Sunday 29 April 2018

On Stage: Shame @ Melkweg

The night before King's Day, the day the Dutch celebrate the birthday of their king, many people already start the celebrations early and that night often is even better than King's Day itself. This year Shame are playing that night at Melkweg so why not start the celebrations with them?

Shame at Melkweg Amsterdam, April 26 2018

Anyone that has seen this London band before knows, that Shame are experts at leading off the celebrations. Their debut album Songs of Praise received good reviews and since then they've been conquering many stages. Fronted by Charlie Steen they are a wild bunch, five young lads with more energy than a whole rugby team.

They waste no time getting things started and immediately light the fire. Steen's t-shirt stays on for only two songs and he keeps firing up the crowd. "This is only entertainment" he repeats a couple of times, "so just have fun!". There is no other way than to have fun with this band. The bass player is all over the place, jumping from the drum riser while his band mates are rocking their heads off. You wonder how long Steen is able to sing like this, who slowly seems to be killing his voice during the show.

Besides tons of energy this band also has good songs. 'Angie' and 'One Rizla' for example are solid songs that seem to draw inspiration from the same well as a band like Protomartyr who played here a few days earlier. But Shame are more extrovert, more punk and add a lot of swagger. This makes their music less intense but more explosive. It is the difference between an experienced band that knows when to hold back, and a young eager band that flies into it right away.

For now however this works great and their punk attitude pays off. Steen is working hard, sometimes kicking around stage with his arms along side his body, at other times spreading them as if he's going to preach. But he won't preach tonight, although the lyrics are more deep than you would expect. The only thing Steen is preaching here is to have fun and that's exactly what everyone is doing.

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01. Dust On Trial
02. Concrete
03. One Rizla
04. The Lick
05. Tasteless
06. Friction
07. New Song (Untitled)
08. Angie
09. Lampoon
10. Gold Hole
11. Donk

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Thursday 26 April 2018

On Stage: Protomartyr @ Melkweg

Some bands are able to record great albums, other bands are great at playing live. And then there are some bands who bring out incredible music and manage to make them even better when playing them live. More and more people are discovering Detroit rock band Protomartyr falls into that last category. Protomartyr at Melkweg Amsterdam, April 23 2018

This is clear from the fact that since the last time I saw them the people coming out to see them has doubled, maybe even tripled. They released another very good album Relatives in Descent that ended on many year lists including mine. The sometimes slightly absurd lyrics that singer Joe Casey brings in a vicious way, combined with the somewhat uneasy music, results in a thrilling listening experience. On stage the band is able to deepen their sound even more.

Take a song like 'A Private Understanding' with its rolling drum grooves, the simple but effective guitar chords and the biting vocals of Casey. Live everything becomes even more effective. The gloomy uneasy feeling of the music until it explodes into its aggressive chorus. You just have to feel this live, watch the remarkable posture of Casey, who looks like a traveling salesman of tooth brushes, leaning on his mic stand, carelessly holding a can of beer. He keeps repeating "She's just trying to reach you" and the song just keeps getting better and better.

Just like the band keeps growing over the years, it also does tonight. They suck everyone into their twisted dark universe where every song hits bulls eye. It's guitar player Greg Ahee's birthday so he gets to play a solo. But these guys are rock anti-heroes so there's no minutes long guitar shredding solo but a short awkward guitar melody. This is what makes Protomartyr so good, the no nonsense approach and attitude together with a keen eye for writing songs like 'Why Does It Shake?' that opens the encore. Songs that get under your skin and start to itch. You wonder how big their fanbase can grow if they keep going like this.

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Sunday 22 April 2018

On Stage: METZ @ Paradiso Tolhuistuin

A few years ago I really wanted to see METZ play the Best Kept Secret festival but only was able to see the last half of their set because we couldn't make it on time to the festival. After releasing their incredible new record Strange Peace last year I made sure to miss nothing this time when they visited my home town.

