Wednesday, 26 September 2018

On Stage: MIEN @ Sugarfactory

The members of new band MIEN may sound familiar, since the band consists of The Black Angels‘ Alex Maas, The Horrors‘ Tom Furse, Elephant Stone’s Rishi Dhir and The Earlies’ John Mark Lapham. They met on several different occasions which resulted in this collective, who are looking for a The Velvet Underground with Nico sound, reimagined by their respective bands. The result is a psychedelic journey rooted in the sixties. The group is now on a small tour that also crosses my hometown.

MIEN at Sugarfactory Amsterdam, September 25 2018

The show has been moved from the Melkweg to the smaller venue Sugarfactory. It is obvious why when I enter the small hall just before the show starts. Less than fifty people are in here and there still is plenty of room. It is nice to be up close to the band though who are on the same level as the crowd.

During the performance, visuals are projected on the back curtain to accompany the psychedelic music. There isn't a lot of light to show the band as they are performing mostly in dark blue lighting (which explains my dark fuzzy pictures). The sound isn't great during the show although it gets a bit better halfway. Especially the vocals which are full of reverb, are hard to pick up. Of course it is part of the psychedelic sound, but they seem to be drowning in the rest of the music, which is especially dominated by loud drums.

It makes it hard to get into the music, which should be right up my alley. I love all those bands, and I think this combination is quite interesting. Rishi Dhir is playing bass but sometimes switches to his beloved sitar, which simply is an instrument that goes perfect with this kind of music. But tonight the several layers aren't really blending together and the music misses its effect. Instead it all starts to sound alike. The band isn't really connecting with the small crowd, who mostly are waiting for something to happen. The last couple of songs sound better and we get a trace of what is possible: a psychedelic new wave version of The Velvet Underground. Too bad it is only a small part of the show that sounds good enough.

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Sunday, 9 September 2018

On Stage: Franz Ferdinand @ Woodstock'69

Haarlem's music venue Patronaat is working together with beach bar Woodstock69 to host concerts there. The beach bar is used to having DJs playing, as do many beach clubs there in Bloemendaal. But now they are also hosting band performances occasionally. This time Scottish band Franz Ferdinand are playing on the beach and that sounds like a good time to see them again.

Franz Ferdinand @ Woodstock69 Bloemendaal, September 5 2018

The last couple of days were quite rainy and it's clear summer has come to an end. Tonight we're lucky though and maybe it's not a warm summer's night at least it looks like it will stay dry. Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos is a big fan of post punk band Rats On Rafts from Rotterdam and brings them out as support act whenever he can. So the band is opening for them tonight and it's always good to see them. It's been a while since I've seen them and apparently they had a few line-up changes. But their music hasn't changed fortunately although some of the backup vocals aren't always in tune. At the end Kapranos himself joins the band for one song on guitar.

Later on he's on himself with Franz Ferdinand, the band that I still like a lot, although their best years are behind them. I like their new LP Always Descending which has a few songs that are quite good but can't match up to their best work. However Franz Ferdinand live is guaranteed to be a good time and tonight the setting seems perfect for a party. Indeed this is what happens when they start playing and the eager crowd starts dancing.

The band is playing with a lot of heart and Kapranos is his usual charming self, laughing and making contact with the people at the front. We find ourselves somewhere at the edge of the people at the front who are dancing wildly, and form a kind of jolly pit. But when they bring out their best songs, there's no holding back and we have to jump and dance like the rest. This band is still able to fire up a crowd and make them dance to their irresistible catchy songs.

Sometimes Kapranos will leave his guitar alone, grab the mic and starts crooning around the stage. Then the band will pick things up again and the crowd immediately goes wild. This band is at its best when it can get close to their fans and feel their energy. In the encore they poke up the fire a little more and let it rip completely in the closing song 'This Fire' where everyone sings "this fire is out of control" which couldn't be more true. What a great night at the beach!

