Friday, 27 August 2010

Lowlands 2010 Day 3: Lowlands Goes Out With A Bang

Although the forecast promises rain later on this morning looks pretty good. It's cloudy with a nice temperature so we wake up slowly, have a bit of breakfast and then quickly head to the festival site. We already missed Blaudzun but sure don't want to miss Go Back To The Zoo's party!

Go Back To The Zoo (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
And what a party it is! There are lots more people than fit in the India tent so all around the tent there's a huge crowd. We cannot make it into the tent either and so outside we dance to the catchy songs of the Dutch band. They play like they have been playing on Lowlands a dozen times before. They stick to the up-tempo songs which is a smart move. Their slower songs are also the weakest and this way they keep the crowd dancing and the spirits high. Another great start of the day. Watch a video over here.

Moss (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Onto another Dutch gem that we find playing on the Grolsch stage. They easily fill up this tent and put down a convincing set. They brought the extra drummers with them like at their gig in Paradiso. They are focused and put a lot of effort in it which is appreciated by the crowd. This results in an atmospheric and glorious performance.

My favorite scar (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
A lot of Dutch bands are filling the stages today. One of them is a new metal band My Favorite Scar. But the members are all experienced musicians that have been around for a while. Unfortunately everything about this band is made up. The band members are dressed in sturdy looking outfits and are going through every cliche rock pose. This wouldn't be a problem if the music made up for that but as you can expect when you go for style first the songs aren't anything special. This is a concept for a metal band rather than a genuine metal band. Sorry Jeroen.

Staff Benda Billi (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
A Congo-based band with several disabled musicians that bring Afro-funk and other swinging tunes. This results in a festive performance with everyone dancing. The fact that some of these musicians are in wheel chairs or on crutches doesn't hinder them in putting down a lively performance.

Yeasayer (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
A great performance on Rock Werchter made me want to check them out again. I've listened to their albums several times since then but they don't represent their live performance because both have their weaker moments. But on stage they play a well balanced set that sounds great. It's nice to see that their songs have many subtle elements and layers without sounding complex. Singer Chris Keating complains about the height of the stage a couple of times that makes him feel disconnected from the audience. It did look like their performance on Rock Werchter was more relaxed. Let's see what he thinks of the Melkweg stage in October.

The National (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
After releasing probably one of the best records of the year I really had to check them out. In the meantime I listened to most of their albums and really love their music. I wasn't disappointed. Singer Matt Berninger's baritone easily fills up the tent and sounds impressive. His stage appearance is neurotic at times when he walks around like Rainman. His warm vocals can change to aggressive screams within a second which gives the songs a dramatic feel. Guitarist Dressner does most of the talking in between songs while Berninger is totally absorbed by the music pouring out his guts and soul while he seems to be facing his demons. And all we can do is watch in total admiration.

Two Door Cinema Club (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
It was no use anymore checking out Placebo so we decided to watch this band instead. Their songs are catchy and the crowd are eager to party so the vibes are good. But the guitar licks and chords all sound alike while singer Alex Trimble's voice is too thin. This makes every song sound alike and it does get really weary in the end.

Queens of the Stone Age (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Time for the final blow of the festival. And you can leave that to Queens of the Stone Age. They must have taken that literally. The sound is poor: it's very loud with lots of bass causing a wall of noise to hit you. Of course their music is powerful and rough but it does kill all the subtleties that some of their songs have. The band is really eager though and Josh Homme sure looks in a good mood. He's chatty and repeatedly mentions what a great time he was having. The crowd is eager to party one more time and every ending of a song or guitar solo is greeted with loud cheers. When they finish their set 15 minutes before time the crowd goes crazy for an encore. But when it is clear this is really the end it changes into an even louder booing. Just one or two more songs would have made this a perfect ending and maybe even a memorable performance. Now it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and only a 7-rating instead of a higher one.

And so Lowlands 2010 has come to an end. We check out some more comedy have a few more drinks, finish all our coins and more than pleased go to sleep. Only to wake up to horrible rainy weather the next day. In a rare dry moment we quickly pack up and go home. But this cannot change our merry mood since this was a great Lowlands edition with so many quality performances and great music. Better get your ticket on time next year since I'm sure it will only sell out even faster.

See more pictures over here:
Lowlands 2010 Day 3 Pictures

Lowlands 2010 Day 1 Review >
Lowlands 2010 Day 2 Review >
Read more!

Lowlands 2010 Day 2: Time To Party!

After a great first day and a decent night of sleep we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Just not in time to see Dutch performer and rising star Tim Knol open the second day. Sorry Tim, hopefully I can catch you next time.

