Saturday 29 August 2009

Lowlands Day 3: Busy Day

Oh yeah! My neighbours are awake again at 8.30. This time no fried eggs but bad jokes and stupid conversation. So we were early at the festival site to have breakfast and buys some CD's. And on to to the first gig to wake us up.

Lowlands Festival Day 3 Bigginghuizen, August 23 2009

Elle Bandita (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
And no better way to wake you up than by local rock bitch Ella Bandita. With her in-your-face-rock and her high energy level she sure knows how to get everyone's attention. Not the most subtle songs or most original but a nice performance. You got to appreciate their effort and passion although the cliche rock poses can be a bit too much.

De Staat (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Together with yesterday's Kyteman this band definitely had a great year. Their highly acclaimed record "Wait For Evolution" did well and got them to play may festivals. And that shows since they play a very professional set with guest drummer Kyteman's Bram Hakkens and 'Neger des Heils' Bas Bron. The tent is fully packed and most people stay until the end. Sometimes songs do sound a bit alike but most of all it's a very good performance. Well done by these Dutch guys.

Dio & the Madd (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
The Madd make old Beatles inspired beat music including the silly moves. Their songs are usually quite happy and up tempo. This is also their weakness since there's not a lot of diversity. But the band are enjoying themselves a lot especially when rapper Dio joins them and they finally win the crowd over.

Drive Like maria (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I really have a weak spot for this band. Love their 70s rock inspired heavy rocking album "Elmwood" and they blew me away when I saw them live for the first time a while ago. So maybe their sound isn't very original and they have borrowed a lot from the likes of Led Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age. But these guys and girl sure know how to play some big fat grooves and put a up a lively rock show. Too bad they were only allowed to play half an hour.

Eagles of Death Metal (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
What can you do when Jesse "Boots Electric" Hughes is on stage but love him? Even as stoned as he was today he still is the amusing and charming guy that he is. Although today the stage and tent was too big for them they still managed to entertain the crowd with their boogies and Jesse's moves. But because of the big stage and his walking around he needed too much time in between songs so the performance never really took off. Not their best performance but fun nevertheless.

Bloc Party (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
These guys get better evertime I see them this year. Although not all of their music is always easy with all the hooks and twists they still managed to get a fully packed Alpha tent to dance all the way into the back. Frontman and singer Kele Okereke was all smiles and the appealing young man he always is and enjoying himself a lot. Although the hit songs of the first album like "Helicopter" and "Banquet" resulted in the biggest response of the crowd it seemed everyone knew most of the songs and this turned out into a great show.

Grace Jones (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I deliberately missed her on Rock Werchter since I knew she was performing on Lowlands as well. Unfortunately her set overlapped with the Arctic Monkeys so I couldn't stay throughout the whole show. But the part that I saw was highly entertaining. She looks stunning for her age and her exceptional voice is still strong. She definitely knows how to put up a show. Laser beams, changing wardrobes in between songs including very creative hats and a perfect performance. Very impressive and I'm sure she made some new fans.

Arctic Monkeys (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
What can you say about the Arctic Monkeys that hasn't already been said? Every new album and show I'm struck again by the genious of singer Alex Turner. He must be one of the most talented musicians of today's music scene with an unmistakable voice and sound. His untouched almost cold and arrogant stage attitude isn't annoying but makes him even more intriguing and mysterious. And it's not an image. This is who he is. Maybe to protect him from the dark outside world as he sees it since the songs of the new album are even more dark and gloomy. The show nears perfection but may not have been the big smashing closing act of the festival. Instead they send us away with a heavy mind.

But after a nice beer we're all happy again. Aching, tired but oh so happy since this weekend just got better and better. Not enough headliners? Who cares! If bands play on this high level you don't need a program packed with big headliners to have a great time and enjoy some quality music.

Lowlands Day 1 Review >
Lowlands Day 2 Review >
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Friday 28 August 2009

Lowlands Day 2: Full Of Surprises

So day one wasn't a bad start at all but I was hoping for more. Thanks to some neighbours who woke me up early 'cause they wanted fried eggs at 8.30 in the morning I didn't feel quite the best. But nothing a good cup of coffee can't fix!

