Saturday, July 29, 2006

Big Bummer

Some people (we know who you are) insisted that Guerilla should post a story of its own, as we host this blog and are no strangers to Spinal Tap ourselves, especially when it comes to organising a festival. And as the biblical saying goes "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone". So here comes our very own avalanche.

The very first festival we organised was indoor at Hof Ter Lo, a venue in Antwerp which holds about 1.000. Given the fact that Guerilla only existed for a few months and we didn't have any experience whatsoever (apart from a few gigs in a squat, see the story below) this might have seemed a bit overly ambitious. And, of course, it was. The festival was called 'Big Bang' and that's exactly what it was: chaotic and destructive.

- the day of the festival, the guys who went to pick up most of the audio & light gear managed to prompt a general nervous breakdown when they called us saying "There's been an accident: the lock on the doors of our van snapped and now there's a sprinkling of PA stuff on the highway for about two miles." That's what Belgians call a 'joke'. Not funny. Not funny at all.

- the second stage was only finished three hours after the festival started. The second stage was also the spot where there was a rock contest on with a few new bands. But the jury got so drunk that no winner could be chosen. Some of those bands are doing very well now, by the way. UPDATE: I was wrong because a winner was chosen after all: reggae band Calabash (they're headlining alongside Omar Perry on the 2006 edition of Willrock festival by the way).

- when the second band on the main stage started to play, the woofers exploded. They were replaced by the woofers of the second stage. Those were a lot smaller, so they exploded as well. Half an hour later, the mixing table started to emit smoke - the master volume switch had fried.

- one artist managed to empty a fire extinguisher in the backstage and only afterwards (!) set the entire place on fire. Stupidly, he started to brag about his exploits when there was someone of the organisation nearby. But afterwards, he was very sorry about the whole thing and we're still good friends today.

- a video projector was stolen while it was being used on stage. No mean feat, huh? Afterwards, rumour had it that some bloke who was affiliated to the band that was on at the time, knicked it and sold it off so he could go and buy heroine (him being a junkie). But there was no proof, so the company whom we rented it from sued us (as if we wanted to steal an ancient projector). There's still no verdict in the case.
Think Of One thing you wouldn't like to see happen on a festival. Big Bang provided a bucketload.

- we arranged for a monitor mixing set on the main stage but alas we forgot to hire someone who knew how to use it. In the end, a girl who once took one lesson in sound engineering anxiously agreed to do it (we blackmailed her into it, I guess). Not surprisingly, the sound coming out of the monitors was somewhat less than perfect.

- there was a huge delay in the line-up and we even had to cancel a band (Neven). As a consequence, the main act (Think Of One) had to play three hours late. So they were very hungry. Being excellent organisers, we had foreseen this and we actually managed to trick a real chef into preparing food for the band. But -being equally stupid- we put the food 'for the time being' in an area that was accessible to the public. Needless to say, the crowd really enjoyed the free food, but Think Of One didn't. Fortunately, the chef managed to whip up a meal with the leftovers.

And there's a lot more where that came from. As I'm sure some of you will only be too happy to point out to us. So expect updates soon...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Silent Support

This story was sent to us by homeboy Dizel Washington, whose previous exploits include a stint with Sint-Andries MC's. Currently he's behind the mic of AC/DJ, which stands for Antwerp City Disc Jocks and has equally notorious Brad Piet on the decks. They are the ultimate party crew whose motto is: Party Hard / Rockin' Loud / Makin' Antwerp City Proud. Even though the 'loud' bit sometimes has to be taken with a pinch of salt...

Late summer 2001. Belgian national radio Studio Brussel ran a contest to promote the upcoming Groove Armada gig at the Vooruit the following fall. You had to send in a mixtape and the winner was awarded with an interview on Studio Brussel, a 30 minute dj-set during prime time, as well as getting to do the support for Groove Armada.

Me and my man Brad Piet were making mixtapes on a daily basis at the time. What we did was mix as many records as possible, record it on a 90-minute audiotape, and take it with us to the bar we went to that night where we would ask the bartender to play it. That way we could check out the effect our selection had on people and analyse our mixes as well (Blunderpop note: we've been using similar excuses so we could get drunk at some pub).