And So I Watch You From Afar (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Time to get the sleep blown from our eyes by this Irish hard rocking bunch. Loud powerful guitar riffs combined with complex tempo changes, fast licks and a solid drummer were fired at us. No vocals since these guys don't need that with their lively stage performance. The guitarists and bass player are jumping and bouncing around stage while playing their amazing parts. Guitar player Rory Friers even continues playing while crowd surfing. Their eyes are twinkling when they receive the well earned cheers from the crowd.

New Cool Collective & Typhoon (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Clearly awake now we move to the next party with Dutch jazz band New Cool Collective and Dutch rapper Typhoon. The Alpha stage is not the best place for this combination but it's convenient for the many musicians on the stage. Nevertheless they manage to put down a swinging set. What can you expect when you have one of the coolest and most swinging band on stage with awarded performers like sax player Benjamin Herman, guitar player Anton Goudsmit and drummer Joost Kroon. Rapper Typhoon cannot wish for a better band to back his raps and he manages to turn the place into a swinging party with the help of some other guests. Too bad the band only got to play one song by themselves.

The Soft Pack (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Sitting in the grass enjoying a bit of sunshine we listen to The Soft Pack on the main stage. Their garage rock is catchy and their songs are good. They just didn't add enough fire to make it explode.

Mumford and Sons (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I said it before that I don't like this kind of music. But I admit their show was pretty good. Well played songs and the packed Alpha tent was going crazy with every song. I still don't get why but so many people can't be wrong. I just wouldn't call it that brilliant as many others seem to do. So after 4-5 songs I decided to check out something different.

Admiral Freebee (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
The Belgian Admiral delivered a strong album earlier this year and already proved he can play great performances. Today however there wasn't enough chemistry between them and the crowd somehow. When he started playing some beautiful ballads on piano even more people left leaving only a few until the end of his set. By that time they seemed pretty frustrated and started throwing stuff to each other for fun. Hopefully he will come back to prove everyone of his skills.

The Gaslight Anthem (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Things can go fast with a band. Within a short time this band has grown into a live act that can fill up a place like the Grolsch stage which is the second biggest stage of the festival. A big skull is laughing at us from the big back of the stage. Tattooed boys are on stage playing their middle of the road rock tunes. But this tough appearance cannot hide the boy inside. Singer Brian Fallon looks like he could have been in any 90s boy band. They are trying very hard but the sparkle wasn't there today. Their songs all sounded a bit even and they weren't able to live up to the high expectations that many people seemed to have.

LCD Soundsystem (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
When front man James Murphy sticks to his intentions this was my last LCD Soundsystem gig since according to him there won't be a next record. This certainly was one of their better performances. Especially the old songs were solid and got many people dancing. The songs of their last album didn't sound as convincing but maybe that's because it's new material that everyone needs to get used to. All in all their set kept everyone going until the end. Probably because it had more cow bell.

La Pegatina (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
And then we arrived at the small Lima stage that was having a big party like so many times. The band from Barcelona must have been wondering what all the dancing plants were doing something that started last year and is beginning to turn into a tradition. Urban rumba or flamenco punk? I have no idea what it is but it's damn good! Check out a short video here.

To top it off we go watch the movie The Expandables which turns out to be so bad that it's not even funny anymore (7.5 on IMDB? C'm on!). But the people's cheers and reactions still make it good fun. And of course the beers and pop-corn help as well. Another great day ends in style and it only is getting better. We're wondering what tomorrow will bring.

See more pictures over here:
Lowlands 2010 Day 2 Pictures

Lowlands 2010 Day 1 Review >
Lowlands 2010 Day 3 Review >
Read more!

Lowlands 2010 Day 1: Lowlands Kicks Off Hard

This year it was my 13th Lowlands edition. It may be an unlucky number but the line-up only predicted good vibes. We knew from experience that it can take a while to get there, make it through the entrance, find a good spot for the tent and get it all up and running. So we left early but things ran so smoothly we were sitting in front of our tent in the sun by 11.00 am! What a great way to start and well on time for the first performance: Festival opening act Triggerfinger.

Triggerfinger (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
And these guys know exactly what party people want: a killer performance to get crazy. They knock out all their testosterone-high songs and even make Duffy's Mercy rock hard with the help of Selah Sue (check it out here). What a way to start the festival!

Frightened Rabbit (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Nearby the huge Alpha stage is the tiny Charlie stage. This is where the more obscure and relatively unknown acts are programmed. But these guys know how to please the crowd that showed up. They play their songs with lots of enthusiasm and sound fresh and lively. Their album seems to be a bit more sad but they sure present themselves in a good way.

