Friday 9 November 2012

London Calling Throws Great 20th Birthday Party

After skipping a few editions of the London Calling festival we decided it was time to pay it a visit again. This year they are celebrating their 20th anniversary and for this edition came up with a great line-up. Both days have some great and interesting bands lined up. Like always we only visit the second day. And because the small hall upstairs can get pretty crowded we decide to stay downstairs for the whole night and watch the bands playing the small stage on the big screen. Also traditionally we miss out on the first bands. So hopefully we can catch Peace and Oppossom some other time.

London Calling 2012 #2 at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 3 2012

This all-female band fronted by high heeled Jehnny Beth, who some may know as Camille Berthomier from John & Jehn, still have to come up with their first album, but already are the talk of the town. And so the main hall is buzzing with anticipation when the dark and punky songs pound away. It's a thrilling show, where especially bass player Ayse Hassan is impressing with great pumping grooves. They could use more variation and dynamics though, but it's obvious why this band is drawing all this attention. The combination of Beth's twitching moves and her dark, almost aggressive stage act, is intriguing to watch.

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On the big screen we watch Exitmusic play their show in the upper small hall. Their shoegaze inspired music sounds interesting but also quite messy. The band members look static and show no interest in the crowd. Somehow it doesn't want to stick to me and just kind of passes by.

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Jessie Ware
Probably because of her little hit song 'Wildest Moments', Jessie Ware is programmed to play the main stage. Her experience as backing vocalist is paying off and her voice is golden. But it never exceeds the performance of any Idols or X-Factor contestant. Music and performing is more than just being able to sing. Her songs are mediocre and boring. Her band are anonymously playing their parts and are probably session musicians just doing their job. She really needs to spice up her act and music or just stick to backing vocals.

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Micachu & The Shapes
Without a doubt one of the weirdest bands music wise on this edition. Micachu & The Shapes, fronted by Mica Levi, are making complex music full of twists and turns. It may not be the right time and place for this band tonight. The music fails to grasp me for a bit. I'm pretty sure it's all thought-through and pretty skilled, but it sounds to me they are just making it complex to sound interesting and are really over complicating their music.

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Wild Nothing
Over complicating is one thing Wild Nothing cannot be accused of. Their music sounds catchy and they have many nice songs. It's still a bit rough around the edges and not everything works equally well. If singer Jack Tatum could improve on his singing and use more dynamics in his vocals it would already help. Now his voice sounds a bit thin most of the time. But this band is definitely showing potential.

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Theme Park
Another band with potential are Theme Park. They are one of those band where this festival once started for in the first place. The songs are good, well-written and very pleasant to listen to. When they play their cards right they should have no trouble finding plenty of festival slots next summer.

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The Walkmen
It was quite a surprise when The Walkmen were announced to play London Calling. Among the bands that still have to release a first album they are the biggest and most professional of all with over ten years of experience and seven studio albums. And that is showing tonight. It's the absolute highlight of the night. Hamilton Leithauser is looking confident and has a good voice. It is one of those voices though, that some people may dislike, but he's a strong singer. The set list has a lot of variation with catchy up-tempo songs, and intimate acoustic ballads. Especially Leithauser and Paul Maroon, on guitar and piano, are excelling tonight. I'm sure they have won over many fans and should be able to come back to this stage on their own next time.

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Melody's Echo Chamber
We catch a bit of Melody's Echo Chamber and although Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, who I saw here less than a week ago, helped her out, it fails to impress me. Of course she's lovely to look at and sometimes the music is spacing out Parker-style. But it's not enough to keep us in. Maybe it's because we're watching it on the big screen, combined with several beers, but we decide to call it a day.

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And what a night it was! Afterwards I hear we missed a great show by Chromatics later that night, not in the least because of Ruth Radelet's appearance. But today was already chuck full of good performances and promising bands, something that we missed the last couple of times we attended. It will be hard to top this in a next edition I guess.

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