Wednesday, 12 June 2019

On Stage: Eddie Vedder @ AFAS Live

Photo by Ferdy Damman

About two years ago Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder was doing a solo tour. I love Pearl Jam and I love Eddie, but prices for tickets were steep. Of course it sold out in no time, so I had to get tickets on Ticketswap when I decided I wanted to go after all, despite the high price. After the show I was really happy that I got to see him, since it was a wonderful show. This year Vedder was visiting again and prices were even higher (probably because of Dutch VAT changes), but this time I wasn't going to pass on them, since I knew it was going to be worth it.

Eddie Vedder at AFAS Live Amsterdam, June 9 2019

I didn't get the most expensive tickets, for the so called Blackbox, but slightly cheaper ones and we find ourselves sitting on the stands all the way at the back. These are not great seats, but I hope we can see it properly anyway. The setting is pretty much the same as last time and Glen Hansard is opening the night. I liked the Irish musician last time and again I'm impressed with his sincere songs and heartful performance. I really need to properly check out his music this time. It turns out the seats are really quite far off though and it is hard to see the singer's face clearly.

Photo by Ferdy Damman

Fortunately this time there's a big screen hanging at the back, and after Eddie Vedder himself has walked on the stage and played a few songs, the screen switches on and we can finally see him properly. Sometimes the screen shows some kind of monitor with the live images, or just some visuals supporting the music. But it's good to see the charismatic Vedder's expressions when he's playing. Like expected he's playing many covers, songs by Neil Young, Pink Floyd, and an emotional salute to Tom Petty. Many Pearl Jam songs get the acoustic treatment, big ones like 'Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town' and 'Porch', but also some more rare ones like 'Wishlist' and 'Lukin'.

The Dutch Red Limo String Quartet has been invited again after joining him on his last European tour and play a lot more songs this time. The arrangements are beautiful and the Quartet give the songs a completely different twist that is perfect for this night. When Vedder leaves the stage for the first time, the Quartet return by themselves and play a lovely version of 'Alive'. You know Vedder isn't finished of course, far from it. During the stunning version of 'Better Man', E-Street sax player Jake Clemons joins him, taking the song to new dimensions. Glen Hansard joins for a few songs, and since Vedder, Hansard and Clemons recorded some Springsteen songs in the past, it is a perfect moment to play a few live. 'Drive All Night' and 'Open All Night' are good choices and I'm sure The Boss would love them.

Vedder's biggest solo hit 'Hard Sun' closes the first encore and you know there's still one song missing. So yes, he returns for 'Rockin' in the Free World', a familiar closer of his solo and Pearl Jam shows. He invites all his guests on stage. Even the two lucky ladies from the audience, Glen Hansard did a song with during his support show, rock along with Vedder for this cheerful ending. You just got to love Vedder for the way he plays music, with or without Pearl Jam. Of course he also talks about politics for a short while and shares his view of the world. It is always brief and it never takes away the focus from the music that always comes first. For the rest he just shares short stories, like about the time in 1992 in Utrecht, when a young woman gave him a lift on the back of her bike to his hotel. Nick Cave told us a few weeks back during his 'Conversations With...' show, he always tries to stay authentic as an artist. I think Eddie Vedder has always stayed authentic too and his music and personality are very inspiring. Despite the high ticket prices it was totally worth again.

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01. Keep Me in Your Heart (Warren Zevon cover)
02. The Needle and the Damage Done (Neil Young cover)
03. I Am Mine (Pearl Jam song)
04. Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town (Pearl Jam song)
05. Indifference (Pearl Jam song)
06. Brain Damage (Pink Floyd cover)
07. Sometimes (Pearl Jam song)
08. Wishlist (Pearl Jam song)
09. Without You
10. Can't Keep (Pearl Jam song) (with Red Limo String Quartet)
11. Sleeping by Myself (with Red Limo String Quartet)
12. Guaranteed (with Red Limo String Quartet)
13. Far Behind
14. Rise
15. Wildflowers (Tom Petty cover)
16. Man of the Hour (Pearl Jam song)
17. Lukin (Pearl Jam song)
18. Porch (Pearl Jam song)
19. Alive (Pearl Jam song) (with Red Limo String Quartet only)
20. Just Breathe (Pearl Jam song) (with Red Limo String Quartet)
21. The End (Pearl Jam song) (with Red Limo String Quartet)
22. Better Man (Pearl Jam song) (with Jake Clemons)
23. Song of Good Hope (Glen Hansard cover) (with Glen Hansard)
24. Sleepless Nights (The Everly Brothers cover) (with Glen Hansard)
25. Society (Jerry Hannan cover)
26. Drive All Night (Bruce Springsteen cover) (with Jake Clemons)
27. Open All Night (Bruce Springsteen cover)
28. Hard Sun (Indio cover)
29. Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young cover)

