Monday, 6 July 2015

On Stage: FFS

American synth pop band Sparks have been around for more than fourty years and influenced many artists along the way including Franz Ferdinand. They met each other years ago and decided to work together, which finally happened years later and led to their first self titled collaborative album earlier this year as FFS. When Franz Ferdinand released their last album it was clear the Scottish band reinvented themselves, which became even more obvious at their live shows. The show together with Sparks promised to be quite a night.

FFS at Melkweg Amsterdam, July 2 2015

The sold out show on this hot summer's night results in a sticky, but merry atmosphere in the packed main hall. It turns even euphoric when the band takes the stage and kicks off with the catchy 'Johnny Delusional'. Alex Kapranos and Russell Mael are both at the front leading the pack and tonight's festivities. It suits them well and the rest are in a great mood too, judging from the smiles on their faces. It's obvious both groups are enjoying the collaboration and their time on stage.

Even Ron Mael who always sits grumpy behind his keyboard, changes his act for a moment to do a silly dance. Next to the FFS songs that sound fresh and convincing, some hits from both bands are mixed in. Songs like Franz Ferdinand's 'Do You Wanna' and Sparks' 'The Number One Song In Heaven' are greeted with equal excitement. Although it looks like the biggest part of the crowd are Franz Ferdinand fans, everyone tonight has embraced this wonderful combination.

The catchy side of Franz Ferdinand that works so well in songs like 'Take Me Out' surprisingly mixes perfectly with the bombastic theatrical side of a classic Sparks song like 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us'. I guess it works so well is because they simply do what they each do best and don't try to force it. Despite they sing it themselves in the closing song of tonight, 'Collaborations Don't Work', this one actually does, simply because it's not a collaboration. It's more than that, it's a band.

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01. Johnny Delusional
02. The Man Without A Tan
03. Save Me from Myself
04. Police Encounters
05. Do You Want To
06. The Power Couple
07. Little Guy From The Suburbs
08. Things I Won't Get
09. So Desu Ne
10. The Number One Song in Heaven
11. Michael
12. This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us
13. Dictator's Son
14. Take Me Out
15. Piss Off
16. When Do I Get to Sing "My Way"
17. Call Girl
18. Collaborations Don't Work

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Friday, 3 July 2015

On Stage: St. Vincent

Anne Clark started out in The Polyphonic Spree and in Sufjan Steven's touring band until she formed her own band in 2006 and became St. Vincent. Last year she released her self-titled fourth album that won her a Grammy. Her live shows are one of a kind so on a hot tropical Wednesday we went to see her in Paradiso.

St. Vincent at Paradiso Amsterdam, July 1 2015

I am surprised to see that Paradiso's main hall isn't sold out and there's plenty of room left, which is quite a blessing on this hot day. Before the show there's a request to "refrain yourself from recording the experience digitally" so I only take a handful of pictures for this blog post. St. Vincent, who always has a great wardrobe, comes up in a wonderful kind of latex suit and starts off with a great version of Marrow. She's in great form tonight and her voice sounds very clear. Her guitar licks are ferocious with lots of distortion, but especially in the more quiet songs you can hear her remarkable talent.

She climbs up the white stairs on stage halfway the show to perform a few songs including wonderful versions of 'Cheerleader' and 'Prince Johnny'. It's those theatrical elements that make a St. Vincent show a lot more than live music. The lush compositions become even stronger when you see her perform them with a little choreography and mimicry. After the encore she returns to the stage by herself for a very intimate performance of 'Strange Mercy' that everyone is watching breathlessly. With a spectacular version of 'Your Lips Are Red' she ends the show in style. St. Vincent is a one of a kind experience by a charismatic unique artist.

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01. Marrow
02. Birth in Reverse
03. Regret
04. Cruel
05. Digital Witness
06. Year of the Tiger
07. Severed Crossed Fingers
08. Cheerleader
09. Prince Johnny
10. Rattlesnake
11. Actor Out of Work
12. Chloe in the Afternoon
13. Teenage Talk
14. Every Tear Disappears
15. Bring Me Your Loves
16. Huey Newton
17. Strange Mercy
18. Your Lips Are Red
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Friday, 26 June 2015

Best Kept Secret 2015 Day 3

Last night's sudden and nasty end of the second day had one advantage: I had a great night's sleep and am totally ready for day 3! Not after we had bacon and eggs of course and a lot of coffee. This is going to be a long day! No, really, it's midsummernight so it's the longest day.

