Friday 22 November 2019

On Stage: Temples @ THT

Ever since psych rock band Temples released their debut LP Sun Structures back in 2014 I've been keeping an eye on this band. I like their music a lot but the one time I saw them play at Best Kept Secret I wasn't really convinced about their live performance. Now they have their third record out, Hot Motion, which is full of great psych rock and pop songs once again. Time to see them play live again.

Temples at Paradiso Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, November 18 2019

By now the band officially is a trio, without a permanent drummer after Samuel Toms left the band in 2018. The band was already touring with Dutch drummer Rens Ottink, who you may know from his band PAUW. Clearly he brought a few friends with him tonight, who want to see him play. Ottink is a worthy add-on to the line up and fits right in with his retro style, playing tight grooves in a loose and relaxed way.

The band, fronted by James Bagshaw, looks and sounds energetic, playing their songs with a lot of fire. Those songs sound amazing, with the clear harmonies and the nice voice of Bagshaw. The band switches easily between sixties style psychedelic pop songs and seventies style heavier rock. Every single song seems to have some kind of hook and lovely melodies, which make them sound so good.

The foursome work their way through the setlist smoothly, without many breaks, except for the occasional guitar change. Bagshaw changes to a twelve string guitar occasionally, that is perfect for this fuzzy sound. Adam Smith adds another layer of guitar or keys and Thomas Walmsley completes the rhythm section with Ottink for the catchy grooves. It all combines into a contagious mix that you just have to bop your head to at the very least. Temples already had their sound down and now they certainly have their live performance down now as well, proving that tonight with a solid show at a sold out Paradiso THT.

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01. The Howl
02. Certainty
03. A Question Isn't Answered
04. You're Either on Something
05. Colours to Life
06. Holy Horses
07. The Golden Throne
08. Atomise
09. The Beam
10. Oh the Saviour
11. Context
12. Keep in the Dark
13. Shelter Song
14. Hot Motion
15. Mesmerise

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Wednesday 20 November 2019

On Stage: Fatoumata Diawara @ Paradiso

Malian artist Fatoumata Diawara had to leave her country to become a an actress. Or actually to stay one, since she was already performing when she was young. In the very religious Mali her parents didn't want her to sing and act, but instead she should start a family like a good devout young woman is supposed to. In France her acting career took off and she taught herself to play the guitar. She recorded two solo albums and her amazing talent didn't stay unnoticed for long. Now she's returning to Paradiso where I saw her several years ago.

Fatoumata Diawara at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 17 2019

Diawara is a very charismatic artist that spreads a lot of energy and good vibes. Her wonderful voice and beautiful smile is winning over everyone within no time. Her lovely songs are about the many problems Africa faces, including her homeland Mali, but also about the positive things happening there. Sometimes she introduces a song with a small story about its background. This is not only very interesting but also necessary since she sings mostly in the Malian language Wassoulou and I don't know what the songs are about.

Her band consists of very skilled musicians, that play the songs with a lot feeling. The African style songs really come alive on this cold November night here in Paradiso and bring the African sun instead. Diawara is the radiating centre of this band, who is firing up the crowd and her band members, moving around stage all the time. Her African dancing is full of energy, wildly tossing her hair around. At the same time she's showing her guitar skills, playing impressive solos.

With only two albums out, there still is a large variety in sound. There are highlife and afro-beat songs, folk songs, intimate ballads and uptempo dance tunes. All the time it has this lovely West-African vibe that I love so much with the playful tingling guitar lines. Diawara is making everyone clap along, dance along and jump along with her as she's leading with a big smile on her face.

Every musician gets a chance to show his amazing skills with impressive solos. The bassist makes his bass growl and slaps the hell out of it during his solo. The guitar player is going Jimi Hendrix and the drummer copies every line Diawara sings to his drum kit. After finishing the set, Diawara is not allowed to leave without playing an encore and of course she is happily returning to the stage for one more song, inviting some people over to dance with her. We can be really thankful she had the courage to chase her dreams.

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Tuesday 19 November 2019

On Stage: Monomyth @ Melkweg

From The Hague dwells the psych rock band Monomyth who operate far from the mainstream with their krautrock soundscapes. I've been following the band for quite a while but haven't seen them play live a lot. For some reason I keep missing them whenever they are visiting a venue close by. This year they released their fourth LP Orbis Quadrantis and I get a new chance to see the quintet on stage.

Monomyth at Melkweg Amsterdam, November 15 2019

On the four records the band likes to explore new grounds and doesn't restrict themself too much. You can clearly hear this tonight when they take us on a tour through their catalogue. The four songs of their new album are spread across the setlist and they play at least one song from the other ones. Heavy grooving rock songs are alternating with more light Pink Floyd like soundscapes with wonderful solos from guitarist Boudewijn Bonebakker.

