Sunday, 31 December 2017

Top 10 Albums 2017

The year is almost over so most end of the year lists have been published by now, except mine. Here it is!

1. Protomartyr - Relatives In Descent
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2. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Murder of the Universe
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3. METZ - Strange Peace
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4. The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
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5. St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION
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6. LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
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7. The National - Sleep Well Beast
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8. The Homesick - Youth Hunt
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9. Motorpsycho - The Tower
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10. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy
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Sunday, 24 December 2017

On Stage: ORB @ Paradiso

Only good things seem to be coming from Down Under, especially regarding anything psychedelic. Very popular now of course are Tame Impala and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Another band trying to follow in their footsteps are ORB who are visiting Amsterdam.

ORB at Paradiso Amsterdam, December 20 2017

The small hall of Paradiso is still quite empty when I get there. More people do arrive but it doesn’t really fill up. The band is still quite unknown and just released their second album Naturality. The first half of the show is quite heavy, leaning to a mix of stoner and prog rock. Singer and bassist Zak Olsen sometimes sounds like Ozzie Osbourne with a similar squeezed voice and with the heavy riffs it's impossible not to hear traces of Black Sabbath. It is no surprise since early Black Sabbath where the band draws a lot of inspiration from. The three look a bit shy on stage and aren't moving a lot. Despite the sometimes lively music it looks quite static. The slower heavy sound doesn't help either.

Halfway Olsen and guitar player Daff Gravolin switch guitars and the sound changes as well. The songs are lighter now and more funky and that actually suits the band better, because these guys can play and their music is full of twists and ever changing time signatures. Sometimes it's a bit too much and it seems like they are playing several songs at the same time. Some songs also sound like they aren't completely finished or despite a lot is happening don't seem to go anywhere.

ORB can be a promising band because they have good ideas and are able to play well. Their music is definitely interesting and I totally dig the big riffs and psychedelic outbursts. But they really need to spice up their act since the band doesn't really look inviting and it's hard to win over a crowd like this. They could learn a lot from their famous fellow countrymen and maybe in a few years time are able to join them as the front runners of the Australian music scene.

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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

On Stage: Tamino @ Bitterzoet

I have seen Belgian talent Tamino several times over the past year and every time he was able to impress me. Now the year is drawing to an end I get a chance to see him one more time and I won't let this opportunity pass.

Tamino at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, December 17 2017

Since it is nice to have seen him grow throughout the year. His talent is unmistakable; his voice that he's able to bend any way he likes, is his strongest weapon. Together with his band he has worked on his repertoire and by now you can hear he has got it down. The venue sold out a while ago and looks more packed than ever as if they sold a few more tickets than usual.

When the singer takes the stage, you can see that slowly his stage presence is becoming more and more self confident without losing his charm. Playing gigs on a regular basis is turning him into a charismatic performer. When he addresses the audience he still comes across as a bit shy and modest though, but this adds to his charm. Tamino sincerely shows he's grateful for his talent and his fans. When he thanks his mentor and keyboard player Tom Pintens, who is playing with him for the last time, he is overwhelmed with emotions for a moment.

Tonight was the best performance I saw of him, which proves this young man keeps improving. The songs sound finished and convincing and Tamino looks comfortable while playing them. When he doesn't lose his edge and charm, this incredible musician should be able to make it big. I know I've said this all before and I still think the next time we will have to see him in a larger venue. The future is looking very bright and one can only imagine what it will bring for him.

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Sunday, 10 December 2017

On Stage: Triggerfinger @ Melkweg

A few years ago Belgian band Triggerfinger recorded a live album Faders Up 2 at the Melkweg Amsterdam. The band had a major breakthrough year in our country and it seemed right to record the album with the Dutch fans. That love has not faded since, but only grew stronger. Now they return to the same venue with their new album Colossus.

Triggerfinger at Melkweg Amsterdam, December 7 2017

On that new LP we can hear a less heavy band but a lighter one and a more pop sound. Of course they still lean heavily on big grooves but are now adding synths and clear guitars. Live they add a fourth member to be able to recreate that sound.