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01. Lazy Boy
02. Glimpse of Love
03. Michael
04. Do You Want To
05. Walk Away
06. Come On Home
07. The Dark of the Matinée
08. Lois Lane
09. Finally
10. Outsiders
11. Take Me Out
12. Ulysses
13. Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow
14. Always Ascending
15. Love Illumination
16. This Fire

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Friday, 7 September 2018

ITGWO 2018 Day 3 + Day 4

The first two days of this festival showed all the beautiful side of it with all its amazing music, food and art. The second half promises to be just as good so we're up for another two incredible days.

Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Saturday September 1

The festival likes to explore the Vlieland island and will move stages around. This year the stage near the lighthouse in the dunes has returned, but in a different setting. It has a simple stage setup and there are no bars or food stands. Instead it focuses on more experimental music.

Onyx Collective

So we head to this incredible place where we were already a few years ago. Onyx Collective are playing experimental jazz while people are enjoying the sun. Even though the music is quite complicated and asks quite a lot from the listeners it works quite well on this lush day. Some people are dozing off to the weird sounds and vocals. This seems to be the best way to hear this complex music and to let it take you away and just let it float.

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Alfa Mist

After a break we return to the lighthouse for another jazz performance. Alfa Mist continue where Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock have left off. The producer and pianist has come up with nice gentle groovy songs with sparkling keys and trumpet. Electronic effects on the trumpet add another dimension to the music that dwells perfectly here in the dunes. And so we sit back once again in the sun and let the music do the rest.

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Canshaker Pi

We make our way into the woods to catch the last bit of Canshaker Pi. I’ve seen these guys play several times and love their hooky rock songs with a slacker twist. There’s a pit in front of the stage where people go wild. The band has changed two of their members and this has changed their chemistry as well. It kind of misses a bit of edge now but hopefully a lot of miles on the road will regain that.

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Yo La Tengo

I have heard great things about Yo La Tengo, especially their live performances. The band has made a lot of different types of music and you never know what their performance will bring. They start off very quiet, with rootsy songs that somehow cannot really grasp me. Halfway they pick things up with heavier work and start rocking out. Still I can’t really get into it and the music is lacking a really good groove, despite the skills of the musicians. It doesn't really help that the three members aren't exactly showing they are having a good time. This band has a huge reputation and I can hear why they are so loved, but for me it doesn't work.

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The Vaccines unfortunately had to cancel and Dutch rocker DeWolff are filling in. They are a worthy replacement and are taking full opportunity of their unexpected visit to the island. The classic rock songs go down well with the eager crowd on this sunny afternoon. Even though they are still young, these guys have been playing together for most of their life. The band works hard to please the crowd with screaming guitar solos, a growling organ and rolling drums and comes up winning with an inspired show.

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Oumou Sangaré

Malinese singer Oumou Sangaré is pretty big in her home country and for a good reasons she proves here tonight. He voice is beautiful and full of power and the songs are melancholic but also very good to dance to. The crowd is willing to do exactly that and joins Sangaré and her band in the African dancing party. With a huge smile she’s enjoying the view and it is clear this happy festival crowd has embraced this wonderful singer.

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The Ex

It is time I get to see legendary Amsterdam band The Ex who have been around for almost fourty years. The veterans show why tonight with an inspired show, that is full of fire. The rocks songs are not your standard ones, but are melodic tunes that often end up in rough noise eruptions where the guitar players are shredding their guitars with a huge grin on their faces. Drummer Katherina Bornefeld is tastefully holding the boys together with tight drumming.

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Django Django

The Scottish band Django Django are the ones that get to close the main stage today on a high. It turns out that is not a problem with a festive crowd that is very willing to dance to the light indie rock and pop songs, that are kind of like modern disco and are meant to move your body. Their latest LP Marble Skies has plenty of those groovy songs and together with some of their big hits, the field is having a great time. But the band doesn't really set fire to it, while the circumstances are ideal to let it rip. So instead everybody is gently rocking instead of having a wild dancing party. Still not bad to end a great day.

