Thursday, 25 July 2013

Thee Oh Sees Break Out A Sweat

The Californian band Thee Oh Sees were a sensation earlier this year at Le Guess Who? Mayday edition. Their garage punkrock and energetic performance impressed everyone including the critics. You would think they were the latest hot newcomer, but have been around since 1997. The productive band that saw many name changes released seven records in five years as Thee Oh Sees. Front man John Dwyer is in more bands than there are "bitches" in an average hip-hop song. Time to go see this band for myself.

Thee Oh Sees at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, July 22 2013

Today is probably one of the hottest days this year and we may be in the middle of a heat wave. Although it is warm in the Bitterzoet club, it could be worse. But Thee Oh Sees are warming up the sold out club a lot more. Right from the start they are showing they mean business. Within no time a pit forms in front of the stage that keeps on going until the end of the show. Where do those youngsters get the energy from? They get it from the hard rocking band, with their catchy garage rock songs.

Those songs have more to offer than you would think. The solid and tight rhythm section, Petey Dammit on bass and Mike Shoun on drums, is laying down grooves that make it impossible to stand still. On top Dwyer is playing his irresistable riffs. Brigid Dawson is finishing it off with subtle synth parts and tambourine. She's also adding background vocals and harmonies into the mix that shouldn't be underestimated. Together with Dwyer's vocals the result is stunning: a contagious and lively performance.

Compared to the records the songs get more rough which is a very good thing. Songs are getting longer versions because of added jams. Drums and bass are often creating repeating grooves in those jams, that make you go into a trance. Explosions of noise will get you back to reality again. It creates so much energy that the club explodes with them and sparks some occasional crowd surfing. The whole time the band keeps a fast pass, except once in the encore during a slower song. By that time every one is soaking wet. Their latest album Floating Coffin proves this band can make great music and write snappy songs. However live on stage they are showing to be even better.

Unfortunately it is hard to make decent pictures with a compact camera in Bitterzoet because of the lighting. Anyway here are the ones where at least you can make out what's in the picture.

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Play A Very Tight Show

Earlier this year NY band Yeah Yeah Yeahs released their fourth album Mosquito. It was received with somewhat mixed response. It is a good album but just can't compete with Show Your Bones and It's Blitz!. Known for the lively performance of front woman Karen O they are always worth checking out.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Paradiso Amsterdam, July 17 2013

In the hot venue tonight Karen O is appropriately dressed in shorts. She's also wearing a jacket and this is obviously a bit too warm. It doesn't slow her down whatsoever. She's one of those people who are born to be on stage. It all seems to come so natural to her. From our position, close to the speakers to one of the sides of the stage, the sound is a bit off balance. The bass and drums are very loud, but the vocals are hard to hear. Probably because in this position the low sound is drowning her high voice. Originally a trio, live on stage Dave Pajo is helping them out on bass.

Set opener is latest single 'Sacrilege' off the new album. About half of Mosquito makes it into the set. The songs are scattered throughout. The rest is a nice overview of their entire catalogue, not ignoring any of the other albums. What is becoming very obvious tonight is what a tight band this is. Drummer Brian Chase's grooves are solid, loud and very tight. Guitarist Nick Zinner is a very creative guitar player, mostly looking down to control the many pedals and effects around him. Of course during their biggest hits 'Zero' and 'Heads Will Roll' Paradiso's main hall explodes. The band is clearly pleased by this response, judging from the smile on Karen O's and Chaser's face.

Karen O is smiling a lot anyway. It is one of her regular facial expressions while performing. Once and a while she's singing with her eyes closed, next thing she's jumping up and down or in circles, looking like a kid in a candy store. It's a delight to watch her perform. After a total of fifteen songs including three in the encore and a final blow from one of the confetti cannons, the 75 minute set is over. That is quite short I think, but it sure was a fun night. Yeah indeed!

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01. Sacrilege
02. Gold Lion
03. Mosquito
04. Phenomena
05. Slave
06. Zero
07. Soft Shock
08. Subway
09. Cheated Hearts
10. Pin
11. Machine
12. Heads Will Roll
13. Despair
14. Maps
15. Tick

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Monday, 15 July 2013

Rock Werchter 2013 Day 4: Dancing In The Dark

The final day of the festival doesn't look so good on paper. It's not a great program today, which may just be better for us. There's more time for just lingering around and to give our aching and tired bodies more rest. And we start in the grass with a nice ice cream.