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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

On Stage: The Good, The Bad & The Queen @ Paradiso

I've probably written it here before, that Damon Albarn is one my musical heroes. Almost everything he touches is gold in my eyes and I think he's one of the best songwriters and musicians of the past couple of decades. I was thrilled to hear The Good, The Bad & The Queen were back with a second album Merrie Land after ten years of silence and a tour that would pass through my hometown.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen at Paradiso Amsterdam, June 6 2019

Not only does this band have Damon Albarn, it also has one of my drummer heroes Tony Allen behind the kit. To top it off there's Paul Simonon on bass, who used to play for The Clash, and Simon Tong, former guitarist for The Verve. The latter two are playing a lot with Albarn, including Gorillaz. Yes, that's not a bad group together I'd say. Set to a backdrop of a classic London scene, some table lamps spread around the stage and some string lights hanging above, the mood couldn't be more perfect tonight in Paradiso. When the band steps onto the stage you can see they are eager to play and all the ingredients are in place for a beautiful night.

Even better, the night turns into a magical one with a group that sounds better than ever, has a lot of fun playing together and has an incredible collection of songs. On stage they have a couple of reinforcements, to do justice to their music. They made only two albums, but quality definitely is more important than quantity in this case, since both records are full of little gems. This is not Blur or Gorillaz, that have some insane bangers to knock out. These songs are a bit harder and require you to really dig in. However tonight this is not a problem at all, since Albarn will drag you into this melancholic world.

Both albums are critical of London and England as a whole, where Merrie Land draws inspiration from the Brexit vote. That doesn't mean this is a political heavy night. Albarn does touch on the subject a few times, but for the rest the music is speaking. You can see he is used to the biggest stages, since he's exploring every corner of this smaller stage that is already filled with musicians and equipment. It's as if he wants to sing to everyone individually, wants to look everyone into the eye and wants to dance with everyone here tonight. There even turns out to be a whole string section on the balcony above us, I found out only after the concert.

The small group of youngsters in front of the stage, who are probably his fellow country men, draw a big smile on his face every time they jump up and down singing along every word in every song. This is the wonderful vibe in here tonight, that only keeps getting better. The setlist is split in half, serving Merrie Land before and after a short intermezzo the songs of The Good, The Bad & The Queen. Almost all songs of both albums are being played here tonight. The slow songs turn into lush intimate moments, while the more up tempo ones keep the party going.

Albarn is constantly looking for contact with the rest of the band. Tony Allen seems to be smiling for the entire set and Simonon is a delight to watch, how he is handling his bass, swinging back and forth. Tong is focused on his guitar mostly, but is definitely in the moment. I can only watch these musicians in awe and try to absorb every second. After more than one and a half hours the band take a bow to receive their well deserved round of applause. This is one of those exceptional nights that I'll always remember and will treasure for ever.

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01. Merrie Land
02. Gun to the Head
03. Nineteen Seventeen
04. The Great Fire
05. Lady Boston
06. The Truce of Twilight
07. Ribbons
08. The Last Man to Leave
09. The Poison Tree
10. History Song
11. 80's Life
12. Kingdom of Doom
13. Herculean
14. The Bunting Song
15. Nature Springs
16. A Soldier's Tale
17. Three Changes
18. Green Fields
19. The Good, The Bad & The Queen

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Monday, 10 June 2019

Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 3

Yesterday was a long day with lots of music, although I didn't even make my eighteen bands, not even close. My feet started to object against all the walking and standing. Today is a shorter day and I can take it slow. It promises to be a tropical day, so we need to hydrate. Beer is mostly water right?