For the rest not much has changed. Singer Ruben Blok still is the charismatic showman that goes through his familiar rock poses with his guitar. The other showman is master drummer Mario Goossens who draws just as much of attention to his rolling drum fills, explosive solos and a good deal of cymbal chewing. Steady rock Monsieur Paul watches them with a grin on his face while plucking his big bass.

Live member Geoffrey Burton looks a bit ordinary and shy compared to the illustrious trio while he adds some mean guitar and effects to the mix. The now four headed rock monster may have a less frightening face but still knows how to roar. Although I like the new record, I notice I like the older heavier songs like ‘My Babie’s Got A Gun’ and golden oldie ‘First Taste’ better than the newer ones. But this is just my personal taste and maybe I just haven't got used to their lighter touch yet.

With three sold out shows in the Melkweg and most of the others throughout the country there are hardly any tickets to be found for any of their concerts through the lowlands. It is clear the love for this rock machine is still very strong. And what’s not to like if you’re looking for a convincing rock show where the beer is flowing? The band ends with Iggy Pop’s ‘Funtime’ and that's exactly what it is.

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01. Upstairs Box
02. And There She Was Lying in Wait
03. First Taste
04. By Absence of the Sun
05. Flesh Tight
06. Perfect Match
07. My Baby's Got a Gun
08. Black Panic
09. Bring Me Back a Live Wild One
10. All This Dancin' Around
11. Colossus
12. Afterglow
13. Man Down
14. Funtime

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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

On Stage: New Cool Collective + Bettie Serveert @ Podium Victorie

I got a weekend at the lovely city of Alkmaar as a present and tickets to go with it for Dutch rock band Bettie Serveert at the brand new Podium Victorie. The surprise was even bigger when it turned out New Cool Collective were playing as well, who I had to miss a few days earlier because of a nasty cold. Our ticket was valid for only one band of course, but once you are in you can visit both halls. So of course I went for the surprise combo and went to see both!

New Cool Collective at Podium Victorie Alkmaar, December 1 2017

I simply cannot pass on a show by this amazing band, who just released Electric Monkey Sessions 2 which is full of amazing swinging music. This unique band were never able to disappoint me and tonight they aren't letting me down either. Big swinging grooves, sparkling horns, dazzling percussion and mind blowing guitar and piano solos, it's all there. They can go from explosive songs to sexy slow ones. Tonight we get many songs from the last couple of albums and it's hard to pull myself away halfway. But Bettie Serveert have already started and I certainly don't want to miss them.

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Bettie Serveert at Podium Victorie Alkmaar, December 1 2017

For over 25 years Dutch alternative rock band Bettie Serveert are one of the most loved bands in the alternative rock scene. And for a good reason, since they keep making very good albums and haven't lost a bit of their spark on stage. Together with their fans the band has aged well and seems to rock harder than ever. Like young dogs the group works their way through their impressive catalogue, mixing all time favourites with newer songs. The band already mentioned there's a new album coming out in the near future, which is very good news. It is promising to see that they are in very good shape.

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In the end I also manage to get back to the other hall to score a New Cool Collective album signed by all members. This has been an amazing evening and a wonderful surprise. I just love these kind of presents!
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Thursday, 23 November 2017

On Stage: Gorillaz at Ziggo Dome

Everything surrounding Gorillaz is a spectacle. The cartoon band created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett has become a big name, one that is associated with diverse and exciting music, dazzling use of multimedia and spectacular shows. Maybe the latest Humanz album was a bit of a disappointment, although I think it is still one that is very enjoyable. This summer I watched the band on a live stream of the Gorillaz festival Demon Dayz and know that tonight's show simply cannot disappoint.

Gorillaz at Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, November 21 2017

Right before the sold out show there's a happy vibe among the people and everyone is eager to see this long awaited concert. The crowd is just as colourful as Gorillaz' music, with people of different age, colour, countries and background. It is clear that this music unifies people which is a nice thing to notice. The lights go out and we hear the intro of 'M1 A1' and its familiar "hello".

