Leffingeleuren Festival 2018

Part of what made Leffingeleuren festival something remarkable was that this is essentially a small town festival, populated mostly by locals, circling around a church whose nearest city was Oostende. I doubt many people will contest me when I mention that I use the term ‘city’ loosely. Its remarkableness isn’t in the size, however, but in its lineup. This festival had one of the best lineups I’ve seen in a long time in terms of rock n roll – including Iceage, Amyl and the Sniffers, Bad Breeding and Bob Log III to name a few. Unfortunately I only attended Saturday and Sunday due to deciding to ship all my belongings to Australia and move out of my apartment, but nevertheless I saw enough gigs to give you a good picture into how healthy the scene is here in our little politically and geographically confused country.

The first show of the festival I saw was Tubelight (*****) who were undeniably great. While not necessarily the heaviest band on the lineup, they had a profound awareness of influences and a unique ability to tread a very very thin line between sincerity and pretentiousness – maintaining a sensitivity that so often goes misunderstood in the world of rock n roll. The main thing that I could think to describe Tubelight’s show was it was as if I was in CBGB’s watching Television, only fronted by John Cooper Clarke. Tubelight were given a difficult time of day in which to perform – about 3 in the afternoon on the second day of the festival – and despite there being very few people in the crowd at the beginning of the show (thankfully this almost tripled by the end), they performed sincerely and energetically and it was definitely a performance I’d say shouldn’t be missed. A personal highlight of mine was seeing a guy, I assume a friend of the band, on the left hand side of the stage extremely excited about a bottle of whiskey he managed to get and showing it off to someone in the audience. I’m guessing he didn’t realize how visible he was.

After Tubelight played I managed to get my hands on a backstage pass for the weekend thanks to Lee and some of my own smooth talking – and there I ran into Bad Breeding (*****). Bad Breeding play a very unique brand of hardcore punk, with a compassion that was most notably picked up more in the post punk movement in the UK. The only reason I didn’t mention them in my preview text of the festival was because I didn’t know them yet – but as I chatted to them all backstage I could already tell that the show was going to be special. Something I liked most about their performance was how tenderly the vocalist moved the equipment on stage in contrast to the aggression of the music – and even though he’d cross over from being on the stage to moving around the audience, he was kind and far from overbearing. I don’t think I’ve ever really been to a hardcore punk show in which I could describe the male vocalist as I just have, but it happened, and the effect of this was a feeling of safety I had in the crowd. Too often at hardcore punk shows are the men so intensely macho and toxic that women feel as though they don’t have a place. Bad Breeding, probably not even necessarily consciously, don’t put this out there at all. They’re still on tour at the moment so if you can catch them live I would highly recommend it, they’re lovely boys.

I was so wrapped up in seeing Bad Breeding and talking to them after the show that I missed the beginning of Bob Log III (***1/2) – one of the bands I was supposed to focus my review on. Oops. However it turned out not to be such a heartbreak; I’ve seen Bob Log a few times and his shows depend almost entirely on his audience, if they’re not into it and understanding it, then the show will fall flat in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, I think the audience at Leffingeleuren didn’t really get what Bob Log was about. They treated it mostly as a comedy act and a selfie opportunity, which to me showed a lack of understanding of what kind of rock n roll Bob Log plays. Speaking to him after the gig, however, he said he always has a great time so it seemed to be that it didn’t bother him at all. That’s not to say, however, that it was a totally wasted experience. Looking around the room I saw smiling and happy faces of people who couldn’t believe what they were seeing – something I experienced the first time I saw Bob Log. Regardless of who you are or what you’re into, you’ve gotta see him at least once. He tours all the time so keep an eye out.

That was my Saturday, and I managed to grab a couple hours sleep at a mates place in Kortrijk before heading back to see Amyl and the sniffers on Sunday.

Amyl and the sniffers (*****) were, by far, the highlight of the festival for me. I was lucky enough to get to know Amyl a little and see Amyl and the sniffers on NYE of this year at the Tote in Melbourne, a show which was brilliant, in the way that local punk shows always are – a loyal and violent crowd chanting lyrics that are often specific to the suburb (think Westgate and Balaclava Lover Boogie). That show was great, but there was a part of me that wondered how Amyl and the sniffers would go on tour in other countries, how people would respond to this very Melbourne brand of punk/rock n roll that has origins in the St. Kilda scene of the 70’s (something very close to my heart as that was essentially the scene in which my dad, and in turn my musical upbringing, was grounded). My concerns weren’t really based on anything substantial, however, because watching Amyl and the Sniffers at Leffingeleuren showed me that their past 8 months of touring the US, Europe and UK with bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Surfbort at sold out shows hasn’t overwhelmed them or worn them out – they have only developed a style of performing that makes sense, that’s refined and special, without losing that feeling of it being a local show in your local town. Watching Amyl and Sniffers showed me that they could be performing in a stadium, or in front of the fuckn super bowl, and they’d still pull off that intimacy with the crowd. Take note, too, that Amyl and the Sniffers have released a new single in the last couple of days on a limited run of 7″s – check it out here.

Overall, Leffingeleuren was definitely something unique and special, and I would 100% recommend making the trek to go next year if the lineup suits you – it was a bizarre experience watching rock n roll filth on a stage called the ‘chapel’ with a light up cross on the other end of the room, in a small town with a crowd populated at least 50% by children and dogs – but totally 100% worth the 12 hours travel time I spent on the way there and the way back over those two days.