Monday 26 August 2019

Sniffing The Grass: An ITGWO 2019 Warmup

I don’t know how many times we travelled to the Vlieland island for Into The Great Wide Open, I simply lost count. Every year we have a wonderful time there and we can’t wait to come back again. It has turned into a short vacation by now, since we add a few days ahead of the festival. The weather forecast looks great and we are having a small heatwave at the beginning of our vacation. The lineup is even hotter so let’s have a look.


The first day starts late compared to the other days and therefore is a short one. It usually has some really nice and interesting bands lined up, while part of the crowd won't even arrive until tomorrow. This year there’s plenty to look forward to:

1. Onipa; Afro, disco, electro, oh yeah! This collective from London should get the dancing started early without a problem.
2. Squid; this band has created quite a buzz around them and I can’t wait to see them play their danceable punk tunes.
3. Whispering Sons; the Belgian new wave post rock formation has conquered the low lands by storm and after seeing them a few times I know I don’t want to miss them play this festival.


I probably keep repeating myself when I say the second day looks very tasty as well with a nice variety of lovely bands:

1. BCUC; I saw this band from Soweto play the Best Kept Secret Festival where they impressed many people including me. Their mix of soul, gospel and old traditional songs is powerful, especially because they play it with a lot of heart. They visited the island some years ago, but this time they mean business.
2. Daniel Norgren; I love Swedish troubadour Daniel Norgen with his gorgeous heartfelt folk and rock songs. I couldn’t make it to his last visit to Amsterdam, so I don’t want to miss him here.
3. Equal Idiots; this young Belgian garage rock band has a dozen or two of rocking, fun and catchy songs and knocks them out with great energy. This should be a wild ride.
4. Kokoroko; afrobeat fanatics that are inspired by Fela Kuti, Ebo Taytlor and Tony Allen!? You had me at Afro, say no more!
5. The Murder Capital; something’s happening in Dublin at the moment since great post rock bands keep coming from it, like Fontaines D.C. and Girl Band. Must be something in that Guinness. The newest one on the rise is The Murder Capital with dark, moody and gritty rock music. Sounds great to me.


By now we have completely subdued ourselves in the island festival vibes, so bring on day three!

1. Celeste; this young singer plays lovely soul, jazz and r&b music that reminds of Aretha and Amy. Sounds perfect enough to enjoy between the trees.
2. Personal Trainer; Canshaker Pi’s Willem Smit is bringing some friends to the islands to record new music which we are going to hear today. Wild party guaranteed I’m sure.
3. Pip Blom; Pip loves this festival and this festival loves Pip. So she’s back with her band and her debut album for some lovely rock music.
4. Pottery; think Talking Heads, think Devo and you get the picture. Think I want to see this.
5. Tamino; Belgian’s amazing singer Tamino keeps growing and growing, playing bigger and bigger stages, bringing his wonderful music and stunning voice to the main stage while the dark slowly sets in. Sounds like a perfect scene to me.


We want to go out with a bang and there are a couple of bands who may just give us that:

1. Strand of Oaks; Timothy Showalter keeps coming back to making music no matter what happens. It results in honest, moving and rocking songs by this wonderful musician.
2. Parcels; I don’t know what to expect from this Aussie band, but they are killing it at every festival they play. Their irresistible disco sounds like a wonderful closing party of the main stage.
3. KOKOKO!; wild afrobeat and jazz that will make you dance, played on home made instruments and coming from Kinshasa. Sounds like a killer combo to end the festival in style.

It’s amazing what the programmers have come up with, such a colourful and exciting line up with plenty to enjoy for everyone. This means a busy schedule for me, but what else is new?

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Wednesday 21 August 2019

On Stage: Yeasayer @ Paradiso

There was a time when Yeasayer were the hippest band on the block, selling out all clubs and wanted by every festival around. They were guaranteed to draw big crowds to their performances, driven by the success of their first two albums. The experimental band from Brooklyn didn't compromise however, refusing to milk that success. Critics and the main stream music world seem to have lost interest and the band is starting to fly under the radar. Their new release Erotic Returns made me curious enough to go check them out again.

Yeasayer at Paradiso Amsterdam, August 19 2019

Playing a club show in the middle of the summer is not really a good for ticket sales. This is the off season for these kind of shows and most bands are earning their money at the summer festivals. Yeasayer did play a few festivals and maybe they just squeezed in the Amsterdam show. They do mention they think it is the best city in the world. I'm not the one to disagree here and it may just be the reason they are playing a more than half empty main hall tonight. This doesn't get the band down in any way though and the foursome are in great spirits.

The core members of the band are keyboard player Chris Keating, guitarist Anand Wilder and bassist Ira Wolf Tuton, while adding other musicians to their live band. I really love the sound of this band, the warm melodies with eastern influences and the great vocals and harmonies. Keating and Wilder are sharing lead vocals, which is pretty rare to have two of those amazing voices. Tuton adds lovely backing vocals and harmonies, possessing a clear falsetto. Live it all sounds just as good, with a well balanced sound mix where you can hear all the details.

Of course the group has a couple of giant hits like '2080' and 'O.N.E' that are incredibly catchy and can make even the biggest stiff move his body. But the band is so much more than that, exploring many musical directions, often not choosing the easy road. The new songs have a great pop sound and sometimes the band even rocks out quite hard. On a song like '24 Hateful Live!' I can't help but hearing distant echoes from Duran Duran. The band is not shying away from some political criticism either, although tonight they will only shortly give their view on their president.

