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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Tuesday 28 May 2019

On Stage: A Giant Dog + The Molochs + The OBN III's @ Paradiso Tolhuistuin

For quite some years Paradiso has been organizing the London Calling festival, that grew from a festival for unknown Britpop bands into a two day festival for promising new indie bands anywhere in the world. The last couple of days they even added an extra night the day ahead to warm everyone up. That's a lot of fun too.

A Giant Dog + The Molochs + The OBN III's at Paradiso Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, May 23 2019

Even better, this night is slightly different with some indie rock and punk bands, just the way I like it!


It's still pretty quiet when The OBN III's start the evening. Yeah, that's a weird name, but it actually makes sense when you know Orville Bateman Neeley III is the frontman for this band. And a frontman with a capital F he is! Or actually, all capitals because he spends more time off the stage and walks around the small crowd until his mic cable decides otherwise. Their music is seventies The Stooges kind of punk, straightforward rock songs, with plenty of energy. The band is flexing their muscles, especially Neeley who keeps challenging the audience like a young Iggy Pop. In a more crowded room later at night when booze has been flowing freely for a while, he would have completely turned the place into a wild party. That is not happening tonight but it's a lot of fun nevertheless.

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The Molochs

At least we got a good warmup so we are more than ready for the next band. This group definitely got their sound down, a blend between The Stone Roses and The Smiths. Nice clear ringing guitar lines, a groovy bass and drums. But these guys looks really pale on stage and lack any form of energy. It makes their songs go dead and there simply is not a spark in sight to light it up. In the end it even gets weary and the show seems to last forever. Too bad when you clearly have enough skills to write good songs.

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A Giant Dog

Fortunately the last band of the evening is here to get us back on our feet again. The band is described as one of Austin's thrilling bands, but that's an understatement. When the innocent looking Sabrina Ellis steps onto the stage and the band gets going, she turns into a wild animal. She's all over the place with little pirouettes, the best vogue dancing ever and one big ball of energy. On top of that, her voice is amazing and she's able to belt out her lyrics effortlessly while bouncing around stage.

It's as if you're watching a young Kate Bush on speed played fast forward. I am convinced I even spotted some Kate Bush in one of their songs but I can't get that cleared up. And boy the songs are great as well, heavy glamrock, punk and rock 'n' roll, all played by an active tight band that put all their heart in it. Definitely one of the most exciting live bands out there at the moment. I'm going to keep an eye out for them and listen to their records for sure.

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This was a fun night. I was planning on going to at least one of the London Calling nights but in the end didn't make it. This night was a good alternative though.

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Wednesday 22 May 2019

New Sounds: Daniel Norgren - Wooh Dang

Swedish singer songwriter Daniel Norgren recently added another gorgeous album Wooh Dang to his growing list of records filled with the most beautiful music.

He's currently touring around clubs, but sadly I couldn't make it to his show in Paradiso last Monday. Fortunately for me he's visiting Vlieland during Into The Great Wide Open festival in September, the same spot I got introduced to his music a few years back and instantly became a fan.

Check out to Wooh Dang:

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Sunday 19 May 2019

On Stage: dEUS @ TivoliVredenburg

I can't believe it's been 20 years since dEUS' master piece The Ideal Crash came out. It must have been around that time I started discovering their music and saw them play live for the first time. It probably was a festival where I got my mind blown by this amazing Belgian rock band. Now they are celebrating the 20th anniversary of this iconic album with club shows where they play it in full start to finish.

dEUS at TivoliVredenburg Utrecht, May 16 2019

It is clear most people in here tonight were there twenty years ago as well, judging from the ageing heads around me. Young Belgian talent Trixie Whitley is here to warm us up and she plays a convincing set for a hall that is slowly filling up. dEUS had a steady line-up for a while but last year guitarist Mauro Pawlowski left the band and was replaced by Bruno de Groote. I always thought Pawlowski had a great stage presence and he's a unique character and musician. De Groote looks a bit more modest but sound wise it doesn't make a lot of a difference.

dEUS is still dEUS and after all of these years I still love them. The way they play with dynamics in their music is incredible. Not only do they have melancholic slow songs and heavy rocking ones, but they can let songs explode, going from quiet to all hell breaking loose in seconds and back again. There are many examples on The Ideal Crash, the LP that seems to bring everything together. The start is a bit hesitant tonight, although 'Put The Freaks Up Front' is a familiar one. The band grows into the show though and have it all together by the third song 'One Advice, Space'.