Dizel Washington & Brad Piet

Anyway, one of those tapes we submitted for the contest and guess what: not before long I got a call from this dude at Zomba - the record label of Groove Armada- who told us we had won and were hereby invited for our interview and dj-set on Studio Brussel. All of this went well and so we were getting ready for our official entry a few days later to eternal fame and stardom - rockin' the infamous Vooruit in Ghent as support act of world-renowned producers Groove Armada.

As you can imagine, we were more than a little excited. So we got to the venue well on time and were received as true stars with a backstage room, fresh fruit and all the drinks we wanted. We also got to say hello to the Groove Armada crew, who turned out to be a bunch of nice geezers. Then at 10pm we were called to the stage to get it on. The hall was packed and some people were even cheering us. It felt like “Yeah, this is going to be a memorable gig”.

So we put our first record on and immediately noticed that there was hardly any sound coming out of the speakers and the monitors, even though the output meter on the mixing table clearly showed everything was OK at our end. So we turned to the sound engineer and told him to pump up the volume. Bit by bit they gave us a few more decibels, but we could still hear the people in the crowd having a chat. We both thought "What the f*ck is this? Some kind of joke?". Once again, we went to the sound guy to ask for more volume. We were finally told that this was impossible. It turned out that, whenever there was a theatre play on at the venue next door, they had to limit the volume to a bare whisper. So they were sorry, but this was all the sound we were going to get.

AC/DJ superstylin'

We turned to the crowd and yelled at them that this was the loudest we were allowed to play. Not caring anymore about mixing, we made ourselves comfortable on the monitors in front of the stage and talked to some friends who had especially come over to support us - only to watch AC/DJ's opportunity to rock our first big crowd go to waste. At the end, even one of the Groove Armada guys came to see what the hell was going on. After 20 minutes or so we decided to pack our stuff and get off the stage.

When Groove Armada came on later that night, the sound was immediately turned up to full power. A bit disappointed we headed back home, but our hunger to rock was bigger then ever. And the rest, as you know, is part of rock 'n' roll history.

More AC/DJ on the Guerilla site and on Dizel's MySpace.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Artists and beggars can't be choosers

This story was sent to us by musician / rarefishie / Spinal Tap veteran Thomas Bartosik

I don't mind chaotic DIY shows but, alas, sometimes there's just too much tapness involved.

Each year in March, the student body of an academy in Antwerp organises a little festival in a local squat with lots of bands, dj's, performances, poets, etc. Until last year I was a student at this school, so they asked me to perform with one of my bands, Haachtse Witte. Given the low entrance fee, all the artists were 'paid' with 3 beers, a bottle of water and a lasagna. The previous year the festival wasn't really well organised, so I kind of interfered with the whole thing on the night itself; providing a second stage so all the bands could play, making sure everybody had juice for the amps as well as improvising a new schedule on the spot. This year, I did not have the time to help them out. Nor did anyone else, apparently...

Because I had to do some stuff for work, I arrived just in time for the soundcheck. We were scheduled as the fifth band on the indoor stage. I had to get up early the next day so I was hoping to go home as fast as possible. When I arrived, the second band was playing and I was told there was -obviously- a huge delay. First of all, there was a guy who played in two bands. Both bands were re-scheduled on the night itself to play on two different stages at the same time. Great thinking. Secondly, they forgot something very important: a PA doesn’t work really well without a sound engineer, especially when the mixing desk is up on a balcony at the other side of the room. As you can imagine, that makes it rather hard for a band to play on stage and do your own mix at the same time.