Lowlands Festival Day 2 Bigginghuizen, August 22 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
This first band was a good way to start the day. Not really original but well played and the girl playing violin is a nice change from the normal rock band setup. They were doing their best and the crowd seem to have picked that up.

Reverend & the Makers (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Their last album "French Kiss in the Chaos" wasn't really what I was hoping for. Instead of the previous one it doesn't have that many good songs but most of them are just alright. That showed during the gig. The old songs could count on the whole tent bouncing to all sides but the new songs didn't do much. And singer John McClure is a bit too agressive in my opinion. I don't like it when people start pointing fingers at me. Still a nice gig though.

Moke (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
I was really looking forward to the performance of this Dutch band and to be honest I was a bit disappointed. They tried out some new songs that don't seem to be of the same level of their debut album and their static stage act makes it quite a boring experience. All well played though but they could do with some more fireworks. "Here comes the Summer" still is a great song!

Them Crooked Vultures (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
What do I need to say about this band that I haven't already said? Announced as a suprise act it wasn't really a surprise anymore since the internet had been buzzing for a few weeks about this gig. I made sure I was up front close to the stage to see these guys rocking and especially drum hero Grohl working his kit. And it was great again although maybe not as special as the Melkweg gig but that was to be expected. People were packed even outside the tent and watching the screen to catch this band. I don't think many people were disappointed.

Kyteman's Hiphop Orkest (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
This guy really is the most hyped Dutch artist of this moment and for good reason. His album has been very well received but his performances have already become legendary. And this was gonna be his biggest one so he invited some more guests to join him and his already big band on stage. There was a horns section, string section, percussion, singers, rappers, the works. But Kyteman had no problem directing this band and making sure it didn't result in a big mess. Instead it was soul, hip-hop, jazz, dance, rock all combined in one and an Alpha tent that went crazy. In the end he deserved his moment in the spot lights which just gave everyone goosebumps I guess. One of Lowlands' most epic moments for sure.

Benjamin Herman Quartet (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
And to continue the swinging mood we were in after Kyteman we went to see Benjamin Herman. As a jazz quartet not the obvious choice for a festival like Lowlands but he didn't bring just his excellent quartet. He also asked some guests to join in and introduced some more horns and members of C-Mon & Kypski. This resulted in a high energy swinging performance that could have lasted all night. Unfortunately they wouldn't let him. Dutch poet, writer and jazz fanatic Jules Deelder had a valuable contribution as well with his stage presence.

And so after this swinging end of the day we disappeared into the night in a festive mood to party some more.

Lowlands Day 1 Review >
Lowlands Day 2 Review >

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Wednesday 26 August 2009

Lowlands Day 1: Slow Start Epic End

Yes! My favourite festival was about to start and it got off to a great start. Instead of continuing this year's festival trend of traffic jams we got to the festival's camping site in no time and were sipping a cold beer well before the first band started. This promised to be some weekend!

Lowlands Festival Day 1 Bigginghuizen, August 21 2009

The festival was looking pale on paper according to many: not enough big headliners. But I could find plenty of bands to sink my teeth in. Time to dig in!

Roosbeef (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Not really my choice but a quiet start of the weekend. This Dutch singer had a succesful year so far and was the festival's opener. Her voice is one of a kind and her lyrics are pretty original as is her music...and humour. Not exactly my cup of tea but not a bad start. She definitely was able to win the crowd over in the end.

La Roux (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
A bit of 80s electronics mixed with dancable tunes can be good. Their hit single "Bulletproof" has a nice ring to it. Unfortunately their performance didn't. All tunes sound alike and not much happening on stage. Singer Eleanor Jackson looked ridiculous and has no charisma whatsoever.

Razorlight (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Their last album "Slipway Fires" was quite a disappointment and they don't seem to live up to their own ambitions of becoming a great rock band. And that was exactly what they were showing. The biggest hits of their second album like "Before I Fall To Pieces" and "America" are strong songs and could please the crowd but the songs of the new album just are much worse and didn't have much effect on anyone. This made their set to be off balance and the Alpha stage way to big.

