Wednesday 27 May 2015

On Stage: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

The star of Ruban Nielson's Unkown Mortal Orchestra is rising. The Bitterzoet show sold out pretty fast, at least faster than I expected, so it left me without a ticket. Fortunately TicketSwap came to the rescue and I was able to get a ticket in the end. After listening to the new album Multi-Love I was really happy that I was able to get in since I definitely wanted to hear the new songs live.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, May 25 2015

The small but cosy venue is absolutely packed and we find ourselves a place all the way in the back. The band is off to a great start with a reborn Nielson who looks like he's in a good mood and more comfortable than the last time I saw them. New songs 'Necessary Evil' and 'The World Is Crowded' sound great where you can clearly hear the Prince and Sly Stone influences. The addition of keyboard player Quincy McCrary is a good one, which adds more soul to the songs. The new songs do sound more soulful and swinging anyway.

Somehow halfway the show the band seems to run out of steam and a couple of songs sound a bit uninspired. I have seen them play 'So Good At Being In Trouble' a lot better before. Fortunately things pick up again with 'Ffunny Ffends' and 'Multi-Love' where the band seems to find their groove again. The solo piano part that leads to 'Ffunny Ffends' is simply sublime and takes the song to new levels. At the end of the show they come back for an encore to play 'Can't Keep Checking My Phone' which is a great choice. The swinging song with it's disco beat is a wonderful way to end the gig on a high. It is typical for Nielson and co. that their shows can have several different faces. But you know it will never get boring. And at the moments where Nielson is working his magic on guitar and the songs totally take off it is pure bliss. Fortunately tonight there were plenty of those moments.

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Tuesday 26 May 2015

On Stage: Danko Jones

Canadian rockers Danko Jones were supposed to play the small hall of the Melkweg in March that sold out quickly. However front man Danko Jones lost his voice and they were forced to cancel part of their tour. Probably no one was more gutted than Jones himself and as fast as possible they found a new date. At the same time the show was moved to the big hall, The Max.

Danko Jones at Melkweg Amsterdam, May 22 2015

When Jones mentions the canceled gig, there is some booing, which obviously surprises him. The booing is a weird reaction to the fact that Danko Jones only wants his fans to get a top notch show and that includes his voice. But it doesn't spoil his mood, on the contrary. Like he says himself, they will work even harder to make up for it. Anyone who has seen this band in the past knows this means that is hardly possible, since this is a rock group that always delivers the full 100% and never disappoints. Together with a very good new record Fire Music this promises to be a good night.

The band does deliver big time, with an explosive rock show full of powerful songs and a group that is in great shape. While Jones is playing the crowd in his usual fashion, bass player John "JC" Calabrese is firing them up even more while he doesn't stop smiling. New drum player Rich Knox lives up to his last name and keeps on knocking out solid rock grooves.

The big hall is not sold out and does have plenty of room left, which is a blessing since this place can get really packed when sold out. Now there's room for a continuous pit in front of the stage and the rest of us can dance to the irresistible rock grooves the band keeps "bouncing off our asses". Maybe most of the fans don't know the new songs word for word yet, but it doesn't stop anyone from rocking to songs like 'Gonna Be A Fight Tonight' and 'Do You Wanna Rock' with a catchy cowbell. In the end Danko Jones was totally right about canceling their show in March since this is the kind of show people come down to see. And you know this band will always deliver.

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Friday 22 May 2015

On Stage: Warm Soda

Their name has been buzzing around for a while and their compact powerful pop and rock songs are getting mostly positive feedback. On stage they are supposed to pick it up a notch and deliver energetic shows. So I flipped out my Indiestad pass and headed over to the small hall of Paradiso.

Warm Soda at Paradiso Amsterdam, May 19 2015

There I find that only half of the hall is filled up which surprises me, especially since it's a free entrance for everyone with the Indiestad pass. I thought the band had worked up more of a stir and may even have started a little hype, but the turn up proves me wrong. The quartet have a new album Symbolic Dream out and play many songs of this newborn LP. It is full of short catchy songs that throw you around between garage rock and pop. It mostly feels as "garage rock light" but in a good way.