Best Kept Secret 2019 Day 3, June 2 2019

Julia Holter

I listened to some of Julia Holter's music and quite liked her experimental and jazzy songs. This could be a nice way to start the day. However after a short while I notice this is not for me. It's definitely her more experimental side, but it is too slow for me. I simply don't like music that is difficult, just to be difficult. It doesn't mean I can't enjoy complex or experimental music, because I certainly can. I just can't watch music that is too much about being complex, which seems to be the case here. So after a while I leave and hurry to stage Five.

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At stage Five Lewsberg are at the end of their set. I have seen this band a few times before and like their music a lot. The nice ringing guitars, the talk singing, the groovy krautrock, the subtle solos, it's all so well done. But at the same time I just can't get around the apathetic stage act. I know it's all just an act, where singer Arie van Vliet is sometimes addressing the crowd in a cool, formal way as well. But somehow it just doesn't appeal to me, even when the music is that good. I want some kind of connection to happen between audience and artist, in any kind of way. Today this doesn't work for me, maybe because I wasn't there from the start.

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We stick around at this stage while the temperature is getting tropical. It is just right for the next band playing here, Romperayo from Colombia. Their insane mix of Afro-Colombian traditional rhythms and cumbia are perfect for dancing and cold beers. Drummer Pedro Ojeda, who you may know from Los Pirañas, is the driving force behind those rhythms. The groovy bass adds some seventies funk and the guitar mixes in some psychedelica. Finally the keyboard adds little layers of sound effects, playful organs and some tropical vibes. Everyone in the tent is dancing to this colourful band. Some songs come dangerously close to too much cheesiness, but the band is able to avoid it in the end.

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Whispering Sons

After dancing to some Colombian sun, it's time for Belgian darkness. Whispering Sons won Belgian music competition Humo's Rock Rally a few years back, where some of the biggest Belgian bands saw their career take off. The young band plays dark new wave and post-punk songs, that have an industrial sound. They are sometimes described as the Belgian Sisters of Mercy, which is not a bad reference. Even on this sunny day, the band's music doesn't miss its effect. Singer Fenne Kuppens is the absolute centre point of attention. Her low dark voice is a perfect match with the music and her stage appearance is stunning, singing her lyrics full of expression in a theatrical way. She knows how to balance it very well, so it never gets too much and stays completely honest. It is clear most of the people here are equally impressed, since the tent stays full and after playing the last song the band is greeted with a well meant roaring round of applause.

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Another nineties comeback was announced this week: Pavement are coming back. The band influenced so many bands and nowadays young bands still draw inspiration from the illustrious Californian group. Today one if its core members Stephen Malkmus is performing with his band The Jicks. It is different from Pavement, but not too much. His music consists of well written compact indie rock songs, with a nineties vibe. However today these tunes are performed in a quite uninspired way. Malkmus is kind of playing on auto pilot, even though The Jicks seem to be trying. Maybe it's the temperature but it all comes across as too lifeless to really enjoy.

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Kurt Vile & The Violators

On the main stage Kurt Vile is looking much more inspired. You know he isn't exactly a happy camper like Mac DeMarco yesterday, but his indie rock and folk sounds convincing today. As a former guitarist of The War On Drugs his music doesn't wander off too much from his former band. You can hear where it's all coming from. His songs are slowly passing by with lots of guitar solos, something that is perfect for the hot stage he's playing, in front of people that appear to be standing in a blistering desert. It shows that you can still play a convincing and inspired show despite an unmoved stage presence.

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The Raconteurs

We have to leave Kurt Vile early since we don't want to miss anything from The Raconteurs. Their return was great news and I was looking forward to his show today a lot. And boy, I am not disappointed to put it mildly. It's as if they have unleashed a bunch of caged tigers (yes, weak safari park reference intended) and the band fly into it with great power. We get to hear a couple of new songs and some golden oldies. Jack White says they wish they could play longer, which is obvious. They want to make every second of this performance count and don't waste any time in between. It's great to see the chemistry in this band, where they are looking at each other, walk towards each other and are simply having a blast. I love the combination of Brendan Benson's lovely, warm and calm voice, and Jack White's high, hoarse and somewhat hysterical vocals. Within no time the last chords of 'Steady As She Goes' have sounded and the band is finished. This was an hour of absolute rock heaven and I can't wait for a headlining concert hopefully to be announced soon.

