RSC 35: FRONT 242

Published on September 18th, 2022

In his 2012 book, “A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing,” American theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss compares antimatter to …Belgians?

As in the Western European Flemish people known for waffles, dancing Gilles and moules-frites? The very ones. “I like to say that while antimatter may seem strange, it is strange in the sense that Belgians are strange,” Krauss writes. “They are not really strange; it is just that one rarely meets them.”

But if there’s one group of Belgians who are no strangers to Florida, it’s Front 242, who will be here on Sept. 17 to headline the 35th birthday of Respectable Street in downtown West Palm Beach.

Formed in Aarschot, Belgium, in 1981, Front 242 have commandeered a whole corner of electronic music — and its slam-dancing offshoot EBM (electronic body music) — through a combination of energetic visuals and aesthetics, and an ever-evolving search for new musical inspiration, beginning with their 1982 debut album, “Geography.” They’re an ideal headliner for a venue like Respectable Street, which has likewise endured by being curious and risk-taking in its presentation of music.

“The key word is ‘integrity,’” Front 242 keyboardist Patrick Codenys tells PureHoney when asked in an interview about the band’s staying power. “The band has kept its sense of ethics and belief in the music we created with no concession. Also, our audience has been supporting us all those years and the communion we have during concerts is a forever adrenaline.”

Codenys feels that Front 242 occupy a special niche within electronic music that has allowed them to stay fresh, adaptive and influential.

“We have very little competition with other bands as we propose an immersive type of music and show that is closer to cinema soundtracks than any musical genre,” he says. “Sounds of all types mixed into music, samples, analogue sequences, etcetera, but also keeping an eye on research and sound design, we are far from the Rock/Jazz/Blues/Hip-Hop/Rap/whatever style and so Front 242 keeps on having an original trademark.”

The band has also freed itself from the studio process and has taken their experimentation and composition process to their live act. “This is a new way to create for us and it inspires new ideas during the course of action of a concert,” says Codenys, “and we get that audience reaction which matters a lot.”

When asked about Front 242’s Florida connections, if any, Codenys says, “We’ve always had a loyal crowd and great memories here. But for me personally, I met my wife in Orlando, and we’ve been together for the last 25 years.”

The band had a scare this spring when vocalist Jean-Luc De Meyer underwent major heart surgery. But Codenys reports that De Meyer emerged healthy, and that “Front 242 shows remain strong and physical!” English-language fans of the band will be delighted to know that the incredible, 600-plus page biography, “Front 242 – Catch the Men,” by French writer Eric Duboys, is currently in the translation process.

Opened in 1987 by Rodney Mayo, Respectable Street was the first location and concept behind his Subculture Group. Inhabiting a Salvation Army building built nearly 100 years ago, the venue has hosted over 1,000 live acts ranging from the young Red Hot Chili Peppers to cult icons like the Damned and Dick Dale. Mayo, a thorough cognoscenti of various musical undergrounds, has since expanded his reach into the tri-county area with various popular eateries and bars.

Most recently, he’s been a driving force in the food and service industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on its Palm Beach County workers. Through it all, Mayo has remained the same band t-shirt and jeans-wearing, down-home kind of guy. Qualities that have transformed Respectable’s from a beloved South Florida institution into one of the most respected (pun intended) live music venues in the country. That Front 242 will headline this party is no coincidence.

Front 242 with Portion Control, REIN and many more play the Respectable Street 35th anniversary Block Party, 7pm Saturday, Sept. 17 in downtown West Palm Beach., ~ Abel Folgar