Like thousands of other fans around Belgium and the world I was in awe of Urban Trad. The band seemed to explode onto the scene around 2001, a year after I had moved to Belgium. By 2003 and their second album, they were well and truly established as one of the biggest acts on the European circuit. The Eurovision song contest 2003 saw them end up in second place with a song called Sanomi which was unique in the sense that it was a song composed from a constructed language (prompting the famous remark of BBC commentator Terry Wogan “They’ve got 4 languages in Belgium and they’re singing in an imaginary one, the very essence of the Euro” (No comment) :-)
I remember politics also reared it’s ugly head during that time as my friend, singer Soetkin Collier did not attend the event in Riga due to allegations which arose in the newspaper “De Standaard” as they said she had political sympathies with right wing organisations in Flanders. You can read her reply HERE. I want to also make it known that the Belgian security council admitted later that they had made a mistake regarding their decision in not allowing Soetkin to take part in the Eurovision.
Having known and worked with some of the band’s musicians individually over the years I was first invited to do an opening act for the band in France with Marijke Peters from The Netherlands. It really was a super experience and a very proud moment for both of us.
Mid July 2008 I got a phone call from the main guitarist Philip Masure asking me if I’d be interested in filling in with the band as their guitarist in Brittany for two shows later that summer. Jeroen Geerinck (who now plays with snaarmaarwaar) was their regular stand in guitarist and was not available as he was booked , believe it or not, at the same Dutch Festival as Philip himself was booked at with COMAS. Unreal I know.
I was flattered and I thought this was great until I met with Jeroen (as he was the one given the task of going over the show with me) and I saw the sheet music/guitar tablature. The nerves began directly and I began to think “What have I gotten myself into here?” I wasn’t going to have much time to learn this off by heart, though I rehearsed for many many days along to mp3s that Jeroen hade made up or me though I do like a challenge.
The weekend of the gigs arrived and as usual there was great fun on the road down as I got to know some of the members I hadn’t met before like Yves, Cedric and (Michel Morvan whom we tragically lost so suddenly in 2010, may he rest in peace) Usual drill…check into hotel and straight into afternoon soundcheck. Just to make things more interesting…Urban Trad was a SILENT STAGE SET UP…meaning no monitors on stage only in ear monitoring which (believe me) takes a lot of getting used to if you haven’t used them before….I was lucky I had. Although I was using Philips MIX which I hated (he knew the show already remember) so i was trying to figure out what mix I actually needed. Remember this sound check AND show was the first time EVER on stage with these guys who are, by the way all top top seasoned professional musicians. YIKES.
Now…… The band also worked with a rolling electronic drum machine pre programmed for each track (along with the live drummer) The button pressing was Cedric the bass players job, who incidentally was almost hurt that first day when some idiotic stage hand try to move a 20 foot lighting ladder all by himself. The ladder fell right on top of Cedric’s hand built 5 string bass which was on a stand luckily as Cederic was lying back on stage resting when it happened and the bass saved him) The bass was relatively unhurt also.
Once that button was engaged here was no turning back, you were on it or you were lost…The machine gave us all a count in French “Un, deux, trois, quatre”……which only the band could hear, then enter the drum machine…This had an amazing affect along side the brilliant live drumming of Michel Morvan who was always astounding to watch and hear.
I got HUGE sheets printed up which had the guitar tab in big letters gaff taped onto my drum riser…yes I was up on a drum riser at the back same height as the drummer (in case I wasn’t nervous enough) I remember keeping my right foot on the sheet at all times with my toe just under the track we were performing so that when I looked up to smile and pretend to be rocking out in sheer enjoyment I could look back down to where was foot was and try to find my spot :) It was terrifying!!
A few thousand people attended both open air shows and although It was a very intense couple of days it was magical.
All weekend the whole band were so kind and considerate to me as they knew I had an unenviable task but we all got through it and I’m very grateful to all involved and for the invitation to stand on stage with some of the most amazing musicians and singers in the world. Urban Trad
- Yves Barbieux: flutes and Galician bagpipe
- Veronica Codesal: vocals
- Soetkin Collier: vocals
- Sophie Cavez : diatonic accordion
- Philip Masure: acoustic guitar
- Michel Morvan: drums (died 3 July 2010)
- Dirk Naessens: violin
- Cedric Waterschoot: bass
WATCH URBAN TRAD LIVE HERE
Last I heard, Urban Trad are going to reform but not with the same line up. I wish them all the very best but I’m not free for gigs :-)