Noticing nobody really seemed to bother and seeing time go by, my band mates of Haachtse Witte had already volunteered to help out so we all ended up behind the mixing desk. Suddenly, somebody came to us and said we had to tell the band to stop. So we did. The third band was I Love Sarah, good friends of us. We had a hard time doing their amplification because there was no time for a soundcheck and we didn't really know which mics were plugged in and which weren't. During the set we also found out that the mic for the guitar amp and the monitors were not working, so we had to improvise with other mics while I Love Sarah was playing.

one half of I Love Sarah

After a while, Ken (SimpleSongs) -also a member of Haachtse Witte- went backstage to prepare his own set. There, he asked for some help with the PA. He also needed a hand to haul all his gear to the stage but nobody seemed to know who was responsible. But they did have a good excuse: they were all very busy making hamburgers. Wandering around, Ken ended up at the entrance where someone told him: "Just ask the guys from Haachtse Witte. They'll help you out." OK...

While I was still on the balcony with Freek (the third Haachtse Witte member) the girl who was responsible (yep) for the indoor stage came to us. Not to take over, you see, but to make sure we were doing it right. At this point, I started to realise that my band would not be on stage any time soon, so I mentally prepared to go to work in the morning without getting any sleep. I wanted to know what the plan was -if any- so I went backstage where everybody was still making hamburgers. There, a guy from the organisation was moaning about the fact that they weren't on schedule anymore. I suggested that having a sound engineer would be a good start to avoid losing time. To which he replied: "The bands are all playing for free, so they mustn't complain about anything".

Haachtse Witte, excellent stuff

Normally, Haachtse Witte was scheduled to play after SimpleSongs but the festival crew decided on the spot to add one more band called Schidzoïde. Meanwhile, we could set up our gear on stage, so we started to put up the drumkit they arranged for us. It turned out the kit was not complete and the kick was broken, so we had to borrow some material from the nice guys of tRAM. I plugged in my effect pedals and waited for Schidzoïde to finish. But, suddenly, while Freek was getting us more beer, some drunk guy stumbled onto stage to drum along to the music. I didn't mind him drumming, but I don't like people to stand on my effect pedals, but there was little I could do about it. Five minutes later the girl (the “responsible” one) comes up and complains to us that the drunkard is playing on tRAM’s drumkit. Maybe she should have been there herself to keep people away from the stage, and maybe she could have told him not to step on my pedals as well.

Anyway, Schidzoïde went on for quite a bit, trashing his guitar and all that, and when he was finally finished (it was 3 AM at this time) Responsible Girl came back and told us tRAM had to play now. Our show was cancelled and we had to get off the stage as fast as possible. I packed my stuff, went home, drank coffee for an hour and went to work.

Alternate Blunderpop URL

You can now also bookmark / link to us by using Of course, you'll have to click through ('or wait 15 seconds' etc) but at least this URL is easier to remember. We'll change the URL into something pop-up free as soon as possible. And yes, new stories are coming up very shortly. So keep checking this blog regulary for updates.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Blood on the drums

This story was submitted by photographer / musician / last action hero Kris Verdonck.

A few weeks ago we had to play with our band The Chocolate Lovers on the opening of a three-day art fest in Antwerp called 'Liefhebber' ('Amateur'), which was being organised by the city of Antwerp and one Mr. Raoul from the venue itself. It was supposed to be about art & music and the love for both. It turned out to be somewhat different...

The venue was an old squatted mansion which could hold like threehundred people. The chief-squatter was a guy from Nigeria, dressed in this funky jazz outfit from the 50’s. You know, with the hat and all the works.

You had to address him as Mr Raoul. Or even better, like he had said before: as the Governor. So Mr Raoul had been chewing on these strange plants all day, which made him all the more nervous as time passed by. During the soundcheck, he started making weird yelling noises while talking nonsense and dancing all along. “Okay, that’s one weird guy”, we thought, “We better not pay too much attention to him.”

After we had finished the soundcheck, the au
dience started to come in. Then some art connoisseur –you know the type- made his opening speech and we finally hit the stage. Into the fourth song the Governor -who had been dancing all the time- mounted the big stairs behind and above the stage. Suddenly he started yelling at the crowd. Then he grabbed a lamp-post that was standing there, ran a few flights down the stairs, and smashed it on the head of our drummer, Dirk. The latter started to bleed heavily, the stuff dripping on his snare drums, and the poor guy nearly lost consciousness. Luckily there were some women in the audience who knew how to treat an injured head. They got some bandages and other useful stuff from the emergency kit and took care of him.