Broken Bells (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
The collaboration between James Mercer of The Shins and producer Danger Mouse isn't exactly a performance to put on the big Alpha stage. Their album already has many weak and boring moments and their performance suffers from this as well. It all looks very static. Not even a perfect song like 'The High Road' can change that.

Ok Go (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Brilliant videos made this band stick out from the many indie bands that are out there. But their videos do distract a lot from the music which isn't that special. On stage they show they can entertain a crowd but also need some visual aid for that (like an act with bells that we missed unfortunately). So they put in lots of effort and energy which makes it a lively and happy performance. Still the music doesn't sound all that special.

Balthazar (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The young band from Belgium surprised us at Rock Werchter and didn't disappoint a bit. They give a focused performance with a nicely balanced set. The sound is great and the crowd loves it. Everyone is listening with open mouth to the songs that aren't always easy. Hopefully they can repeat this when they visit the Melkweg in October.

Ginger Ninja (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Currently they are having a modest hit with their single 'Sunshine'
which sounds like a warm summer's day. Their performance is just as cheery and well received although there's still lots of progress to make. But these lads are really eager. Even so eager that drummer Johan Luth kicks his bass drum beater through the head so it needs replacement. Singer Henrik Hamilton has a bit of trouble filling that unexpected break and uncomfortably decides to tell a joke to kill the time. But that doesn't stop the crowd from having a good time.

The Kooks
(Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Coming up with a new album early next year The Kooks are playing some gigs ahead of that to warm their fans up and remind everyone else about what they are about. Which simply comes down to playing light catchy indie rock songs that will stick to your head like superglue. Singer Luke Pritchard certainly is in a good mood and has lots of energy. He's using the whole stage and shows why so many teenage girls are into this band. Their sound seems to have matured since everything sounds more rocky and solid. They are playing two new songs that although sounding a bit doubtful are interesting and reveal maybe a new direction and sound.

Tame Impala (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
This band takes you on a psychedelic trip back to hippie ages. There's a lot of echo in their sound and they look really static. The music is interesting enough but somehow it's not enough to keep us watching. Somehow I feel I should have given them more time like some space cake to sink in to be fully appreciated.

The Specials (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The old-timers from this old 80s band repeat their party from Rock Werchter and sweep the Lowlands crowd off their feet as well. The Grolsch tent turns into a swirling dancing crowd as everyone takes in the irresistible ska songs.

With these good vibes we continue the first day's party in good spirits which leads us to comedy and German schlagers. Already Lowlands has turned into one great party.

See more pictures over here:
Lowlands 2010 Day 1 Pictures

Lowlands 2010 Day 2 Review >
Lowlands 2010 Day 3 Review >
Read more!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Living Colour Not From This World

Seeing Living Colour perform is always a real treat. It's just great watching four very skilled and creative musicians playing incredible funky rock songs on stage. I liked their performance a while ago a lot and so I knew what to expect. Boy was I wrong.

Living Colour at Paradiso Amsterdam, August 14 2010 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
We arrived just too late for the support act Seeka that played quite a solid set so we were told. After half an hour one by one the members of Living Colour walked on stage. Singer Glover was wearing an interesting outfit with retro glasses, retro hat and something that looked like a blacksmith apron. They kicked it off right away with a rock solid groove.

What followed was kind of hard to describe. Instead of playing a greatest hits set they started playing their best grooving songs. And these amazing musicians are just incredible at that. Vernon Reid's mouth watering guitar riffs and solos, Doug Wimbish's insane bass lines and sounds and Will Calhoun's solid drum play blew me away like a groove train running me over. I could only watch in awe while these guys were killing it. Of course they played a couple of their great hit songs but mostly it was if they were just jamming and taking their music to incredible heights.

Wimbish played a beautiful bass solo packed with creativity partly joining the crowd off the stage. And of course Calhoun played one of his incredible solos with the spacy light sticks and some funky neon electronic cymbal pads. Reid had a baseball cap slightly turned on his head looking like a naughty school boy as he was squeezing his screaming riffs out of his guitar. And Glover's voice still is great and powerful after all this years, hitting every high note just right. He was looking around the room with a big smile as if he was thinking "we're just blowing you guys away".

If you have no clue what a strong groove is then just watch these guys simply being perfect at it. After one and a half hour I simply had no clue what just happened. The crowd kept asking for more but the band didn't come back for an encore. The groove train doesn't stop but it just keeps on going. Onto the next venue to run everyone over.
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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Sniffing The Grass: A Lowlands 2010 Warmup

Just a few more days and it's time to close the summer in style: Lowlands is about to kick off. Many stages, many bands, many beers, theater and lack of sleep. And lots of choices to make. There may not be a lot of big headliners but this means there are many bands to check out and discover. Just the way I like it!