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All Pictures Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Day 3

Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Sunday September 2

It's hard to believe the final day has arrived, after three days so chuck full of music it is dazzling. Today is a shorter one but still there is so much to enjoy that we're up for another good one.

Sunflower Bean

The last day is always a long stretch but Sunflower Bean have no trouble waking us up. Julia Cumming leads her band into powerful rock songs with some ballads scattered around the set. She has a real rock attitude and a pretty good voice. Guitar licks heavy on overdrive are bouncing off the trees in the woods. It is working better than coffee and within no time we are all wide awake.

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Boy Azooga

We leave the warm sun for a bit and enter the dark indoor stage, where Boy Azooga have started their set. We come in at a mellow part, where the band is exploring their sensitive side. It is clear these guys can play, but this part of the set can't win me over. The band comes across as a bunch of very nice guys though and I really want to like it. Towards the end they pick things up and play a couple of nice uptempo tunes. It is not a bad performance but I was hoping for a bit more spice.

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Things are totally different at the stage in the woods where singer Joe Casey is wondering what we're doing here at this beautiful day, watching them play their depressing music. Of course he's joking and by now I am used to his sarcastic and cynical comments. But he's cutting his band short here, since even on this beautiful spot, their dark music doesn't miss its effect. The band is sharp and tight and Casey is spitting out his lyrics in his usual posture, leaning against the mic stand, holding a can of beer. It's hard not to look at him and not get hypnotised by his mimicry, while his band is almost carelessly playing along. Once again I'm impressed by the powerful performance by this one of a kind band.

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Jeff Tweedy

At the main stage Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy has started his solo show. The stage is almost completely empty except for Tweedy and a small flight case next to him. He looks like a happy camper but his songs cut deeper than that. Tweedy is joking and is obviously in a good mood. It is a mellow performance on this sunny warm afternoon and he's joking that he's "tearing down this joint" when a sign falls down at the side of the stage. I am surprised it isn't more crowded since I suspect Wilco is a big band among the visitors here. I'm not really into Tweedy's roots and folk music, but I can definitely enjoy his cheerful performance here today.

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Hannah Williams & The Affirmations

The festival always likes to close with a feel good performance by an artist that isn't really a headliner but will send everyone away with a smile on their face. This year Hannah Williams and her Affirmations are the ones to send us home and she's doing a great job. Williams' voice is incredible and her band is wonderful too. Her soul music isn't exactly something you haven't heard before but it so well performed that it is hard not to enjoy it. Their version of Led Zeppelin's 'Dazed and Confused' sounds compelling and genuine. She's the right person to end the festival here at the main stage. After we dance some more to DJ St Paul of course who always knows how to keep the party going a bit longer.

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Another edition comes to an end where I didn't see any real surprises, although I saw plenty of good performances. But this festival is about having a great time with good music, good food and beautiful people. This goes for the musicians too who obviously love playing here. This festival summer comes to an end in the best possible way.

All Pictures Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Day 4

Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Day 1 + 2

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Thursday, 6 September 2018

ITGWO 2018 Day 1 + Day 2

The summer is coming to an end and although that is bad news for me, the good news is that we get to go to that lovely festival Into The Great Wide Open on that beautiful little island. This year they have lined up another crazy load of amazing bands, so it promises to be a good edition again.

Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Thursday August 30

The first day started out as a simple warm up but although it still isn't a full day, it has turned into a nice start of the festival with a couple of great bands.

Dijf Sanders

The stage in the woods is still at the same lush place as the past years. Belgian musician Dijf Sanders kicks off the festival here and it is still a bit quiet between the trees. Sanders’ music is a good fit at this beautiful place. Warm vintage electronics are mixed with samples and sequences. A sax player adds variation to the mellow music. It isn't a crazy wild party but it’s a nice start of the festival.

