Festival De Jemelle
SLADE / JEMELLE FESTIVAL, BELGIUM / 6/8/1972
JEMELLE IS A SLEEPY BELGIAN VILLAGE and district of Rochefort three miles east of the city centre, and famously noted for its smoked ham and sausage. In 1969 however the local youth movement decided to add a rock festival to their calendar and so it was that in 1969 the popular Jemelle folk music festival had added to it some of the more populist Belgian pop acts of the day.
The festival really took off in 1971 with the addition of foreign acts Golden Earring (Holland) and Genesis (UK) topping the bill. The success of the festival meant that the following year the organisers could really spread their wings and hold the event over two days, which is what they did on the first weekend in August.
The Jemelle Festival was billed as the 'French speaking' festival, in direct competition with the 'Dutch speaking' festival at Bilzen and the organisers promised a weekend of movies, English bands and other attractions.....but above all there will be SLADE!
This is 100% official, a signed contract and all!
This is not the first time that the group has been in Belgium, indeed the band were given national exposure in November last year on the TV show Pop Shop from Liege. Since then the group has developed further and are a little bit more than what we saw in the broadcast episode.
We have had "Look Wot You Dun" and "Slade Alive!" and of course "Take Me Bak' Ome" to whet our appetite as well as their huge success and public triumph at the Great Western Express Festival in their homeland.
If you take a look at the sales of their LP's and single in Belgium this week, you will be astounded at how their popularity is growing at an unbelievable speed. Everything therefore suggests that on August 6th there will be strong vibrations directly proportional to the common ground between Slade and their audience, Jemelle will be rocked. Other acts already committed are Gary Wright (Ex Spooky Tooth), Capability Brown and Bristols Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra.
The weekend started as it was to continue, in glorious sunshine and the fat guy in a suit, his face as round as his belly (maybe a local dignitary?) announced the festival open with a thrice repeated 'Welcome to Jemelle!" He is clearly an amateur announcer, he is soon shuffled away from the microphone by the two professionals who will be leading the event throughout the two days, Piero Kenroll and DJ Kid Jensen.
As festivals go, it is not massive, there will be about 4,000 in attendance over the two days, it will be good natured and well organised without a single policemen in sight as a selection of amateur groups, all contest winners get us underway.
The day is interspersed with film screenings, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Cat Stevens and the Kinks are all shown to an enthusiastic crowd before local group Fetisj lead us through to the first day headliners, Supertramp, who give us a smooth set based on the binary rhythm of rock, laced with the sumptious sax of Dave Winthrop we are treated to their first LP release 'Hundred Hours Easier'
SUNDAY 6 AUGUST
Once again a beautiful sunny day greeted us festival goers as we wandered around between the tents down to the stream where hundreds of people were enjoying various breakfast parties while waiting for the musical action of the day to start.
At 10 am on the dot we were underway with the winners of yesterdays amateur contest who work hard to entertain the still sleepy crowd!
They are followed by Lennarth Messagie and Dagleth, the Belgian glam rock combo who include their hit 'And I Love Her' to a good reception.
Next up is another couple of Belgian acts, Game and then Rail Grignard, a new band fronted by legendary Antwerp beatnik folk singer Ferre Grignard, unfortunately they were not up to much and seemed to choke a little on stage, plenty of work to be done there I think!
With the local acts out of the way as the afternoon slips into evening we get the very quirky English ensemble The Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra, a quartet of wacky folk club singers from Bristol who use instruments like a Kazoo, a pair of scissors and a double bass made of rope and a box.
So comical is their delivery that they are cheered wildly and enthusiastically and are brought back on stage for two encores before they are allowed to leave.
The countdown to Slade has begun, and a short set by Holland's newest hope, Kjoe, who are following in the footsteps of last years festival winners Golden Earring, tees up the days support act, Capability Brown, who are on Charisma records and are a cross between Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator
All band members sing and harmonise well together, each different from the other and the crowd are swimming in happiness and appreciation at their set.
Once they have left the stage the anticipation begins to swell in the crowd as DJ Kid Jensen plays a few records as the stage is set for Slade, what we have all been waiting for. Once again, the fat man in the suit is on stage (turns out he is the landowner and friend of Stany Cuvelier, the main organiser) .....'Welcome to Jemelle!....Here they are!.....Noddy Holder, Dave Hill, Jimmy Lea, Don Powell....Slade!!
Without further ado Slade are on stage...They are wearing incredible outfits...Noddy Holder in red shirt, yellow and green braces holding up tartan trousers away from his red and white striped socks and red and yellow shoes......Jimmy Lea dressed all in yellow....Dave Hill clad in head to foot in silver leather...colourful clothes, funny hats shoes with thick soles and heels...it doesn't seem possible that these monsters of rock are here in Jemelle, but there they are!
From the first note Slade go flat out, there is no half measures here, the volume is phenominally loud, so loud that I feel as if I am receiving direct hits, punches in the stomach, wow.
Noddy yells out and tells us that he wants us all up from the start, all dancing and letting ourselves go...which we do, it's impossible not to....the pounding Slade, the irrisistable rhythm that shakes you to the very core...up the spinal cord from bottom to top and back again!
There is no way to escape from each other, the crowd all joins in and we are all stuck against each other, a compact heaving mass that rises and falls together rhythmically.
Gradually we begin to lose sight of our own bodies as the music hypnotically controls us...all that is not Slade and their music fades..pales into insignificance, we are transfixed as one.
"Hear Me Calling"...."Born To Be Wild"...I am in a trance, dripping with sweat. The temperature is hellish, do I even have my feet on the ground? It's hard to tell as I am carried along in the crowd, lifted high from time to time by the sheer swell of people, maybe I'll get vertigo...maybe I'll faint and be trampled underfoot!!
No, no..I am supported by others, it's not possible to collapse as the band roar through their set, tearing at the crowd with each number, there is no respite..
"Mama Weer All Crazee Now"...Here we go again!! Waaaaaaw!!
What's up friends? what's up!! This is as good as it gets, this is as good as an orgasm!!
Welcome to Jemelle indeed!
Above article compiled from various reports including 'Hot Topic' Mosquito TV magazine, and the unpublished journal of Piero Kenroll. Translated by Randall Vincke and rewritten and edited down as above by David Graham/Slade In England.
Photographs courtesy of Erik Machielsen