Ghinzu (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
I read about this band and planned to see them on Werchter but didn't get to it. I heard they had a great performance there and didn't want to miss them this time. It turned out to be a very lifely performance with a lot of variety in styles. Sharp as the knifes they named themselves after (very cliche remark) they had a rocking set that threw you around between bombastic Muse like songs and more gentle rock tunes.

Faith No More (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
A reunion concert of one of the most interesting and influencial bands of the 90s so worth checking it out. This lead to a cover of Reunited by Peaches and Herb as the opening song followed by a greatest hit show mostly from their "Angel Dust" album. But what a show! Their songs are very diverse partly because of the gifted voice of singer Mike Patton that allows him to sing in so many ways. But he's also the annoying kid in your class that is always bullying everyone: shouting out "Thank you Pukkelpop" several times (of course he knew better) until people started booing. Slapping people for not knowing the lyrics to "Evidence" or not singing it correctly. But it all adds up to a great almost cheesy rock show showing that they still haven't lost it.

Kasabian (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
I think their latest album "West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum" is okay but didn't expect an energetic and highly dancable show like this one. I couldn't make it to their gig in time since Faith No More's performance ended just before it. But when we arrived the crowd was already jumping and sweaty in a hot and sultry atmosphere. Good way to get us ready for a long night of partying.

Lowlands Day 2 Review >
Lowlands Day 3 Review >

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Thursday 20 August 2009

Them Crooked Vultures Feast Big On Great Music

It seems to be the year of supergroups. After Chickenfoot here is Them Crooked Vultures with members of some of my favourite bands: Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). I'm not sure if fourth member Alain Johannes is an official band member but he's playing with them live. Maybe not as famous but he played with many big artists and can be considered a top guitarist. So when they announced a suprise gig in Amsterdam I didn't hesitate and joined the huge queue straight after work.

Them Crooked Vultures at the Melkweg Amsterdam, August 19 2009 (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)

And I had to wait for 2,5 hours to get my personal ticket and wrist band that would give me access to the highly anticipated gig. Later it turned out there were still tickets left minutes before the gig started but who could have expected it? They rocked the house in Chicago a few weeks ago but besides that not much can be found or heard from the band. But with these great musicians surely this could only be good right?

Even better it turned out to be magical. They showed up on stage at 21.00 and the eager crowd gave them a huge welcome. There was this special vibe as if people knew something big was going to happen but no one was sure what. But when the four started to play it was clear right away: a big fat rock show like it is meant to be. Dave Grohl had a huge smile and while chewing gum gave it all. The guys seemed very cheerful and relaxed and were enjoying the hell out of it. And so did we!

While temperatures were rising fast they played some memorable rock tunes. Big grooves, heavy blues, killer riffs, tempo changes, creative bridges, psychedelic repeating riffs together with pumping drums, pounding bass lines, screaming guitars and a sweaty atmosphere. All the ingredients for a rock heavy night never to forget. It leaned most on the Queens of the Stone Age sound and sometimes it reminded me of their album "Songs for the Deaf" on which Dave Grohl was also sitting behind the drum kit. And it was clear that he belongs there more than anywhere else. His relaxed powerful style and sound are great. Big fat grooves and swinging patterns with rolling fills like his example John Bonham.

John Paul Jones is of course a great bass player and perfect for this rytm section. He entered the stage with a futuristic slide guitar but after that continues on bass. His pumping bass lines go perfectly with Grohl's grooves. Alain Johannes is a great addition to complete this brilliant rythm section. Josh Homme is definitely enjoying himself in this dream group. He seems very relaxed and his vocals and guitar solos and riffs combine perfectly with the rest. His unique sound gives it that Queens of the Stone Age feel but that's inevitable. Halfway the set they play a weird kind of jam on which Homme puts away his guitar and uncomfortable is doing a silly dance. I guess he lost some kind of bet. But for the rest the keep knocking out song after song in this 80 minute set that seems similar to the one in Chicago. The Melkweg roars when they walk off the stage leaving us begging for more. And probably I'll get more on the Lowlands festival on Saturday.

