Wednesday 28 September 2016

On Stage: Deap Vally @ Paradiso

No, those are not typos in the title, but this is how the female rock duo Deap Vally from Los Angeles calls itself. I saw them tear up the stage at the Best Kept Secret Festival a few years ago when they just released their first album. Now they are back with a new record Femejism and are playing the small hall of Paradiso

Deap Vally at Paradiso Amsterdam, September 26 2016

This concert is free for anyone with a Indiestad pass, like me, and it fills up quite nicely. The two ladies kind of start a bit hesitant and clearly need to warm up. By the time they are warm the hall is completely full and the two crank it up a notch. Guitarist and singer Lindsey Troy is playing bluesy and rocking riffs, while drummer Julie Edwards is steadily playing her grooves. It's a good balance between the wild Troy who is howlin' and shredding her guitar, and the calm Edwards, who happens to have her birthday today.

It's hard not to compare their music to The Black Keys or Royal Blood in the heavier parts, since it is obviously following down the same line, with the combination of heavy blues rock riffs and basic but effective rock grooves. However the new songs offer more variation and you can hear grunge and stoner influences too. As the night progresses the two sound more tight on stage and at one point you're almost forgetting there are only two musicians on this stage. A small pit has formed in front of the stage where people are dancing wildly to the rocking music.

And indeed, it is hard to stand still or at least bop your head to songs like 'Royal Jelly' and 'Little Baby Beauty Queen'. Their manager and merch girl joins in on a couple of songs as well, while in the encore Troy invites people over onto the stage, which results in a small stage invasion. Especially Troy looks like she's having a good time tonight and I think that goes for most of us over here, who are enjoying this no nonsense rock music and energetic performance.

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Tuesday 20 September 2016

Spinning: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Skeleton Tree

Losing people that are close to you is inevitable and part of life, but at the same time there are not many things that leave bigger scars on people. Unfortunately I experienced this first hand when I lost people, some of them way too young. Losing one of your children, something I am glad I never had to go through, is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a parent. Singer Nick Cave lost his son while recording his latest record. Needless to say that left its marks on his music.

Cave always had a fascination with death and dark subjects in general and was able to capture that in his music that never fails to intrigue. After such a tragedy it was to be expected that it would somehow end up in the songs he was recording and that this record would not be a light one. The album was released together with the movie 'One More Time With Feeling' that shows him in his moments of grief and mourning, a man trying to pick things up after a devastating loss.

Exactly that is what you can hear back in Skeleton Tree, although part of it was already recorded before the deadly tragedy. It's hard to believe the opening track 'Jesus Alone' was one of the tracks that were already done. The first lines of the LP couldn't be more ominous in this light: "You fell from the sky/Crash landed in a field /Near the river Adur". It's a heavy and gloomy track, that sets the mood for the rest of the album.

The songs are following the same path as the ones on Push The Sky Away but gain even more depth, maybe because of their extra load. The almost spoken-word singing of Nick Cave in 'Rings Of Saturn' is followed by the soul crushing 'Girl In Amber' where he sounds like a broken man backed up by weeping vocals. 'Anthrocene' leads off the second half of a record that seems to go deeper and deeper. You can hear the pain and grief in 'I Need You' which is followed by 'Distant Sky', a song that makes you stop doing whatever you're doing and makes the world stop spinning for a short moment.

It's exactly the feeling you get when you are mourning the loss of a loved one. The big lump in your throat that doesn't seem to go away, that sickening feeling in your stomach, the feeling of being lost in a world that seems detached. A feeling of hopelessness, as if everything just seems to fall out of your hands. Nick Cave obviously is a man who was crushed and tries to pick up himself from the pieces, tries to carry on with that huge wound on his soul. He translated these feelings perfectly into music, arranged beautifully by Warren Ellis and recorded with his Bad Seeds. The album cover, black with some simple text, also expresses this. It's an intense record that cuts deep into your soul and where it's almost impossible to keep your eyes dry. Yet I want to spin it again and again, despite the lump in my throat.

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Wednesday 14 September 2016

On Stage: Fatoumata Diawara @ Paradiso

A few years ago Malian musician Fatoumata Diawara released her wonderful debut album Fatou that is full of beautiful and personal songs. She visited our country a few times but I was not able to see her yet. Fortunately she returned to Paradiso this month.

Fatoumata Diawara at Paradiso Amsterdam, September 12 2016

Her three piece backing band starts to play to us warm up before Diawara enters the stage. Her charismatic personality and smiling face lights up the big hall of Paradiso. The beginning is modest with a few slow and subdued songs. Her voice is clear and strong and she uses it not only to sing, but also to speak up against issues in Mali and Africa and to preach love and peace. It fits her strong, positive attitude and gives some of the songs, that tell about these issues, more depth.