Of course the big screen will show stunning visuals and parts of the music videos. It's funny to see how older videos have a lower resolution and look more grainy. In a few songs it will show the guest singers like D.R.A.M. in 'Andromeda' and Jehnny Beth in 'We Got The Power'. Fortunately there are a many guests live on stage as well like Little Simz in 'Garage Palace' and De La Soul who are firing everyone up in 'Feel Good Inc.' Peven Everett is impressive in 'Strobelite', Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz give a wonderful performance in 'Sex Murder Party'. There's so much going on that you hardly know where to look. The band is amazing with a 6 person choir giving some of the songs a gospel feel, where all musicians are working so hard and show a lot of heart.

Damon Albarn himself is looking very pleased too with the people surrounding him. He must be in heaven with so many great musicians around him, even though he's the biggest star on this stage. With his melodica he joins in on the fun as well, playing beautiful versions of 'Melancholy Hill' and 'El Mañana' back to back. What an amazing musician he is, who never fails to impress. There's a special homage to his dear friend Bobby Womack who passed away a few years back, as his face is shown in the disc shaped screen all the way up. Gorillaz are leaving no one out and let everyone join in on the fun. After twenty songs it's not over by far and we get a six song encore.

'Demon Days' closes the night with everyone going at it one more time and the screen shows the stained glass window of a church. It was a high mass today, a big celebration and a feast for the senses. Gorillaz explores the entire world of popular music and still knows how to make it sound as a whole. When we leave the venue we can only see happy faces around us. It's the magical touch of Gorillaz.

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01. M1 A1
02. Last Living Souls
03. Rhinestone Eyes
04. Tomorrow Comes Today
05. Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
06. Saturnz Barz
07. 19-2000
08. Superfast Jellyfish (with De La Soul)
09. On Melancholy Hill
10. El Mañana
11. Dirty Harry (with Bootie Brown)
12. Strobelite (with Peven Everett)
13. Andromeda
14. Sex Murder Party (with Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz)
15. Out of Body (with Zebra Katz)
16. Garage Palace (with Little Simz)
17. Punk
18. Stylo (with Peven Everett and Bootie Brown)
19. Feel Good Inc. (with De La Soul)
20. We Got the Power (with Little Simz)
21. Cloud of Unknowing
22. Hong Kong
23. Kids With Guns
24. Clint Eastwood
25. Don't Get Lost in Heaven
26. Demon Days

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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

On Stage: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ Paradiso

"Whatever happened to my rock n roll?" you can hear in the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club song of the same title. In that song off their debut album they are actually not referring to music, but you wonder what happened after that album debuted with a bang. Everything they did after that is measured up to that epic debut, but the band doesn't seem really bothered by it. They consistently release new music and visit my hometown when they do.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 20 2017

I saw them play a few times before, but only on festivals and never in a club show. The sold out Paradiso turns out to be the perfect place for this band to excel. Their dark and noisy rock is totally working out here. The band is like a diesel engine, that needs a bit of time to warm up, but once it's running there's no stopping it.

Their songs are mostly building up in the same way. Slowly the guitars and drums are blending in until the fire is igniting. Sometimes they will make it explode, but ever so often they let the fire smoulder and make it higher at will. Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been are taking turns on vocals and even at one point switch bass and lead guitars. Leah Shapiro is the steady force who gives them a solid foundation, confidently playing the heavy grooves without any unnecessary finery.

We get treated to over 2 hours of greasy rock songs where Been addresses the crowd a few times, laughing at the people who are shouting. Halfway the band leaves and only Been returns for a solo acoustic performance of 'The Line'. When he leaves again, Hayes walks on stage again for his solo performance of 'Complicated Situation'. The fans are having a great time, forming a small pit in front of the stage during the wilder songs. The whole floor turns into a sweaty dancing mob, when the band closes the night with 'Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll'. This band answered it convincingly themselves, since they are keeping rock and roll alive. I'm definitely looking forward to their new album Wrong Creatures that is coming out in January.

