A talk with Jane Penny, TOPS’s vocalist, at her home back in Montreal
Always been curious about the music scene in other cities outside your own little cocoon? We assumed you were! So we feed your hunger for insights and secrets in the Scene Report. Mich, our De Kreun buddy, knows Kortrijk like the back of his hand. ‘That’s easy, the town is tiny,’ you might say. Well beware, dear reader: the music scene in this petite village competes with those of the largest Belgian cities.
Words by Mich Decruyenaere
Photos shot in Kortrijk, Belgium by François Berland & Tom Roelofs
As far as I can remember, I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this city. For a long time, it was considered a conservative town, where there isn’t much going on if you’re into music
I grew up in Aalbeke, a small town close to Kortrijk. My friends and I had a youth club called ’t Skut. Very rapidly, this place became my home base and that’s where it all started. It was the place where we hung out, where I booked my first shows, where we played our first shows and where we organised parties. That was the Nineties. At that time, you had ‘t Skut in Aalbeke, La Gare in Lauwe and The Pit’s in Kortrijk. We used to call it the golden triangle. Hanging out in these places was such an integral part of my life. It made me the music-loving person that I am today. The Pit’s – where I saw bands like New Bomb Turks, Crowbar, Eyehategod, The Mummies, Antiseen, No Means No, Acme and also a lot of local hardcore bands that would later conquer the world like Nations on Fire, Shortsight, Spirit of Youth and Blindfold – was especially formative. This hardcore scene was also known as 8000 or later H8000 bands, the H8000 scene, which has its roots in Kortrijk. It was also at that time that I started playing in bands.
Hitch was my first serious band, which I played in for 15 years. Our influences were Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, Jawbox and labels such as Dischord, Touch & go and Amphetamine Reptile. We recorded and released a bunch of albums, and toured Europe and the States several times. Around the same time, Vlas Vegas was launched, a label run by a circle of friends based at a small bar called ’t Geniep on the Vlasmarkt in Kortrijk. Bands on the label were all pretty much all Kortrijk based (Hitch, Galatasaray, Ansatz Der Maschine, Hawai, Vandal X, Guernica, Nomad, Zucchini Drive and later on bands like SIC, Maze and Rape Blossoms). We used to have shows at ’t Geniep and a few years later we organised Sinxen Vlas Vegas, a three-day free festival which had some really legendary editions… Hitch played its last show in 2009.
At the time Hitch was ‘disassembled’, Kortrijk was really flourishing musically: the hardcore scene was watered-down but new bands were popping up all over the place. There wasn’t so much of a K-Town scene anymore as everybody seemed to be doing their own thing. Today, some of them have gotten pretty big, like Goose, SX and Balthazar.
Nowadays we still hang out at The Pit’s, but other venues have become equally as important. The biggest music venue is De Kreun. There’s a real community there which involves a lot of musicians, from the guys of Goose or SX to some of the guys from Vvovnds, Amenra, Hessian and Wiegedood. I’ve been working there for about eight years now, and I’m quite proud of what we’ve achieved so far.
Sonic City is De Kreun’s baby, a curated festival à la All Tomorrow’s Parties but without the bungalows. This year, Vietcong curates it and the line-up is incredible: Thurston Moore, Total Control, Ho99o9, Chelsea Wolfe, Lightning Bolt, The Soft Moon etc…
Not surprisingly for a town with Kortrijk’s history, there are quite a few noise-related events organised, including De Kreun’s annual Noisefest. I can’t think of any other club that organises anything like it. Through the years it has seen acts like Lust For Youth, Damien Dubrovnik, Sudden Infant, Helm and Consumer Electronics. Local noise labels include Usain Bolt Records, and Geluidsoverlast!!! and a shitload of local acts like Isaac, Kindviendelijk, All Shadows and Deliverance, Aske, Anus Nocturnum and Crucifix Eye. Noisefest has become one of the leading events in the noise genre today.
A few years ago, Cinépalace joined in, which is hot spot for checking out all kinds of bands, but also for its vegan kitchen nights and parties.
Over the last ten years the city changed so much – not always in a good way, but when it comes to music, I think we’re very spoiled. There were times when I used to hate this city, but today I’m truly happy living here. When it comes to underground music, Kortrijk can compete with the best.
Essential Music: Goose, Hitch, Balthazar, Zucchini Drive, vvovnds, Amenra, SX Essential Venues: De Kreun, The Pit’s, Cinépalace, Budascoop