Friday 1 June 2012

Pinkpop Mellow In Hot Sun

This year I only needed one word to make the trip down south to the Pinkpop festival: Soundgarden. I just can't get enough of this band and somehow managed to never see them live in the nineties. The rest of the program didn't really look spectacular although there was probably going to be plenty to enjoy. The weather forecast couldn't have looked better so we headed to the festival in good spirit under a clear sky and a bright sun.

Pinkpop Festival at Landgraaf, Day 2 Sunday May 27 2012

We followed the same routine as past years: driving there following our gps navigation and ignoring all the official festival traffic signs. We made it to the small town centre of Landgraaf without a problem and only 10 minutes after the festival gates opened we were ordering our first and last cup of coffee of the day. Enough time to get in the festival mood, go over the schedule and get a good taste of the cold beers. The festival season was taking off for us.

Babylon Circus
First up are Babylon Circus, a ten piece band from Lyon in France. They are playing a mix of reggae and ska. With the sun climbing higher you can't have a better start. And the band members know this as well. They are putting a lot of effort in it, firing off their catchy summer tunes to the crowd. So even though part of the crowd alreay have one hot festival day behind them, many people are showing off the first dance moves of the day. The French musicians are a great festival act and are just what you need to get a party started.

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The sun is already starting to burn on our necks and faces so it's time to take it a bit slower. Racoon have grown from an indie rock band with jumpy songs into a pop band with mostly acoustic and folky sounding slow tunes. For me this is their weak spot. Many songs have the same tempo and for someone who doesn't know them very well, they are hard to keep apart. But they are playing them with a lot of heart and very convincingly.

Singer Bart van der Weide has a great unique voice, that can be vulnerable at times but also powerful at other times. The addition of strings is a smart move. They add more depth to the music. It gives them a chance to play their version of 'Eleanor Rigby', which is the highlight of their set. Their own songs can't match that, although 'Don't Give Up The Fight', that was written for the a little boy called Jayden who passed away, is putting a lumb in many a throat.

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Time to spice it up a bit again. Well, a bit. Mastodon are not the band to take it slow. Their havy guitars and grooves are beating down on the crowd. It may not be really subtle, but it is quite effective. Especially when they pace themselves a bit it reminds me of Therapy? from time to time. Other times it kind of gets too rough and it loses too much dynamics. All in all not a bad way to keep us from slowly dozing off in the sun.

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The Kyteman Orchestra
Colin Benders took our country by storm a few years ago as Kyteman. His debut album with a mix of hip hop and jazzy tunes was an instant hit. But especially the huge band live on stage was an impressive sight. His second album The Kyteman Orchestra that was released in March is even more ambitious. Pieces of opera and classical music mixed with hip hop and jazz. I can only respect Benders for taking up such a complex, ambitious and risky project, but the album didn't really appeal to me. But his live performances gained a lot of critical acclaim again.

And he is proving that on the Pinkpop main stage. The big stage is full of musicians, instruments and a complete choir. The variety in sound and musical directions don't miss their effect. Some people are watching in awe while other people turn their back. I guess it may not be the kind of music for every one, but I think it is a huge hit again. It's very impressive how Benders managed to translate his complex music into a live performance.

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Finally it is time to meet one of my favourite bands up close. And up close we get. We go into the front pit as close to the stage as possible. A loud and low noise is revealing their arrival to the main stage. They kick off with 'Searching With My Good Eye Closed'. From our position the sound is pretty bad. During the song it is improving, but it never really turns decent enough. Chris Cornell's voice sounds great today and once again is showing why he's considered one of the best rock singers. It's great so see the band back together. Matt Cameron is driving the big heavy engine with some tight drumming.

Maybe the band isn't as tight during the whole set or they may be less active than in their glory days, but I'm definitely enjoying any second of their set. For a true fan like me it's just great watching them play classics like 'Spoonman', 'Rusty Cage' and 'Black Hole Sun'. They end their set with a great 'Slaves & Bulldozers'. So it didn't really become legendary, which apparently disappointed some people. But it was still an excellent performance for any Soundgarden fan or any one who likes some good heavy rock music.

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Since Keane and Linkin Park aren't really our cup of tea, we decided to have another beer and take on our three hour drive back home. Day two of the festival wasn't exactly spectacular. It had a couple of good performances but nothing extraordinary or surprising. None of the bands really outdid themselves. But with the nice weather, good music, great company and the return of my heroes it was still a successful day. Our festival season has officially been opened!

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