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A thunderstorm is on its way to the festival site, but we don't need any other excuse to be at Interpol's show. It's part of the same tour I saw last year, which proved the band has returned to their best form. Tonight they steadily work their way through their setlist again, playing songs off their last album and EP together with some of their big hits. Like always singer Paul Banks keeps his distance, wearing sunglasses for the entire show. His thundering voice sounds strong and clear though. This band from New York has so many good songs, that never fail to impress or miss their effect. Again the band plays very tight, although I have the feeling it is not as tight as last year's show. This could just be an unjustified feeling and the fact that it is a shorter set. I still enjoy it a lot and let myself get carried away by their gloomy rock music.

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Christine & The Queens

When we get outside, the thunderstorm has passed and cooled of the festival site. When we walk onto the field in front of the main stage, it looks quit empty. Fortunately people were only hiding from the storm and are slowly returning for the closing act of the festival. It may have raised an eyebrow here and there, but I think Christine & The Queens is very good choice. She has impressed many people lately with well written pop songs and spectacular live performances. She proves it tonight with a live show that is well performed, very lively and also contains a message. Chris, as she calls herself now, mentions this is a judgement free area tonight, where no one will be judged for who they are, but everyone should be able to completely be themselves. It is a very relevant message today and one that comes across effectively.

The show is very well done, with dancers flying around the stage in stunning choreographed dancing, where Chris is always the centre point. Pieces of eighties music like Janet Jackson are mixed in and I can surely see the resemblance to that era. Her voice is clear and strong, seemingly singing and dancing with great ease. A piece of David Bowie's 'Heroes' finds its way into the show and it sounds wonderful. She addresses the crowd regularly, where you feel there's a real connection. It's hard not to connect because she's doing it with so much passion, enthusiasm and heart. It is a live show that has so much to offer and is high on entertainment that it is spot on as a closing headliner for this year's edition. Well done Chris and well done Best Kept Secret.

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This year's edition may not have been as perfect as last year's where every band seemed to excel. However something that is not entirely perfect can just be as good because the highs are more obvious. Maybe even better? It doesn't matter, since what counts is that it was another wonderful edition and we surely will return next year.

All Pictures

Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 1
Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 2

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Saturday, 8 June 2019

Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 2

After such a fun but long day as yesterday, it's hard to wake up. But there's fresh coffee and fried eggs, sunny weather and good company, which ought to get me going. And the thought of another glorious day with so many bands to check out. I have marked no less than eighteen bands in my schedule. So better not waste more time and get this party going.

Best Kept Secret 2019 Day 2, June 1 2019

The Beths

The day starts in a relaxed way with Auckland indie rock band The Beths. Front woman Elizabeth Stokes has written catchy punk pop songs full of hooks and nineties vibes. The songs have a light touch and are easy on the ears. The music is pretty good and a big crowd has gathered around the tent. It does stay on the safe side though and it never gets wild. But it is very nice to wake up to on this sunny morning and have our first beer of the day to go with it.

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Sports Team

Time to really wake up now and no better way to get the sleep blown out of our eyes than Alex Rice and friends. This guy is quite a character, running around stage like Mick Jagger with ADHD and high on speed. But this human elastic bouncing ball is wonderful to watch as he moves himself into crazy positions, makes funny faces and seems to be talking and singing all the time, even when there's no mic around. On top of that there's lifeless keyboard player Ben Mac who doesn't show any expression and seems to be applying for a position in today's headliner Kraftwerk. The music is very nice though, maybe not always very tight. It doesn't matter when you have a guy like Rice flying around stage. A killer tune like ‘M5’ is hard to resist too.

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On the main stage the temperature is getting high and Wallows have to play in front of a sunbathing crowd. It is a sympathetic band who work hard and try to connect to the people in front of the stage. Singer Dylan Minnette is succeeding in that quite well, which may because he is the lead character in Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Something I just found out while writing this post. The indie rock they play is quite nice and it's a pretty convincing performance by this band, although the main stage may be a bit too big for them right now. But anyone playing such a fun version of The Cure's 'Boys Don't Cry' is okay in my book.