Triggerfinger will open the festival on the Alpha stage which means we will go full force right away. Oh yeah! After that time to relax and chill with Jaga Jazzist and sad songs from Frightened Rabbit. The first major cross road of the festival has arrived. Maybe Broken Bells, although their album holds just as many weak as strong songs. Or Ok Go that have great videos but what can they do on stage? Or check out the promising Band of Horses? Or maybe a bit of all?

After their great performance at Rock Werchter I sure will check out Balthazar and after that hopefully be in time to catch a bit of Ginger Ninja. No jónsi for me although everyone is raving about his music. It just gets on my nerves. I probably will join all the teenagers at The Kooks.

Uhoh! More tough choices to make. Party with The Specials 80s style? Or check out the hot new band Tame Impala? Or chill and dance with Groove Armada? And maybe close off with some Flying Lotus? Although it's not really my cup of tea he's still related to Coltrane!

Sure a busy start of the festival!

Dutch singer/songwriter Tim Knol's career rocketed this year and although I don't like that genre too much I'd like to check it out. But he's starting at 11.45am so I may not be awake yet. Maybe other Dutch newcomers Daily Bread can wake me up with their catchy garage rock. I'm sure And So I Watch You From Afar will since they rocked us earlier this year. Time to party with Dutch rapper Typhoon as he joins one of my big favourites New Cool Collective to tear apart the Alpha stage. Hopefully The Soft Pack will do the same with the nearby Charlie stage.

I'm sure Admiral Freebee will give a killer performance again after that. Maybe see a bit of Marina and the Diamonds because people talk about her in a good way. I missed them on Rock Werchter but this time nothing won't keep me from seeing The Gaslight Anthem. No time for a quick snack because a friend insisted I should go crazy with The Bloody Beetroots before it's time to dance with LCD Soundsystem probably for the last time.

There will be a lot less dancing with Beach House but hopefully they are able to surprise me and send me off partying for the rest of the night with happy thoughts.

Oops! Another early Dutch singer/songwriter Blaudzun kicks off today. Not sure if he will see me but Go Back To The Zoo sure will to wake me up partying! Time to choose again with guaranteed quality band Moss or African sensation Staff Benda Billi or the good vibes of Surfer Blood? Or even My Favorite Scar, not because of their music since that's not really interesting but just to see an old class mate on stage. He probably won't recognize me anyway from when we were 14.

Time to rest? No way! Yeasayer are playing the Grolsch stage and surprised me on Rock Werchter. At the same time Alain Johannes will rock the Charlie and maybe Josh who is playing later on will show up as well? The National probably made the album of the year and I really don't want to miss them. So sad since The Drums are playing at the same time and deserve a nice crowd as well. Maybe a bit of both. I don't think I like Die Antwoord but everyone keeps saying this will be the gig everyone will talk about.

Time to eat I guess although Delphic and The XX are playing but they aren't exactly must-sees for me. I'd rather show up on time to dance with Hot Chip before rocking with Placebo. Or maybe check out Two Door Cinema Club as well? I definitely want to see a bit of Sleepy Sun and to be honest a bit of Fool's Gold as well. And I will sure close the festival in style with heavy rockers Queens of the Stone Age.

I don't know if I have a bit of energy left in me to party any longer after that. But with this killing schedule sleeping and eating needs to be overrated anyway. Reviews are coming when I make it through this weekend alive.

As usual Tbeest has a great rough guide as well with links to music and video's. It's in Dutch but anyone should check it out: part 1, part 2, part 3.
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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Arcade Fire Break Out Of The Suburbs

There are bands you know are out there and are appreciated by many but still somehow never catch your attention. For me Arcade Fire is one of those bands. Although receiving lots of praise for their previous albums and live performances I somehow never really gave them my full attention. But with the exposure and raving reviews their new album 'The Suburbs' get they are hard to ignore.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The album opener with the same title immediately sets the tone for the entire album. It's a catchy indie pop/rock song with a prominent piano part that will get stuck in your head in a pleasant way. The album is full with these tracks. There isn't a weak track on it and probably every song that will make it as a single will turn into an Arcade Fire classic.

