The Cactus Festival started on its opening day with a huge disappointment due to the cancellation of Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. Belle and Sebastian managed to save the furniture and thus provide us with a nice closing. The second day started much earlier, namely at noon. Fortunately, more time also means more artists. About eight bands and artists passed the revue, three of which were from Belgian soil.
The second day of the Cactus Festival was kicked off by K.ZIA, a young artist who inherited her passion for music and stages from her parents. We know her father from the ever famous Cirque du Soleil and her mother is none other than Marie Daulne from Zap Mama. Big shoes to fill. K.ZIA played in front of a very sparse audience due to the early starting hour. The singer sang flawlessly throughout the performance, but because of her long binding lyrics between the songs, she immediately took the little bits of atmosphere out of her performance. Several times she urged the audience to dance and sing along, but those frantic efforts were in vain. The flat pop could not appeal to the predominantly older audience and that made for one moodless affair. Those who arrived only an hour later have missed little or nothing.
The next in the remarkably long list of young Belgian sensations at this festival was Sylvie Kreusch. She blew our socks off at TW Classic just two weeks ago and it should come as no surprise that we watched her set with high expectations. From opening track “Let It All Burn” it became clear that Kreusch would more than live up to those expectations. She paraded across the stage in her much too large brown-grey jumpsuit. On “Walk Walk” she went that extra mile by walking across the stage with a handbag filled with glitter. She finally sprinkled the glitter over her head, and then let the audience sing along with the last remnants of the song. Sylvie Kreusch came, saw and conquered. We expected nothing less from her.
The youth of today
It is a certainty that an atmosphere will be created wherever De Jeugd Van Nowadays goes. Beforehand we wondered if the men would be able to spin the slightly older crowd around their fingers as well. Fortunately, De Jeugd Van Nowadays had more than enough hits to get both young and old dancing and jumping. The lyrics of “Tante Lien” were infectious, because the hands were effectively thrown in the air. Also “Sterrenstof” was a direct hit, because the lyrics didn’t have to be sung by the band itself. The fans managed to sing the song word for word and when the men called the audience fantastic, it was not a word of a lie. The Youth Of Today brought young and old together with big hits and tons of energy.
A little past half past four we were finally allowed to celebrate, because it was Coely’s turn. The Antwerp hip-hop star broke through in 2017 with Different Waters, then faded out of the spotlight for a bit, then came back with accessible hits. The success of the less recent hits was also apparent when “Don’t Care” was sung along by the audience. Rapper DVTCH NORRIS should certainly not be overlooked, because in addition to offering an extra musical layer, he also managed to pep up the audience. Closer “Celebrate” was more than appropriate. There was celebration, dancing and singing. It’s probably best that the sun didn’t get through completely, because a sunstroke would probably have given us Beyoncé illusions.
Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West are both a musical duo and a loving couple. Of course we don’t have to look far to find an explanation for their chemistry on stage. Their voices melted together beautifully and on time they exchanged a loving look with each other. Fortunately, the good pop songs became more daring and energetic as the end drew closer. The audience just in front of the stage danced quite calmly. They also let out a euphoric cry when Vander Gucht announced that she has married her companion. Unfortunately, her binding texts were exactly the same as in the Ancienne Belgique, which is not enough to get a festival audience in the mood. We noticed that the less polished songs immediately put more hands in the air. Closer “Hallelujah” provided one of the few sing-along moments. We hope that Oh Wonder finds a more pleasant balance between calm and busier, atmospheric songs in the future. The band could have stepped out of its comfort zone a bit more, but nevertheless provided some dancing fans. The songs were clean, unfortunately a festival expects more than that.
Sometimes there are moments when a person realizes that he is getting a little older. We had that, for example, the moment we realized that To Lose My Life is now ten years old. White Lies’ breakthrough album delivered classics that we know in advance will be roared along. This was immediately proven on opening track “Farewell To The Fairground”, in which a few beakers of beer spontaneously flew into the air. Opening with such a big hit is a risk, but follow-up “There Goes Our Love Again” taught us that White Lies knew very well what he was doing. On “Is My Love Enough” the guitar hung somewhat as an accessory around frontman Harry McVeigh’s neck. It forced him to pull out some awkward dance moves. Fortunately, the audience found that endearing and we have to admit that McVeigh is an endearing man in his own right. This was evident in the moments when he waved back to people in the audience and his enthusiastic smile during the songs. Perhaps it is his charisma that kept the fans dancing and jumping, despite the somewhat monotonous set. The performance of White Lies was exactly what we could expect from a good hour of White Lies: with sing-alongs, the necessary portion of enthusiasm and a little bit monotonous.
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals
Ben Harper has been called one of the patron saints of the surfer scene and that is the best description that can be given. It was to be seen whether his eternal coolness would succeed in enchanting the public, which turned out to be no problem at all. The American quickly spread his warmth throughout the Minnewater Park. He did this, among other things, by singing opening song “Below Sea Level” together with The Innocent Criminals. The crowd immediately fell silent and moments later they already clap with Leon Mobley. He drummed hard on a large djembe and the southern rhythms brought the warmth that the sun would not grant us today. For “Steal My Kisses” Harper brought out his lap steel guitar for the first time, reminding us of just how versatile he is. The solos also appealed to the audience, because the applause regularly rose above the sound system. Moments later, Harper was all alone on stage with nothing but his acoustic guitar. It gave me goosebumps and flashlights went up here and there. “Amen Omen” was another highlight. The song was stretched for a long time with three firm guitar solos that managed to get the audience completely silent. The closing track “With My Own Two Hands” was of course clapped and sung along with our own two hands. After a bombastic ending to that song, they called it quits. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals delivered by far the most varied set of the day and they did it without ever taking an inimitable twist. We dare to say with certainty that after today they have a lot of fans again.
Earlier this year Franz Ferdinand already gave a show in the Royal Circus, in which they treated us to a jukebox full of greatest hits. They also proved to us that they guarantee a pleasant atmosphere, which is partly made possible by songs with a buzzing quality. Frontman Alex Kapranos appeared on stage in a shirt that might as well have come out of a cowboy movie. So we’re instantly reminded that the Scot likes a little extravaganza. Opener “No You Girls” was an immediate hit that provided the necessary dance steps for both Kapranos and the audience. Then came “The Dark of the Matinée”, which easily surpassed its predecessor by the loud singing of the fans. Also with new songs such as “Curious” there was massive jumping, although the singing along was omitted. Kapranos also praised city rivals Belle and Sebastian and then exploded with “Jacqueline”. “Take Me Out” has now become musical heritage and it proved once again. As expected, every word was sung along and at the beginning of the chorus there was massive jumping. With “This Fire” we got a fantastic closing track and the text ‘I’m gonna burn this city, burn this city,’ was sung along so convincingly that we have to wonder whether Bruges will still be there tomorrow. The audience went down on their knees for a moment and then jumped up one last time, after which Franz Ferdinand disappeared from the stage. The Scots brought with them high expectations and they were exceeded in every way. Kapranos and his band were on top form, as were the crowd.
The second day of Cactus Festival was one that had something in store for everyone. The diversity of the genres meant that the audience was not always enthusiastic, but that was nicely compensated by the quality of the performances. Franz Ferdinand was of course the absolute eye-catcher, but also acts such as Sylvie Kreusch, Coely and Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals were more than convincing. Looking forward to the third and last day of the festival.
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