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We haven't spent much time at stage Seven, where it gets really hot during the day. It's not the main reason but when you have to choose between bands, it could be the decisive factor. I do want to check out Mildlife though, whose jazzy and spacy krautrock seems perfect for a sunny afternoon at hot stage. The Australian band is getting even a high approval from fellow countryman Tame Impala's Kevin Parker and I can see why. The warm gentle grooves combined with Adam Halliwell's guitar lines and sometimes flute go down very well with a cold beer. The band itself stare somewhat apathetic to the swinging crowd in front of the stage.

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Snail Mail

We hurry to stage Five, that fortunately isn't that far away. There we can catch the end of Snail Mail's set who has managed to gather a large turn up. I really like Lindsey Jordan's somewhat slow indie rock and her clever songs. Her voice is great with occasional Björk like outcries. Last year I saw the band for the first time and was a bit disappointed by the washed-out performance. Today is not much different, where Jordan isn't exactly trying to win the crowd over. Maybe it's her young age or maybe it's the image she has chosen. Hopefully many miles on the road can make her performance just as impressive as her music.

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Fat White Family

This British band has no trouble performing live and even has quite a good live reputation. They went through quite a rough period and line-up changes since I saw them on this festival for the first time. But they have fully recovered and released a stunning new LP this year, that shows a more mellow but at the same time more mature side of the band. In this show they are also going that way, with many songs from the new LP. This means their performance is less wild and chaotic, but it is more intense. Their music is now more nasty and to the point, which causes it to hit the audience by even more force. Singer Lias Kaci Saoudi is mostly keeping his sun glasses on like the rest of the band who keep going unmoved. Saoudi is crying out regularly, spitting out his lyrics, making this one of the best shows this weekend.

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Guided By Voices

Another one of the golden oldies bands from the nineties, who seem to act as a blueprint to some of the new and young bands playing this festival. Guided By Voices was founded over thirty five years ago and are known for their lofi indie rock. The band plays an inspired show on the main stage and the oldtimers are obviously enjoying it a lot. It's nice to see some of the younger visitors can appreciate this band as well. I like their sound and it's too bad I apparently missed them in the nineties.

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Mac DeMarco

I really don't know what to think of Mac DeMarco and maybe he would love that. I like his relaxed mellow songs and the vibe of those sunny guitar tunes. His songs are light indie rock songs that are easy to listen to and actually quite clever. But his shows are so full of cheesy jokery that I find it hard to really like it. While the sun sets and baths the main stage in a golden light, DeMarco is walking on his hands, blowing bubbles and joking around with his band, all with a big grin on his face. But it makes it hard for me to get into his show and truly enjoy his music. He seems like a nice guy though, one that seems a lot of fun having a beer with, while his record plays in the background. If he could keep a better balance between the clowning around and music I think I could really like this. The boy and the girl shown on the big screen, that are dancing in the water to his music have no trouble enjoying it though.

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Cigarettes After Sex

I'm not really a fan of this band, but since there's nothing else for me to see I join my friends to this show. I can only handle it for a couple of songs, since I just don't like the same slow tempo in every song. It's like a record playing on half speed, despite Greg Gonzalez' clear and high voice. The cover version of REO Speedwagon's 'Keep On Loving You' sounds like a band on valium playing it and doesn't come close the original version. It's clear I will never become a fan so I leave to find me some rendang. Unfortunately the fries with rendang I find are quite disappointing as well.

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The thought of twenty thousand people wearing Kraftwerk 3D glasses, made me look forward to their headlining show today. Yes, I find that kind of stuff really funny and I know Mac DeMarco would agree. I am not disappointed when I look around me and see what seems a scene from a sixties SF B-movie. Kraftwerk are of course legendary pioneers and I do like some of their music. I did see them play live once and although I quite liked it, I do realize that without all the imagery their performance would be quite boring. But the 3D visuals work very well and make this quite a spectacular show. Satellites and space ships seem to hover in front of our eyes, musical notes fly right through you and we are truly driving on the Autobahn. All of their hits are here tonight, while the four members are standing almost motionless behind their synthesizer deck in their usual fashion. We are the robots indeed! Some of their music is starting to sound outdated, but as long as they can be this inventive with visual shows they could keep this up for quite some time.