Slowly the tempo is going up and people start to dance. Diawara not only is a great singer and musician she also knows how to entertain the crowd. She teaches us some African dance moves, asks us to clap to the beat several times and makes sure we stay focused. Her band is never showing off and stays a bit in the background. The swinging and ringing guitar that is playing those characteristic West-African melodies, sounds clear and the rhythm section is tight and groovy.

At the end the music is swinging and funky, so by now almost no one is standing still. Diawara is dancing wildly on stage adding even more to the already energetic performance. Her band members are all getting a moment to shine as well before it is time to say goodbye to this amazing woman. But not before she comes back and leaves us with one more dance.

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Sunday 11 September 2016

On Stage: New Cool Collective with Mark Reilly @ NSJ Club

The coolest jazz collective on the face of this planet and beyond, New Cool Collective, regularly teams up with artists from every part of the musical spectrum. In the past they played with afrobeat legend Tony Allen, Dutch local hero Guus Meeuwis and Orchestra Baobab's Thierno Koite. Recently they recorded a record, The Things You Love, with no one less than Matt Bianco's Mark Reilly and they are now touring with him.

New Cool Collective and Mark Reilly at North Sea Jazz Club Amsterdam, September 8 2016

Needless to say that this collaboration is guaranteed to be a hot dancing party. The record already proves this with new arrangements of Matt Bianco and New Cool Collective songs but mostly brand new compositions. Captain of the ship is of course Benjamin Herman and the band first starts out with a few of their own songs to warm up. Since this is a hot summer's night, that doesn't take long and Herman quickly introduces Mark Reilly.

Reilly is looking sharp, blending in perfectly with the cool combo. Some wonderful swinging songs follow with Reilly's warm voice fitting the music like they are made for each other. The Matt Bianco classics have been reworked for New Cool Collective without losing their swinging edge. Reilly certainly looks like he's enjoying playing with this brilliant combo.

I forgot how many good songs Matt Bianco wrote. The swinging 'Whose Side Are You On', a brilliant version of 'More Than I Can Bear', both not on the record and of course the smash hit 'Don't Blame It On That Girl'. It's wonderful to hear these great songs come to life again. New songs like 'We Should Be Dancing' and the funky 'Double Stitch' sound even better and get the best of both worlds. The band is not allowed to leave without playing an encore and lays down a couple more sizzling hot songs, leaving the crowd in an overheated state.

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Friday 9 September 2016

ITGWO 2016 Day 3 + 4

Halfway the Into The Great Wide Open festival we've seen some pretty amazing performances already and we still have so many to come. Bring on the second part!

Into The Great Wide Open 2016, Saturday September 3 2016

The day starts real sunny although the weather forecasts show rain coming up later today. Let's enjoy the sun while it lasts.

Bixiga 70
What better way to start this day than with Bixiga 70 from São Paulo, that play swinging afrobeat juiced up with Brazilian influences. The band turns the field into a hot swinging dance party and are enjoying it themselves a lot too. The instrumental songs have explosive percussion and sparkling horns played with a lot of heart and enthusiasm. The band completely connects with the cheerful crowd and have to come back for a few encores. And so we start this day with a big smile on our face.

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Remy van Kesteren
In the woods we meet up with Dutch harp player Remy van Kesteren, who shows the instrument can be rock 'n roll too. The clever compositions that are both jazzy and groovy sound great and combined with his good band it goes down well. The friendly Van Kesteren is telling short stories in between which give the performance a light touch which is perfect for this time of the day and at this place. Sometimes he's also using a loop station to stack harp parts with each other which is quite impressive. I wonder how many of the kids today will pick up harp playing.

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Mozes and the Firstborn
Young Dutch rockers Mozes and the Firstborn have been away for a while but are now back with a new album Great Pile Of Nothing. I really like their catchy songs and slacker attitude. Here, between the trees it feels right at its place and it creates a relaxed vibe. The band looks refreshed and eager again. The new songs still need to sink in and sound a bit more mellow. I'm looking forward to hearing the new album. In the end I'm still enjoying this band a lot.

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We decide to stick around for Israelian sisters Haim (there are more Haim sisters!?) of A-Wa, who sing in two languages, that sound exotic like the Midle Eastern yemenite music they play. It's uplifting music that sounds both swinging and cheerful. The three young women look lovely and colourful in their nice dresses and the whole band radiates positive energy. It creates an enthusiastic atmosphere with happy faces on and off stage.

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GoGo Penguin
One of the nice things about this festival is its diversity and that it doesn't shy away from asking a bit more from its visitors. GoGo Penguin are a young jazz trio led by double bass player Nick Blacka. Together with piano player Chris Illingworth and drummer Rob Turner they play groovy jazz songs that sound exciting and sparkling. There are no long solos which is common in most jazz music, but instead keep the groove going while playing variations around a theme. They prove jazz is definitely not boring and for middle aged or old people. Instead they make it sound modern and exciting.