Rock Werchter 2013 Day 4, July 7 2013

Twin Forks
While enjoying our ice cream we watch the first main stage band of the day, Twin Forks. Where did they get this band? It must have come with another band in some kind of package deal. This group doesn't belong here. They may be shiny happy people but it's just a mediocre cover band. Since they are playing many covers in a poor way and their own songs are even worse. We try to get in at Bastille's performance, but it's too full. The programmers need to get used to programming three stages. The main stage has hard-core band A Day To Remember at the same time, which won't draw a big crowd. So many people want to go over here instead. More time to take it easy and have some cava. In the end we're almost too late for Haim and can only catch the last ten minutes. Based on that I'd like to see them again.

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Band of Horses
Finally there's a band I really want to see. And they don't disappoint. Band Of Horses is playing a very good set. Singer Ben Bridwell's voice is clear and he's smiling most of the time. It's still quite a difficult time to play at the end of the afternoon of this hot last day, but they are definitely putting all their heart into it. We get treated to many nice songs. Their mix of southern rock and country is suitable for this sultry afternoon. Afterwards we leave the festival site to eat something and make sure not to hear anything of Thirty Seconds To Mars.

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Depeche Mode
We're back in time for Depeche Mode. A few years ago they closed the festival and left mixed feelings. It was good, but the band forgot about playing on a festival. They played many new songs at that time and had a dark and mostly slow set. Today it looks like it will be the same. The first song 'Welcome To My World' is a new song and more will follow. But it turns out the set is building up in a smart way. Slowly they are working to a climax and give the crowd what they want. 'Enjoy The Silence', 'Personal Jesus', 'I Feel You' and of course 'I Just Can't Get Enough' are all in the last "greatest hits" part of the show. Dave Gahan is in great shape, his voice is strong and clear and he's moving around the stage like in his best years. Finally this day is starting to look better.

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Last year at Rock Werchter Editors found the right combination again to continue as a band. As a result they released the new album The Weight Of Your Love a few weeks back. It shows a different Editors, a lighter version, with big stadium songs (full review over here soon). Singer Tom Smith starts out on his own though with an intimate 'Nothing' on piano. We get a nice overview of all four albums. Big hits like 'Munich' and 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Door' are alternating with new songs 'A Ton Of Love' and 'Formaldehyde'. The new songs actually sound good and work well on a big stage in front of a huge crowd. Highlights of the show are the great intimate cover version of Springsteen's 'Dancing In The Dark' and an explosive 'Papillon'. I just don't understand why they didn't close with that last one but played 'Honesty' after that. Maybe they tried to squeeze in too many new songs. We could have gone out on a bigger high instead.

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Still it was a great closing act of another wonderful edition of Rock Werchter. Again we've seen so many strong performances and wonderful bands. In the end I watched great music and had a blast with my friends as well. Doesn't get a lot better than that does it? Well, I could have gotten my cervelas in the end, which I didn't. Hello Mr Piler, time for one last round?

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Rock Werchter 2013 Day 1
Rock Werchter 2013 Day 2
Rock Werchter 2013 Day 3

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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Rock Werchter 2013 Day 3: On Fire

Summertime is really trying to make a point now and the sun is getting really hot. It's impossible to make it past 10.30am in our tent and we arrive at the festival ground early. Plenty of time to down a few espressos and get ready for the first band.

Rock Werchter 2013 Day 3, July 6 2013

The Van Jets
Rock Werchter usually has a Belgian band open the main stage one of the days and I got to know some fine bands because of that like Triggerfinger. I already know The Van Jets and I like their pop/rock songs. The band is playing a tight set where front man Johannes Verschaeve is working hard. With songs like 'Broken Bones' and 'The Future' there's plenty ammunition to win over the crowd. But it's hard to compete with the sun and hangovers. Many people decide to lie down in the grass and watch the stage from there, although I do think they have made a few new fans. Better go see this band in a club next time.

