Wednesday 29 March 2017

On Stage: J. Bernardt @ Bitterzoet

At last year's edition of the Into The Great Wide Open festival, Belgian band Balthazar was all over the island in many forms. Of course the band itself, but several of its members were playing shows as well, sometimes presenting very new material. One of them was Jinte Deprez who played one of his first shows as J. Bernardt.

J. Bernardt at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, March 27 2017

When he was playing the island, no one knew what to expect since his music was all still a big mystery. I was pleasantly surprised by the danceable electronic music and was looking forward to hearing and seeing more of him. By now a few songs have been released and they are very pleasant to listen to. I complimented Deprez at the festival on his music after the show, but he wasn't that content himself mentioning some things went wrong. Tonight however I can't hear or see anything going wrong at all.

Deprez looks very confident on stage and as one of the lead singers of Balthazar he is used to playing much bigger stages and crowds. Maybe that's why he's moving around the small stage a lot, sometimes climbing a small raiser at the side, something they are doing with Balthazar as well. It is clear that many people in the almost sold out venue haven't heard a lot of his music yet, judging from the somewhat hesitant reactions in the beginning. But slowly people get used to the warm electronic sound of the music. Adriaan van de Velde is creating most of that on keyboards while drummer Klaas De Somer is playing the groovy beats. These two musicians were the support act tonight as Pomrad, van de Velde's own funky project.

Deprez is adding sequences and samples, sometimes using his guitar. But mostly he's dancing around the stage while singing with his pleasant and warm voice. The songs mostly stay mellow, creating a sultry atmosphere, quite suitable for hopefully this year's warm summer. It isn't something to completely go wild on, but it's music to slowly submerge yourself in, like a warm bath and simply go with the flow. This time it looks like things went very smoothly and Deprez can be happy about tonight's show. I'm looking forward to his album that should come out later this year and hopefully see him play again as well.

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Monday 27 March 2017

On Stage: Flying Horseman @ Brakke Grond

Belgian musician Bert Docx is one of those people that keeps himself busy. I saw him play with Dans Dans a only few months ago, but tonight he is playing with his group Flying Horseman. After a six week residence at art centre De Singel in Antwerp where they explored their musical and thematic obsessions and focused on the qualities of the individual members of the group, they are taking now this set to the stage.

Flying Horseman at Brakke Grond Amsterdam, March 23 2017

The group is standing around drummer Alfredo Bravo with keyboards to either side and Docx himself not in the centre but to the left of the stage. Most of the compositions start by soundscapes where Docx is building his guitar part on top of. The tracks then seem to organically grow and move into different directions. Sometimes it results in psychedelic hypnotizing music that sounds mysterious and dark. Other compositions are building up until they finally explode like a beast breaking loose. The group knows how to keep things interesting throughout the whole performance, keeping their audience on its toes.

Many tracks have vocals by both keyboard players, the Maieu sisters, who are using their voice as additional sound effects to emphasize the atmosphere. It is a delight watching these musicians play their intriguing music. Especially drummer Bravo is wonderful to watch with his dynamic playing and great technique. And of course Docx himself, who is a brilliant musician with versatile skills and talents. At the end they treat us to a few older songs to close this impressive and very interesting night.

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Monday 20 March 2017

On Stage: Jo Goes Hunting @ Paradiso

I'm a member of the Paradiso Vinyl Club, an initiative by Paradiso to support promising new bands. The band can release a 7" single on vinyl and will play a release show at the small hall of the venue. The latest release features Jo Goes Hunting, but this band even already have their first full album Come, Future out now. I saw them play at the Amsterdam Woods festival last year and that raised my attention. I like the new album as well so time to go check them out again.

Jo Goes Hunting at Paradiso Amsterdam, March 18 2017

The band is actually the talented Jimmi Jo Heuting, who transformed his name into the band name. His last name may ring a bell, since his big brother Rocco plays in the rock band De Staat that is currently taking on the world. Jimmi Jo however is doing things a bit differently music wise, although they did play as a support act for De Staat last month at AFAS Live (formely known as Heineken Music Hall). His music is stacked with electronics, weird grooves, buzzing synths and percussion. Some tracks are groovy, danceable songs with a heavy beat, others are edgy tunes with sudden breaks and twists that will mess up your four on the floor dance moves.

