Wednesday 30 September 2015

North Sea Surf Festival 2015

After visiting a very successful edition of the North Sea Surf Festival last year I made sure I would make it to this year's edition. With nine bands lined up, it looked like another promising edition. So I waxed my board and went out to check the waves at the Melkweg.

North Sea Surf Festival 2015 at Melkweg Amsterdam, September 26 2015

Since the festival starts quite early, we make it into the Melkweg about 1,5 hours after the festival has started. There we find Swedish band The Illuminators already in the last part of their set. They do a good job warming us so we are ready for the next wave.

Belgian band Scrammers play quite a heavy side of surf music with solid riffs and grooves that sounds very good. It's a blend of surf and rock with a punk twist which works quite well. The members look a bit modest on stage but the energetic music speaks for itself.

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"Mandarina Surfers" Watang! from Italy are a different cup of tea. Dressed in stylish Japanese outfits you would expect some Kung Fu surf music but looks can be deceiving. The band plays average surf music and doesn't add a lot beyond their appearance. With the addition of a keyboard player adding organ to the mix, this band looks good on paper, but live it isn't really convincing.

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Los Fantasticos
Playing in the low lands for the first time this Brighton band actually is no stranger to the festival. Guitarist Django Deadman also is the host of the festival so it's about time his band get a chance to show what they are made of. The foursome play down to earth surf songs that aren't spectacular but at the same time sound nice and are fun to watch. A trumpet in one of the songs gives it a Mariachi feel and is a nice twist. The band seems to be enjoying themselves which is always a good sign and it rubs off on the crowd.

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Els A-Phonics
At the pre party a day before which I wasn't able to attend, Els A-Phonics from Valencia already gave a little taste of what is coming. Playing as a backing band for John Blair from Jon & The Nightriders, this band turns out to be one of the highlights of the day. The uptempo surf music doesn't miss its effect and the filled up venue enjoys the band's energy that are playing with whole their heart. Especially both guitar players keep firing up the crowd, showing their best moves, backed up by the tight rhythm section. This is exactly what makes surf music so exciting.

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The Phantom Four
As the organizers of the festival, especially drum player Niels Jansen, of course The Phantom Four are also one of the headliners. However even when they weren't organizing it, this is the band to get if you want a surf band. At a festival like this, it is obvious they are one of the top surf bands around with a unique sound and a lot of variation in their songs. Tonight they are trying out some new songs that sound very promising. Phantom Frank plays a lap steel guitar in one of them which gives it an authentic Hawaiian feel. Hopefully there will be an album out soon, although I'm still waiting for their anniversary live album to come out too.

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Messer Chups
The Messer Chups trio from Russia have quite a history behind them with line-up changes to go with it. They have somewhat of a reputation which promises a lot. The band also have a real eye catcher with their female bass player Svetlana 'Zombierella' Nagaeva. Her burlesque pin-up appearance is striking but it would be nice if she would break out of her act once and a while. The rock 'n roll surf music sounds nice enough but this way she's kind of bringing the performance down, or maybe I'm simply just missing it. The two other members aren't really bringing a lot more to the table as well to lift it up. We even decide to leave halfway to catch part of one of the surf movies playing in the cinema upstairs.

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The Barbwires
Swedish surfers The Barbwires are the ones to close the festival and do a great job at it. Their music has that Hawaiian feel and their classic look is helping a lot too. The threesome are very much into the music and have a good stage presence with plenty of energy and good vibes. It's a good end of another wonderful edition of this festival.

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As long as The Phantom Four keep organizing these kind of events I will keep showing up, since the combination of great honest music and a friendly and devoted audience simply is irresistible. And it is wonderful that the surf music scene is staying alive this way. If only I could really ride those waves!

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