A day after my head's still spinning from what I've experienced. Was it all real? And maybe I get to see them again within a few days! I'm some lucky bastard!

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Wednesday 19 August 2009

Alice in Chains Back in the Groove

The history of Alice in Chains is a known story. Leaving a rich discography they quit (although never officially) years ago after they weren't able to recover from the regretful death of Layne Staley. Now they're back with a new album "Black Gives Way to Blue"(due September 29) and a fresh tour including "new" singer William DuVall.

Alice in Chains at the Melkweg Amsterdam, August 12 2009 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

And of course it's hard not to compare him to Layne Staley. But we can get this out of the way pretty fast. He gives the band a new face but a familiar voice and the fans seem to have accepted him. The rest of the band haven't lost their power either. Guitar player Jerry Cantrell plays some very nice solos while drummer Sean Kinney and bass player Mike Inez lay down some big heavy grooves. DuVall plays the crowd with ease and asks for some feedback now and then. Since the set has quite some slow songs it doesn't really turn the hall into a hard rocking mosh pit but then again that's not really what you would expect. It does create a nice atmosphere and even the loudly chatting guys next to me can't get my out of it.

And so they give a very convincing performance playing many all time favourites like "Angry Chair", "Them Bones", "Would?" and closing with my favourite "Rooster". But they also play a couple of songs of their upcoming album that blend in nicely. It does seem that it will be a dark album with slow heavy grooves like "A Looking in View" and "Acid Bubble" but with the unmistaken unique Alice in Chains sound. And so they're ready for a new chapter and hopefully many nice things to come.

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Tuesday 11 August 2009

Them Crooked Vultures touch down

Rumours were buzzing on the internet for a while. A website showing only one page and directions to Twitter, Facebook and MySpace pages revealed little. But it was appearant that the superband Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) had spoken about in a 2005 interview was taking shape. The band name: "Them Crooked Vultures" and according to Grohl in the same interview "they wouldn't suck".

A little later the band announced their debut gig at the Metro in Chicago on August 10th. The band besides Grohl consisting of Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) opened their set at exactly midnight. No one knew what to expect since no songs had surfaced so far.

Grohl was handling the drums while Homme was on lead vocals and guitar. John Paul Jones as always played bass. Alain Johannes completed the band on guitar although it seems he's not an official member of the band. They played an energetic 80 minute set totalling 12 songs:

New Fang
Scumbag Blues
Dead End Friends
Mind Eraser
Interlude w/ Ludes
Nobodys Loves Me

Read a full description of the gig over here.

Rumours are the band will play surprise gigs at two European festival Pukkelpop and Lowlands. I can't wait to hear some of their songs or see them live at Lowlands! What about you?
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Friday 7 August 2009

Dr. Funkenstein's Practice Open to Anyone

George Clinton is one of those artists that you just have to see once in your life. And better late than never so I finally got to see him in Eindhoven.

George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic in the Effenaar Eindhoven, August 1 2009 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

Well it's fair to say his best years are behind him but you can't blame him. He's well into his sixties and not as vivid as he used to be. So he kind of restricts himself to direct the other band members and tries to control the many people on stage. That's how a George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic night is anyway: many people hopping on and off the stage in a seemingly disorganized performance. But when you look closer it's all pretty good controlled. And it should otherwise it would definitely end up in a mess but exept for a bit of a rough start the set continues in an orderly matter.

The band consists of some long time members like Garry Shider (Diaper Man) and Michael Hampton and some newly added members that probably change a lot as well. Some people only perform maybe on a couple of songs, others are there most of the time. They play many of the styles that Clinton has touched upon with both Parliament and Funkadelic: funk, soul, rock, blues, it's all there making it a varying show. Most of the vocalists get their part in the spot light and show their stuff but the horns and Michael Hampton leave the biggest impression on me with great solo's. Too bad some of the band members are acting a bit static compared to the other lively members.

I still had a great time and it's nice to see a legend as Clinton doing his stuff. I guess it was even better seeing him 20 years ago when he was on top of it all.

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