Flat Earth Society


The least you can say about Flat Earth Society – or FES – is that it is an atypical orchestra. Although 14 band members fill the stage, terms such as ‘big band’ or ‘jazz orchestra’ are hopelessly inadequate. The band’s origins go back to X-legged Sally, the former group of frontman and reedman Peter Vermeersch. What began as a trio was considerably expanded, but not with any kind of musician. At FES, they don’t get a kick out of virtuosity as much as out of the right sense of flow and maximum expressiveness.

Their projects and concert programmes vary tremendously, but they always have one thing in common: the down-to-earth approach at which FES excels. That approach, which allows for and even encourages imperfection, ensures that FES hits the mark and amazes time and again! Never by relying on strings of lighting-quick notes, but always thanks to the group’s dynamic, the real punch of their compositions and the infectious playing, both collectively and individually.

From the start, a sense of self-deprecation seems to have slipped into the DNA of FES, something which contrasts strongly with their extended repertoire and the professionalism that the band now stands for. Indeed, no matter how crazy they may appear to be, FES is solid as a rock. FES is playful but smart. FES is a risk-taker and always gives itself 100 per cent. That is clear from their choice of projects and the way they carry them out.

Boggamasta is the name of their latest feat. For this project, David Bovée, a FES guitarist from the early days, was reincorporated. He had left the band after four years to continue with Think of One (not unsuccessfully, since their melting-pot music has in the meantime earned them two BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards).

A joint musical retreat in Gambia, stimulated by Theater aan Zee, gave Peter Vermeersch and David Bovée the desire to work together again, but this time with FES! They didn't have to look far for inspiration, having been deeply impressed by the image of the voted-out leader parading with an escort through the streets of Banjul and surrounded by majorettes while literally throwing money into the street from the open roof of a Hummer. The ‘Boggamasta’ was all-powerful. Or so he thought, at least. FES and David Bovée do not see Boggamasta as a merely African tale, but rather as a universal, ancient theme with allegorical powers. After all, perhaps a Boggamasta lurks in each and every one of us?

To convey that feeling in sounds, only raw and critical notes could do the trick. The rhythm section was also dealt with: no acoustic piano, no vibraphone, no scores. But there were steamy grooves and a lot of horns above daft, deformed vocal parts, a lot of electronica, clarinet and ubiquitous raw guitars – and for the grand finale, a female tuba player who shines charmingly while singing the title song. Boggamasta: FES has never sounded so electronic, so sensual, so delirious!

FES is a house with many rooms, and another idiosyncratic project emerged from the rhythm section: Too Noisy Fish (represented by ART-SPOT.BE). With a lot of daring, pianist Peter Vandenberghe, bassist Kristof Roseeuw and drummer Teun Verbruggen explore the crackling field of tension between improvisation and composition with their robust jazz. In doing so they’re not afraid to blend chilled rock ‘n’ roll, frantic humour and meditative tranquillity.

They have two albums to their name, one of which with sound wizard Oz Fritz (among others, Tom Waits) manning the board. They are currently touring with the show Nightwatch (with author Dimitri Verhulst) and working hard on their third CD.

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Foto: (c) Phile Deprez

Lies Steppe

For as long as she can remember, Lies Steppe has been guided by music in everything she does: whether listening to music or making it herself, and as a radio presenter (Late Night Jazz, Take 7 and Round Midnight on Klara).

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