Live this results in a tight set that should make it hard for people to stand still. But to the band's own surprise the crowd tonight is hard to get moving and no matter what they try the response is lukewarm at most. This isn't the band's fault since the music is catchy, groovy and full of nice riffs. It doesn't get the foursome down, it seems they start to play even better in the second half of the show. Most songs are quite short but towards the end they treat us to the psychedelic 'Stranger To Me' that is quite long, especially compared to the rest and has a great jam with lots of freaky guitar.

Tonight the crowd was probably nothing what they hoped for and they sure deserve better. But Warm Soda look determined and focused enough to make it and are definitely a band to keep an eye on, since with songs like this next time they could be selling out larger venues in no time.

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Thursday 21 May 2015

Spinning: Twin Peaks - Wild Onion

Maybe you know Twin Peaks front man Cadien Lake from the duo he started with his brother Hal, Teenage Dream. When the band Smith Westerns asks Hal to join them, Cadien starts Twin Peaks. Their first record in 2013 is a pretty lofi recording, put together hastily to be able to sell I during their tour, but for its successor Wild Onion they take more time.

It has nothing less than sixteen tracks, which still doesn't make it an extreme long LP, since in the end it is just over fourty minutes. That's because most of the pieces are short ones, where the instrumental and melancholic intermezzo 'Stranger World' with a sexy saxophone is just over a minute. Still it never feels as a record that is all over the place despite all the variation. Nice rough songs like 'I Found A New Way' are alternating with slower songs like the lingering and psychedelic 'Ordinary People'. But especially you can hear echoing guitars and jangling drums in the mostly catchy rock songs that clearly have been inspired by the sixties.

Despite the band name, that really has nothing to do with the David Lynch series, the foursome were inspired by bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys. At the same time they listened to bands of their own generation like Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall and Tame Impala. Indeed you can hear these influences in the pleasant mix of sixties rock 'n roll garage rock and psychedelics. Because of the compact songs the record has a nice tempo and you're flying from the solid rocker 'Strawberry Smoothie' and the exhilarating 'Fade Away' to 'Good Lovin'' with its The Rolling Stones-like sound.

Twin Peaks didn't lose anything of their enthusiasm on Wild Onion and still sound just as sparkling as on their spontaneous debut. The foursome clearly aren't short of ideas and they have plenty of new material that will sound great live too. Recently they visited Paradiso Tolhuistuin during RAWK, where they showcased lots of new songs. Hopefully Cadien Lake will keep enough spare time to bring out albums like this regularly.

This review has been published on Festivalinfo in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Wild Onion' on Spotify.

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Monday 11 May 2015

On Stage: Tito and Tarantula

Photo courtesy of Plat & Blauw

Of course most of us know the legendary "snake dance" scene in Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk 'Til Dawn where Salma Hayek sensually dances to Tito and Tarantula's 'After Dark'. This song ended up on the Tarantism album which was hard to get the last few years in Europe. A completely remastered version was recently released and Tito got some of his old friends together with some new friends for a tour. Time to get reacquainted with them.

Tito and Tarantula at Melkweg Amsterdam, May 6 2015

Photo courtesy of Plat & Blauw

It can be a blessing or a curse that your composition becomes a cult classic, since it can get you a lot of exposure, but at the same time it may all people know you from. Halfway the show Tito Larriva is telling everyone with a big smile on his face, that we have to wait for the famous song and that there are still some other songs to play. The friendly Mexican born singer and guitar player doesn't seem to mind people may only know him from this movie score. But it would be unfair to give him credit for just that, since he scored more movies, some for his friend director Robert Rodriguez's movies and wrote plenty of other songs. Tonight they prove to be a versatile band, playing diverse songs from Americana to blues rock, and country to stoner. He got original members guitar player Peter Atanasoff and drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez to join, but especially female bass player Lolita Caroll is drawing a lot of attention with her sexy appearance.

Photo courtesy of Plat & Blauw

Together the band turns this night into a very pleasant one with great music and a lot of laughs. Larriva comes across as a very modest and friendly man that likes a good laugh. It could be that they visited a coffee shop earlier today, but the band seems to be in good spirits. Larriva's hoarse and weathered voice is perfect for the bluesy and rootsy songs that are mostly about love and death, where ballads and roaring rock songs are alternating. What most of the songs have in common is a dark atmosphere and sometimes they will reveal the band's Mexican background. Larriva now and then will explain what the song is about, like the story of 'Killing Just For Fun' about his class mate in school that turned into a serial killer. At the end of the show it's finally time for 'After Dark' that in the end turns into a pleasant chaos where people are invited to dance on stage and Larriva passes his guitar to someone at the front to join in with a short solo.

