As Brussels Rhythm and Blues Club (BRBC) launches its new season of concerts on October 13th, it celebrates 16 years of bringing affordable live music – with bags of ‘ambiance’ – to an eclectic audience of devotees.
Once a month, from October to June, Sounds Jazz Club in Ixelles plays host to an informal Saturday evening of music and dancing, drinking and dining, from 8pm often until the small hours.
You get what’s on the tin: rhythm and blues, but in its broadest manifestations and to suit all tastes. Each gig features two bands. Guest artists, often from outside Belgium, have included legendary groups like the Pretty Things – friends and contemporaries of the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. They play alongside BRBC’s one permanent feature, the much-loved house band Jive, formerly The Witness.
Back in 2002, BRBC was the brainchild of three music-loving, Brussels-based British journalists: Jonathan Todd, Geoff Meade and Tony O’Donnell, and it is Todd who keeps it alive today. “I started the BRBC with two friends because there was not enough live music in Brussels that we liked, and because our friends The Witness, had no regular gigs anymore,” he explains. The Witness was known for the ‘Vietnamese Mick Jagger’ on vocals, Thong van Dang. Van Dang died in 2010, aged 57, after a 30-year singing career in Brussels.
Charging just enough on the door to pay the musicians’ fees and expenses (€10), the club has sometimes struggled to remain solvent. “When we started we had no idea whether we’d be able to organise more than one concert,” says Todd. “I’m grateful that over the years we’ve had enough people to stay afloat. People like the live music, up close in a small venue. And bands come from far and wide across Europe.”
The Pretty Things, featuring Phil May and Dick Taylor – who will play at the O2 Arena in London in December with Van Morrison and David Gilmour – have been back seven times because they appreciate the club’s atmosphere. “But over the last couple of years, audiences have been tailing off and we’re well into the red these days,” admits Todd. The club pays around €1000 a year in performing rights to Belgium’s copyright agency.
BRBC’s new season kicks off with Gene Drayton Unit from the UK, plus Eric Moens’ Jive. “I can only hope that more people want to come along to hear live rhythm and blues music,” declares Todd. “If they don’t, we’ll have to stop, and Brussels will lose an amazing small club.”
For more information check the BRBC’s website