How can you tell that the world is drifting away from the pandemic times? Answer: CGCM‘s Rich “The Meister” Dillon is back on the road to rock!
CGCM Running Wild at Wildfest!
And so, my first ever attendance at Wildfest Festival in Belgium is in the books! It was a long time waiting, what with watching the lineups of previous years and trying to juggle my schedule to allow it. Then of course taking the plunge resulted in ticket rollovers for reasons we all know too well about.
Ahead of the event, I featured a track from all 15 bands playing Wildfest in my radio show. I’ve also included that below if you feel like a listen.
Here below is my account of the adventure in blog story format with comments on some of the bands featured. While I had been awarded a photo pit pass for Wildfest, it seems that I have much, much more to learn in the concert photography area. As evidenced by the shitty photos I took and included along the way here.
WildFest Preview Radio Show
Travel Itinerary and Troubles
On this occasion, I was travelling with a fellow Canadian, Mike. We packaged the trip together rather tightly with Call of the Wild Festival in UK, then rushing to Sweden for two nights, two cities of Ronnie Atkins‘ return to the stage. From there it was on to Brussels, Belgium and then to Gerraardsbergen, the home of Wildfest.
To preface, we are both good-humoured dudes and are out to have the best time that we can. No stress no matter what happens, we’ll handle it. So along the way a low-lying theme of “whatever can go wrong will” crept into play. Nothing serious, just dumb stuff that creates a laugh (usually at the other’s expense) and piles another running gag onto the already lengthy stack. Things like automatic passport control gates that won’t scan a passport, or one dumb dumb scanning a boarding pass instead of a passport and wondering why it won’t work🤦🏻♂️
What’s That Smell?
Departing from Gothenburg with a connection through Copenhagen, the first leg’s flight was behind schedule effectively shortening our connection time. But we made the flight and to Brussels, we went. Landing without incident, we watched the luggage circle the belt as folks retrieved their cases. More and more folks collected their belongings and the number of people crowded around depleted in proportion to the number of baggage circling the belt. Until it became quite apparent, as we were the only ones left standing there, that while we had arrived in Brussels, our luggage had not.
Approximately 1.5hrs in the line at the lost baggage counter still didn’t kill our moods. We even brightened the gentleman’s day with jokes when it was our turn to approach the desk. Due to the shortened connection time, our bags were still in Copenhagen and would arrive on the first flight tomorrow. They would deliver them to our hotel…..however, we had planned to leave said hotel early morning en route to Gerraardsbergen and so we gave that address, Hotel Grupello.
Berlin Fabrik Burger Bar
Settling into our private room in a hostel, we headed out in search of food….and beer to help quell the fact that we’d had the same underwear on the two days now! Quickly happening upon a burger bar called Berlin Fabrik we entered, sat and placed our orders. Bavik Pils proved to be a nice pilsner from the land of many beers that is Belgium.
But the burgers we ordered, when delivered caused us both to pop our eyes out of our sockets! OMG, did they ever look delightful and absolutely massive too! We tucked in, loving every bite and the conversation repeatedly revolved around recounting events and jokes so far on the trip and of course lost luggages. A couple more Baviks and we headed back to the hostel, now around 10pm for a shower and turning boxers inside out🤦🏻♂️. But really just searching good night’s sleep after our hectic schedule.
The Swiss MacGyver
Coffees at the train station while we awaited the arrival of our awesome friend Thomas from Switzerland. As is custom, Thomas arrived bearing delicious Swiss beer treats Qüollfrisch. A great beer. They were warm of course, but ever the MacGyver of inventiveness, Thomas obtained some ice and plastic cups from the coffee shop. He created little makeshift coolers to chill the Qüollfrisch even a few degrees while we waited to board our train to Gerraardsbergen.
The check-in for Hotel Grupello was actually at another hotel around the corner Hotel Geeraardsbergen. The two are owned by the same company and due to a holiday, the reception at Grupello was closed today. The young lady behind the desk there was hands down the absolute most welcoming, helpful and genuine person in probably the whole of Belgium!
Sylvia got us checked in a bit early and as we explained about the luggage. She helped us post a large sign on Grupello‘s door so the courier making delivery of the by now highly desired fresh undies would not drive away thinking undeliverable with the desk closure.
