Eurosonic Noorderslag 2013: Day 2

Representing the Scottish contingent, Chvrches, Frightened Rabbit and Holy Mountain take Groningen on the second night of Holland's annual new music expo

Blog by John-Paul Mason | 14 Jan 2013

The daylight hours of Eurosonic seem to be all about the networking aspect of the festival where business cards are exchanged, deals are done and lots of coffee is consumed. There is a media hub at the Oosterpoort which serves as the epicentre of the event, a hubbub of activity with lots of interviews taking place and as The Skinny passes one room we spy Glasgow’s own Chvrches, having spent almost the entire day giving interviews and also managing to fit in a live performance which will be broadcast on Dutch television. They also have the small matter of a show this evening too, which everyone is talking about.

Having looked at this evening’s itinerary and map of venues, it’s clear we're going to need some extra energy, After a hearty burger at Bar Pacific, Stadssschouwburg is the first port of call and what a venue to start the evening off -- a beautiful old theatre, similar to the Playhouse, where Dublin’s Little Green Cars start quietly but confidently. Alternating between boy and girl lead vocal, they begin with a fragile take on modern folk rock, before veering into a path more familiar to the likes of The Sundays. The room is full by the time they hit their stride and it’s easy to see why they've made the BBC Sound of 2013 list. And with the entire band aged just 20, they're only going to get better.

A quick dash through town using the Martinitoren (the big clock tower) as a navigational tool, back to Huize Maas for Stubborn Heart. The duo from London make reference to the fact that a mere 15 minutes earlier the venue was empty, but now it's packed out. Their sound is simple yet complex; singer Luca Santucci’s vocal is both familiar and haunting. Scottish folks will get an opportunity to hear it for themselves when they play Glasgow’s Berkeley Suite later this month.

Worryingly, there's already a large crowd outside the Minerva Art Academy for the aforementioned Chvrches (profiled here). Luckily, we arrive in time to find room in an oddly shaped backstage area where Martin, Iain and Lauren are running through a last minute check before playing their first ever show outside the UK. It comes as no surprise to us here at The Skinny, but it may have raised a few eyebrows to see the 'Full' sign go up outside, leaving some very important people in the industry quite literally out in the cold.

And so to the show, they may have been up for the majority of the day, but it doesn’t show as the trio give a sprightly half hour display as to why they are one of the most talked about bands of the festival. ‘If We Sink’ and ‘Recover’ may not be known to many, but they're received with fervent applause by the crowd, some of whom resort to climbing staircases to get a better view. By the time they play ‘Lies’ and ‘The Mother We Share’ they must already be on every festival and venue booker’s wish list for the summer. Well, those who got in.

It's perhaps surprising to some that Frightened Rabbit appear on the bill at Eurosonic, such is their relative heavyweight status in the UK and America, but it would appear that Europe is still an area that their new major label home wants them to stake a claim in. With their Atlantic debut now in the back pocket, Pedestrian Verse is due to be unleashed next month; it's with this album they pull from most heavily in their set. Songs like ‘Holy’ and ‘Backyard Skulls’ are classic anthems in waiting and with ‘The Woodpile’, they surely have one of the songs of the coming year. Scott remarks that this may be the first time they ever get through a whole set without playing a song from The Midnight Organ Fight. A bold move maybe, but it's often said that you're only as good as your latest record; for that matter, the Rabbits need not be frightened!

To complete the Scottish hat-trick of bands, we head over to the Vera to be confronted by a queue, but this time the flash of laminate is no solution to a venue already at full capacity for the ferocious Holy Mountain. Eventually, following the departure of some elderly Dutch gentlemen who leave with very distressed faces, we make our way in to a hot sweaty and loud room, where the band are onstage delivering the kind of brutal cacophony of fast guitars and thunderous drums that we're by now well accustomed to on these shores. An unsuspecting Eurosonic audience are entranced by the unholy trinity of Flett, McGlone and Stewart, who look like they're having the time of their lives. ‘Bolting Bastard’ and ‘Gunner’ are beaten into the crowd’s subconscious with flailing arms, sweat, hair and guitar posturing aplenty. To say they were made for this sort of event and audience is an understatement.