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A Swedish band that is playing old school hard rock and blues is always a good thing to check out. Graveyard look like they stepped into a time machine in the seventies. Singer Joakim Nilsson has an interesting voice. It has a lot of bass when he's singing low registers, but gets more hoars when he's singing higher. They bring their blues and hardrock songs with a lot of heart. The band looks quite unmoved, but they are letting their music speak. Bluesy ballads are followed by heavy grooving rock songs. This is what I like a lot so I'll be watching these guys more closely from now on.

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I used to really like Welsh rock band Stereophonics. But their last few albums just don't cut it for me. Also their last performance I saw a few years back on this exact same stage was quite poor and uninspired. But I'm glad to see the band are doing well again. The songs sound convincing and the band are enjoying themselves. Singer Kelly Jones never was a talker, but he is even chatting to the crowd now and then. Hits like 'Maybe Tomorrow' and 'Mr. Writer' never sounded better and are pleasing the crowd. Of course everybody is joining in on closer 'Dakota' and I think Stereophonics made many friends today.

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Django Django
Django Django has too many friends. The tent is overcrowded and very hot. There's a big party starting wherever they play and today is no exception. Although many people are leaving after they played their hit song 'Default'. Too bad since this band deserves full attention for an entire set. Their intelligent mix of percussive dance music and fresh catchy guitar riffs is wonderful to hear.

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The times I saw Nick Cave perform here before, I was up front in the pit and was stunned. This time I kind of keep my distance to the stage. It makes it harder for me to get into his performance. It's not easy getting into his dark poetic songs when the sun is burning your skin. But Cave doesn't take things easy and is working hard to please the crowd. He's spending a lot time at the front, where he's even signing autographs during his performance. In the end he definitely knows to grab me again with brilliant songs like 'Into My Arms', 'Mercy Chair', the wonderful 'Red Right Hand' and a vicious 'Stagger Lee'. See you in November Mr. Cave.

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Tame Impala
If your forgot to pack some items to "broaden your mind", don't worry. Who needs drugs when you have Tame Impala? I always have trouble getting into their live shows. I really love their music. Mastermind Kevin Parker is a true genius, but something is missing on stage. It still is quite a mind-blowing performance once again, with long spacy jams, hallucinating vocals and great versions of 'Mind Mischief' and 'Elephant'. So I do leave on a high without even using mushrooms but only Joe Piler by my side.

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Short of options we decide to hang around the main stage. And so we're "lucky" enough to see Volbeat struggle through their set. It seems to get worse every time I see them. Their music only is loud and uncouth, with no subtleties. Their set is far from tight and even the cover songs sound horrible. Singer Michael Poulsen's voice is not too good and is getting quite boring after a while. So does their performance. Too bad they keep popping up at festivals a lot.

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Hopefully Volbeat were watching Rammstein after their own set. I've seen them several times and their music doesn't really appeal to me. But once again I was impressed with their amazing show. A tightly directed flaming roller-coaster ride through their music catalogue. Sometimes it gets real cheesy like during 'Bück Dich' when singer Till Lindermann uses a dildo to spray some fluids all over keyboard player Christian Lorenz. But somehow they can pull it off. Of course the fireworks are impressive and well timed. This is the reason why programmers keep booking them for closing headline spots at festivals. They sure deliver on it.

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After the sun has been burning our skin and Rammstein burning our eyes it's time for some refreshments. Now Mr. Piler where are they keeping those cervelas since I still haven't had any!

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Rock Werchter 2013 Day 1
Rock Werchter 2013 Day 2
Rock Werchter 2013 Day 4

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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Rock Werchter 2013 Day 2: Blurry Night

Traditionally I get quite wasted the first day of a festival and pretty bad at the beginning of the next day. But today I actually don't feel that bad. The weather is only getting more beautiful and Joe Piler never looked better. The line-up today doesn't look that good, but I don't care. Since today I'm finally going to see Blur and that alone makes it a great day.