When Peter van der Meer and Tjerk Stoop swap guitars for keys and other electronic sounds, the band takes off into space and flies by unexplored galaxies. When bassist Selwyn Slop and drummer Sander Evers flex their muscles, the sound becomes heavy with a thundering roar and powerful grooves. The band will always take their time though, patiently building up their songs, stretching them out to long soundscapes with repeating elements. Most songs last for a minute or ten, at least.

This is what makes their music so strong, the repeating grooves and riffs that put you in a trance, while the solos make sure it never gets boring. Sometimes they will work their way up to several climaxes, that are greeted by loud cheers of the crowd at the small stage all the way at the top of Melkweg. This band has found a unique sound and created a whole world all by themself. Their records prove the creativity and talent of the group, that sounds even better live on stage when the music comes alive and sounds even more deep. I hope to catch them more often when they come to visit in the future.

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Tuesday 12 November 2019

On Stage: TaxiWars @ THT

After a successful club tour with dEUS celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Ideal Crash, Tom Barman is on the road again. This time he shares the stage with his buddies from TaxiWars, the exciting jazz combo he already released two albums with.

TaxiWars at Paradiso THT Amsterdam, November 9 2019

The band has just released their new LP Artificial Horizon and are doing a club tour around it. The last time I saw them three years back they were playing the small Bitterzoet venue, but this time they have moved to the larger Paradiso North which has filled up nicely. It’s not that common that jazz quartets fill up venues like this, especially when they are not world famous.

It’s for a good reason though, since it is a lot of fun seeing this band play. Robin Verheyen is playing amazing and expressive solos on his tenor sax, really blowing the most crazy notes. Most of the songs also have stunning grooves, that are really funky and give the tracks a sense of agitation. Both bass player Nicolas Thys and drum player Antoine Pierre make these grooves sound so good and make them stand out.

Barman uses theses grooves for his lyrics that he’s singing and talk singing, this way emphasising the agitation. At the same time he’s doing funky dances around stage. Clearly he’s totally into it, continuing his dancing even when he’s watching from the side, when the band leads into a solo. It’s really nice to see how this group loves playing together.

Verheyen is sometimes switching to piano for slower songs or to add an extra layer to the groove. Some songs are almost funky pop tunes spiced up with jazz. The quartet shows a lot of creativity in their music, that could easily feature in one of David Lynch’s movies. Tonight this venue turns into a smoky jazz club from a film noir movie for one and a half hour, and it's wonderful.

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Saturday 9 November 2019

On Stage: Fontaines DC @ Paradiso

It's been an incredible year for Dubliners Fontaines D.C. The band released their first album to raving reviews and everyone agreed this is one of the must see bands of this year. At the Loose Ends festival the quintet proved to be one of the highlights and a band to watch.

Fontaines D.C. at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 6 2019

The Irish band was supposed to play at the intimate small club Bitterzoet, one of the Paradiso stages in Amsterdam, which sold out in no time. It was then moved to the main hall of Paradiso, which also sold out, proving this is the band you wanted to see. There's a sense of anticipation hanging around in Paradiso tonight that you don't feel that often. This is one of those nights where you know you might just witness something extraordinary.

What is it about this band that makes them so special? It's hard to put a finger on it, but when you see them play live, you just get the feeling this is a unique band. The way singer Grian Chatten moves around stage, in a somewhat nervous, almost uncomfortable way, but at the same time very intense. The rest of the band looks pretty much untouched, but the guitar lines and grooves are simply to the point and spot on.

Most of all the songs are of rare quality, hitting the sweet spot every time. They are great melodies with a dark undertow and Chatten's poetic lyrics that combine into a sense of urgency. Everything the band is playing hits bulls eye and the intense post-punk songs are very effective, firing up everyone in the venue. Some of their songs like 'Sha Sha Sha' and 'Too Real' are irresistible songs with great hooks, but even slower songs like 'Television Screens' have a great sound and feel to it.

The band closes with 'Boys In The Better Land' and 'Big' that have already turned into anthems of a generation. One more time the main hall is an explosive ball of energy that bursts into a wild pit and crowd surfers go round. After an hour the band leaves the stage and doesn't return. The crowd keeps on cheering for a long time but the Dubliners don't return because they simply don't have any songs left. At the small Bitterzoet venue this would have been normal, but the main hall usually has bands that will play longer.

It shows the incredible breakthrough of this band this year. We may have witnessed something special tonight, a band that is on the verge of an even bigger breakthrough and may have already outgrown this venue the next time they pass through. This is a moment to treasure, although there's still plenty of room for improvement. This talented band is definitely onto something and it's going to be interesting to see where it will take them.

