Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Sniffing The Grass: An Into The Great Wide Open Warmup

As a yearly tradition for the past couple of years we close down the summer in style and are getting ready to travel back to our favourite island Vlieland for another edition of the Into The Great Wide Open festival. Somehow we got karma on our side and managed to get tickets, although unfortunately not for every member of our group. A close look at the line-up reveals that the programmers did too good a job and came up with an incredible program full of terrible dilemmas. Let me walk you through it.

This year no tent for us any more since we are staying in a small bungalow. Hooray for a real bed, a lovely shower and a toilet close by, fresh coffee and fried eggs in the morning!

After we get settled in we have no time to waste, since Jaap Boots will be telling rock stories. My first time on this festival I learned about the wonderful Intergalactic Lovers and now they are back! Then maybe we can check out some German postpunk with Die Nerven and return later to the Fortweg stage for Dutch psychedelic rockers PAUW. At the same time Bombay are playing their soundtrack to the 1930s horror movie Vampyr. Damn those choices!

Rise and shine at the lovely island. After some first bare and breakfast necessities why not have Bruut! wake us up a little more with some crazy jazz. After that Maurits Westerik's new project Bewilder will keep us going and otherwise young Dutch garage rockers Afterpartees definitely will. Some of Kevin Morby's inspirations are Bob Dylan and Neil Young so I don't need any more convincing. Time for some dancing, hopefully in the sun, with La Sra. Tomasa and their dubstep rumba fiesta. We can can continue to dance at My Baby's trance funk. Now it gets tricky: HÆLOS' feelgood triphop or jazzy synth beats with Dorian Concept Trio or some wild garage rock with WAND? The ladies of Savages will definitely rock the main stage with their dark postpunk. Con Brio's soul sounds great, but then we need to make some really tough choices again. The Irish postpunk of Dubliners Girl Band, party hard with swinging brass band Gallowstreet or Los Pirañas' experimental electronic Caribbean music from Colombia. At least we better make sure we are back at the Fortweg stage in time for De Staat.

I'm not sure if we can get up early enough to catch the gritty country of Deslondes. Maybe we'll start with some sunny reggae from Surinam singer Kenny B. I'm not too fond of singer/songwriters and folk but would like to check out Ryley Walker's guitar skills. Gabriel Rios should be good for a latin party. Should I go see the great Dutch alternative band Alamo Race Track or the melancholic ballads of Andy Shauf? The Memphis soul of Frazey Ford sounds tempting and punk poet John Cooper Clarke should be interesting. Leon Bridges' name is buzzing around so I would like to check his vintage soul music. Polar Bear is supposed to make some ground breaking jazz and Sophia will be playing melancholic songs that may just be what we need at that time. The psych rock and post punk of The Afterveins sounds really good before we need to make a tough choice between two Belgian delights: the wonderful sultry music of Oscar and the Wolf or the jazz of Tom Barman's Taxiwars. I'm definitely going to be on time for zZz's wild and gritty sleazy rock music.

The music of jazz trio Kapok sounds good enough but I don't think we can make it that early. So we will probably wake up to the Turkish psychedelic 60s inspired music by Baba Zula. Time to dance with All We Are's indie disco or dream away with Jacco Gardner in the woods? Ought's postpunk sounds great and of course I don't want to miss punk veterans The Undertones. The last choice of the weekend is between Torres and The Slow Show who both play intense music in their own specific way. And who else than Afterpartees can throw a better afterparty?

Thank you so much Into The Great Wide Open programmers for this impossible line-up and the sore feet I will have afterwards.

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Amsterdam Woods Festival 2015 Sunday

After a successful first day we head back into the woods while the sun is up and warm. Another nice day awaits at the Amsterdam Woods Festival so we hop back on our bikes and before we know it are back at the festival site.

Amsterdam Woods Festival Sunday August 30 2015

It is still pretty quiet when we arrive so we drink a nice espresso from an espresso machine that is a small steam engine which tastes great. Then we head into the tent for the first performance of the day.

Intergalactic Lovers
It's been a few years since I got to know Belgian band Intergalactic Lovers and they have come a long way since. Their second album Little Heavy Burdens was released last year and is full of nice melodic pop songs. Singer Lara Chedraoui is a delight to watch, she's cracking small jokes with the crowd and her band members who manage to keep a serious face. It sounds like her voice got even better over the years and the band got more tight. The tent hasn't really filled up much but it doesn't get the group down. In their own country they are already drawing much bigger crowds and let's hope more people will get to know them over here. Chedraoui definitely wins best choreography with her killer moves.

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Jacco Gardner
After releasing his first album Jacco Gardner toured around the world a lot. Now his second album Hypnophobia is out and with a partly new band is on tour again. The new album focuses on an obscure sixties movie soundtrack sound. The dreamy melodies are still there but now they have gained more body. You can also hear this in his live set that is now more convincing as is his own stage performance. His music sounds more balanced with more heavy grooves in some of the songs. You still need to be in this kind of music though and appreciate the dreamy atmosphere of the songs.

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About now it's time to stir things up a bit and one of the most fun bands of our country, Afterpartees, are exactly the right band to do that. When they start only a handful of people have gathered in front of the stage, but it doesn't matter to the young lads who never disappoint. They fire off their catchy garage rock songs at high speed and singer Niek Nellen as always is one big ball of energy. When he finds the crowd's reaction a bit too mellow he jumps off the stage to make them dance which a few people can't resist. In the end this band seem to be able to please every crowd and once again step off the stage as winners.