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Viagra Boys

By now this busy weekend is running its toll on my legs and feet so we relax for a bit until we get the final blow of the day. Viagra Boys are a Swedish post-rock band that are known for their lively shows. That wasn't a lie, since the band has a singer that is quite a sight. It's not just his heavily tattooed body and beer belly that is a striking sight. His stage performance is an act on itself, crawling around stage, his somewhat drunken posture and the interaction with the crowd. All the time wearing sunglasses and a drink. You would forget that their music is well done too. Dirty rock with a hysterical saxophone and an unstoppable groove. And of course a crazy song like 'Sports' that has all the ingredients for a sweaty and dirty night of rock and roll dancing, with loads of beer.

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This day had a couple of very good shows and ended on a high. I didn't come close to the eighteen green circles in my schedule of course, so I had to make some tough choices. Hopefully I will get to see the bands I had to miss some other time.

All Pictures

Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 1
Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 3

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Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 1

Like every year we're heading south to hang around with some wild animals at Safari Park Beekse Bergen, hunting for well kept secrets at the Best Kept Secret festival. They have a huge line-up once again, so let's get going.

Best Kept Secret 2019 Day 1, May 31 2019


Two years ago I got introduced to Blossoms on this festival and liked their show. So I wanted to check them out again now they got promoted to the main stage. I still like their catchy songs that sound clever and tight. But maybe because it’s still early it doesn’t come across as an inspired set. The young band kind of work their way through their set on auto pilot and don't really look like they want to fire up the crowd who are enjoying the sun.

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Primal Scream

Bobby Gillespie and friends are simply a legendary band that was very influential. I know they can play epic sets when you’re lucky. Today may not be epic but it is a good show nevertheless. The band decides to play a greatest hits set which turns out to be a good choice. This band has so many good songs and many of them hit bulls eye this afternoon. Gillespie is in a very good mood and is watching how the crowd has a great time with a big smile on his face. He's truly pleased when everyone is dancing to great tunes like 'Loaded' and of course 'Rocks' for our first real party of the day.

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The avant-garde band Stereolab have been away for ten years but announced their comeback last year, confirming playing some festival dates. The indie electro pop sound is quite interesting and clever and it's nice to hear for a while. But after a few songs I notice I start to lose interest. Maybe it's not the right moment for me to truly enjoy the mellow music and there isn't exactly a lot happening on stage, so we decide to look elsewhere.

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Psychedelic Porn Crumpets

We don't have to look hard, since I already was hoping to see this band. It is one of the reasons why I like festivals so much. The Australian band is relatively unknown but excels today with an amazing performance. Psychedelic rock songs that are damn catchy and simply sound amazing in a tent that completely fills up. The crowd loves the group from Down Under and the band is feeding on that energy, getting better by the minute. Their psychedelic jams are wonderful and intense. This was a best kept secret but probably not for long.

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Priests’ name has been buzzing around and l like their light punk songs. Katie Alice Greer is very lively on stage and really is carrying the band. When drummer Daniele Daniele takes over for one song, the performance kind of looses its momentum and although they switch back again, they aren't able to pick it up again. The songs sound pretty good though and I loved their version of Danzig's 'Mother'. Maybe because I had high expectations I feel the band didn’t really deliver today.

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Bon Iver is the headliner and closing the main stage for a day. I know I don't really like their music, but still want to give it a try, since I may be suprised. However after a few songs I decide to leave and head to Jambinai. It's been a long time since I saw the Korean rock band play in Barcelona. I like their post-rock sound where they combine traditional instruments with modern ones. In the dark tent the music works really well, turning the place into an atmospheric place.

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Crack Cloud

This Canadian band is a remarkable one, consisting of (ex)drug addicts who use music to overcome their problems and addictions. Centred on stage is drummer Zack Choy and the other members are standing around them. Crack Cloud is a collective with a lot more members but I understand this is kind of the core. Their post-punk is intense and groovy, with guitars that nail themselves in your head. With an incredible tempo the band is ploughing their way through their relentless set like there's no tomorrow.