METZ at Paradiso Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, April 19 2018

It's the hottest April 19th on record so people are outside relaxing with a cold drink on a terrace. It won't lure a lot of extra people inside to watch a night of loud rock. When support act Bartek take the stage the venue hasn't really filled up. Fortunately this place doesn't need a lot of people to get ready for a good show. I like this Dutch band who mix nineties grunge and psychedelic rock into a very tasty and convincing performance. They have their sound and performance down right, but need a couple of really good songs. Now there isn't one song that is really sticking, but these guys pack plenty of skills to come up with a few soon.

Canadian trio METZ do have a couple of killer songs like 'Negative Space' and 'Eraser'. Most of all they have a lot of energy and can play very tight. The group are a relentless steamroller running you over with insane speed. Their songs keep coming at you with incredible power. It may not be subtle but this band isn't about subtlety, it is about high energy levels and letting it rip.

The new album shows a bit of a change in their sound though. They added more variety and layers to their music. You can hear the use of samples and electronics which add tension to their songs and make them more interesting. Not all of this is audible tonight, like the absence of the electronic metallic sound effects to support the riff in 'Drained Lake, one of my favourite songs of the new album. It's only a very tiny detail in an otherwise powerful performance.

For the rest this band is a non stop tornado. Guitarist and singer Alex Edkins is very active, working up a sweat and turning to his band mates when he's not singing to rock out. Bassist Chris Slorach is totally into the music and drummer Hayden Menzies never stops hitting those drums with great effect and without slowing down. Before we know it the last notes of 'Acetate' die down and the band leaves the stage soaking wet. This is the way to overwhelm your audience and leave them gasping for air, exactly the way I like it.

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Wednesday 18 April 2018

Tune In Your Head: Gruff Rhys - Frontier Man

Welsh troubadour Gruff Rhys has music coming up and as always that could be really exciting. Babelsberg will be released on June 8th. Here's the wonderful first video for 'Frontier Man'.

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Tune In Your Head: Miles Kane - Loaded

It's always good news when Miles Kane announces new music, especially when his last album Don't Forget Who You Are was released five years ago already. June 8th will see the light of Coup De Grace and 'Loaded' is the first single, that he wrote with Lana del Rey. I like that woman's touch. Listen here:

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Sunday 8 April 2018

On Stage: Flying Horseman @ Paradiso

About a year ago Flying Horseman played a show that resulted from a six week residence at art centre De Singel in Antwerp. Now this has been made into an album called Rooms/Ruins and the band is visiting Amsterdam again.

Flying Horseman at Paradiso Amsterdam, April 6 2018

If you ever listened to the music of this Belgian band, you know it evolves around guitar player and singer Bert Dockx. The songs build around his vocals and guitar playing. He has gathered a group of very talented musicians around him that each bring something to the table. The songs patiently are building up where the band are slowly increasing the tension and sometimes let it rip, let it out slowly or let never let it go.

This way their music is both dreamy at some points, also because of the high harmonies the sisters Loesje and Martha Maieu add. At the same time, the synthesizers and samples combined with the guitar create a dark atmosphere. It's as if you're part of a dream that can suddenly turn ugly, but you simply never know what is around the corner. This way the band will keep everyone on their toes during the entire concert.

Live this feeling is even magnified because of the atmosphere they create. Dockx's guitar playing is out of this world sometimes with shredding solos and fast fingerpicking. The amazing drummer Alfredo Bravo supports everything with creative drumming and percussion in a very loose style. Bassist Mattias Cré adds a bit of funk to the mix with swinging bass lines. This group is incredible at playing with dynamics in their music. Listen to the amazing 'Private Isle' for example that grabs you by the throat. Make sure to catch this unique band when you get the chance.

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Wednesday 4 April 2018

Rock 'n' Roll Circus At Pacific Parc

Of course the venues I visit like Melkweg and Paradiso are well known, but there are also a few more underground places that are worth a visit like Pacific Parc. It’s actually not a venue but a restaurant during the day that transforms into a place for rock n roll party people during the night with great DJ’s and live bands regularly. Annually they throw a big rock n roll circus party and this year it is a 13th anniversary celebration for three days. With bands like The Phantom Four and zZz on the bill I just had to go there.