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01. A Hero's Death
02. Hurricane Laughter
03. Chequeless Reckless
04. Sha Sha Sha
05. Lucid Dream
06. Television Screens
07. Roy's Tune
08. Too Real
09. Televised Mind
10. Liberty Belle
11. Boys in the Better Land
12. Big

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Thursday 7 November 2019

On Stage: Refused + Thrice

After Swedish hardcore punk band Refused reunited I was able to catch them twice. However the last time was four years ago and the band released a new album War Music this year to high acclaim. The band has joined forces with Thrice for a European tour and it is about high time I watched the Swedes play again.

Refused + Thrice at Melkweg Amsterdam, November 3 2019

Another day another traffic jam. Because of bad traffic conditions we end up late at the Melkweg venue. By the time we reach the full main hall Refused have already started their set.


The band plays a ferocious and inspired set, led by the charismatic Dennis Lyxzén like we're used to. As always he's very active around stage and keeps short speeches about politics in between songs. Sometimes this takes the tempo out of the set and some people may not like it, but this is what makes Refused the group they are and why they matter. This political activism also pours into their songs where they will give their view of the world.

And, no surprise here, they don't like the world of today at all. It is exactly what makes their music so angry but also so urgent. What makes this band even more special is the way they cross borders of several genres, not restricting themselves or making any compromises. The songs of their cult classic The Shape of Punk to Come still sound just as solid as twenty years ago. Half of the setlist is from the new LP though and those songs are live just as convincing as on the record. Refused are a band that we need so hard in this world, to shake us up and keep us awake.

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01. REV001
02. Violent Reaction
03. Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull
04. Elektra
05. I Wanna Watch the World Burn
06. Rather Be Dead
07. Coup d'état
08. Malfire
09. The Shape of Punk to Come
10. The Deadly Rhythm
11. Damaged III
12. The Infamous Left
13. New Noise


Unlike Refused, Thrice are a more mellow band, one that slowly builds up their songs instead of letting it rip. Their last LP Palm is already more than a year old and the band can rely on their routine to play a tight set. Singer Dustin Kensrue has a pleasant, warm voice that has enough body in the louder parts. Sometimes he kind of overdoes it and his voice starts to crack a bit. For the rest of the night the band plays a flawless show though, where many fans are singing along with the melodic rock songs.

The band does stays mostly on the safe side though and the show could use a bit more spice. Thrice is known for their innovative and more experimental sound and the band is always exploring new directions on their albums. This doesn't always show during the live performance though. It is quite a good show, but it kind of misses a sparkle. The band is very focused but at the same time it lacks some energy, especially compared to Refused. It may have been better to have the Swedes close this night, but it was a rocking sweet night nevertheless.

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01. Only Us
02. Image of the Invisible
03. Silhouette
04. Just Breathe
05. The Arsonist
06. Hurricane
07. The Artist in the Ambulance
08. Red Sky
09. Doublespeak
11. Black Honey
12. In Exile
13. The Window
14. The Earth Will Shake
15. Beyond the Pines

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Tuesday 5 November 2019

On Stage: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets @ Bitterzoet

The stream of bands coming from Down Under seems to be endless. Many if which are quality groups and clearly the continent is a great breeding ground for talented musicians. Fortunately for me Australia also is home to many psychedelic rock groups with Tame Impala and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard as the front runners. The Best Kept Secret Festival revealed another gem in that scene, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, and I couldn't wait to see them again.

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets at Bitterzoet, October 31 2019

Singer Jack McEwan almost didn't make it tonight as his passport got stolen in the UK. He spent the whole day arranging for a replacement passport and explains he only made it to the venue forty minutes before the show. The rest of the band look very relaxed and happy though and may have explored the local coffeeshop scene.

Fortunately it doesn't have any effect on their performance, which turns into a lively psychedelic show. Colourful visuals are playing behind the band, while they play their mind blowing songs and the crowd is slowly going nuts. The songs are enthusiastic psych rock jams that are a blend of The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, Tame Impala style vocals and King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard grooves.

It's an incredible contagious and tasty mix that results in a wonderful show that is a lot of fun. The band are all smiles, especially bass player Luke Reynolds who doesn't seem to be able to stop smiling. With great ease the Aussies go through the complex songs full of harmonies, stops, twists and turns. They released their new LP And Now for the Whatchamacallit earlier this year and clearly many people in here tonight have already studied it well. The band even squeezes in a bit of Lenny Kravitz' 'Are You Gonna Go My Way' into one of their songs.

The pit keeps growing bigger and wilder on the floor while crowd surfers are popping up frequently, riding the hands of the crowd around the small venue. The band watches this with somewhat disbelief in their eyes, loving every minute of it. It is only the first date of their tour around the European mainland and already it looks like a great success. Maybe this wonderful bunch can follow in the footsteps of those other Australian bands that made it big.

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01. Surf's Up
02. Found God in a Tomato
03. Buzz
04. Social Candy
05. Ergophobia
06. Marmalade March
07. Hymn for a Droid
08. Bill's Mandolin
09. Gurzle
10. Mundungus
11. Cubensis Lenses
12. Cornflake
13. Nek

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