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After seeing this British band a couple of times, I know they will totally deliver. By now everyone knows they will turn every show into a big messy party and tonight is not different. Right form the start the crowd flies into it and so does the band. The group is always full of energy, fronted by the charismatic Charlie Steen. The young men put everything in their powerful punk and rock songs with never ending effort. Steen is firing up the crowd that already has turned into a swirling mass of dancing bodies. It may be late at night but this crowd has plenty of energy left to turn this place upside down. Definitely one of the best things we will see this weekend I’m sure.

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We stick around stage Five for BCUC, or Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness. African music can always please me and BCUC from Soweto gives a very original twist to their music. Two drums lay down a simple but irresistible groove. Jovi is signing and rapping his lyrics from the heart and the band is putting down an inspired show. Kgomotso Mokone adds beautiful vocals to balance it out, with beautiful harmonies and soul. Their songs are traditional rhythms, rites, gospel and soul, presented in a modern and playful way. The band play with a lot of passion giving this hungry crowd the dance party it asks for and the everyone simply loves it.

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We head to the Casbah where we are able to catch the last bit of DITZ' show. I like what I hear there, violent punk rock, sharp as a razor blade. Pounding drums and heavy guitars that try to hammer their way into my head. It's hard to actually see the band, since the Casbah doesn't really allow it. It is probably the reason why there's an extra stage Seven this year and why there aren't that many bands playing here. But DITZ is a perfect fit for this place, at this late hour, with a few more beers and some loud punk music to top off this day.

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And what a day it's been! I saw so many bands and diverse music that my head is spinning. Can't be the beers right?

All Pictures

Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 2
Best Kept Secret Festival 2019 Day 3

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Thursday, 30 May 2019

On Stage: Conversations With Nick Cave @ Concertgebouw

A while ago Nick Cave started a website The Red Hand Files, where he answers questions from fans. It was inspired by the messages he received from fans after the death of his son in 2015, and it turned out they were comforting him and his wife. He started connecting with his fans in a different way, more direct and personal way, also at concerts and noticed how this helped him get back on his feet. Now he's taking the next step on a solo tour where he will answer questions and of course play a few songs.

Conversations with Nick Cave at Concertgebouw Amsterdam, May 26 2019

No one really knows what to expect tonight, including maybe Nick Cave. He says it is a work in progress and has no idea what will come up out of it. In the end he thinks a dialogue with his audience will deepen the connection he feels. It is quite terrifying to let people come this close, but at the same time that is the beauty of it. At one point he tells us, some people were advising agains these nights, since it may hurt his fragile recovery from the big trauma that hit him and his family.

Scattered around the beautiful concert hall are people walking around in vests with a the letter "Q" on the back and a small red hand on the front. They are holding big glowing sticks and a microphone. When you have a question you simply raise your hand and with a bit of luck you get the mic to talk to Nick personally. Most people will start with a "Hi Nick", as if they have met before. It is illustrative of this intimate evening, where the distance between him and the audience disappears. Nick Cave is letting people come as close as he can, by answering all questions, anything goes. In a calm way he walks around stage, looking into the direction of the person asking the question. In the same way, with his deep dark voice, he answers them from the heart and sincere.

The questions are diverse as to be expected, and many people want to know about his music and music in general obviously. He tells a musician, he's not one of them. He doesn't want to change the world, but he simply takes a look at the world and tells stories in a visual way. He addresses his disciplined way of working, considering it a full time job like any job, always full of doubt about his work. But he needs to show it to the world, no matter how much doubt he has. It's our job he tells a girl who is making art as well. On the obvious question about his inspirations, he hands out a list passed to the person asking about it, since there are simply too many.

There are many questions about religion and his relation to God and Jesus. People want to know about his view on the world, how he's doing. There's a teenage girl asking about his music and he answers in the most perfect way. A lady tells him that her son got on stage at a show and then seven months later at a festival show, he recognized the boy and asked him on stage again. She wonders how he recognized her, but Cave doesn't really know, he simply does. It turns out the boy is here tonight as well, who asks for a hug. Of course Cave invites him on stage and gives the young man a big bear hug. It all goes down in a relaxed atmosphere where Cave seems to be comfortable and there's plenty of room to laugh.