She then through the conversation discovered Thomas was in another hotel. She rang them to arrange for the ride pick-up that was a part of Thomas‘ booking.
Out on the Town of Geraardsbergen
So 15 minutes later we’d basically seen everything that there is to see about Gerraardsbergen. It’s not a big place, you see. Oh, wait, a beer patio, The Sapphire! We haven’t seen that yet. Be rude not to stop in right? Two English blokes having made the exact same revelations that Mike, Thomas and I had, took the next table. Clearly, they were “our” people identified by sporting Evergrey and Crashdiet tee shirts. Inevitably a few words were exchanged regarding Wildfest and before long it became a conversation and a joining of tables. Always love meeting new like-minded cool kids, like myself😎🤣.
One of the topics for discussion, a spin-off of Wildfest talk was the band Wild Heart. I really like the No Love album. But seemed really only me and one of the Brits (Andy) knew it. In fact, Andy was quite excitedly agitated as apparently he’d been trying to purchase the CD and their debut for some time but it’s not available anywhere for sale. He was a bit frustrated as he really wanted them. Remember this bit readers.
Clearly encompassing the same mindset and excitement for Wildfest, running jokes began to creep in. Such as the missing luggage…..we didn’t even see anywhere in this town to purchase new boxers if we needed. Mike was getting close to even accepting to wear a thong if he had to🤦🏻♂️!
Before long, more good friends not seen for the covid years, happened by. These lively Swiss folk had more new people in their company. Including a young man who loudly and proudly introduced himself as “Shitface“! More on that later!
We Gotta Eat!
As had already taken place a couple of days, we were in danger of forgetting to eat more than breakfast! We cannot live on beer alone, sadly. Mike, Thomas and I soon found ourselves in a Chinese restaurant. There was no English on the menu, nor from the server. Mike and Thomas made guesses and placed orders, but I opted out. I ain’t paying if I don’t know what I’m ordering….beer was easy to communicate 🤣
Moments later, in walks a group of about 5 or 6 younger than us folks sporting rock tees. Ah, more of “our people” clearly here for the festival! It’s my duty to meet them, so I struck up the conversation! Turns out they are organizing the event and working with promoter Jan DeGreve. Well, that’s cool….now can you help me order dinner? And they did #120 Chicken Fried Rice! Cheers gang!
Sometime later the two English blokes, Andy and Justin have decided on food and a little staggeringly enter the restaurant. Also not understanding French, the table of organizers assisted once again…..but this time in conversation it comes out that this group is actually the band Wild Heart! Well, that’s all Andy needed to hear! A short tirade fuelled by fanship and beer ensued over the ability to purchase the band’s music on CD. It was quite funny really and harmless too of course. The band insisted they would have both CDs at the venue!
Let’s Get Thomas Home
Calling it a night, we returned to the hotel, hoping against hope for clean skivvies delivery! And Thomas was still with us, needing to get to his hotel. Sylvia at Hotel Geeraardsbergen had not been able to reach the other hotel for Thomas. She even mentioned if needed that she would drive him there! Now, that’s above and beyond the call. So helpful and genuinely a lovely, caring person. I would stay here again just because of Sylvia (and we have booked for next year😁). On the good news side of things, our long-lost baggage had arrived safely! A beer in the lobby while waiting and Sylvia finally got through for Thomas. She even stayed at work some 2 hours late just to make sure he got his ride ok!
Today is Wildfest!
The first day of bands began with a leisurely morning walk around the town of Gerraardsbergen. We wanted to see the sights of this town. So approximately 2 minutes later we found ourselves back at Sapphire Bar. Ok….well maybe it took 5 minutes, but it’s a very small town….lol! Before long some of the others joined us after making the very same walking discoveries. And ShitFace was already in fine form!
We rolled up to JC De Spiraal, the Wildfest venue after a few beers in the sun. There was not so much of a queue to get in as there were folks milling about outside. It seemed that things were a bit behind schedule and the doors not yet open. I spoke quickly with Mike DeCoene at the press booth and introduced myself. We’d been emailing back and forth for a while, so it was nice to put a face on him.