That's the power of the whole album: it gets better every time you hear it. Of course I listened to their previous albums again and both had their weaker moments. They have grown into skilled lyricists and are clearly telling a story. This time about living in the suburbs with all its boredom and wasted time that goes with it. But in the end:

If I could have it back
All the time that we wasted
I'd only waste it again

The band unmistakably has taken it to the next level and has almost crafted their song writing skills to perfection. They got a bit too eager because maybe 16 songs is just a bit too much. But they sure got my attention now.
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Sunday, 15 August 2010

GoBackToTheZOO Launch Benny Blisto In Style

Not many bands have had this much exposure even before putting out an album. But after releasing a few successful singles and having their song 'Beam Me Up' in a Nike commercial this really set off the career of this band from Amsterdam. So it was time for an album and a proper release party.

GoBackToTheZOO release party at Westerunie Amsterdam, August 10 2010 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Westerunie is a great setting for a band like this. An old factory building that still breaths its industrial past but at the same time is an inspiring location to party. By the time the band took the stage it was a full house and the temperature had risen.

They kicked off with a few of their singles proving that they are capable of writing great catchy hit songs. Singer Cas Hieltjes isn't a brilliant vocalist but his voice is distinctive and he looks comfortable as a front man. The band is eager and is playing with lots of energy. They could use a bit more dynamics in their live performance. Now everything seems to go full force all the time. Later on when they have more songs to play this could make their songs sound alike too much. But they certainly are ready to take their album 'Benny Blisto' out there and blow the roof off every club and festival they are playing.

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Friday, 13 August 2010

Monster Magnet Doesn't Scare Anyone Anymore

Big sound with powerful guitar riffs, cool rockers with long hair that live the rock 'n roll life to the fullest. That's what I see thinking of Monster Magnet. So when I won tickets for this gig in the Melkweg (thanks to I was looking forward to a night of power rock that would blow me off my socks.

Monster Magnet at Melkweg Amsterdam, August 9 2010 (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)

First up were Karma To Burn that had already started when we arrived at the venue. This stoner rock band from the late 90s picked up where they left in 2002 around a year ago. They played great riffs and pounding drums mostly without vocals. I liked it but more songs with vocals would make it even better.

Next up was the big headliner Monster Magnet. And they sure got bigger literally with singer Dave Wyndorf putting up around 50 extra pounds. Unfortunately his performance also wore down and he didn't sound or look anything close to the rock god of the old days. Instead it looked painfully embarrassing to see the chubby front man struggle through their set. They played a few songs of their upcoming album 'Mastermind' and those sounded less powerful than their older songs. Even the big hits seemed to have lost their power although I still like 'Space Lord' a lot. Although the band sounded pretty good it was all looking pretty uninspired and obligatory. 20 years of rock 'n roll finally got to them I'm afraid.
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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

New Grinderman Video for "Heathen Child"

Grinderman released their first single 'Heathen Child' a short while ago and now there's the accompanying video. Nick Cave & Co. came up with some crazy stuff. Check it out below. The album 'Grinderman 2' is due to come out 13th September.

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Friday, 6 August 2010

Life Of Agony Make Night On Their Own

The bill promised a lot when it was announced: Ill Niño, Life of Agony and Papa Roach in the Melkweg. Although I don't like Papa Roach the rest of the night promised to be good and heavy. Too bad Ill Niño had to pull out because of frontman Cristian Machado's injury. They were replaced with Jettblack a hair metal band from the UK. This didn't look good.

Life of Agony at Melkweg Amsterdam, August 2 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
When we arrived at the venue Jettblack was just closing up with their last few songs. If you're into Bon Jovi kind of rock this may be your band, but I certainly didn't mind missing most of their set. Fortunately it didn't take long for Life of Agony to take the stage. Unlike their gig earlier this year where they played an integral set of their hit album "River Runs Red" this time their set consisted of a variety of their songs.

The sound was pretty good although I saw a member of the crew walking on stage many times. Singer Keith Caputo gave another strong performance prooving again how good a rock singer he is. His vocals were clear and powerful. Combined with the tight band it all sounded great. Since most people were there to see Papa Roach they really had to work hard to get the crowd going. But in the end there was a decent pit forming and I think they won over quite some people. We can only hope that they will start working on new material in the future.

When Papa Roach entered the stage they were welcomed with loud cheers. It didn't take long for us to leave though. Their superficial metal songs and overdone stage performance just doesn't do it for me. Hopefully they learned from the superiour performance by Life of Agony.
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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

We Are Scientists On Repeat

We Are Scientists - Barbara (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
The fifth album by the Californian indie rock band offers another range of catchy tunes like we're used of the band. But that's exactly the problem: although there's enough to enjoy for the fans we've heard it all before. Time for them to come up with something new next time. Read more!