Rock Werchter 2013 Day 2, July 5 2013

Charles Bradley
What better way to start a day with a good hug? Charles Bradley not only gives out hugs during his show. His music feels like a one big hug. He may look like your grandpa, but what a cool grandpa. His voice is strong, his music a crossover between James Brown and Otis Redding. With his James Brown-impersonator past, he borrowed some moves from the "Godfather of Soul". They may not look that flexible all the time, but I'd like to see any of us doing them at 65. Sometimes Bradley picks up the mic stand and carries it around like a heavy burden on his shoulder. And telling from the documentary 'Charles Bradley: Soul Of America' he has quite a burden to carry. Every word he sings is full of emotion and sounds honest. In the end he fills the tent with his love and puts a smile on every person's face.

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Gary Clark Jr.
It's not a bad thing when you're called the new Jimi Hendrix. At the same time it's quite a statement to live up to. Gary Clark Jr. sure looks a bit like the legendary guitar player. His drummer could even be a new Mitch Mitchell with his curly hair. Clark certainly is trying to continue the master's legacy. His blues and rock songs are topped off with long guitar solos and jams. His guitar playing skills are unmistakable, but it misses the rough edges and urgency of Hendrix. Despite that it sounds promising and maybe he will be prove to be Jimi's reincarnation after all. I'll sure keep an eye out for him.

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Two Door Cinema Club
We catch the end of The Bots' show on the main stage. Two young boys on this huge stage. The end is a bit chaotic and we don't get to watch many songs since they're chatting a lot. I guess they need to grow more. There's still plenty of time for that. Two Door Cinema Club know how to deal with these kind of stages and crowds. By now many people have found their way to the festival ground and have met Joe Piler. And so the band find a willing crowd for jumping and dancing to their catchy songs. It actually sounds nice, but I notice many songs use the same off-beat pattern and follow a similar recipe. Although I enjoyed it, they still haven't fully convinced me. Some of their songs like 'What You Know' and 'Undercover Martyn' are great crowd pleasers of course.

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The Hives
I have witnessed a few The Hives shows before and never get bored of them. This time we decide to take a look up close and we like what we see. Of course they play their usual show. Singer Pele Almqvist is acting like the biggest rock star and his brother guitar player Niklas is adding funny faces to his over the top performance. But it's all part of a The Hives show. It may not be new anymore, but songs like 'Hate To Say I Told You So' and 'Tick Tick Boom' make everyone move. In the end we had a great time once again.

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Kings of Leon
Last year the Followill boys had quite a stormy end of their tour. It looked like the band had a complete breakdown and they needed a break. It has done them well. Their performance is solid, tight and powerful. But where is the fun guys? They play everything on routine and don't seem to enjoy themselves a bit. Although singer Caleb is trying to connect to the crowd more and more, there's still no passion or love. And isn't that what a band should do when playing live? It's still quite impressive though what 'Sex On Fire' can do to a willing crowd.

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Finally it's time for the moment I have been waiting for. Blur are kicking off with 'Girls & Boys' which is getting everyone to jump right away. Damon Albarn doesn't look really pleased in the beginning but they seem to be enjoying themselves after a while. With so many great songs to choose from they come up with a nice greatest hits show. Of course 'Beetlebum', 'There's No Other Way', 'Country House' all find their way into the set. Fortunately they also play my personal favourites 'Out Of Time' and 'Coffee & TV'. It's a nicely balanced set, with some quiet moments as well. The beautiful 'Under The Westway' brings out the goose bumps. Halfway the four lads seem to be totally into it and are exchanging smiles. I'm so pleased the many British fans around me are singing their number one Blur song 'The Universal' out loud. When 'Song 2' closes the show the whole field explodes into one big "woohoo!". Just magical!

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At this point I'm just intensely happy. So me and my friends grab Joe Piler by the hand and we dance away into the night.

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Rock Werchter 2013 Day 1
Rock Werchter 2013 Day 3
Rock Werchter 2013 Day 4

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Friday, 12 July 2013

Rock Werchter 2013 Day 1: Wild Start

After our traditional pre-Werchter BBQ at friends in Belgium we make our way to the festival in no time. There's quite a big line outside the camping ground and we're afraid we may miss out on the first bands. But the line outside the festival site turns out to be quite short when we get there. We stack up on food and drink tickets, assure ourselves that Joe Piler's beers are fine again and find our way to the new KluBC tent that replaces the Pyramid Marquee.

