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The 65 Republic goes to LeffingeLeuren

This year was the very first time I got to visit Leffingeleuren. I had never paid too much attention to the festival, as it wasn’t the easiest to reach with public transport, and I’m yet to get my driver’s licence. I had wanted to go about five or six years ago, when 65 played the festival for the first time, but work had gotten in the way.
Now I was here though, together with my girlfriend (who does know how to drive, and who has also become an enthusiastic fan of the band, AND who is just wonderful in general) and the first thing I thought upon arriving was: what a cute place to have a festival. Leffinge is a really small town near the Belgian coast, and the festival happened right in the centre of it. Tickets could be bought near the church doors, and most of the festival was free entrance, so a lot of locals were hanging out near the food trucks and the free stages.

We arrived a little late in the afternoon, right before the Black Heart Rebellion were due to start playing. We watched the first number of songs, which were really, really good, but as we were hungry and didn’t want to miss too much of what was going to happen on the main stage (also known as De Zwerver, the local concert hall) we left to find something to eat.
We caught a few songs by a girl from my hometown on the Busker stage (sadly, I’ve forgotten her name, but she had a really great voice and some good songs, despite her young age) before basically locking ourselves inside De Zwerver for the rest of the night. On a side note, we might arrive sooner next time, as there seemed to be a lot of fun to be had along the entire festival.

The first band we caught inside was Oathbreaker, whose set was absolutely furious and amazing. As you might have read on twitter, Joe was suitably impressed.

We briefly went outside for refreshments after that, but when we got back the entire room was filled to the brink with people wanting to see Absynthe Minded. We decided to not try and wriggle in, but just listen from down the hallway to what turned out to be another very decent set as always. This actually gave me a chance to say hello to Simon who was sitting at the merch booth before he had to make his way backstage to prepare.

Sadly, most of the people who watched Absynthe Minded left immediately after, so the room was only three quarters full when 65 stepped onto the stage.
They kicked things off with Asimov, which was a surprising opener to me. I know they had opened with it in the August gigs as well, but the song never struck me as a set opener. It worked well though, and set the tone perfectly for what was to come. Crash Tactics then got the crowd bouncing, and confirmed to me why I had placed it so high on my list of favourite 65 songs (which can be found here, here and here). The song’s energy was carried over into a tremendous rendition of Retreat! Retreat!. It’s an amazing thing to see that despite its age, the song hasn’t lost a bit of its impact. With that came an end to the all-swinging all dancing-side of the band for the night though, as from there on in we were treated almost exclusively to 65-2.0. Prisms hadn’t been on my favourites list for a long time, but hearing it live, played the way it was, reminded me of how I had fallen in love with the song when I first heard it. Maybe it’s time to rekindle my love with it. It was followed by Supermoon, which was the second, and sadly also last, song from the No Man’s Sky album. I’m glad it has remained a mainstay on the setlist since its release though, because it’s an amazing live song, with the build-up getting paid off perfectly.
The band were in good form, and the sound quality at the venue was AMAZING. Simon was even bouncing all over the place. Only Joe seemed not to be having the best of times. He didn’t say all that much in between songs except for thank you’s and how are you doing’s. The songs kept coming at a furious tempo though, and Sleepwalk City was up next. I don’t think I’ll ever stop adoring this song, it’s so hypnotizing. Simon’s bassline up until the halfway point is sexy as hell, and when Rob steps up to the front, I just get lost in the rhythm. The Undertow then managed to get the entire crowd silent in awe, as it always does. It’s a great centre point for the set as well, allowing some introspective moments, to let the excitement of the first half linger for a while, before the build-up to the end can start.
The next amazing moment came with Debutante, which to me seems to be getting better with age. It’s sweeping, it’s emotional, it’s epic in scale and really intimate at the same time. It used to be a great interlude between Go Complex and Tiger Girl (to me, anyway) but it has grown to become one of the band’s greatest songs. Taipei then got us back into the Wild Light mood. It reminded me again of the little changes the band sometimes make when playing songs live, and how they can improve the songs to no end. In this case, it’s the interlude leading up to the final outburst, where instead of letting synths take over anything, they just repeat what came before a little louder and with more focus on the rhythm, and it gets you so pumped up.
Four years after its release, Wild Light keeps dominating 65’s setlists, but just as the other songs from the album played tonight, Unmake the Wild Light shows us why the band keep going back to it. Everything about these songs just… works. I don’t know how it’s possible exactly, but as an album, in their natural order, the songs tell this beautiful story, and yet if you take the songs out of context and order, they lose none of their strength. Anyway, Radio Protector then got the whole room bouncing once again. I’ve seen the band play this song 25 times now, and at times their enthusiasm for it got kind of lost (which I can understand), but here the band seemed to enjoy it just as much as the crowd. Joe then told us about how they might never make it back to mainland Europe because of how Brexit might fuck everything up, but he and the rest of the band had always enjoyed coming over here. The band then launched into the brilliant Safe Passage, with a particular highlight being Simon losing his drumsticks and then drumming with his hands.

It was an amazing set, and it was great to see the band in this kind of form yet again. I managed to score a setlist and one of Joe’s guitar picks, and ended the night with reassuring two girls who came up to us, worried as hell that 65 would never be coming back!

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