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The Brahms
We turn to the tiny stage where The Brahms have started their set with catchy danceable rock tunes in the style of Vampire Weekend. The same playful ringing African style guitar melodies can be heard and the band is looking pretty convincing. With their energy, enthusiasm and cheerful music it is hard to stand still and it turns the place into a happy party. This band definitely has plenty going on to get bigger.

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The Veils
By now the sun has set and it's already time for the last performance of the festival. The Veils are the ones to close the day and are the right band to do so. I don't always like their kind of dramatic 16 Horesepower style of songs but tonight they are more on the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds side of things with a darker sound. Singer Finn Andrews also stays on the right side of his dramatic performance and looks impressive enough when he sings his lyrics with a tormented face. It makes you curious for their new record that should come out next year. It definitely was a worthy finale of this new festival.

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With this line-up, atmosphere and the nice performances, the Amsterdam Woods festival proves to be a worthy addition to the over saturated festival market. It wasn't really crowded but fortunately they had the weather on their side, since otherwise it could have been a disappointing turn up. However the main stage tent never was more than half full and sometimes it was pretty quiet at the other stages, which can be hard on the bands. But hopefully more people will learn about this festival and next year's edition can draw a bigger crowd. This festival deserves it and is more than worth a visit, so count me in again for 2016's edition.

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Amsterdam Woods Festival 2015 Saturday

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Amsterdam Woods Festival 2015 Saturday

Although there are many festivals in my home town Amsterdam, funny enough there is no multiple day summer festival with indie bands and rock music. Until now that is, since this year the three day Amsterdam Woods festival saw the light for its first edition with a promising line-up of upcoming bands, some established acts and documentaries. We can't make it to the first day on Friday but needless to say I hopped on my bike the day after to visit the large city park Amsterdamse Bos (three times the scale of Central Park), where the festival is located.

Amsterdam Woods Festival Saturday August 29 2015

After a nice bike ride through the woods, we arrive at a lovely spot. We explore the festival ground which is quite tiny but feels like a mini version of my favourite festivals Into The Great Wide Open and Best Kept Secret. A big tent hosts the main stage "Grote Eik (Big Oak)" opposite the outdoor stage "Onder De Sterren (Underneath The Stars)". A tiny stage "Spruit (Sprout)" at the other site will host new and upcoming bands. Scattered around are bars and food trucks, a lovely spot has turntables and spins oldies singles and a small bar pours lovely "speciality" beers. At this moment it is still quiet but things already look good.

Nelson Can
First up for us are three ladies from Denmark that form a rock trio without guitar player. Drums, bass and vocals create a dark punkrock sound especially because of the low but strong voice of singer Selina Gin. It is still early for both the band and the audience and this is a band that probably would work better in the dark. The ladies are doing their best though and the songs are quite interesting. However the lack of a melodic instrument becomes quite obvious since the songs sound alike a lot.

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Alamo Race Track
Dutch alternative band Alamo Race Track stand high in regard in the Dutch music scene and their last album Hawks once again is quite a gem. Their songs embody a lot of atmosphere and tension. The skilled musicians are facing a half full tent and are obviously having some sound problems on stage. The show is off to a bit of a rough start that way and it's hard to recreate the same atmosphere of their albums. But in the end this band is so talented and professional, that it results in a pretty good performance nevertheless.

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Douglas Firs
Belgian musician Gertjan van Hellemont formed this band with Balthazar's Simon Casier on bass, drummer Christophe Claeys (Amatorski and Magnus) and his brother Sem on keys. Their songs are best described as Americana and roots rock with nice harmonies. The music sounds quite good and works well on this stage next to the weeping willow. Van Hellemont turns out to be a pretty good entertainer with a good sense of humour as well and it turns this performance into a pleasant one.

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Palio Superspeed Donkey
It's time to pick it up a notch though and the "Dutch Arctic Monkeys" are playing a home game. The young band once again show their talent and their catchy rock songs sound better and better every time I get to see them play. They got their British stage act together as well with the seemingly unmoved singer Sam Vermeulen and his fellow band mates jumping around him. It is going to be interesting to see where this is going to take them in the years to come.

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While the sun is still up the trees around the Onder De Sterren stage are already obscuring some of the light a bit, turning it into an atmospheric surrounding. Perfect for the spacerock of Tubelight that are stretching their songs into long hypnotizing jams. The Belgian band may not play the most original music, but they look quite professional and play their music in a convincing way. And on this stage at this time of the day it does come together.

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Moon Tapes
At the other side of the festival ground Moon Tapes are soundchecking and play 'Elephant Stone' by The Stone Roses. This immediately describes their music since it seems that is their biggest inspiration. In their set they also play 'I Wanna Be Adored'. Their own songs are a mix of this and The Smiths where singer Joep Meyer actually does sound like Morrissey a lot. The band picked up some of their guitar lines from The Cure and we get a kind of Madchester new wave vibe, which is working well. It turns into a nice party and this band definitely could be on to something. Now they need to find their own sound instead of copying too much from their main inspirations.

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I Am Kloot
Today's closing headliner is English rock band I Am Kloot that are pretty much an indie favourite. It is the last show of their festival summer and the band are in a very good mood. The beer is flowing like water and the crowd clearly have been looking forward to this performance and are into it right away. It turns the last show of the day into a very nice one, where I Am Kloot is showing why they are so popular in the indie scene, with skilful songs that sometimes rock and are intimate ballads at others. Quite a good ending to our first day at this new festival I'd say.

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This turned out to be a great day and since there is not night line-up or after party we take our bikes into the night to return home and get a good night of sleep.

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