Thursday 28 February 2019

On Stage: Bodega @ Bitterzoet

A wine shop or wine cellar is called a "bodega" in Spanish. In the US small convenience stores are sometimes called bodegas as well. It's also a band from Brooklyn New York that created a small buzz around them and are currently one of the most exciting NYC bands. Their sharp krautrock and old style post-punk does sound promising.

Bodega at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, February 26 2019

The small Bitterzoet venue has filled up quite well by a bit older crowd. It must be the retro style post-punk sound inspired by bands like The Fall that draws these fans. Bodega's first album Endless Scroll was produced by Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown and even recorded on the same Tascam machine Light Up Gold was recorded on. Indeed you can hear some Parquet Courts influences in their music.

Sometimes it also reminds of LCD Soundsystem without the electronics and especially the songs where guitarist/singer Ben Hozie and singer Nikki Belfiglio are almost shouting their lyrics reminds a bit of early B-52's. All together it sounds pretty tempting and the somewhat sarcastic tone in the songs give it all a bit of a light touch. It results in catchy songs that are great to have a good time with and at the same time leave enough to sink your teeth in.

It's mostly Hozie and especially the energetic Belfiglio who are upfront while the rest of the band steadily keeps the groove. There is no standard drum kit but drummer Tai Lee is standing behind a set of drums, pounding away with an intimidating look on her face. It does give the music plenty of groove, but is also a bit limiting. This may get in the way after a few albums, but isn't a real problem for now. For now they treated us to an hour of interesting rock music with an inspired performance.

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Wednesday 27 February 2019

On Stage: Excelsior Supporters Day

The Excelsior Recordings record label always had a fine nose for interesting and quality bands. I like their mentality and a lot of the music they released and that's why I became a supporter of the label a couple of years ago. Now they are organizing the first Excelsior Supporters Day with a lot of music and performances by some of their most successful bands.

Excelsior Supporters Day at Paradiso Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, February 24 2019


By the time we arrive at the venue, the first of these bands is ready for their performance. Moss is one of the crown jewels of the label and has come a long way. They never made things easy for themselves but always stayed true to their own believes. Record by record they got better until they found their perfect form, resulting in the last album Strike. On stage they have found this form as well, looking comfortable and focused.

They try out a few new songs today and it almost seems as if you're in their practice studio, since these songs have not been rehearsed endlessly for live performances. Drummer Finn Kruyning asks what tempo a song is in and in another song they try to figure out where to start. This is a band that is not afraid to show this to an audience that has collectively embraced this band. I am looking forward to that new album they are working on a lot.

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The day continues with performances by Bewilder's Maurits Westerik, Awkard I (Djurre de Haan) and Bertolf(Lentink). It makes sense putting these artists on stage one after another, where Westerik and Awkward I perform solo on acoustic guitar. Bertolf brought his band and on top of that, Jelle Paulusma joins them for one song as well. It is the Excelsior way to encourage these collaborations and let artists discover their musical direction and spectrum, let them experiment and support them to explore joint projects.


The day comes to an end with one of the most successful bands on the label and without a doubt one of their most popular ones. Johan is one of my favourite bands and I am not alone in this. The beautiful songs with lovely melodies are so well done, it's no denying they are one of the best bands in the low lands. They had a very successful year releasing a new LP Pull Up and touring every stage and festival out there. It never gets old hearing these beautiful tunes where the newest songs already feel familiar between the classics.

This band simply is a delight to watch, who simply never are able to sound bad. This music is of such high quality that every single song sounds like a hit. Even when the band makes tiny mistakes it doesn't affect them or the music in the slightest bit. It results in a few smiles between members, but the band keeps going strong. What a great way to end this day.

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There's kind of a jolly atmosphere in here today, as if we're all part of this family, even though not every one is a supporter and it was also possible to simply buy a ticket. That is maybe the best compliment for this record label though, that they managed to make everybody feel part of a big family, both fans and artists. I hope this turns into an annual event.