Rock Werchter 2013 Day 1, July 4 2013

There we find a bunch of young lads working up a sweat playing punk songs. Fidlar, an acronym for "Fuck It Dog, Life's A Risk" (what's in a name), take the stage by storm. Their excitement is quite contagious and it doesn't take long before we see the first crowd surfers of the festival. It's nice to see this young band play a convincing set. It's only the first band of the festival and already we're smiling and feel right at home again. Keep them coming!

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Palma Violets
Another young band are making their way over here from the UK on a small hype. Their hit song 'Best of Friends' was made the national anthem for this year and as I experienced myself earlier this year they know how to throw a party. They sure give it a good try but it's much harder to please a festival crowd this early at the day when they are still admiring the festival site and sipping their first beer. Although their big hit does make for a wild pit in front of the stage, many people decide to take a look elsewhere.

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Vintage Trouble
I didn't exactly get swept off my feet after listening to a few of Vintage Trouble's songs. It's a mix of soul and good old rhythm 'n' blues that seems a bit too neatly on record. But after seeing their performance on the David Letterman show, I knew it's a totally different ball game when they play live. They sure showed that today. Singer Ty Taylor is a charismatic entertainer who is really working hard to please the crowd. He's backed up by a lively and solid band. Their songs that sound more rough live on stage are definitely going down well with the crowd. It makes for the first pleasant surprise of this weekend.

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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
We catch half of the show of Black Rebel Motorcycle club who have an early spot on the main stage. They're always good for some solid rock 'n' roll. The songs of the last album are a bit more slow though and this makes it hard for them to win many people over. Of course they have a few smash hits like 'Spread Your Love' up their sleeves to end on a high. But I'd rather see them in a dark sweaty club rocking me off my socks.

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Belgian band Balthazar sure have come a long way since I saw them live for the first time over here a few years back. Their second album is a huge success and their fanbase is growing fast. The tight set is showing why. The band is focused and the songs of both albums mix well. The skilful tracks leave a big impression in the tent. People all the way to the back are joining in to the 'Blood Like Wine' lyrics "Raise your glass to the nighttime and the ways". And so we raise our Joe Piler to the sky as well.

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Biffy Clyro
I'm not really fond of this Scottish band's music. Especially their last few albums don't do it for me, after they made their sound more accessible and their music became more predictable. It turned into music for teenage girls now. But their big live reputation is preceding them so I want to see that for myself. They do a good job and play their songs well. It's a convincing performance that is enjoyed by a full tent. But still their music doesn't really appeal to me. Fans of the band had a great time though I'm sure.

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The National
It's a different story for The National. I love their sad music. I don't care when people call it "music your dad likes". Live on stage it makes an even bigger impression. Singer Matt Berninger's intense performance and thundering voice give the songs even more power. He seems to be more relaxed and comfortable nowadays though. A huge screen that fills the entire back of the monstrous stage, supports the songs that are a nice overview of their catalogue. Berninger is looking for contact with the fans a lot and finds himself among them later on while continuing singing. The euphoria and bright environment are a strange contrast to the gloomy songs of this strong show. Looking forward to seeing their full show in November in the dark Heineken Music Hall!

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Bloc Party
A drawing that was left in the dressing room at a festival last week, made clear this is going to be the last Bloc Party gig I'll ever see. The band is slowly imploding and will probably call it quits after they finish their tour later this month. In the meanwhile drummer Matt Thong already left the band. It is clear the band is in trouble. The chemistry is gone on stage and singer Kele Okereke isn't the charming, happy and chatty person he normally is. Instead the band is playing on routine and are probably dragging themselves to the end of the tour. It is still turning into a big party because the crowd is willing to throw one. Every song is greeted with big cheers. The big hits make the tent explode. This eventually has a positive effect on the band, who are playing better than to be expected. They couldn't have wished for a better Belgian farewell party.

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Green Day
After Billie Joe Armstrong had a breakdown last year, things didn't look good for Green Day. However rehab made him overcome his problems and Green Day are headlining festivals across Europe again. It's nothing you haven't seen them do before. It's the usual circus complete with dress-up parties and craziness. I don't think their music is that interesting and it is way too cheesy. But Armstrong looks like he's in shape, is performing well and the band are playing a worthy headline set.

