Wednesday 5 November 2014

Golden Spoon For London Calling

In the beginning the London Calling festival was all about promoting unknown bands from the London area. This slowly changed to promising Britpop bands and after that to indie bands in general. Now they are also adding established indie bands and this edition no one less than indie veterans Sebadoh and Spoon are lined up for the Saturday of the two day festival. Time to visit the festival again I'd say.

London Calling 2014 #2 at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 1 2014

The festival is always off to an early start, way too early for me, so by the time I arrive at the venue, Sebadoh have already taken the stage.

Despite the fact this band has been around since 1986 I never saw them play before. They did go on a long break in 1999 and returned to the stage in 2007 for a reunion. Last year they even released a new album Defend Yourself. Bassist Lou Barlow, the only one left of the two founding members, also plays bass in Dinosaur Jr. and is accompanied by Jason Loewenstein on guitar and Bob D'Amico on drums. But the trio isn't having a great night. Besides playing a somewhat obscure set list with not many hits, they look extremely unhappy with their sound. Loewenstein is singing the first half of the show and keeps messing around with his guitar and mic stand. When he switches places with Barlow, this time it is Barlow who is clearly troubled by the sound. It results in a messy performance with lots of breaks and hiccups. Barlow claims "we are terrible at festival shows", followed by Loewenstein: "festival shows are terrible at us". Maybe so, at least tonight is clear they were not having their best day.

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D.D. Dumbo
We watch the show by multi instrumentalist D.D. Dumbo, real name Oliver Hugh Perry, on the screen in the big hall. He brought a pile of pedals and other equipment including a loop station. This seems to be really popular nowadays and Perry uses it creatively while playing a twelve string guitar. It is of course quite clever what he's doing, but nothing we never saw before. Also his songs aren't all very original, but still he's able to play an entertaining set.

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The Mispers
Young band The Mispers are quite excited to play here tonight, especially singer Jack Balfour Scott, who is going through all the rock poses he memorized very hard at home. He's putting way too much cheese on it, together with an annoying effect on his vocals, which is too much in the end. Their songs are very catchy and the violin is a nice addition. It is doubled by keyboard strings a lot though, which is a shame. The keyboard player is also playing bass now and then, which makes it clear they need a bass player, because the songs without bass lack groove. The music needs more variation and without bass it is missing depth, making the songs sound alike a lot. Still this band could get quite interesting in a few years.

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Fever The Ghost
The small hall is packed for Fever The Ghost, but by the end of their show it's half empty. Covered in a cape, singer Casper Indrizzo's vocals are distorted most of the time, resulting in a spooky voice. He's backed up by lots of electronic noise, guitar and wild drums. There doesn't seem to be much of a direction in their music and the songs aren't allowed to breath, filling up every bit of space. But once and a while you can hear an interesting part of a song, especially when they take it more easy and get all psychedelic. It is actually quite interesting but this band needs to focus (a lot) and learn that less is more. There's no shortage of ideas that's for sure.

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Josef Salvat
After all this madness, Josef Salvat is taking it more slow. Judging from the big turn up, many people want to hear his cotton candy pop songs. This is working well for him, when he's keeping the songs small. After an intimate moment behind the piano, where he's asking in vain for a moment of silence, the music changes. The band is sticking layers of ugly keyboard parts and noise on top of the songs and is transforming them into mediocre top 40 tracks. I guess that's what Salvat is aiming for.

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Of course tonight's big headliner is Spoon, who came up with one of their best records in their career and probably of this year. They Want My Soul already shows the band is peaking and they are proving that tonight. With a spot on performance, for over one and a half hour, the band is playing perfect indie rock songs. It's a more than convincing show, downgrading all the other bands tonight to support act. Spoon is way too big for this festival, but I'm so glad they are here. The other bands must have watched them in awe, realizing the road to success is still long. That's okay, since it took Spoon twenty years to get to this point. Tonight they got the perfect example on how to entertain a crowd with great songs, played in a very tight way.

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After this highlight we call it a day, since nothing can top this any more. It is as if we've witnessed an indie rock master class. Hopefully next time, the upcoming bands can surprise us again as well.

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