I’m not sure how long the delay was in the end. Let’s just say it was not superbly horrendous. I spent the time chatting with friends and hugging so many more that I’d not yet seen (since pre-covid times!). So awesome to see everyone and it added to the already palpable excitement of what was to come. I saw CGCM contributor Rachel Leigh Vendetta in attendance and hung out for a bit. It’s been so long! Once inside the first noticeable memory was the stuffiness and hot temperature as you moved further into the fair-sized room. The stage was on the right. Merch in the far back left corner. The soundboard on the left wall with a bar running the course of the wall directly to the left of the entrance.
A good system for beer I thought. You purchased a card like a small bingo card with .50€ squares on it. Then to the bar, depending on what you ordered, the staff marked off the number of squares equalling that denomination. It made bar lines flow quite quickly, but unfortunately, the selection was not much other than beer. Liquor drinkers were out of luck. I was in luck🤣.
Now I also will say here, that I won’t mention each and every band in detail of their set. I don’t feel you need all those minute details here. Every band brought a top game and played with high stakes. So, some light mentions are all unless something unique happened. This is more of a blog adventure in hopes of instigating the desire in you to attend Wildfest 2023 once you see how much fun it is! And I hope it translates as such. If you do have any questions or want to chat about Wildfest, feel free to reach out to me on the socials and I’m happy to chat.
At this point, it seems prudent to mention again that I am just recently learning photography and as evidenced by less than stellar captures, have a lot more to learn. Next year, I hope to have much progression. Anyways, I have included some photos here for illustration purposes. Please excuse their shittiness.
All I Know
The first band on stage, a little late starting, was All I Know. All I knew about them is not much🤣. I had tracked down the album digitally back home and had featured “Turn Back Time” in my Wildfest preview show. I liked what I’d heard, but the info seemed not readily available. They kicked some ass though! Everything sounded great to me and they had a superb energy to them.
I caught song titles such as opener “All Night Long” and “Bad Boy“. The track from my show, “Turn Back Time” indeed also turned up and sounded fantastic live. After my photo duties, I circulated the room and from further back of the crowd, finished the set with Justin. Who also nodded “they’re good” accolades on All I Know. And now you know what I know!
And We Were Off And Running…
The rock and roll gates were wide open for the day with the slew of amazing bands flowing like molten lava down the volcano’s mountainside. From Switzerland, it was Black Diamonds up next, who I’d seen before and was also so very close to leaving with their new album No-Tell Hotel on vinyl.
The Farty Interview
No, I didn’t flatulate in an interview….that I will admit to at least! I was awarded the opportunity to sit down for a chat with WildHeart lead vocalist Farty. Clearly not the name on his driver’s license…lol. I met him side stage and we went behind the curtain into the backstage area, sitting at a picnic table for a chat about WildHeart. Farty and I had a good laugh and we discussed WildHeart and Wildfest.
and you can find that interview here:
How the Day Went
Emerging from backstage just in time to jump into the photo pit for Wildness, I sorely wish my pics had turned out better….at least I’m learning and having fun. Wildness and Vega kept the landslide in full motion, again both bands I’d seen on stages in the past, Vega just last weekend even.
A band I’d not seen before and was highly anticipating not only their live show, but the forthcoming album. I loved the debut, No Sign Of Relief and had high expectations from the former Vains of Jenna frontman. I speak of course about The Cruel Intentions. And let me tell you, there were absolutely no disappointments or confusion to be had left on stage. This band kicks ass! My buddy Aaron DelBono summed it up best in a Facebook post “I’ve been going to gigs almost 40 years, and I’ve never seen a band utterly destroy a stage like The Cruel Intentions just did…and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a crowd make a photo pit disappear. THAT. WAS. INSANE.”
At first, we’d blown right past it, but we were alerted to 🇨🇦 corner! You see, something of a joke started up with Wildfest organizer Jan DeGreve over Facebook comments. He noted that Mike and I were the first 🇨🇦 to attend Wildfest! We wanted a red carpet upon our arrival. It went back and forth with other friends also requesting different coloured carpets too! Eventually, Jan typed to us, “it may not be a red carpet, but folks will know 🇨🇦 are there“! Now, what the hell has he got up his sleeve? Thanks for the recognition Jan and Wildfest!
…And The Day Continued…
My friends in Kickin Valentina once again delivered! Since they banded together inducting DK Revelle into the fold, I feel they are unstoppable. The Revenge of Rock album showcases that ten-fold. Such awesome dudes, who love their fans even more than the fans love them! This show, I felt was even stronger than the set at COTW the week before!
