Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Dutch rock band Shaking Godspeed are one of my favourite rock bands. It is not your average rock band, but a group of musicians that like to walk different roads and like to do things their own way. And this results in creative and top notch rock songs with a twist. So whenever they are playing in the neighbourhood I try to catch one of their shows.
Shaking Godspeed at Tolhuistuin, September 15 2014
Tonight they are billed with two bands I never heard of, Hellshovel and Natural Child, at the new venue Tolhuistuin in the North of Amsterdam.
Hellshovel kick it off tonight with spaced out and very relaxing songs. It isn't really bad, but the band looks like they had too much valium or are stoned out of their heads. Probably this is the way they play on stage, but it makes their performance and music quite boring.
Fortunately Shaking Godspeed are up next to shake things up. They are doing a club tour in support of their new album Welcome Back Wolf, which was released a few days ago. It's full of brilliant twisted rock songs, that sound exciting and adventurous, sometimes maybe a bit awkward at the same time, an explosive mix of blues, space, crazy, very groovy hard rocking songs. Tonight they play a few new songs like the very catchy 'Goodbye Poupon' (not "poop hole" like I thought), which has an irresistible hook and the grooving and haunting 'The Lighthouse'. The sound isn't quite right, especially in the beginning when the drums are not balanced.
It doesn't matter for this band, who never fail to impress me with their solid sound and energetic performance. The new line-up with guitar player Rocco Ostermann and bass and organ player Alexander van Damme works very well. Next to front man Wout Kemkens, Ostermann is doing a good job on vocals. Moving from a three piece to a four piece band has added depth and another dimension to their sound, opening new possibilities apparently. The new songs sound great live as well and it's clear the band has made yet another step and reached new heights. This one of a kind group once again proves to be one of the most creative and exciting rock bands in this country if not beyond. And I can't stress it enough: this band is underrated and deserves a lot more. Maybe this can happen with the new album, but at least do yourself a favour and listen to the album and go see them live, you won't be disappointed, I promise. And then buy all their records and t-shirts of course.
Then it's time for Natural Child to top off this evening as the headliner. The band apparently made a big impression on SXSW showcase festival in Austin earlier this year. They play a mix of dirty Southern rock and country boogie woogie, which is not bad. Sometimes it's just a bit too much country and hillbilly rock for me. Also the lyrics are too cheesy now and then. Someone is offering them a joint which is passed around the band, probably not the first one of the day. I just can't help but wonder what the fuzz is about this band, since is it really that original or impressive?
It would be nice to see Shaking Godspeed play a longer set some time, which they should be able to with three full albums out now. I would definitely be there again.
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Saturday, 13 September 2014
Time seems to stand still on this island, except it really doesn't. It's the last day of the festival and the sun is treating us to some of its last sun rays this summer. Time to suck up some more festival vibes.
Into The Great Wide Open Day 3, September 8 2014
By the time we arrive at the main stage, Ethiopian jazz master Mulatu Astatke has already started his set. Jazz may not be everyone's cup of tea but the percussive music of the wonderful Astatke is hard not to like. His band is a delight to watch, as they convincingly play his swinging compositions with lots of enthusiasm. The master himself is looking content and is watching the band, the crowd and the surroundings with a smile on his face.
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Several Jungle By Night members have formed a side project, The Mysterons, no doubt at the conservatory. It's totally different from their swinging afrobeat band. It starts off with some songs that remind of Portishead, which isn't that surprising since 'Mysterons' is a song by them. I'm not a fan of that Bristol sound, but singer Josephine van Schaik's voice sounds impressive and the band is playing creative music. Then the songs turn more into seventies style rock songs and van Schaik proves she can handle that as well. The band are changing tempo and time measures with great ease. It may prove to be too much for some, but I'm loving this. I'm going to watch this band closely and am looking forward to their EP later this year.
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We decide to hang around at the sports field and take it more slow. Ezra Furman is performing there and is playing catchy rock 'n roll songs. Furman's glasses have broken but he decides to keep wearing them, which makes him look like a character from Revenge Of The Nerds. However I don't really like his voice which isn't great and sounds like he's putting too much cheese on it. Also the rest of the band isn't looking exactly inspired. Especially sax player Tim Sandusky seems to be thinking about his shopping list instead of playing music. Probably it's all an act but it is putting me down, which can never be the idea. The best song in their set is The Clash cover 'Train In Vain' which says it all.
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Unknown Mortal Orchestra
It's a surprising spot in the schedule for Unknown Mortal Orchestra on the main stage on the middle of the day. To me this is one of the highlights in the program and Ruban Nielson and co don't disappoint. Nielson is focused and his psychedelic and grooving solos are superb. The trippy and freaky songs may not go down well with everyone, considering the half empty field, but it doesn't really matter. Once again I'm impressed with this virtuoso band. Although I think a spot in the dark in the dunes would have made it even more impressive. I can't wait for their next album and a proper club show.