Photo courtesy of Plat & Blauw

After a short break the band returns with a enthusiastic performance of that other song in From Dusk Till Dawn, 'Angry Cockroaches', that seems to turn into "stoned cockroaches" but is a great version nevertheless. Larriva calls it a strange night somewhere in the show, I don't know why. It certainly was a fun night, with great music and good vibes. Hopefully they can win over some more fans so that in the end they won't just be remembered for only that one famous movie moment.

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Because I forgot my camera I borrowed some pictures from the website Plat & Blauw.

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Thursday 7 May 2015

On Stage: AC/DC

As a rock fan, AC/DC is one of those bands you have to see at least once in your life. Somehow I never got around it and almost missed out on this opportunity because I somehow remembered very late that the ticket sale had started. I only managed to get seated tickets at the back of the Gelredome stadium, but nevertheless I finally would be seeing the Australian rock giants.

AC/DC at Gelredome Arnhem, May 5 2015

The band members themselves aren't getting any younger so you'll never know if it will be the last time to watch them play live. Especially after last year when the illness of Malcolm Young and the fuss around Phil Rudd's arrest overshadowed the release of their latest album Rock or Bust. The band once again showed their resilience, replaced Rudd with Chris Slade and Malcolm with cousin Stevie Young, and announced their world tour. Besides their warm-up shows at Coachella appearance last month, this would be the kick-off concert for the big tour.

A huge set of horns with big screens at both sides and at the top awaits us in the soccer stadium. Vintage Trouble are the support act and know to win the fans over, who are awaiting the old rockers, with a solid and hot mix of rhythm & blues and soul. This was no surprise to me after seeing the band play live a few years back at Rock Werchter. It would be nice if they would come over for a club tour soon.

The big screens show astronauts, who discover something glowing on the moon, only to find the burning AC/DC letters, followed by a comet striking earth and kicking off the show with 'Rock or Bust'. Not a bad way to fire off your concert. The new song of the latest album is no stranger to the fans, many of whom are wearing the red lights horns sold by the merchandise. Only a few new songs are scattered throughout the set, which is mostly full of all their classics. It makes sense since the biggest part of the crowd, if not all of them, want to hear songs like 'Back In Black', 'Thunderstruck' and 'You Shook Me All Night Long'. All the expected elements are there: the big bell in 'Hells Bells' and the big inflatable Rosie in 'Whole Lotta Rosie'. There are a few surprises like the rarely played 'Sin City' but for the rest the band does what it does best: rock the hell out of this evening.

During the show the band is gaining more and more momentum, the sweat dripping from their faces and Angus Young's hair looking ever more straggly. They aren't showing any wear at all and the rockers, who are running into their sixties, look really fit. Young still is a delight to watch, like always dressed in a school uniform, now and then showing his famous duck walk. During 'Let The Be Rock' he's walking onto the catwalk to the platform that has not been used so far. While he's playing a screaming guitar solo, the platform rises, confetti canons firing around him. He continues his solo at the back on the backline of stacked amps and finally ends it on stage to a huge roar by the crowd.

The band ends in style with their iconic 'Highway To Hell' and 'For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)' with the blazing canons. One last blow and the two hour set is over. I think everyone tonight is leaving satisfied, getting exactly what they came for: a good old AC/DC show with all the songs and fireworks you can wish for and a band that is still on top of the world.

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01. Rock or Bust
02. Shoot to Thrill
03. Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be
04. Back in Black
05. Play Ball
06. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
07. Thunderstruck
08. High Voltage
09. Rock 'n' Roll Train
10. Hells Bells
11. Baptism by Fire
12. You Shook Me All Night Long
13. Sin City
14. Shot Down in Flames
15. Have a Drink on Me
16. T.N.T.
17. Whole Lotta Rosie
18. Let There Be Rock
19. Highway to Hell
20. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

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