap act which was as bad as it sounds. You couldn't fault the eclecticism of this bill, but one wondered why; after all, everyone (except us, so it seemed) was primarily here for the Sisters Of Mercy!

We ran into Belgian TSD friends Geno and Helga, who were just heading home at this point; not a bad idea as it turned out! We'd resolved however to stay to hear THE SISTERS OF MERCY, partly because they were the only other band on the bill that we'd heard of! However, they came onstage swathed in so much dry ice you'd be forgiven for thinking there was a fire, and worse, they had no "live" drummer, instead employing a very loud drum machine which suffocated all the other sounds and rendered the Sisters songs, often haunting and powerful, instead turgid and impotent. Even the sinister power of "Temple Of Love" was wiped away by the swathes of drum machine, and we could hardly see the strutting and preening Andrew Eldrich through the smoke. So we left.

That was nowhere near the end of the night, however! First we had to contend with a double-parking-mare, then an event photographer - who'd recognised us as, "the English fans following The Sheila Divine around Belgium," from our car's UK plates, although we'd never seen or met him before! - kindly directed us to Brussels, whence we spent ages driving frustratedly around the one-way system before finally finding and parking near our hotel - at midnight! However, it was too noisy to sleep, thanks to a bar opposite our hotel, so we went out to drink ourselves asleep with Belgian beer. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

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