When we realised what had happened, I put my guitar down and chased the Governor, who in the mean time had run out of the venue. After a few hundred meters, I was closing in on him. But the Governor suddenly turned on his heels. He was holding this big brick in his hand and he obviously intended to hit me with it - preferably on the head. “Fuck.” was all I could think. And I naturally ran off as fast as I could.

The Chocolate Lovers performing with Johnny Dowd

At this point, people were pouring out of the venue and they noticed what was happening. Some of them tried to block the Governor. So what did he do? Well in the end, six visitors hit the dust. Then along came our friend Bart, who tried to grab him. Unsuccesfully. He got smashed on the head as well and started bleeding profusely. Knock-out number two.

Finally, this giant guy, nearly two meters tall and built like a boxer -he turned out to be a concert organiser who had come to check us out- managed to get hold of the Governor, wrestled with him for a bit and put the guy’s arms behind his back. The Giant Organiser dragged him into the venue and locked him in a room, after telling him that if he’d make as much as one single move, he’d be dead before he knew what hit him.

Meanwhile, we had returned to the stage and after we got the all-clear sign, our singer grabbed the mic and announced the next song, as if nothing had happened. “So ladies and gentleman, sorry for the inconvenience & the blood on the drums. Okay, now let’s do ‘Sinnerman’.”

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Smack My Beach Up

OK, here are two little stories of my own (since not too many have been submitted lately, you lazy bums) and both of them took place at Beach Rock in Zeebrugge (every year it has a different name because the organisation really likes to suck up to its sponsors ; so it can be 'Axion Beach Rock' or 'Lada Beach Rock' or 'National Manure Inc. Beach Rock', anything goes).

The first time I was there I had to do an interview. I didn't have a backstage pass for some reason, but as the artist -the singer of Breakbeat Era- came to pick me up, this wasn't a problem. So we did the interview and afterwards, I naturally wanted to return to the frontstage. But as I came to the checkpoint, some boneheaded security guy didn't want to let me go through - because I didn't have a pass. I patiently tried to explain to him that I didn't want to go in the backstage - I wanted to go out. I didn't want instant free drinks, I wanted to queue for ages so I could pay for them. I didn't want to rub up to celebrities, I wanted to rub up to drunk teenagers. So we argued for about ten minutes but to no avail. The only reply I got was something along the lines of 'befehl ist befehl'. In the end I had to go and find someone higher up in the festival hierarchy -who probably had more important things on his mind- who could talk some sense into this moron. Eventually, I was set free, even though the security did give me a look that clearly said "I'll beat you up later when I get the chance" . ***

The security guy wouldn't let me take his picture, but these gentlemen just might be some of his chums.

A year later, I was on the same festival again and this time I did have a backstage pass, hurray! And better still: I didn't have to do any interviews. So me and my friend had a lot of time to spare, as well as access to lots of free beer. The problem was that the festival had a sponsor deal with Maes. Now, you probably need to be a Belgian to appreciate the difference between a good beer and a bad one, but believe me: Maes is bad. So we went out to a shop, bought some Jupiler (good beer) and went back to the festival, knowing fully well that important people and other freeloaders with a backstage pass don't get frisked. Soon, we were happily enjoying our beers in the backstage lounge (they had plastic plants and even a little fountain). Suddenly, an anxious-looking guy in a suit came to us and said "You can't do that!". Can't do what? "Drink that-thàt beer." Pardon? "This festival is being sponsored by my company Maes and here you are drinking Jupiler. You took advantage of your backstage pass to smuggle it in." Of course we did. That's what backstage passes are for. "OK, OK, I have a deal: why don't you let me have those cans and I'll bring you two ice-cold Maes beers." And he did. He even managed to find two glasses. It was a good deal for us because our drinks were almost empty and we were already too drunk to taste the difference anyway. We also decided not to tell Mr. Maes about the eight Jupiler cans that were still in my backpack.