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We dance a bit with Netsky before it's time to check out some of the bars outside and go search for a cervela, that nice Belgian sausage, to celebrate this amazing day. But they're not selling them or are all gone. Better luck tomorrow.

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Rock Werchter 2013 Day 2
Rock Werchter 2013 Day 3
Rock Werchter 2013 Day 4

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Monday, 1 July 2013

Sniffing The Grass: A Rock Werchter 2013 Warmup

Although summer has been letting us down so far, the festival season is hot at the moment and the weather fortunately seems to be heating up. Just in time for our first big festival this year, Rock Werchter. We've lost count but it has to be somewhere around the tenth time in a row we travel South into Belgium to immerse ourselves into music, "frietjes stoofvlees" and Belgian beers for four days. Let's see what bands are interesting to go see this year.

If we can get to the stage in time let's start off on a high and let Fidlar warm up our ear drums. We can continue the party with Palma Violets, who already proved to throw a good party. After that we can choose between Airbourne, Vintage Trouble or The Black Angels who all haven't convinced me yet. Who convinced me long time ago though are Black Rebel Motorcycle Club with their greasy rock songs. I got to know Balthazar a few years ago over here and that I loved ever since are back! I don't really like Biffy Clyro's music but their live shows should be good. Of course The National is a no-brainer for me. I just love their dark songs and their last album once again is wonderful. It looks like Bloc Party is slowly starting to implode, but somehow they are still able to please me. This might well be the last time I can see them play. I don't really like any of the bands that follow afterward, no even not Greenday (too much of a circus) and Sigur Rós (just doesn't do it for me). So I may have an early start on the party outside!

Rise and shine early today and then have breakfast with the "screaming eagle of soul" mr. Charles Bradley, with his honest soul music straight from the heart. Another duo making garage rock like The Black Keys, The White Stripes and Blood Red Shoes are The Bots. They add a bit of punk to it. Let's see if they can top those famous other bands. Two Door Cinema Club just can't win me over with their catchy songs. I'll give them another shot. The Hives won me over long ago and are most certainly going to rock the main stage. Let's see if crooner Richard Hawley can do the same with his music as well. Phoenix are supposed to give great live performances so I want to find out if that's true. Kings of Leon can be quite entertaining and since there's no alternative to my taste I might as well go see them. Who I'll definitely watch are Blur of course who are the top headliner for me. I hope there will be plenty of British fans up front there to throw a great party.

Another early rise to go check out Belgium's own The Van Jets who play great pop/rock songs. Another Belgian band I'll probably watch after that are SX who recorded some very promising music. I'm a sucker for groovy blues rock inspired by the seventies and Graveyard are the ones who are playing exactly that. Stereophonics' last couple of albums weren't that great but they made some great music in the past. Their last performance over here wasn't that good, so hopefully they are more into it today. Django Django will definitely throw a party with their catchy and danceable rock songs. Another one of my favourite headliners is Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. He never let us down and for sure will take the main stage by storm again. I love Tame Impala's music, but somehow their live shows are never as good as I hope they will be. However their music is so good that I'll definitely will join their psychedelic songs for a trip. Another early party or watch Rammstein's explosive show again that I've seen so many times before?

No need to get up early today which is probably welcoming after three festival days. This day is not the best day for me, since it has many bands in the line-up that I don't really like. Maybe we'll go check out Bastille and Haim. Should I give Alt-J another chance? Everyone is adoring them, but like indie fan favourite Sigur Rós they just aren't appealing to me. I'd like to see Band of Horses, since I think their subdued rock songs may be worth a visit. Time for some nice food to make sure we will definitely avoid Thirty Seconds To Mars and Jared Leto's ego show. Hopefully The Gaslight Anthem are having a good day and treat us to good versions of their Springsteen-like rock songs. And I'm sure we'll go out on a high with Depeche Mode and Editors, who will set the main stage on fire with their dark music.

Check out a nice block schedule over here. Or go over to fellow blogger TBeest for another block schedule and an extensive run down of some of the bands if you know how to read Dutch. See you over there in Belgium?

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