To be able to play this live he is part of a five piece band, where everyone including bassist and lead guitarist also add part of the electronic add-ons. It results in layered, dynamic songs and an exciting, sometimes bewildering, performance that is most of all fascinating from start to finish. Heuting is behind his drum kit, singing at the same time, sitting at the front of the stage with his colleagues surrounding him. He will get up now and then to sing behind another mic where he can also add effects to the songs. When drum players are singing at the same time, there's always a chance that things can get static, but this is not the case here. There's plenty of energy and although the complicated music may not excite everyone Heuting shows plenty of potential and confidence to grow a bigger audience.

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Thursday 16 March 2017

On Stage: Car Seat Headrest @ Paradiso

Last year Car Seat Headrest made one of the best albums of the year in my opinion. Teens Of Denial popped up in many year lists and was one of the few rock albums appearing high between pop and hip-hop records. I didn't see them when they played the London Calling festival last year, but fortunately the band returned to Amsterdam.

Car Seat Headrest at Paradiso Amsterdam, March 14 2017

Originally the band was supposed to be playing at the Tolhuistuin venue but by popular demand for tickets the shows was rescheduled to the main hall which is almost full. This is a small miscalculation by the programmer since the main hall is twice as big. It shows how popular the band got since the release of that great record, which is full of nineties inspired alternative rock songs about anxiety. These songs sound great with ringing guitar chords and sometimes a bit of grunge. Many find it sounds a bit like a mix of Guided By Voices and Pavement, which is definitely true.

Front man Will Toledo doesn't look like a rock star at all, but merely an anti-hero. With his skinny appearance, nerdy glasses and his suit it looks like he came straight from some mind numbing office job in a cubicle. But when the band is playing he actually is showing some charisma. When the jacket goes off later on the show and when he's doing some awkward dancing he reminds me a bit of a young version of Pulp's Jarvis Cocker.

But enough about appearances, it's the music that counts. Like on the record the music is spot on. The band is able to recreate the sound and dynamics of the record and add energy to it. Guitarist Ethan Ives powers the songs with strong riffs and solo's. Toledo's mumbling makes it hard to hear what he's saying in between songs and even when he's singing but I think they are having a good time. The atmosphere tonight breaths the nineties, not only because of the music. May people are jumping up and down, energized by the catchy rock songs. To some songs they are even singing along like the strong and popular 'Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales'. At the end the band returns for an explosive encore with 'Connect The Dots'. After that people remain in front of the stage, hoping to get some more, but the band doesn't return. You just can't get enough when it's so good. Looking forward to hearing and seeing a lot more from this band.

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1. Fill in the Blank
2. Vincent
3. Maud Gone
4. Destroyed by Hippie Powers
5. Sober to Death
6. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
7. Unforgiving Girl (She's Not An)
8. Famous Prophets (Minds)
9. Connect the Dots (The Saga of Frank Sinatra)

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Wednesday 15 March 2017

On Stage: Pete Doherty @ Melkweg

Whenever Pete Doherty is playing a gig, whether as solo artist or with one his bands, you have to ask yourself if and when he will show up and in what kind of state. With The Libertines about a year ago he was in pretty good shape and I really enjoyed that show. Tonight one of my close friends got me a spot on the guest list so that reduced the risk of paying money for watching a drunk Doherty on stage.

Peter Doherty at Melkweg Amsterdam, March 13 2017

I guess most people in here tonight know that chances are considerable they will see a poor performance. That question is answered immediately when Doherty stumbles on stage an hour late and starts plucking his guitar: this guy is wasted. He mumbles something about not having smoked anything but it is pretty clear he didn't spend the day drinking apple juice and eating fruit salads. He's drifting about the stage, starting songs that leave his band wondering what he's doing. Sometimes bands can absolutely save a performance when their front men or women have lost it. The Pogues were used to that and were able to play decent shows with Shane MacGowan being out of this world.

But this band tonight look like they met Doherty this afternoon in some local drinking hole and have no intentions of playing a decent show. Sometimes they look as if they really want to be at home watching the latest episode of their favourite Netflix series. The violin is completely out of balance in the mix, mostly being too loud, but even worse, mostly out of tune. This whole show is out of tune. Sometimes Doherty is able to knock out something of a song with a head and a tail, pleasing his most loyal, and mostly British fans. When his show ends we decide not to stay for the encore, but go home and forget about this waste of time. The day after I found out the encore was the best part of the show but I'm so glad I didn't pay any money to see a shit faced Doherty wasting his talent.