Man it is great to hear all these amazing songs live again, all those timeless tracks since this music never sounds outdated. This LP has a few of my favourites including the masterful 'Instant Street'. To me that song captures all the elements what I like about this band: the dynamics, the layers, the well thought details, catchy riffs, it's all there. And that bit of awkwardness what makes their music so unique and stick out, that makes them the original band they are. Also the way the band members are such passionate musicians and are still playing with a lot of heart. It is obvious the mood is high as well tonight with a cheerful frontman Tom Barman, who says he is not going to talk a lot but simply wants to play.

Of course he addresses the crowd regularly and has short jolly conversations with people in the crowd. This causes a very loose atmosphere and it turns into a true celebration, despite that the band didn't bring anything special for the occasion. Except for the wonderful dancers in some of the songs that are dancing with a lot of expression and energy. Who needs anything else when you have an album full of incredible music? After the album closer 'Dream Sequence #1' the band leaves the stage for a short while and returns for two encores ending the night with the epic 'Roses'. This was a wonderful show by an extraordinary band that I never get tired of seeing live. So tickets for their show in September in Paradiso are already in the pocket. Can't wait!

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01. Put the Freaks Up Front
02. Sister Dew
03. One Advice, Space
04. The Magic Hour
05. The Ideal Crash
06. Instant Street
07. Magdalena
08. Everybody's Weird
09. Let's See Who Goes Down First
10. Dream Sequence #1
11. Quatre Mains
12. Fell Off the Floor, Man
13. Nothing Really Ends
Encore 2:
14. Roses

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Wednesday 15 May 2019

On Stage: Club Kuru @ Paradiso

After I attended Jacco Gardner's show tonight Club Kuru were about to start their show at the small hall. I didn't know the band but of course I wanted to take a peak.

Club Kuru at Paradiso Amsterdam, May 10 2019

Of course I did look up who I was dealing with and the keywords "seventies" and "psych" caught my attention. Indeed the band plays mellow jazzy tunes with a psychedelic touch that could have come straight from the summer of love. The songs are gentle to the ears, soulful psychedelic music, played very skilfully. These musicians certainly can play and are tight, but at the same time loose enough to let the music fan out. They leave enough room for each other to excel and obviously know that "less is more", staying away from cluttering the music with unnecessary complicated parts.

Mostly the songs build up to spacy guitar solos backed up by warm electronics. The rhythm section pleases me a lot with groovy drums and a popping bass. Singer Laurie Erskine's somewhat high voice is the glue between these musical interludes. I do notice after a while that his vocals could use more variation as it makes the songs sound alike a bit. Because of the mellow vibe of the songs, it never gets wild and it doesn't really blow me away . On the other hand Erskine is trying hard to entertain the crowd and I can see myself enjoying this music on a summer's night with a cold one, dozing off while the sun sets.

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Tuesday 14 May 2019

On Stage: Jacco Gardner @ Paradiso

After releasing a couple of lush dreamy psych pop albums, Jacco Gardner dropped his latest album Somnium last year. Named after the Johannes Kepler novel from the 1600s it is a somewhat dark instrumental journey that indeed feels like a dream. Not just any dream but one that you need to give in to. He played the entire album in Artis' planetarium a while ago, which proved the be the perfect place for his adventurous music. I wasn't able to attend that night, but fortunately he is now bringing his project to a few clubs around the country.

Jacco Gardner's Somnium at Paradiso Amsterdam, May 10 2019

In Paradiso's main hall pillows and chairs are circling a couple of synths, keyboards and other electronics. Smoke machines are fogging up the venue before the show starts. Gardner sits down in the middle and is joined by María Pandiello, who is sitting down opposite him. They start playing the music from Somnium and will play the whole album tonight.

Slowly the electronic soundscapes start to build their wondrous and somewhat dark dreamworld. Colourful spotlights are pointed at the centre and the smoke spreads out the light. It creates a hazy atmosphere where it is hard to see the other spectators in here tonight. Music and lighting complement each other in this strange atmosphere. You really need to surrender yourself to this spectacle to fully appreciate this performance and the ambient electronic music.

This was a pretty special night and I can only imagine what this must have looked like in Artis' planetarium, although I believe they are currently releasing footage from that show. It was very nice to see Gardner recreate that world here tonight. He's one of those creative artists that we should treasure.

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