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The Golden Dawn Arkestra
By now the predicted rain has started so why not call for help from the sun god? The Golden Dawn Arkestra, formed by Topaz McGarrigle a.k.a. Zapot Mgwana, has landed with their space ship. Their funky disco music is inspired by Sun Ra, who is Mgwana's father according to his mother. The inspiration is obvious from their outfits and the name of their inspirator on a black cloth. They mention the sun god Ra as well and are dressed in strange costumes. Like a Sun Ra show it is seemingly chaotic on stage and several songs are accompanied by some of the members dancing. The dance with led lit hoola hoops is very effective in the dark. There's a lot to see but the music is nice as well. The very danceable songs are funky and swinging and played with a lot of heart. It definitely makes us forget about the rain and hopefully Ra will make the sun return tomorrow.

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Conjunto Papa Upa
we end the night at the thrilling show of Conjunto Papa Upa, a name that sounds very exotic and which is the Venezuelean/Dutch/British trio around Alex Figueira. The very percussive music is a mix of Venezuelan music, samba, cumbia, psychedelic sixties and African influences. It's an explosive mix that is exactly what this small but party hungry crowd needs. The band is firing up the crowd with danceable grooves and at one point jumps into the crowd while continuing to play. It's no surprise the band has to come back for an encore.

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By now the rain is pouring down, so we are eager to get inside. However the rain can't spoil another wonderful day.

Into The Great Wide Open 2016, Sunday September 4 2016

The last day traditionally is the day where we slow down. The program for today is shorter and less packed so we have more time to relax. Of course there are still plenty of bands worth checking out and fortunately the sun has returned.

The music of this young British band is a great way to start the day. The dreamy and bluesy pop songs sound wonderful in the woods and is exactly what we need. The musicians look totally into the moment and are clearly enjoying their show between the trees. They look very focused and their atmospheric music is very effective.

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Ben Miller Band
After this relaxed start it's time to spice it up and the Ben Miller Band is the right band at the right place. It's quite obvious where this band is hailing from and their blue grass and country music is fitting their appearance as well. The band is all positive vibes and looks genuinely pleased to be playing here. Their set is slowly building up to a big hillbilly dancing party between the trees and they leave us all happy and dancing.

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Baloji & L'Orchestre de la Katuba
At the main stage another party is starting. Baloji is a Belgian rapper with Congolese roots and he's accompanied by L'Orchestre de la Katuba. Congolese rumba is mixed with hip hop and soul and Baloji is firing up the crowd. He also doesn't shy away from politics and addresses some problems Africa and Congo are facing and his view on the matter. It suits the music and his personality well and adds some extra fire. Sometimes his moves and posture remind of a young Michael Jackson. The members of the band all get their time to shine today and their energy is reflecting on the excited crowd.

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Rag 'N' Bone Man
It's not a closing act that will make the crowd party one last time, but the impressive Rory Graham, or Rag 'N' Bone Man, knows how to leave us with a happy feeling. His soul music with hip hop influences is strong and so is his voice. It's as if it is really for him to sing this way, bringing his songs straight from the heart. The big man looks like a large teddy bear and he is radiating positive vibes. It's a wonderful performance but I think a festive band would have been more fitting to close the festival. In the end it is not a bad ending to another wonderful edition of Into The Great Wide Open. DJ St. Paul makes sure we can end the festival at the main stage with a big party and we continue to dance for a bit more.

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I had to look it up but this was my sixth edition of this amazing festival that never disappoints. Many bands are excelling here and it's one of those places where both artists and crowd are getting the best out of each other. We spend another couple of glorious days on this lovely island before we head home where I am already dreaming about next year.

All Pictures Day 3
All Pictures Day 4

Into The Great Wide Open Day 1+2

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Thursday 8 September 2016

ITGWO 2016 Day 1 + 2

After a very wet edition of the Into The Great Wide Open festival last year, this year promises to be much better. At least it's sunny when we leave home and head to the harbour where the boat to a glorious weekend is waiting for us.

Into The Great Wide Open 2016, Thursday September 1 2016

On the boat to the island Vlieland, we already get treated to a first performance. Zimmerman is playing for a TV recording but the sound is not loud enough for us to hear. However it does set the mood right away for a chilled out musical weekend.