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Tuesday 26 February 2019

On Stage: Navarone @ De Helling

Dutch rock band Navarone entered the TV music talent competition The Voice of Holland this year. I was already aware of their unmistakable talent for a long time of course. They made it to the finals where they lost in the end, but were able to convince many people of how a good a rock band they are.

Navarone at De Helling Utrecht, February 23 2019

As a result the planned shows for their current tour around the smaller venues are now selling out fast. Tonight the cozy venue in Utrecht is a full house as well. The band looks eager to play, even though they are tired from playing the finals and partying big afterwards only yesterday. Singer Merijn van Haren has a lot to tell and is very chatty in between songs. It is clear they enjoyed their adventure a lot and hopefully it can get them to the next level.

The current tour is in support of their new record Salvo and many songs of that album make it onto the set tonight. Those songs are more accessible to a greater audience, but at the same time they may even be heavier than ever. Some of them like 'Cerberus' or 'Mind's Eye' draw inspiration from heavy nineties grunge bands like Soundgarden. It is no coincidence that Navarone are honouring that band in a tour that is running parallel to this one, playing only Soundgarden songs with guest singers next to van Haren.

As if van Haren himself isn't able to do Chris Cornell any justice all by himself. His voice never fails to impress. Even after a short night with heavy partying his throat is not letting him down. His mighty howl is impressive as ever, while the rest of the band backs him up with big solid grooves. Guitarist Kees Lewiszong is adding Pink Floyd like melodies to some of the songs, pays a little tribute to Hendrix in one of his riffs and can make his guitar scream whenever he wants. It's these things together with an incredible amount of energy that lifts the songs up even more in a live show.

The Voice of Holland fellow contestant Sanne de Winter joins the band on stage for a rematch of their battle in the show, singing Otis Redding's classic (and made famous by Aretha Franklin) 'Respect'. De Winter is a fine singer, but she simply gets blown away by Navarone and van Haren. It shows what an incredible band this is which deserves a much bigger crowd. Hopefully this TV show adventure can bring that and they can move on to larger venues. See you there guys!

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Sunday 17 February 2019

On Stage: Thijs Boontjes Dans- En Showorkest @ Melkweg

After spending a marvellous three weeks in beautiful Colombia it's hard to get back to everyday life. Fortunately new releases are pouring in so fast it's hard to keep up, which means the busy club season has started as well. There are many concerts coming up and needless to say I'm going to try to see a large deal of them. But what better way to start than a fun night out with Thijs Boontjes?

Thijs Boontjes Dans- En Showorkest at Melkweg Amsterdam, February 15 2019

Many people are probably wondering who the hell I'm talking about, especially anyone from outside the low lands. Boontjes is a rock and roll artist who is singing songs in Dutch. His lyrics are little stories about life, love and anything that goes with it. His music therefore comes across like a mix of Dutch rock legend Herman Brood and Dutch maestro André Hazes. He even recorded a song 'Ballade van de Moord' with Hazes' daughter Roxeanne who sings it with him tonight on stage.

Boontjes adds plenty of humour to his lyrics and shows ,which makes it all about having fun and doing a little dance. Therefore he calls his band Thijs Boontjes Dans- en Showorkest (Thijs Boontjes dance and show orchestra). Boontjes carefully avoids to cross the line of bad taste or making things too cheesy.

Instead he simply adds all the ingredients for a plain fun rock concert with enough songs to sing along and dance to. When you look beyond the surface you will notice his music is actually really clever and there's more to it than you may expect. He brings a band with very skilled musicians that I happen to know of several other bands in the Dutch rock scene. The band creates an environment for Boontjes to thrive in and he looks very comfortable on stage with a lot of cool.

On his Hammond he emphasizes the swinging rhythm section consisting of drummer Bram Hakkens and bassist Jeroen Overman, who he played with in Dutch singer Douwe Bob's band. With Guido Blom guitar licks, who he knows from their old band King Jack, it adds a rough edge to the sound, so it doesn't become too soft. All in all Boontjes has found a successful formula to combine musical quality with entertainment and lots of fun. This explains why tonight's release party for his fresh new album Geen Achttien Meer is sold out.

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