Wildfest 2022 day one headliner was none other than Swedish band Crazy Lixx. Crazy Lixx are suddenly making quite a name for themselves on the back of the Street Lethal album. Their appearance on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise really helped them gain a foothold into the North American market. Music fans there are so stuck in their pigeonhole of AC/DC and Motley Crue and won’t look outside of them. I’d seen them a few times before and their first pool stage show on MORC was my #2 show of the boat. Crazy Lixx upheld that here, laying down another wicked stage time.
How The Day Ended
Apparently, by the end of the evening, ShitFace was barely able to stand, having to be held up by a man on either side. We began to lay bets that we wouldn’t see the young man tomorrow.
Mike and I with sore feet, made our way out a bit early, staying for most of Crazy Lixx, but skipping the after-party DJ.
Day 2 before Wildfest 2022
Well, day two began much in the fashion as day one. After breakfast, we again lackadaisically meandered around the streets of Gerraardsbergen. Basically trying to stave off the inevitable return to Sapphire. At least for a little while. Although, based on my crappy novice photo skills, they may have even turned out better had I been drunk to start the day🤦🏻♂️🤣.
Meeting up with Justin, Andy and Thomas, the five of us went to a lovely homemade pizza shop a few doors up from Sapphire across from the church for lunch. While there, among the veritable non-stop barrage of laughs, jokes and trip stories, we added a new one. I like to call it “Death by patio Umbrella”! The wind suddenly picked up with a burst of gusto that separated the table umbrella from its perch and effectively turned it into a projectile missile. Of course, Mother Nature launched its weapon directly at the back of my head! Food went flying, beer spilled everywhere and I assumed the fetal position.
Happy to be alive, the owner rushed out to banish the shrapnel. No bill discount, however….I guess my life isn’t even worth a beer in Gerraardsbergen. That’s fine, but now I need clean shorts again. Thank goodness we have our luggage finally🤣.
Back to Sapphire
With nothing else to do, we returned to Sapphire and let’s face it, we like beers too🤷🏻♂️. There was a lot of speculation on whether ShitFace would surface today. Surely he has succumbed to alcohol poisoning by now. We all agreed that we wouldn’t see him today!
Apparently, the Swiss also searching for something to do ended up at Sapphire as well. With the amount of money we tourists have spent in here, you’d think now they can afford to buy more than 4 pint glasses🤦🏻♂️….stay tuned next year as we keep you updated on this riveting feature.
OMFG! ShitFace is upright! And already or still totally wasted, this kid suits his name🤣! He and his friends breezed past us on their way to the venue I presume. Maybe we oughta get going as well!
JC De Spiraal and Wildfest Day #2
Everything seemed all systems go on time this afternoon and Rebel’s End set to open proceedings within minutes of our arrival. More hugs and smiles from friends. And much making of new friends as we milled about outside.
Rebel’s End out of Belgium opened day two’s stage with a hard-rockin’ set that while I was absolutely all over loving it, I wondered how the audience would like this heavier turn. In any case, I thought it was a great set and I looked forward to our planned interview with the band later today. Both my favourite tracks that I’ve played in my radio show, “Evil Eye” and “Rawhead” were in the set, so that was cool.
The next band on day two was Reach. Frankly, I was disappointed in them. I knew the music but just didn’t take to the live set. They played well and folks in the crowd seemed to be loving it, but I lost interest quickly and found myself outside chatting and making friends.
A Chat With Rebel’s End
Upon Reach‘s conclusion, it was my appointed time to once again slip behind the curtain and into the backstage area for my interview with Rebel’s End. Great lads and we had a nice chat about the band’s past, present and future. They were kind enough to also award me their debut album on CD. I hadn’t even known of its existence prior to our chat. Thanks boys!
Speed Stroke came in next on stage and hit like Thor‘s hammer and destroyed the stage and crowd in much the same manner as Cruel Intentions yesterday. They were so impressive live.
Opening their set with the lead track on the No Love album, “A Stranger’s Eyes“, Wildheart came out strong. “Tonight We Rock” which was the track I’d featured in my radio show came next closely followed by “Rumours“. The band sounded great and clearly were enjoying themselves up on stage today. I wasn’t familiar with the next song, “On My Way” and it must be off of the first album, which I don’t yet have.