Best Kept Secret 2015 Day 3, June 21 2015

Although I slept a good night I don't make it in time for Johnny Greenwood and the London Contemporary Orchestra, which is too bad because it would have been quite nice.

Instead we end up at the main stage for something completely different. Marmozets are going full force with powerful rock songs and singer Becca Macintyre is screaming her lungs out. It's not really crowded yet and the rain that is falling at one point doesn't help. But it gives us a good spot at the front to see the band put in a lot of effort. Maybe not all songs are really original, but the band adds so much energy it turns into a fun performance.

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Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice's name has been buzzing around lately and their first album My Love Is Cool that came out this week, is getting raving reviews. I listened to it a few times now and it had to sink in, but now I love it. The group sounds more heavy and less electronic on stage, with the clear voice of Ellie Rowsell. Once and a while they will take it a bit more slow which balances out the set very nicely. It's a very convincing show and the band wraps the crowd around their finger with great ease. Bought tickets to their show later this year right away.

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Katie Crutchfield recorded her first album in her bedroom. She formed a band to play it live and recently released her third album. Her melancholic music is quite interesting and sounds pretty good. But her band are almost invisible and her performance would have made a bigger impression without them. It's simply not enough to keep your attention, no matter how good the songs are.

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Canadian band Alvvays are all ready for the summer with their positive music. The dreamy indiepop songs are bit rough around the edges giving them a bit of a bite. I do like the sound, with the feel good tunes, but the band with singer Molly Rankin still look a bit shy on stage. Although I really want to like it and music wise I do, the performance is not impressing me.

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Black Mountain
Time for some dark and heavy psychedelic rock and Black Mountain are the right band for that. The start of their show is a bit slow, where the band looks kind of static and singer Amber Webber looks a bit lost. But once they are warmed up and get in the groove, the songs become longer and sound more dangerous. Sometimes it's leaning towards Pink Floyd especially when the songs have a dark repeating groove. Guest saxophone player René Evers adds a nice touch to the dark rock songs and in the end this turns out to be a good show.

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Rats on Rafts
One of the most interesting Dutch bands still is Rats On Rafts, the band Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos loves so much. And that's for a good reason since the band's no nonsense new wave punk music is working again today. The band grow into their set and have mixed in more surf music. I still haven't listened to their new record properly, but I really like this sound. I'd rather see them in a small dark club though and I have to leave halfway since I want to see Future Islands as well.

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Future Islands
It's clear you either love or hate this band, telling from the reactions around me. I love their danceable electronic pop music, although the sound is terrible today. But fortunately Samuel T. Herring's performance makes up for that. Some say it's all just an act, but I think this is actually the way he feels the music. He just has to add the silly dance, the expressions and the grunts. I think he really pulls it out of his soul. It's not their best performance and it's too bad I missed my favourite song 'Sun In The Morning'. Herring pulls another stunt today where he ends the show off stage, runs towards the fence and climbs over to get back stage again.

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Royal Blood
British rock duo Royal Blood are shooting up in the music scene like a comet and are playing every festival there is this year. That's not bad for a band who formed two years ago and released their first album in August last year. Although the songs not always have a lot of variation, the powerful grooves are too damn good. Live on stage they are knocking them out with great force. Big hit 'Figure It Out' is even early in the set and should set this place on fire. Bass player and singer Mike Kerr looks unhappy with the crowd's response which seems to make him even more determined. If you're into this music like me and the people at the front in the big pit, this show is simply irresistible.

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We stick around for the big headliner of today, Alt-J. Their music is definitely not my cup of tea which I find simply boring. But of course they have become a big name so there's a large turn up. Despite an impressive light show, their performance is very static and combined with the music it can't grab me at all. Too bad for me, however it seems most people are definitely enjoying the show.

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Instead we end in style ourselves with white wine and great oysters. By the time we finish them, all our friends have gathered there as well and we make sure today and the festival ends on a big high. This was another great edition of this festival with a lot of good performances, great food, wonderful vibes and a lot of fun. Hopefully they can keep this up and I will keep visiting.

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Best Kept Secret Day 1
Best Kept Secret Day 2

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