All Pictures

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01. Little Thing Gone Wild
02. Bandung Hum
03. Beat the Devil's Tattoo
04. Ain't No Easy Way
05. King of Bones
06. Berlin
07. Conscience Killer
08. Haunt
09. Question of Faith
10. White Palms / I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier (John Lennon cover)
11. Stop
12. Carried From the Start
13. The Line
14. Complicated Situation
15. Shuffle Your Feet
16. Awake
17. 666 Conducer
18. Rifles
19. In Like the Rose
20. Six Barrel Shotgun
21. Spread Your Love
22. Red Eyes and Tears
23. Whatever Happened to My Rock 'n' Roll

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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Helldorado festival

After Dutch rock band Peter Pan Speedrock disbanded, they also stopped organizing the Speedfest festival in their home town Eindhoven. I attended the last edition two years back and it's a shame the festival will no longer take place, since in the overcrowded festival landscape there aren't many of these kind of rock festivals, focusing on heavy rock. Fortunately co-organizer Paaspop wanted an alternative and now there's Helldorado in the same weekend in November and on the same location, the Klokgebouw Eindhoven.

According to the organizers it won't be a Speedfest 2.0, but when you look at the music line-up it's not that far off. Focusing on heavy rock in the broadest sense of the word, ranging from rock 'n roll to stoner and everything in between, it does have a large overlap. When entering the big old factory building, it immediately feels familiar and it seems to have the same kind of visitors. It does have other "freaky" acts like a haunted house, a comedy club, metal wrestling and a knife thrower but you still get a similar vibe as Speedfest. But who cares if it is or isn't anything like it, it's the music, good friends and the beers that count. We can only catch the last couple of songs of Komatsu's set, so not much to say about that, but we're in time for the next band on our program.

Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown

Hailing from Nashville with Aerosmith's Bad Whitford's son Graham on guitar, you kind of get the picture of this band. Indeed it's classic hardrock and southern rock in the style of AC/DC, The Black Crowes and indeed, Aerosmith. Singer Tyler Bryant apparently needs to warm up his vocal chords as his voice isn't great in the beginning but gets a lot better during the show. We get treated to plenty of guitar shredding, drum rolls and loud howls, followed by a few blues songs in between. Of course there are many bands like this and it's far from original, but these guys do it very well. After their show we wander around a bit, watch Dead Elvis for a minute, which of course is nothing but a cheesy gimmick and isn't really entertaining. To the bar!

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La Muerte

I did see this band before and was a bit disappointed, since I read good things about them. Musically it packs plenty of fun with heavy riffs and a very tight band that knows how to handle the Motörhead inspired rock. But I just can't really get into the grunting vocals of singer Marc Du Marais, that are just impossible to understand and sound too much alike. Together with Marais "jute bag” mask, the band has got their dark and mysterious act down with candles and little altars on stage, but once again it simply doesn't work for me.

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Tigre Blanco

At the other stage Dutch gypsy rockers Tigre Blanco are getting ready for their set. It's an acoustic performance with a few acoustic guitars and a cajon. All the ingredients for a hot gypsy party you'd think, but it doesn't really get the crowd going. It doesn't really get my blood boiling either. According to the band themselves it is "Tarantino music", but I don't think that is entirely right as it misses the tension. The band looks skilled enough but fails to energize the crowd and drag them into their performance. This way the party never gets started and kind of dies out in the end.

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I've been dying to see Dutch psych rockers for a long time, since I really like their long heavy and spacy jams. There's a new guitar player in the line-up, Boudewijn Bonebakker, but that doesn't change much to their sound. It's an amazing trip that takes you through stoner and krautrock, that will make you slip in a trance. You forget where one song ends and the other one starts, it could be one or ten (they played three by the way). The band plays a very focused and convincing set and it sucks you right into their music. Together with the beers that are starting to do their work, this trip is perfect.

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Birth of Joy

It's time for a band that keeps it going and Birth of Joy are here to do exactly that. Of course I know what to expect from them as I've seen them play several times. The threesome doesn't disappoint at all. Once again they impress with great sounding rock music and incredible handling of their instruments. With big rock riffs, stunning drum grooves and dazzling organ solo's combined with a lot of heart and effort, this one of a kind band shows how it's done. A new album is underway and I'm looking forward a lot to hearing it and see them play again.