The rest of the WildHeart set went down just as well. Covering songs “No Love“, “One Way Ticket To Paradise” and “Dutch Courage” all that I was acquainted with from the No Love album. I really need to get over to the merch stand and grab that debut CD as well. Let’s go do that right now!
I was highly anticipating Temple Balls. Hate the dumb name, love the music! This would be my first foray into the Fin’s live experience. Alas, a few songs in, maybe half of the set, tragedy wheeled its ugly hand. Rolling a heel on a stage monitor cord, bassist Jimi Välikangas went down. And he wasn’t getting back up. We all feared that he had hit his head on the drum riser as he fell. A head wound can be nasty and many folks were quite concerned. A medical team worked behind screens to get him to the ambulance and off to urgent care. Please don’t let it be a head wound. That would be horrific. Temple Balls, obviously finished there for the day.
With the fear that it was a head wound embedded in my head, I felt a bit trepidatious rockin’ to the next band.
Shiraz Lane was next up and after seeing them at COTW I was looking forward to this set even as the accident weighed in on my mind. Another great show…it’s taken me some time, but I’m finally onto Shiraz Lane!
About this point of the afternoon, we received word from someone in the know that Jimi Välikangas of Temple Balls was ok. It had not been a head wound, but the knee had popped out when the heel rolled on the cord. He was reportedly now back on the tour bus outside the venue resting with some really strong painkillers.
More Than Hugs…
Returning back into the arena from hanging outside with friends and grabbing some food between bands, Mike and I noticed that “our” Canadian sign had been “adjusted”! I suspect those two troublesome Brits may have had a hand in such desecration🤣.
The second last band to grace the WildFest 2022 stage was Maverick. Such a great band and I’d seen them before as well. In celebrating Wildfest organizer Jan DeGreve‘s birthday today, Maverick had him up on stage for a toast during their set. They delivered another great show again, like many of these bands, leaving me wondering why they’re not bigger names. Generally North America, as a whole, sucks when it comes to this genre. That’s why I come over to Europe so much!
WildFest Closes HOT!
H.E.A.T have always been a phenomenal band. I recall listening to them when none of my friends knew who they even were. Well, at least my friends on this side of the pond. In 2014 I went with a friend to FireFest where H.E.A.T was the headliner on the first day. I recall my friend saying something like “why is an unknown band the headliner? Band “X” should be the last of the day“. Well, that changed once he saw them play and now he’s a huge fan. That was not my first time seeing them and there have been many more. Of course, now Erik has gone on to front Skid Row and original singer Kenny Leckremo returned to front H.E.A.T. And he blew me away when I saw him for the first time on MORC.
This would be Mike‘s first time seeing Kenny with H.E.A.T and they were on fire as I had fully expected. In what I saw as a total class move, H.E.A.T brought one of the Temple Balls‘ guitarists up on stage to give an official update on Jimi‘s condition and thank the crowd for the support. Yet, even as that, we spent some time saying goodbye to friends and making our rounds. In the end, we ducked out right near the end of H.E.A.T….we are old and tired afterall🤣.
And so we say goodbye to Wildfest Belgium. We did however have the foresight to book with Sylvia a weekend next year for our “best guess” dates of the festival in 2023.
Mike and I with an evening in Brussels and Justin and Andy with a few hours to kill, we bid Thomas goodbye on his long train journey home to Switzerland. Mike and I took the Brit boys to Berlin Fabrik, a burger joint that we had happened across when spending a night here before heading to Gerraardsbergen. The owner, Mary remembered us even! Well, in all fairness, we did warn her we’d be back and she was most likely afraid and dreading it🤣.
The boys spewed accolades in our choice of establishment, loving their burgers. We ate, joked, laughed, and reminisced about the wonderful musical adventure we’d just shared. Two new great friends, thanks to Wildfest! Mary bought us a round of shots and chatted with us about our travels as well. I highly recommend Berlin Fabrik if you find yourself in Brussels Belgium and hungry. Be warned, they’re big burgers…..but so delicious and so many styles and menu choices!
Soon the Brits headed off and Mike and I wandered Brussels, stopping here and there for beers and even a little of the jazz festival that was on! And so ends Wildfest 2022…..be warned, we will be back!
**Also as promised at the Chinese restaurant, Andy did indeed pick up the Wildheart CDs at Wildfest.😎
Find more of my album reviews and blogs here: Meister Music