This is who he is now, a man reaching out to people, connecting, searching for comfort. It is healing him and it is beautiful and moving to see how he is doing that. Of course he plays a lot music as well. Beautiful versions of 'The Mercy Seat', 'Jubilee Street', 'The Ship Song', the always gorgeous 'Into My Arms'. They all sound terrific in this concert hall with just a piano and his dark voice is even more impressive with the acoustics in here. He chose his setlist well and turns down some requests for songs since he either doesn't remember the chords or lyrics, or they wouldn't sound good on just a piano.

This was a very special night and I think we got to know the person Nick Cave a bit better as he gave us a peek into his soul. And it's a gentle soul, one that is trying pick up the pieces after this big tragedy, trying to cope with life, struggling like all of us. In the end he feels the healing power of a human touch and that is deeply moving. There was room for reflection, laughter and lots of music. He tells us that he always tries to stay authentic. I think he's doing a great job at it and I hope he will find what he is looking for.

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Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Sniffing The Grass: A Best Kept Secret 2019 Warmup

Oh yeah, finally the first festival of the year is knocking on my door. Three days of total bliss at the edge of safari park Beekse Bergen where we are roaring harder than the lions, live faster than the leopards and go more apeshit-crazy than any monkey can. Not even those nasty caterpillars that caused all those terrible itches last year can stop us. Mr Elephant look out, Best Kept Secret here we come!

Like every year the festival's organization has gone out of their way to make it super difficult to see all the amazing band they have lined up. But you know I will be going down trying with a huge grin on my face. What to do this year? Well, here's my impossible schedule where I have to choose from and five bands per day in no particular order that look so delicious:


Maybe we should start slowly and ease our way into the festival. Yeah right! I'm gonna dive in head first like there's no tomorrow. These bands look awesome:
1. Priests; this band is impressing many people with their post rock and should be a highlight on stage five while the sun is setting.
2. shame; In the middle of the night I'm sure shame are the perfect band to pick it up a notch and destroy the stage with their smart punk songs.
3. BCUC; African psychedelic music from Sowetho at 2:30 in the morning...hell yeah!
4. Ditz; when you can describe your music as noise rock in the same style as METZ and Girl Band, I definitely will be there.
5. Personal Trainer; hooray for Canshaker Pi, the young Dutch band and their Pavement inspired garage rock. This is their singer Willem Smit's solo performance, hooray for Willem!


Enter hysterical laugh here, since this day is impossible. Eighteen bands! Eighteen! I actually circled eighteen bands in my schedule. Someone get me a straight jacket since I will definitely lose my mind today:
1. Fat White Family; when they played this festival a few years back they blew me away. Now they are back with a very good new album, so I'm there again.
2. Sports Team; this band's name is buzzing around and their music sure sounds promising. I mean, how can you resist a song like M5?
3. Kraftwerk; this is a tough one, since Wooden Shjips are playing at the same time. Just the sight of 20,000 people wearing 3D glasses makes it worthwhile to see Kraftwerk, but of course they are legends as well.
4. Mac DeMarco; I don't know what to expect from this crazy character and I still don't know what to think of his music. There's only one way to find out if he can live up to the expectations since many people seem to love him.
5. Life; It's the middle of the night, it's the Casbah, it's punk. Hello!


If in some crazy way I actually survived on Saturday and have regained my sanity, at least Sunday leaves some room for reflection:
1. Interpol; I just love this band and they are completely back with great new music and in great shape.
2. The Raconteurs; I'm so happy Jack White gathered his Raconteurs friends. We heard a few new songs already and I can't wait for the new album to drop. I'm sure we will hear a few new songs today.
3. Whispering Sons; this Belgian band is darker than black and make Joy Division sound like happy campers. So they are playing on the middle of the afternoon...wait, what!? I'm sure it doesn't matter for their pitch black postpunk music.
4. Romperayo; a few months ago I visited Colombia and loved it. This band are from that colourful country full of delicious coffee and rum, and play psychedelic tropical music, mixing cumbia with West-African music. Sounds like a party to me.
5. Indian Askin; this Dutch band write clever indie rock songs that simply sound catchy and irresistible. They are back with a new record and I can't wait to hear the new songs.

There you have it, the secret is out: I am about to lose my mind. It's gonna be great!

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