Sunday, 25 June 2017

On Stage: Midnight Oil @ Paradiso

I am very fortunate that I am able to go see so many great bands now, that I sometimes even have to choose. But there are many band that I never got to see and some of them I will never see to my regret. But once in a while life throws you a bone and you get a second chance. Australian rock band Midnight Oil is one of those bands that have a big live reputation but I never saw them play. Until tonight!

  Midnight Oil @ Paradiso Amsterdam, June 23 2017

  I guess there are many people who don't know this band at all or simply don't remember them from back in the eighties. Because it is has been that long that they got their big break. Especially the live album Scream In Blue left a big impression on me and the band was known for their intense rock performance. The band went on a hiatus when singer Peter Garrett’s political career took off and reunited now that he has stepped back. There are some Aussie fans around us and they are excited to see this band play again, who are still huge in their own country. Hopefully they can still live up to that reputation.

The moment the group walks on the stage already answers that especially when front man Garrett comes up. The big bald singer’s appearance by itself is already impressive and the band sounds convincing from the first note. Like a young band promoting their first album the group go at it, with the tall Garrett as the centre piece. I don't know all of their songs but they do play a large number of tracks that bring back memories. The music has that typical eighties rock vibe: Bryan Adams ‘Summer of ‘69’ guitars with synths added to the spectrum.

  It does sound a bit outdated, but it may just become retro in a few years time. On the other hand the lyrics are still spot on. Midnight Oil always has been a band where political opinions and concerns strongly reflects in their music. Garrett addresses some of the issues that still need attention and are the subject of some of the songs. It's sad to see how relevant and actual some of the songs still are, thirty years later. You would think not much has changed there.


But Midnight Oil isn't a band that will sink into a depression and get everyone down, since they are true optimists as Garret puts it. There's still a matter of urgency in their music, a fighting spirit that energizes people to stand and speak up to injustice. Garrett’s t-shirt reads “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men”, which says enough.


It's one of those shows where the crowd gets fired up and where band and fans become one and resonate in the same frequency. With a huge smile on their faces the band play their eighties rock with just as much heart and pleasure as thirty years ago. There's a wonderful vibe in the venue tonight with a kind of festive mood. In the end music is a celebration no matter how serious the subject. Midnight Oil prove that bands like them are needed more than ever in the world as a social conscious that can spread an important message with their music and at the same time have a damn good time.

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01. Progress
02. Truganini
03. Too Much Sunshine
04. No Time for Games
05. Under the Overpass
06. In the Valley
07. Best of Both Worlds
08. Read About It
09. King of the Mountain
10. My Country
11. Luritja Way
12. Ships of Freedom
13. Arctic World
14. Spirit of the Age
15. Warakurna
16. The Dead Heart
17. Beds Are Burning
18. Blue Sky Mine
19. Dreamworld
20. Harrisburg
21. Now or Never Land
22. Forgotten Years
Encore 2:
23. Power and the Passion
24. Sometimes

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Friday, 23 June 2017

Best Kept Secret Festival 2017 Day 3

After a glorious second day of the festival the last day promises to be a real killer. Temperatures are going to rise into tropical measures and today has a program that may kill me. Can't blame a guy for trying.

We want to see the first band of the day, The Homesick. Although we are running a little late, we should be able to see the second half of their show. Unfortunately we run into the huge line at the entrance and by the time we make it through, the band has already left the stage. We're a little bumped, but a cold beer should be able to change that.

Iguana Death Cult

Fortunately this band from Rotterdam is about to take the stage and I know we will be good. They made one of the most fun records of the year and the band already proved to be a true energy bomb on stage. Today the foursome look thrilled to be playing this festival and deliver an even more energetic performance than ever. Their songs are adrenaline filled garage rock anthems where the young men are putting all their heart in. Singer Jeroen Reek is all over the place with a big grin on his face when he's not sticking out his tongue. Needless to say that this sparks a cheerful party early on the day where the band gets the well deserved circle pit they asked for.

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Canshaker Pi

We have hardly caught our breath when the next young Dutch band climbs the stage. Their songs are a bit more heavy and borrow a lot from bands like Pavement. This bunch looks just as much pleased to be playing here and continue the festive atmosphere started earlier by the previous bands. The band's power play approach works well and their fine songs do the rest. Some of them are true gems filled with little twists and turns to keep you on your toes.