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Tuesday 14 March 2017

On Stage: Surfer Blood + Cloud Nothings @ Paradiso

The nice people of Indiestad organized a few nights with several indie bands. One of them had Cloud Nothings on the bill and I sure wanted to see them play live. As a bonus there were a few more bands to enjoy.

Surfer Blood at Paradiso Amsterdam, March 11 2017
The night starts quite early and I'm not able to get there so early myself. The first band I'm able to see if Surfer Blood, who have just started when I arrive. The foursome from Florida play sunny indie rock songs that are easy to digest. It's all very honest but it is lacking conviction. The band look like a nice bunch of people and they are enjoying themselves but aren't really radiating lots of energy. Obviously this doesn't really spark the crowd who are reacting luke-warm to the band's performance.

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Cloud Nothings at Paradiso Amsterdam, March 11 2017
The program alternates between the small and large venue, but the small venue always gets so crowded that we decide to skip the bands there and focus on Cloud Nothings next. This turns out to be a good choice. What Surfer Blood was lacking, this band has plenty of. The group is full of energy and their powerful rock music with post-punk influences does mobilize the crowd.

They are totally destroying the stage with tight and heavy songs, playing plenty of songs from their new album Life Without Sound. A big wall of noise hits you right in the face and simply blows you away. The crowd can't get enough so at the end the band returns for a few more songs, turning half of the hall into a jumping mass of people.

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Hopefully I will be able to catch some of the bands that also starred on the bill tonight, but Cloud Nothings definitely made the night for me. Keep them coming Indiestad!

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Monday 13 March 2017

On Stage:Navarone @ Patronaat

For some reason it's hard to catch rock band Navarone in my hometown. They do play all over the country but it's been a while since I was able to see them in one of the clubs over here. With their new record Oscillation out they are touring the clubs again and fortunately came close enough to catch them on stage.

Navarone at Patronaat Haarlem, March 10 2017

The band from Nijmegen are visiting Haarlem which is not to far from Amsterdam, especially from the part of town where I live. So we head over to the Patronaat, the pop venue over there that always has an interesting program. There we find local young band Mantra on stage to warm us up. The group of four probably spent time discovering their parent's records who are probably about my age, since they draw inspiration from the nineties grunge era. Needless to say I can only approve of that and the band is showing their potential. The rock songs are powerful and the band look confident and are not too impressed with the small size hall of this venue. It's a good way to start this night.

After the support act the curtain is closed and we wait for the main act. When the curtain is drawn Navarone kick it off immediately with new song and opening track 'Snake' of Oscillation, a heavy rocker with a big riff that reminds of Soundgarden guitars. Immediately the band grasps our attention and doesn't let go any more. After releasing their first record the band has broadened their spectrum and have grown from a classic rock band into a more alround rock band, in the good sense. This is clear when listening to the new record. Next to the heavy rock they knock out an almost light pop rock song like 'Showtime', an epic classic hard rock anthem 'Days of Yore' and a rock ballad 'Free Together' that were so common in the eighties. However it all sounds fresh and it is clear this band was having fun making that record.

And exactly that is what showing on stage as well: these guys are having so much fun. Singer Merijn van Haren never fails to impress with his strong rock voice with amazing howls. Combined with a powerful rhythm section and mouth watering guitar shredding this band has it all, but the sheer joy they are showing is what makes this group such a delight to watch. So far all of the three albums are very strong where each one of them has a few instant classics. For instance 'Wander' from the previous one and 'The Red Queen Effect' from their first one that still is one of my favourites. All ingredients are in place for a smooth rock show and tonight it is much more. This band is on a roll and lays down a show that can tear apart any size venue. It's about time the rest of the country will discover this too and although I love to see them in such a small club, these guys deserve so much more.

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Wednesday 8 March 2017

New Sounds: Damaged Bug - Bunker Funk

If anyone can keep up with all of John Dwyer's side projects and their releases, you probably haven't heard them all. Best known as Thee Oh Sees' front man, he is doing so much more. He will release a new Damaged Bug album Bunker Funk on Friday where he explores his electronic side. Although his production his, so is the quality of his output since like always it's worth listening to it. So here you go:

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