Rock 'n' Roll Circus Day 2 at Pacific Parc Amsterdam, March 30 2018

The Phantom Four

The first night we weren’t able to go, but fortunately my favourite surf band was playing the second night. The Phantom Four turned into three for a while when their guitar player left and it took a some time before they found a worthy replacement. But now the group is complete again and is back stronger than ever. Tonight they prove that with that catchy surf rock sound. Of course Pacific Parc is their second home and so many of their fans have turned up to join the party. Most people are dancing to the great surf rock songs and the band turns the night into a true celebration. Where's the beach!?

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Today Amsterdam band NEED are closing the live part of the night, whose members have been around the music scene for a while. Singer Sam has dressed up nicely for tonight and has put on his nicest dress for the festive occasion. Their loud songs are explosive and very well done. They are a punk band with a punk attitude but their sound is a lot broader. Sam knows how to entertain this crowd and is all over the place giving it all he’s got, screaming his lungs out. The songs are not always standard punk songs so the band can vary in style and energy level. NEED is a great band to close this night with.

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All Pictures Day 2

Rock 'n' Roll Circus Day 3 at Pacific Parc Amsterdam, March 31 2018

Le Prince Harry

We return for the last night of this three day celebration and find the Belgian duo Le Prince Harry pounding out loud industrial new wave electro punk songs. It’s extremely loud and I’m glad I’m wearing my earplugs. The music is actually not so bad quite interesting, but maybe needs a bit more variation. And maybe tune down the volume a bit, since now I see people fleeing outside to escape the noise.

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Blind Butcher

The two Swiss musicians of Blind Butcher have a more subtle approach with plenty of rock n roll with a little disco mixed in. The band already was a big success when they played here last time and they simply had to come back. Tonight is no different and they have everyone dancing to the four on the floor songs of the duo that are dressed in shiny outfits. They do a great job of setting the right vibe for tonight.

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And what better way to end this night with zZz, whose music is made for late night rock n roll parties. I find the combination of the shredding organs combined with danceable grooves irresistible. It is clear the two musicians are enjoying their gig as well and can’t stop playing tonight. The crowd can’t get enough either and are still full of energy, so much is clear. The band who invented the sleaze fests are the perfect closing act of this three day celebration of a wonderful place where underground bands and rock n roll are still going strong.

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All Pictures Day 3

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Monday 2 April 2018

On Stage: Yasmine + JAGD @ Sugarfactory

The two promising bands Yasmine and JAGD were both competing in the local band competition Amsterdamse Popprijs in 2017 where JAGD came out as the big winner. Now they are teaming up for a series of gigs where they are appear to be competing again.

Yasmine + JAGD at Sugarfactory Amsterdam, March 30 2018

There’s no real fight tonight of course, it’s just the theme of this series of shows. Screens are showing old boxing fights and both bands perform in a boxing ring. It looks pretty cool, although maybe not very practical sound wise, but the bands are really close to the crowd.

First up are Yasmine, who play garage pop songs. The group doesn’t like to make it easy for themselves or their audience. Their songs are clever and require a bit of work to get into. The three musicians are obviously very skilled and the songs have interesting structures and themes. Singer and guitar player Kevin van Moorsel is pretty good at small talk with the audience and is convincing as a front man. It will be interesting to see how far this band can go.

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It looks like JAGD has a fast growing fan base as the hall has filled up some more. The band doesn’t waste any time and sets fire to the place right away with their contagious punk rock songs. It’s impossible to stand still when these guys and girl fire up one catchy rock tune after another. The 80s new wave twist works very well and the rhythm section adds plenty of groove that give the songs the right amount of spice. Singer Nanne van der Linden’s rough vocals bring even more fire and it doesn’t take long for a mosh pit to appear in front of the stage. By the end the fans in the pit have completely lost it and are literally flying through the room, including the band's guitar player Jos Neering. JAGD knows how to throw a good party.

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It’s good to see bands like this team up, since they can use all the help they need to play plenty of shows and hopefully in the end work their way up to an established spot in the music scene. Both groups have shown plenty of potential to get there, so tonight everyone wins.

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