Mostly the band is simply playing their songs in a tight show without many breaks in between them. This is working very well, creating a nice summery atmosphere where most people are moving to the lovely tunes. It does turn into a short night though, since after a three song encore the show is over, lasting not even 75 minutes. Still the band played a 15 song set, which is not bad at all. It is the same set they played at some of the festivals, where the band has to stick to 60 to 75 minutes slots. They definitely are able to fill those slots efficiently. Hopefully it reminds many people of what an amazing band this is, with a unique sound that should be able to please so many. Maybe the band is fine with their current status, but I think they deserve a lot more exposure and I hope the music world won't start to forget about them. I sure won't.

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01. Madder Red
02. Henrietta
03. Ohm Death
04. 2080
05. 24-Hour Hateful Live!
06. Let Me Listen In on You
07. Tightrope
08. Sunrise
09. People I Loved
10. Fluttering in the Floodlights
11. O.N.E.
12. Ecstatic Baby
13. I'll Kiss You Tonight
14. Blue Skies Dandelions
15. Ambling Alp

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Tuesday 13 August 2019

On Stage: Dead Kennedys @ Melkweg

Apparently this is the time to see legendary punk bands, since after The Damned played Melkweg only a few days ago, now Dead Kennedys are playing on the same spot. The band was one of the front-runners of the hardcore punk in the late seventies and I simply have to see this band.

Dead Kennedys at Melkweg Amsterdam, August 11 2019

As a bonus, another icon from the hardcore punk scene, D.O.A., are playing as support act. Unfortunately we don't make it to the venue on time to catch their show. I really hope to see them some day after all. The nice thing about Dead Kennedys is that three of their members have been playing with the band forever. Only singer Ron Greer is the latest addition and has been with the band since 2006 as their fourth singer. Like The Damned this band has been around for more than four decades, which is quite remarkable.

This didn't have any effect on the level of energy shown on stage. Bassist Klaus Flouride and guitarist East Bay Ray may look a bit static next to the active Greer, but are playing in a lively way nevertheless. I love the surf influences in Ray's guitar playing, who adds a lot of melody to the mostly fast and loud songs.

At the back drummer D.H. Peligro is playing the fast grooves and fills with great ease. The sound mix isn't great though tonight and his drums sound isn't heavy enough or could have used more punch, which is not his fault. I'm not in a bad position sound wise, but drums and guitars could have been balanced better, giving the music a more edgy sound. Fortunately it doesn't have a big effect on the performance and it doesn't take long for a pit to form in front of the stage.

Greer is a singer that will fire up the crowd but also likes to pester them for a bit. Dead Kennedys have always been a political band and Greer is sharing many of their political views. At the same time he's clowning around a bit, telling somewhat awkward stories, only to get under the people's skin. You can hear people grumble about this a bit or yelling the band should start playing. I think it is actually quite entertaining although at times it takes the speed out of the show. His vocals are maybe a bit less heavy but he's able to fill Jello Bafla's big shoes, the original singer of Dead Kennedys.

Fortunately the band doesn't have trouble picking it back up again and their music certainly helps there. They haven't released any new music for a long time, although they did rewrite 'MTV Get Off The Air' to 'MP3 Get Off The Web'. Still their songs haven't lost much of their impact and meaning. A song like 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' hasn't been more relevant for a long time than nowadays. At the end they play their big hits and the pit grows wilder. 'Holiday In Cambodia' obviously is one of the highlights of the night and ends the first encore. The band returns for 'Chemical Warfare' to extend this wild party for one more song. It's good we still have these bands around that are willing to make a statement, backed up by some furious rock music.

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01. Forward to Death
02. Winnebago Warrior
03. Police Truck
04. Buzzbomb
05. Let's Lynch the Landlord
06. Jock-O-Rama
07. Kill the Poor
08. MP3 Get Off The Web
09. Too Drunk To Fuck
10. Moon Over Marin
11. Nazi Punks Fuck Off
12. California Über Alles
13. Bleed for Me
14. Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley cover)
15. Holiday in Cambodia
Encore 2:
16. Chemical Warfare

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Friday 9 August 2019

On Stage: The Damned @ Melkweg

It's been forty year since The Damned released their famous record Machine Gun Etiquette. They are now touring around to celebrate this iconic album, by playing it in its entirety. It's about time I go see this legendary punk band for myself.

The Damned at Melkweg Amsterdam, August 7 2019

In those forty years a lot has changed, including the line-up of the veteran rockers. A few years ago, bassist Paul Gray rejoined long time and founding members singer Dave Vanian and guitarist Captian Sensible. Gray had been out of the band for a while, but with his return the line-up consists of musicians that have been involved with the band for a long time.

Machine Gun Etiquette showed the variety of the group, exploring new directions besides their powerful punk. The band experimented with psychedelic rock and pop and clearly the album hasn't lost any of its touch, even after four decades. Hearing the entire album live proves it still stands tall The songs still sound very strong and are full of that Damned energy. You can hear this is no ordinary punk band, but one that has a lot more to offer.

They don't stop there tonight of course, but play a lot more songs, including later work. I have to admit I'm not very keen on their goth rock songs, although they paved the way for many bands in that genre. I really like their punk and rock songs though, those little explosive balls of energy, with Captain Sensible shredding away on his guitar. Because man, you'd almost forget that these guys can play! Vanian's baritone voice is deep and clear and doesn't seem to show any wear after all those years. Best of all, they are having so much fun playing together.

Not only are they having fun among each other, cracking jokes, but they are also having fun with the crowd. Especially Captain Sensible and Vanian are bonding with the people at the front. The whole band is playing in a lively way and it turns this show into a punk and rock 'n' roll feast. These guys are true legends indeed and I'm really glad I got to see them.

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