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Now it’s time to pick things up and the Canadian noise trio will exactly do that. I love this band who play a loud mix of noise and punk. Their songs have powerful grooves that will nail them into your ears and head. In this dark small venue they are at the right place and give a blistering performance that goes down well with the people that can handle it and stay in there to watch.

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Braaknoot Ensemble & Mauro Pawlowski

Dutch artist Boudewijn de Groot made quite a number of records and tonight the Mauro Pawlowski and his Braaknoot Ensemble play one of his most experimental ones Nacht & Ontij. To be fair I didn’t see the whole performance because I spent most of the time chatting to a friend (at the back). But what I saw was quite interesting and well performed by these group of very good musicians. Visuals at the back are effectively supporting the experimental music. It is a remarkable show in a great setting between the trees in the dark.

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All Pictures Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Day 1

Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Thursday August 31

After a good start, the second day has a wonderful sunny start and we are ready for some more music. And beers I guess.

Altin Gün

What better way than to wake up with Turkish psychedelic rock? The Dutch band Altin Gün have reworked Turkish psychedelic music from the sixties and seventies into groovy and catchy dance tunes. Singer Merve Dasdemir is smiling when she sees the whole field dancing like true Turkish people and for a moment we are attending a wedding party in Istanbul. This group are a bunch of very fine musicians who are kicking us off in the most festive way.

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White Denim

I know I’m going to love the next performance on the field with this amazing band from Austin. They use classic and Southern rock als a basis for their music, but build all kinds of styles on it. The result is a crazy ride with a band that is excelling in mind blowing solos, twists and turns. The band is taking the field by storm with a rock show that has an enormous tempo and blistering power.

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Dylan Leblanc

On the beach Dylan Leblanc has already started his set. At the front people are dozing off sitting down on the beach, listening to the mellow sounds. His set is heavy on slow roots and country songs and the beach and the sun are the perfect setting for this. It is a bit too slow for me though, but the environment makes up for that.

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The Posies

Time to pick it up a notch again and nineties power rockers The Posies are waiting for us indoors. In the dark they are firing off compact rock songs with great ease. The band is celebrating thirty years playing together which has turned them into a tight band. Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow are alternating on vocals and both are singing really well. There’s a jolly mood on stage and it turns the show into a cheerful one. Although Stringfellow invites us all for a swim tomorrow morning I think I have to pass on that one.

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What is there to say about Johan, the band that I’ve seen so many times and love so much? I would have expected more people to come watch as their music is a perfect match to this festival. Their songs are simply gorgeous and the band is getting better and better after playing many shows since their return. Singer Jacco de Greeuw’s voice sounds good today and I find myself completely lost in their wonderful music.

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Pip Blom

Dutch talent Pip Blom is turning the beach stage into a garage rock party with her young band. While the sun is setting and the sky is showing amazing colours with purple dots of clouds, Pip is bouncing her blonde curls with a huge smile on her face. This is how garage rock is supposed to sound: a bit dirty and sloppy, but in a good way. Her vocals are sometimes a bit lazy which gives her music that extra dimension. This is a nice beach party with a lovely young bunch of musicians.

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John Cale

Legendary The Velvet Underground member John Cale is playing the main stage in the dark. Visuals at the back are supporting his experimental songs. Cale and his band are playing very focused, making sure all the layers of the songs are coming out well. It is definitely intriguing but it is a bit too difficult for me and most of the audience.

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Róisín Murphy

Irish singer Róisín Murphy takes us into the night after that with her modern disco tunes. She’s a great performer with quick costume changes and a lot of activity. She’s constantly moving around stage, dancing to her clever pop songs. The show never stops and before you know it, she has left the stage. The show is clearly well choreographed which leaves not much room for improvisation. Murphy also seems to play it on auto pilot which takes away the spontaneity. Nevertheless it is a nice end of an amazing day where we got treated to unexpected sun shine.

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All Pictures Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Day 2

Into The Great Wide Open 2018 Day 3 + 4

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