[sic] Magazine

A Factory Night (and then again) Brussels la Raffinerie (Plan K)

A Factory Night is not a concert. A Factory Night is an event, an occasion that sucks in devotees from all over Europe. As such, mere attendance is elevated to something more akin to participation. The audience are a part of this thing as much as the artists. Part of what we come to witness, is ourselves. Factory Night people are fascinating.

We arrive on a freezing, bitter Saturday evening. Christmas shoppers and market-goers mean that central Brussels (chaotic at the best of times) is a virtual standstill. Brussels’ less-than-salubrious Canal area is not well known to me so we wing the car journey and park as best we can. Porte d’Anderlecht sounded about right. I spot an old brewery (Belle Vue, I kid you not) and logic tells me it must be by the Canal. La Raffinerie wasn’t difficult to find from there. The ten-minute walk through deserted streets, where any precious stretch of intermittent pavement was strewn with rubbish, felt strangely reminiscent of the Manchester that gave birth to Factory in the first place. Defunct industry, canals, piles of litter, the winter of discontent … I’m having my own Life On Mars moment. I’m back in 1979.

We’re following in our heroes footsteps.

That’s what this is all about.

Oh and by the way, did I tell you what street la Raffinerie is in? Rue de Manchester.

Factory is stranger than fiction.

La Raffinerie

And so it was I found myself standing inside the venue that was once called Plan K. Plan fookin’ K! The legendary Plan K that played host to Joy Division’s final Belgian show. Honestly, I expected something different. I guess, because of Rafters and Electric Circus, I subconsciously anticipated a squalid, dingy affair. Au contraire. la Raffinerie is no dive. The former sugar refinery is now dance school (certain to please any Argento fans in the audience). All it needed was a touch of hazard tape on the pillars and some parquet flooring to begin to really approximate the Hacienda. Neat venue then, and extra kudos for the organisation. The Bruxelloises generally know how to put on a show. None of this trying too hard is uncool bollocks. They usually nail it. Crowds here know their music and are both warm and appreciative in stark contrast to, say, London or Paris. It’s a particularly impressive showing from promoters, Fantastique Nights (Le Fantastique). I’ve never seen a venue so well staffed and well organised. There must have been 15 people on Merch alone. They even sell sandwiches at the bar, a telling reminder that we’re in this for the long haul tonight. (the scheduled end time being approximately 4AM)

After an agreeable screening of some old Durutti Column and ACR videos, The Names (with strings) kick things off. They do a great job too. Anyone scratching their heads over the name (no pun intended) – well, The Names were (and are again) a Brussels band who used to be on Les Disques Du Crepuscule and Factory Benelux. They were produced by Hannett and you can find their stuff re-released by the ace Factory friend/collaborator, LTM records. ‘Nightshift’ is probably their most memorable song. Enjoyable stuff.

The Names are listed as accompanied by string trio. Being tall enough to actually see them, I can confirm that this was indeed the case but you’d be forgiven for not realising. The sound in la Raffinerie is bouncy, the mix imprecise and volumes far too high. Second group The Wake fare little better at the start of their set but hit their stride near the end.


Biting Tongues are clearly here to provide some kind of agonised contrast. Juxtaposed against a procession of, well, let’s face it, Factory bands, Biting Tongues instead offer a kind of discordant, excruciating nu jazz/avant funk. Against this sonic assault a wannabe David Byrne figure spouts off all manner of nonsense. Bleeding Ears might have been a more suitable moniker. I spot a cluster of incomprehensible people who seem really into it as I retreat to the relative safety of the photography exhibition.

A Factory Night is not a concert. Biting Tongues don’t tick many of the boxes either. But hey, this is an event. I’m standing in front of a handful of gigantic photo stills, Siouxsie, Fad Gadget, Xmal Deutschland and the ubiquitous Ian Curtis. I’m particularly taken by the Gavin Friday shot. This is, of course the work of Kevin Cummins. I’m tempted to say that Cummins (along with Anton Corbijn) is as much a part of the myth making of Joy Division and Factory as the music itself when it occurs to me that he’s probably more responsible. The thought remains unspoken though. Cummins does not appear to be in a particularly light mood. Then again, it could just be the Biting Tongues factor. Maybe we’re both wondering the same thought? ‘Does the sandwich bar do Aspirin?’


Kevin is here to promote his excellent book, ‘Manchester – Looking for the Light Through the Pouring Rain’. Yet tonight Kevin has adopted an interesting approach to marketing. More ‘Store Detective’ than ‘Floor Manager’, he prowls the exhibition with an air of constant suspicion like a cross between a market trader and Oliver Twists Fagin. All that was missing were the de rigueur, Factory, heavy overcoat and fingerless gloves. It seemed that the more people appreciated his work, the more qualms passed through Cummins mind. His scepticism became elevated to dangerous levels when one couple posed for their own photo in front of the giant, Ian Curtis still. Cummins looked murderous. I think if I had aired my thoughts on Factory mythology and his major role therein he might have cheerfully shot me dead without a moments hesitation.

Relief comes as a selection of Cummins’ still photography is screened over the main stage, accompanied by some Graham (808 State) Massey ‘toons. It’s a good moment. It’s a great book.

Just don’t tell Kevin.


The whole evening/night/morning goes down as a huge success. La Raffinerie, itself a spacious, medium-sized venue is chock full, not just of Belgians (French speaking and Flemish) but also Germans and a good deal of Brits. The night will not be complete for some time though. Section 25 will play a typically brooding, caustic set of industrial psychedelia. Larry Cassidy looks dangerously wasted as he arrives on set taking a full 30 seconds to detach, entangle and then disentangle himself from the mic. Later on, A Certain Ratio will be as tight and wonderful as anyone who’s seen them lately will attest. And yes, they will encore with ‘Shack Up’. Massey will spin some more discs and Re-Order will approximate the missing Hooky, Barney and Co. We hit the merch desks one final time.

A Factory Night 2007 was something of a Wilson memorial. A Factory Night 2009 isn’t a gig, or a concert, this is an event, an occasion and a celebration of something that touched our lives, shaped us and made us who we are.

So with thoughts of Ian, Rob, Martin and Tony, and this time with a smile, we step back into the night.

[sic] Preview

Le Fantastique

LTM Recordings

Les Disques Du Crepuscule/Factory Benelux

[sic] Magazine thanks Les fantastiques, LTM Records and la Raffinerie.