Later on we see the same band again for our first performance of the day. Zimmerman, named after Bob Dylan's birth name, is the band of Balthazar's bass player Simon Casier. He is the first one of the several Balthazar spin off projects that are on display throughout the weekend. He's playing guitar in this band and the soft indie rock songs have a nice sound, but never get really adventurous or dangerous. Casier isn't the greatest singer in Balthazar and his voice isn't very versatile giving the songs a bit of the same feel. Also his English pronunciation isn't that good. In the end it is not bad way to start though and the friendly sounding songs are nice enough to the ears to get into the right mood

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Balthazar & Quartet Cordette
We explore the festival site and then wander into the woods for another Balthazar project. This time it's the full band with Patricia Vanneste's string quartet Cordette. The arrangements of some of Balthazar's songs have been reworked into acoustic versions with lush string parts. This is working wonderfully and it shows how good those songs are. The songs sound swirling this way and the crowd responds very enthusiastically. The beautiful setting in the woods while it is getting dark does the rest.

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The reincarnation of Bombay Show Pig is sending us off this first night. The changes in the line-up that left Mathias Janmaat. as the remaining part of the original duo, has transformed the hooky and bit electronic edgy sound into a more heavier rock sound. It suits the band well and although I really liked their original sound, the new direction works too. It still has that jumpy edge to it and it is getting everyone getting worked up for the night. While the hall has filled up nicely everyone is ready for the first big party of the weekend.

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Back to back Prince and Bowie songs are an excellent way to get this party going. The cold beers help very well too of course.

Into The Great Wide Open 2016, Friday September 2 2016

We wake up in our old but cozy apartment and after a hearty breakfast head over to the sports field for the first band of the day.

The Gospel Sessions
There on the main stage Michelle David is leading us into a cheerful and soulful gospel service. Her strong voice and positive appearance is catching on. It gets everyone well awake and on their feet to join in on the festivities. The songs are moving between blues, soul and gospel and the music is heart warming.

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J. Bernardt
Today is Balthazar day with three performances related to the Belgian band. First up is the biggest mystery of those three, since no one has heard any music yet from Jinte Deprez' project, that is debuting today on this festival. He's playing groovy electronic driven songs that sound warm and very relaxed. It isn't dance music to go wild on, but more relaxing, sexy sounding songs to slowly sway along. Afterwards Deprez tells me it went far from perfect. I thought it was really nice and interesting though and it makes me look forward to hearing a full album.

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We move to the other stage in the woods where we decide to have something to eat. While we sit down for a nice meal Jalen N'Gonda is playing his friendly soul music. He's one of those soul singers that draw inspiration from old soul music like Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. It has a nice sound, but stays on the safe side. It's nice music as a side dish to our meal though.

Fantastic Negrito
Time for some good ol' soul. Fantastic Negrito is a rhythm 'n blues show band the old fashioned way with a tight group of musicians and front and show man Xavier Dphrepaulezz. He knows exactly how to entertain a willing crowd. It doesn't take long before everyone is dancing to the swinging and raw bluesrock music, while the band is playing their heart out. Dphrepaulezz is all over the stage to make sure everyone is staying on their feet.

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Balthazar's Maarten Devoldere is the one with a solo project that has been running for a little longer. His first album is coming up soon and we could hear a few songs the past few months that sound promising. They are mostly dark and slow songs in a story telling kind of way, that remind of Nick Cave. Sometimes he picks up a trumpet to create loops as a basis which is quite a nice touch. Devoldere looks confident on stage and although needs to warm up a bit in the beginning, his performance is very intriguing and convincing between the trees.

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
I've been looking forward to the space rockers from Australia a lot and the seven piece rock group delivers big time. The band goes full speed from the beginning and never slows down. The returning theme is the title song of their latest album Noganon Infinity which you can hear pop up now and then. There are hardly any breaks in between songs and the pit in front of the stage gets bigger and bigger where people are crowd surfing and stage diving. Once again the band are in killer form and turn the place into a psych rock fest.

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We stay at the stage in the woods for a different kind of party. Suuns play dark psychedelic music with synths, drums, guitar and electronic add ons. I've been wanting to see this band for a while but never got a chance. Big inflatable letters at the back of the stage are lit by the stage lights and in the woods in the dark it creates a suiting mysterious atmosphere. The deep and dark sounds of their music are very effective in this environment. Simply close your eyes and let yourself float away on the psychedelic grooves between the trees.

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The Belgian band has been all over the island this weekend in different formations and shapes and now it's time for the most familiar one with the full band closing the day on the main stage at the sports field. It will be one of their last performances until they go on a long break but the band doesn't look tired at all. They play all their big hits that we know so well to a full sports field at the main stage. Now and then the band members move really close together which is always a good sign. Once again the group prove why they such a good band.

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We're halfway the festival now and in a very good mood after such an incredible day. I guess this calls for a party!

All Pictures Day 1
All Pictures Day 2

Into The Great Wide Open Day 3+4

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