Official Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Spotify
Dutch rapper Typhoon had quite a year. He released a highly acclaimed album earlier and totally killed it on the main stage at the Lowlands festival a few weeks ago. The organization are well aware that he's the perfect closing act of the festival. The field in front of the main stage is full of people who want to dance in the sun shine one more time. Typhoon has no problem making that happen. Hip hop and rap simply aren't my cup of tea, so we watch it all from a distance while working our way through a delicious pot of mussels. A magical moment happens when a woman is carried slowly towards the stage, as if she's floating above the crowd. At the end the charismatic Typhoon is totally killing it with his great band.
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This edition ends on a high and before we know it we're on the boat that is taking us back to reality. This festival seems to get better every year. And although it will be hard again to get tickets for next year, we are definitely going to make sure we're there again.
Into The Great Wide Open 2014 Day 0 + 1
Into The Great Wide Open 2014 Day 2
Friday, 12 September 2014
We wake up to a grey sky, but even that can't break our mood. We wash away our hangover with fresh coffee and suddenly hear familiar music. It turns out Jungle By Night are recording a 3voor12 session on the camp ground (watch it over here). We go over to watch and are treated to a small sample of what will come later. All awake and in the right mood we make our way to the main stage for a gentle start of the day.
Into The Great Wide Open Day 2, September 7 2014
Kris Berry & Perquisite
Singer Kris Berry and composer, musician and producer started working together about a year ago and released an album Lovestruck Puzzles. Today they are opening the main stage while people are still slowly recovering from the previous day. Their gentle light music is helping with it. The poppy and soulful songs are easy on the ears, which is nice for this time of the day. But they are also nothing really special and Kris Berry's voice is missing the strength of a great soul voice. It is quite pleasant to wake up with though.
Official Website | Spotify
We decide to stay a bit longer at the main stage to watch The Kik. The Dutch beat and rock 'n roll band released a surprising second album earlier this year, that has quite nice songs on it. This band is not bad at all, but lead singer Dave von Raven's long chats, lame jokes and other monkeying around take too much time out of their set. It slows down the gig too much that never gains momentum this way. This is a shame since they are good musicians capable of writing good songs. Sometimes it's just better to let the music do most of the talking.
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Jungle By Night
After some chilling around and enjoying lovely food and beers, we hurry back to the dune stage where afro-beat collective Jungle By Night have already started to tear the place apart. We arrive halfway their set and are lucky to get into the packed place. Everybody is dancing to the young boys' irresistible afro-beat and funk tunes. They have shown a remarkable development and are growing up fast. From shy boys they have turned into showmen that know how to play and fire up a crowd. Their sound and music is deepening and slowly they are creating their own genre like Dutch jazz and dance band New Cool Collective have done. The songs off the new record aren't just afro-beat but sound more funky and groovy, sometimes like music from a soundtrack. Most import of all: it's impossible to stand still. So everyone is jumping around and all I can see are big smiles in the crowd and on stage.
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Neneh Cherry with RocketNumberNine
We decide to stay here for the rest of the day, which means we can see Neneh Cherry perform. Still associated with her big hit 'Buffalo Stance' she has come a long way of course. RocketNumberNine are playing r&b and hip hop beats, where Neneh is singing on top of. Sometimes it's jazzy, at other times it's rap or soulful. She excuses herself for her voice that is suffering from a chest infection. It does sound more hoarse than usual and high notes are beyond her reach today. It doesn't get her down, as Neneh looks like she has enjoyed a few drinks and is in a very cheerful mood. It results in a far from perfect but definitely enjoyable show. In the end she does play her big hit, which gets a warm and soulful performance.
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Dutch alternative veterans Hallo Venray disappeared off the radar for a while but returned this year with the impressive record Show. While the dark has set in, they are showing why it's good they are still around. Their dark and grungy songs are tight and couldn't sound better at this spot between the dunes. Singer Henk Krol comes across as a friendly man and is a skilled songwriter. Their music, that is somewhere in the middle between The Velvet Underground and Neil Young, sounds warm and deep. When they play their unrecognizable but slow and intense version of Prince's 'Controversy', some people around me look up in surprise. It's nice to see they are still able to surprise us after all these years.
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The dark dunes of the Fortweg stage are also the perfect setting for Sivert Høyem. The ex-Madrugada singer's deep voice is thundering between the dunes. With a new album out he has added another selection of songs that fit right in his discography. His solo work isn't that much different from the Madrugada songs, but still you can see the fans eyes' of that band start to twinkle when he's playing one of those songs. Tonight he's looking a bit tormented and at one point is smashing his mic stand. Was he frustrated about some technical problems or was he just in the moment? It does give 'The Kids are on High Street' the right emotion and a fitting end to his show and the day.
Official Website | SoundCloud | sivert.hoyem | Twitter | YouTube | Spotify
In the dark we head back for a few more drinks and a well deserved rest before it's time for the final day. It's something I don't want to think about right now. I just don't want it to end!
Into The Great Wide Open 2014 Day 0 + 1
Into The Great Wide Open 2014 Day 3