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Zeal & Ardor

This Stage Five bears nothing but quality bands today. Zeal & Ardor promise a mix of Negro Spirituals and black metal. This can either turn into something good like strawberries with chilli peppers, or into something awful like burnt steak with whipped cream that's gone bad. Fortunately it' the first one and we witness a true revelation. The singers sing in harmony like in Gregorian chants and then the music explodes into powerful and dark metal with delta blues intermezzo's. It works really well as the songs are full of dynamics and are performed really well. Only the drummer is sitting at the back while the rest of the band are all lined up at the front. This makes this all even more impressive. These are the kind of acts you want to discover on a festival.

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Strand of Oaks

We head to the main stage where the temperature has risen to “bloody hot”, turning the open space with yellow sand into a desert that most people want to avoid. It won't get a man like Timothy Showalter down and he brings his usual charm and stage presence. The songs on his latest album may be more standard rock tunes, but he is still able to tell a heartfelt story with a lot of heart and soul. No one cares about the smouldering heat and Showalter delivers once again.

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Henry Wu Presents The Kamaal Williams Experience

Keyboard player Kamaal Williams, aka Henry Wu, collaborated with drummer Yussef Dayes which resulted in the wonderful jazz album Black Focus. They were supposed to go touring together but something must have happened and now they are doing separate tours around that same album. Today we see Kamaal Williams together with drummer MckNasty (Joshua McKenzie) and bass player Tom Driessler. If you think it is weird to have a jazz band on a music festival like this, think again, since it is a vibrant performance with plenty of crazy break beats and grooves that make everyone dance. The musicians challenge each other where MckNasty plays with a huge grin and stands up regularly from his drum kit. The exciting music draws plenty of curious people inside Stage Three and turns it into another highlight on this amazing day.

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And we still have a few big ones coming up, because here's Soulwax totally blowing away Stage Two with their Transient Program For Drums And Machinery that already knocked me off my feet two times, the last time only a couple of months back in Paradiso. The stage setup is still the same with three drummers and a lot of equipment that looks like the bridge of a spaceship. Playing a lot of music from their excellent new record From Deewee, the two Belgian brothers treat us to a hot dancing party with percussive and powerful dance music. Too bad we have to leave before the end if we want to have a decent spot for Radiohead.

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This legendary band are like the holy grail of any festival right now. With their new album A Moon Shaped Pool they are currently touring the world, playing a set of festivals this summer. You never know where they are going or what they will play, because every night it's a different set. Tonight we get treated to a more quiet and mysterious side of Radiohead with a setlist that holds a few of my favourites like 'Street Spirit' and 'Pyramid Song'.

The band plays the perfect soundtrack for this hot day in June, while the sun is setting and more than 20,000 people are completely quiet. This band is painting with music notes, carefully placing them while the image slowly reveals itself, but the meaning is left to your own imagination. The band plays a stunning version of 'Exit Music For Film' with Thom Yorke's emotional vocals, whose cry outs in between songs are incomprehensible and awkward.

Tonight this band asks quite a lot of effort from the crowd, since this is a set that will be appreciated a lot by the true Radiohead fan, but may be a bit hard to get into for others. It explains the divided reactions after the show where some are completely over the moon and others expected more hit songs. For me it has been a dream ending to an amazing three days of gorgeous weather and wonderful music.

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Best Kept Secret got criticised by many people last year for a good reason, including me. They failed at many levels and couldn't handle the bad weather and big crowds. However they took all that criticism seriously and totally worked it out, proving they are able to have this number of visitors and deal with them. This fifth edition simply was almost perfect in every sense and this festival has totally set the standard for me, which is a well deserved and huge compliment to the organization. At the same time they have raised the bar very high now and it's going to be interesting to see how they can cope with that next year.

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Best Kept Secret Festival 2017 Day 1
Best Kept Secret Festival 2017 Day 2

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Best Kept Secret Festival 2017 Day 2

After a wonderful first day that was a good warm up, things promise to be heating up further today. Fried eggs and coffee get us ready for the first band of the day, that are playing early on Stage Five.