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Lords of Altamont

After returning back to earth we are having fun with Lords of Altamont, who play a mix of punk, sixties garage and glam rock. The band do a great job with guitars and an organ going wild on gritty sleazy rock music. It is not missing its effect and it is the right band to keep this party going.

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Orange Goblin

The heavy stoner rock of Orange Goblin is totally different. The impressive stature and voice of singer Ben Ward go well with the slow and deep grooves of their songs. When the music slides into doom metal, it's not really my cup of tea, but this band plays a very solid and tight show altogether.

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Red Fang

I really want to see Red Fang, which means I have to skip Fifty Foot Combo, the surf rock band from Belgium that I like so much. Hopefully I can catch them again some next time. Fortunately Red Fang doesn't disappoint for a bit. The stoner metal songs are sharp and filled with hooks, so they sound heavy and catchy at the same time. It gives the songs a lighter touch and a sense of urgency. Vocals alternate between grunt style and clean singing, which works very well. There's a nice tempo in their set, because of the speedy grooves in their songs. It is a good slap in the face for anyone that may have been dozing off.

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Belgian rock band Triggerfinger are no strangers to this place and are back with a new album Colossus. The trio have expanded into a quartet live on stage, to be able to expand on their sound. It s the direction they have taken on their solid new LP, adding extra layers to their sound. Although the grooves are still heavy, it does seem to make them less deep though. I'm not sure if it has improved their live set, but there could be some beers in the way to hear it properly. I will have to listen more closely when I see them again in a few weeks time.

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This has been a fun day with lots of rock music, beers and dear friends. Although not all music was that interesting, there were plenty of bands that I like and especially the combination of good company made it great. The "freaky" edge of this festival, with the non-musical acts, give it a loose vibe and plenty of tongue in cheek. Together with some well chosen bands, that don't take it all too seriously, it adds the roll to the rock and that simply is a lot of fun.

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Wednesday, 15 November 2017

On Stage: Future Islands @ Paradiso

After the sudden success of their previous album Singles, Future Islands were able to come up with a new one that didn't disappoint. The Far Field wasn't a lot different but they continued where it left off and wrote another bunch of good songs expanding on their sound. By now their live reputation has been established and a fun night is guaranteed.

Future Islands at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 13 2017

Of course all eyes are on singer Samuel T. Herring who stole so many hearts with his amazing dance moves and his sincere performance. Herring is a story teller and uses music to get them across. Not just the way that songs are stories in themselves and the lyrics, but also the way he's singing them. He will portray the songs with his lively performance, stretching his hands out to imaginary people on stage, putting imaginary things in his mouth or pulling them out.

Herring, who now looks like Jack Nicholson halfway his transformation in the nineties movie Wolf, gets more and more into his role during the show, dripping with sweat after a while. The man is a delight to watch, the way he passionately performs the songs with grunts, audible slaps on his chest and his famous monkey dance. He will drop to his knees, jump up and down in faster parts and at one point slides head first to the side of the show. You would almost forget about the rest of the band who are almost invisible, playing with him in the background. It is maybe a bit unfair to them but I'm sure they are comfortable with their part in the band and the man in the spot light.

Let's not forget the music, that is both dark but also has a summer vibe to it at the same time. The warm synth sounds make sure it doesn't get all sad and desperate, but become melancholic most of the times. The tracks from several albums aren't too different from each other but still are varied enough. Of course people still react to big hit 'Seasons' but also show plenty of love for the other songs including new songs like the singles 'Ran' and 'Cave'. At several moments the applause and cheering keeps going for a long time after the end of a song, showing how much Paradiso has embraced this band tonight. Herring slaps his fist on his chest a few times to return the love.

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01. Beauty of the Road
02. Before the Bridge
03. Time on Her Side
04. A Dream of You and Me
05. Walking Through That Door
06. North Star
07. Ran
08. Balance
09. Long Flight
10. Cave
11. Through the Roses
12. Give Us the Wind
13. Ancient Water
14. Inch of Dust
15. Seasons (Waiting On You)
16. Tin Man
17. Spirit
18. Black Rose
19. Beach Foam
20. Vireo's Eye
21. Little Dreamer

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