Mintzkov, The Van Jets and The Hickey Underworld have won the Rock Rally in recent years, but the contest also engendered bands like Admiral Freebee, Zornik and The Black Box Revelation. Famous winners from the past include Elisa Waut and Novastar. And, yes, dEUS played the final in '92, but singer Tom Barman (see article, facing page) will be the first to admit they didn't play their best that day, so they didn't even make it to the top three.
Clearly, you don't have to participate in the Rock Rally to have a successful career; Hooverphonic and Soulwax are living proof. But it does help. Particularly in the last decade, the Rock Rally has either launched careers or at least recognised the careers that were going to take off. Probably closer to the former: Humo is always very supportive of their finalists, and there is a huge amount of attention in the media and the clubs generated by the Rock Rally. Still, even a Rock Rally jury can be wrong. The Peter Pan Band, anyone?
Of course, the jury can't be blamed if there aren't enough good candidates. From the 2002 final, only Soon and the winning band, Goose, have made a lasting impression. But half of the bands from the 2000 and 2004 finals went on to successful careers. In Belgium, that is, because a good result in the Rock Rally is no free ticket for an international career. It gives a confidence boost, for sure, but they still have to start from scratch if they want to make it in France or Germany.
And what to think of Gaëtan Vandewoude, whose band Isbells is set to become Flanders' new success story? Four times in a row, from 1996 to 2002, he played in a band selected for the Rock Rally. One of them, Soon, reached the final. But he never liked participating. So with Isbells, which is really his band, he decided against it. Still, their future looks bright.
So in the end, Humo’s Rock Rally may not make or break a career in the long run. But it’s still the grand old dame of Belgian rock contests.
28 March, from 15.00
And the winner is…
More than 1,000 bands and solo artists wanted to participate in this year's Rock Rally. After a preliminary demo selection, 10 first-round shows and two semi-finals played out in concerts across Flanders over the last few months, the winner will finally be chosen from these 10 finalists. We’ve placed our bets, although there's only one certainty: when the president of the jury announces the winner, someone in the audience will slosh the president with beer. Ah, tradition.
Fragile Ghent foursome whose songs sometimes contain sudden noisy eruptions. Nicely intertwined male and female vocals, and, for a Rock Rally finalist at least, some unusual instruments, like a vibraphone. Singer Inne Eysermans sometimes sounds like a Björk-clone. But with a name like that, we doubt she hails from Iceland.
Think: múm, Pram, lilies in the field
Will win: because they attain a beauty too rarely heard in this country
Won't win: too arty for the jury's taste
“The Bitch Is Back” and “A Girl Is Only Good to Fuck”. You think The Crackups are a bling-bling hip-hop posse from LA? Think again. They are an exploding punk outfit from the deepest inlands of the Kempen hamlets with names like Pulle and Oevel. With three songs of barely two minutes, this will be the shortest gig of the final.
Think: Iggy Pop, The Bronx, a war plane taking off
Will win: because they are the underdog
Won't win: after The Van Jets, The Hickey Underworld and Steak Number Eight, another LOUD rocking winner would be too much.
Ghent girl with Ghanaian roots. She raps and sings, striving for a warm blend of R&B and hip-hop, and is always radiating a positive vibe. Hopefully she'll evolve to lyrics a bit more original than "The stage is my place, put your hands up". Two hands are too much, but a thumb she can get.
Think: Alicia Keys, Michael Franti, morning calisthenics.
Will win: the jury wants to make a statement: R&B lives!
Won't win: it's already a small miracle she's in the final of the Rock Rally.
More loud noise from the Kempen: Psycho 44 lives up to its name with dangerously overstrung, dirty-ass rock 'n' roll. Nice touch: they combine it with catchy melodies. (But they should get rid of that irritating synthesizer.)
Think: The Brandos with a synth, The Sonics with a synth, a trench during the First World War
Will win: carrying on a tradition of past Rock Rallies
Won't win: the jury is afraid of them
Nele Van den Broeck
Nele Van den Broeck is the odd one out in this final. This folky singer-songwriter with a ukulele has an album in the making, which might actually be a disadvantage: does she need a victory? Four years ago, Absynthe Minded was in a similar situation and didn't win, either.
Think: Kimya Dawson, Noah and the Whale, spring is in the air
Will win: she's fantastic
Won't win: the jury doesn't want to be mistaken for sissies – a ukulele for goodness' sake!
The Mojo Filters
Straightforward rock outfit from Beerse with a nice sense of melody, catchy guitar hooks and fronted by a charismatic singer. Good songs too. There’s only one problem: you've heard it all before, and much better.
Think: Artic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, a joyride on an empty highway
Will win: complicated times ask for uncomplicated music
Won't win: lacks even the slightest drop of originality
Maya's Moving Castle
Ghent reigns in this Rock Rally, but the third band from Flanders' new rock capital is the lightest. This foursome has some nice, intimate songs with a mourning cello, but mostly they prefer to play some pumped up ’80s wave, enforced by tacky synths.
Think: The Cure, The Cranberries, efficient lullabies
Will win: are you kidding?
Won't win: the new wave revival is really, really over
School Is Cool
The times are really a-changin' if you can call your band, in all earnestness, School Is Cool. But the name suits their looks, indeed: this bunch is playing happy-golucky pop songs with a very slight melancholic twist. All together now: "Monday back to school / Life is boring without rules".
Think: The Arcade Fire, The Byrds, that carefree summer holiday when you were 10
Will win: they cover The Beatles without sounding derivative. Chapeau, as they say in Flanders.
Won't win: blame it on the name
The Sore Losers
Hasselt foursome that play a sort of southern rock, with heavy riffs and vocal harmonies. Yes, they sound like competent players and originality clearly isn't their main concern, but still: could it sparkle a bit more, please?
Think: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Crosby, Stills & Nash (but no Young), lumberjack shirts
Will win: jury thinks lumberjack shirts are hip again
Won't win: the guitar solos prevail over the songs
More neo-new wave, but less imitative than Maya's Moving Castle: six guys from Grimbergen who bring jumpy pop songs, with a singer who’s listened to a bit too much Joy Division. And who is, let's stay polite, quite creative in his pronunciation of English.
Think: New Order, Interpol, kitchen sink drama
Will win: maybe the new wave revival isn't over after all
Won't win: no, but seriously, it is