The Courtneys

Three ladies that make cheerful fuzzy slackerpop. It sounds nice on paper and in the beginning it actually does sounds good. But after a while it is clear that all songs sound alike and drummer/singer Jen Twynn Payne plays the same four on the floor drum groove in every song. She's hardly hitting her snare drum so the sound engineer cranked up the volume of it a lot, making it sound horrible. The three also look pretty pale on stage and the crowd quickly loses attention including me.

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Kim Janssen

We decide to wander around the festival site and end up at Kim Janssens's performance at Stage Two. It isn't something I put on my schedule, but he's doing quite well over here. His quiet music requires a bit of effort from the audience and although it stays half full, the people that hang in there get treated to a nice show. The string and horns section are a good addition that gives his songs a bit of extra.

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The Amazons

I can appreciate a nice piece of britpop and The Amazons are exactly playing that. They don't have the cocky attitude but have a lot of heart. It isn't really anything special or original, but these guys are trying hard. It may be a thirteen to the dozen band, but it's not a bad way to start things off today.

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This band has been getting a lot of attention especially for their live shows. I'm not really a fan of their music and I don't like the falsetto vocals too much. The band looks happy enough to play here and it's a rare setup to see a drummer at the middle of attention. The music is quite nice and sounds good, but the falsetto vocals are getting too much after a while. It doesn't grab me enough to hang in there for long.

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Two girls, a drum kit and a guitar, sometimes it doesn't take more to play a good show. Scottish duo Honeyblood play lo-fi indie rock songs with a lot of heart. The two work really hard and their rock songs have enough power and variation to stay interesting. It isn't mind blowing but it definitely works and it is exactly what I need to get this day going.

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Cloud Nothings

I know these guys won't have any trouble to keep me going. Their rock music is tight and in your face. They play loud, with a lot of fire and their songs don't miss their effect. A big pit forms and keeps going for the whole show, only getting bigger. Singer Dylan Baldi genuinely looks appreciative of the positive response and it fires up the band even more. It may not be subtle but every song is a slap in the face and works like strong coffee.

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The Boxer Rebellion

The Boxer Rebellion play the main stage with a lush view of the lake and the sunbathing people. They have come a long way and got quite big during it. But it doesn't seem to work well and their performance is a too mellow where not a lot is going on. People seem to enjoy the sun and the cold beers more. The band isn't really trying to spice things up either and the show just dozes off.

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The Wytches

These three guys don't have the word "mellow" in their dictionary and like to play loud and dirty rock. There's plenty to enjoy if you like things a bit rough and their music sounds interesting and good enough. But the band largely ignores the crowd, which doesn't have to a problem. But today it simply doesn't really work. Maybe if the band would have worked a bit harder, it could have turned into something of a rough party but now it won't exactly take off. We leave to see Cigarettes After Sex, but as I expected with their continuous slow depressing music this is definitely not a band for me. Time to get a good spot for the big headliner of the day.

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Arcade Fire

The festival has a dream headliner on the bill today. Arcade Fire are one of the reasons why I wanted to return this year and draws a big crowd. A lot of people have gathered in front of the stage and I find myself squeezed in somewhere halfway the field. Many here are very hungry to see this band and it's a treat seeing them on a medium sized festival. A show unfolds that nears perfection, with more hits than you can count and a band that is in absolute killer shape.

The Arcade Fire machine starts rolling from the first second and comes to a halt nearly two hours later when they leave the stage. In between we got everything that makes this band so good. Great songs that sound amazing live and are played with a lot of detail and dynamics. The brand new song 'Everything Now' already proves to be a classic that people are chanting along massively. The members switch places and instruments very smoothly with the music not stopping for a second.

Needless to say the crowd is simply ecstatic and it turns the show into a big celebration with a cheering crowd and happy faces all around. The band simply has to come back for an encore and close with 'Intervention' that apparently wasn't planned, since it wasn't on the written setlist. And so this festival has the headliner it deserves and gets even more from them. There aren't many bands of that quality around any more and I haven't seen many festivals ending in such a overwhelming climax.

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Best Kept Secret Festival 2017 Day 1

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