The Friday May 13th celebrations started back in 1998. In November that year I booked a show with every cool European band I could think of. The thing I didn't think of was that not every local hardcore kid thought the same and I didn't really flyer the show too good. That show meant the bankruptcy of my hardcore show entrepreneurship, even though, the attendees still think of this show as being legendary. That's the members of the 15 bands I let play and 5 other friends that showed up and refused to pay an admission fee.
Peter Hoeren was there with his Crucial Response distro when that label was still relevant and he had fresh Sportswear vinyl with him. The kids swarmed his stand to score the ultra limit colors and to make sure they had doubles to trade on the Rev Board. Reaching Forward, the band that was playing in the same 25' x 25' room, wasn't that stoked that the few hardcores there literally turned their back on them for some old gray German's distro and his Norwegian Bold knock-off EPs. Next to Peter Hoeren was this quiet arrogant-faced German dude chilling that looked a little out of place. I guessed he had joined either Degradation, Eyeball or the Crucial Response team for the trip. The dude had an Air Max 90 shoe box filled with tapes. I checked it out and he was selling the demo of his band called True Blue. I picked up a copy and put it with the rest of the stuff I bought (2 Sportswear EPs, 2 colors).
Later that week, after 17 year old bartthefleX. had recovered from the financial hangover the show turned out to be, I put the Friday, May 13th demo on for the first time and I was blown away. It wasn't exactly anything I had heard before, though I could recognize some Cro-Mags and Bad Brains in there. I didn't hear about the Icemen till 2000 and I hadn't figured out the whole tribute/rip-off vibe until 2002, when I first saw some Icemen shirts, flyers and EPs. If you want to know what I exactly thought about this tape in the late '90s I suggest you start looking for my old fanzine CrucialXCulture. If my memory serves me right, and it usually does, I wrote that this demo was better than the Cro-Mags. Ah, the mind and writings of a teenager...
Nevertheless, in 2011 I still feel this is one of the best European demos ever and I still put this on frequently. The hooks, the breaks, the off-rhythm vocals with thick German accent, I wouldn't want it to be any other way.
August 1999, hardcore was still a little bit under the radar for most people, and I was knee-deep into it already, but things started to change. The internet was coming up and more and more people didn't have to look into the underground to find something like the hardcore scene.
So, the leading European hardcore festival, the Vort'n Vis Fest in Ieper had to move to a bigger location. The festival was no longer in the 'big' barn behind the Vort'n Vis venue but was now held on a inner-city school playground. It was open air and I thought that was odd as hell. A hardcore show in open air. I think this was the beginning of the end of the, once cool, festival. A lot of poseurs had shown up already and in the years to come things would get worse. These days the festival is fucking stupid and most of the bands playing suck. In 1999 only a few cool bands would play. Things I still remember from the '99 Vort'n Vis Hardcore Festival is H-Street playing and getting a massive response to covering Token Entry's The Edge (a song that was one of my favorites that summer), being handed Like An Arrow issue #1 by Erik Tilburg, Bloodpact being boring as shit, buying a 97a shirt and True Blue playing a weird show.
For those who weren't around the hardcore scene back when True Blue was a band, let me clarify something (excuse me if this makes me sound like an old man). True Blue was not a popular band, the True Blue Army was not huge, and there was not a huge line at their merch stand when they started selling those sweatpants. Especially Germans did not seem to be into this band, no matter what they might claim these days. I think I was the only dude from my direct circle of friends that thought the demo was great. All the others thought True Blue straight up sucked.
Back to the Ieper fest show. I think this was the first time I saw True Blue live, I could be wrong, but I think I'm not. I was looking forward to seeing them live, but I was a bit letdown that I didn't see 5 dudes in Cro-Mags or Chain shirts jumping around like idiots and being as straight edge as can be. What I saw instead were two longhairs with rings playing guitar, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and a singer with unposi leg tattoos featuring skulls and post-apocalyptic scenes. I was a bit baffled at first, but eventually stuck around and started enjoying the show. I think a lot Ieper fest attendees were a little let down by this sight and performance as well, because the playground emptied pretty much after two songs that sunny summer afternoon. it must have been the lack of political statements.
This proofs again that True Blue was far from a popular band. There were only a few dudes moshing and I might have done the same had I had a clue as how to mosh (to True Blue), but the only true moshers doing their thing were Mark Stroeken, Pieter SDC and Erik 'Arrowman' Tilburg, all three True Blue Army. Mark was dancing like an asshole, like he always did, and probably still does, Tilburg brought his signature ultraclassic T.mosh and Pieter SDC was doing something between clumsy and cool. Other than that BXL Crew jerk Bayram was bashing some innocent bystander's head in on the tunes of God Of Wrath (PK mid-breakdown quote "Relax buddy" addressing some Bayram pit/pitside beef, can still be heard from time to time during Rise And Fall shows when some pitshit hits the pitfan) and I think Diamond Dave was just standing in the middle of the pit being hard. Other than that there was a big horseshoe in front of the stage. True Blue, the band that gets jocked so much, and would get a huge pit response these days, brought the greatest mosh parts of Ieper Fest 1999 and no one cared. Besides the ones I just mentioned. I remember seeing my (then soon to be) homeboy Bjorn Dossche (who was in moshtirement from 1997 till 2000) chilling on stage next to Jan Blindfold behind some amps and thinking, if these dudes are checking out this band they must be cool.
A few years later Dossche tells me he has a live tape of the True Blue '99 Ieper set and being the persuasive greedy jerk that I am I started bothering him to hook me up with a copy of the tape. Eventually I asked him the OG tape and dubbed it myself. In the meanwhile I had gotten in touch with transatlantic True Blue fan Owen Black about something totally untrivial and found out he was True Blue crazy. I told him about the live set and he wanted to get the hook-up. Some friends of mine when to tour the US, I think Rise And Fall, and he got the tape handed to him by someone in the band. The only thing I wanted was getting an MP3 version of the set to share online some day and what better Friday May 13th Gift is there to give to the world than a semi-unearthed True Blue live set?
For those who want it, you can download it here:
You will like what you hear, but the sound is a bit poor. The original tape sounded a bit better, but something must have happened during the digitalization. I hope to get the OG tape again some day and do a direct rip. Or someone to equalize the shit out of these digital files.
Also, if you want to know read a bit more about True Blue, you can read the interview I did half a decade ago with former Repel Records boss and current runner of Reaper Records Patrick Kitzel on my old blog:
If anyone is sitting on other True Blue recordings or live stuff, feel free to get in touch with me and hook me up.