Eurosonic Noorderslag 2015 – Friday

As Groningen's annual European showcase hurtles its way to a close, Vic Galloway makes his way to the front for revelational sets from Kate Tempest, Bad Breeding, and Throes + The Shine

Feature by Vic Galloway | 17 Jan 2015

With a plethora of music festivals taking place in every corner of the world these days, you'd be forgiven for thinking we might actually be at saturation point. Surely every piece of arable land and picturesque town has been utilised and taken advantage of for party purposes? Possibly. For me however, the key to an event's success is in its curation and size. For example, the inimitable SXSW is an utter behemoth now, and growing annually. It's a lot of fun and you can still find exciting acts and undiscovered gems, but you have to look harder than ever. It's almost like a collection of hundreds of mini festivals under one large umbrella.

Often the more compact events allow audiences to actually see more music, connect with more people and inevitably get more business done. Our own homegrown events such as GoNorth (now rebranded as XpoNorth) in Inverness and Wide Days in Edinburgh give musicians, fans and delegates the personal touch in more intimate settings. Eurosonic skillfully manages to balance both – it's hugely well attended and busy, without being faceless and out of control. You can actually navigate the town and see tonnes of music. Just get some sturdy walking shoes on, grab some tasty street food and go for it.

Friday has been the best night of eclectic listening so far, and my night began with one of the strangest acts of all, the Dakh Daughters from Ukraine. Armed with cello, double bass, didgeridoo(!), piano and accordion, the six-strong female ensemble of face-painted harpies bombarded the assembled masses at the Stadsschouwburg with an unholy mixture of avante-garde classical, folk, hip-hop and chanson. Their voices screeched, their instrumentals wailed and the results were... interesting and thought-provoking, if not fully realised. I could definitely see them performing at some sleazy, late-night cabaret joint at the Edinburgh Fringe given half the chance.

Skipping around the corner to encounter another Icelandic musician (what do they put in the water there? There's only a population of 320,000!) called M-Band, I was thoroughly impressed as a one-man-band took his Jon Hopkins esque throbbing electronic soundscapes and seamlessly augmented them with angelic, choir-boy vocals. Certainly an act to keep an eye on in the future, his set was only slightly marred by the following band's snare-drum soundcheck... is there a more abrasive sound on the planet? Thankfully, when the oddly named Throes + The Shine burst onto the perpendicular stage at the Platform Theatre, their furious marriage of post-punk guitar shapes and tribal, African rhythms shook the room to its very core and saw the entire audience moving in ecstasy to their violent, propulsive music within two songs. With two wild front-men working the crowd into a frenzy, it was the the sweatiest performance of the festival by far. I definitely want to see them again.

A few more established names have appeared at this year's festival. Yesterday, Glasgow's own Twin Atlantic played Groningen; and today, Mercury nominated Kate Tempest was in town drawing a large crowd to see her modern, urban poetry and wiry hip-hop shapes. She really is a smart cookie and an immense talent, with her dexterous wordplay and vocal melodies from her Everybody Down album slipping off the tongue and into the ears of the adoring Dutch audience. Clearly enjoying herself by the end of her set, she urged us to feel try to more empathy and control our personal greed in this chaotic world. I couldn't agree more.

Bolting across the center through a throng of local gig-goers and festival day-trippers, I caught the end of psychedelic, be-glittered French group Moodoid whose Le Monde Moo album I've enjoyed immensely recently, then briefly stepped in to the USVA venue for a song or 2 from an Estonian acoustic band called Odd Hugo. My next mission was see 2 buzz acts I've been impressed by on record, Spanish teenagers Mourn were up first. To be honest, although their 90s influenced indie-grunge is somewhat addictive, seeing them onstage made me feel I was judging a school Battle of the Bands and I marked them down as ones to watch – their time will certainly come.

UK indie boys Gengahr were next and frankly I was a little dissappointed. Their recordings ooze with dreamy, psyche colours and shards of lush, effected guitars; live on the other hand, they were flat and ordinary with monotone falsetto vocals and poor onstage delivery. Maybe I'll revisit them in a few months and see how they've progressed. From the Huize Mass, I hot-footed it to get a proper dose of nihilistic punk noise from another UK band in De Spighel charmingly called Bad Breeding. Again I've given them a spin on air at the BBC, but wasn't quite prepared for the full-on assault of their distorted, untamed cacophony. Being a man of a certain age with a certain record collection, I was reminded of Crass at their most contemptuous and even 80s chicken-head punx Chaos UK; fed through an industrial blender of course. With a guitar player wearing a Pussy Riot T shirt and a wall of strobe lights damaging our collective retina, you might be able to imagine the carnage.

Feeling almost spent, I had the appetite for one last performance and it was from another Punk trio from Germany called Die Nerven. As the venue was packed to capacity with Dutch and German onlookers, there was little chance of getting anywhere near the stage so I enjoyed a song or 2 from the back, and retired to the bar for a handful of beers and chat with my pan-European pop buddies to discuss what else but... music. With one more night of entirely Dutch bands to go tomorrow, my Eurosonic adventure is almost at an end...

Wednesday's entry for Eurosonic Noorderslag 2015Thursday's entry for Eurosonic Noorderslag 2015 / Saturday's entry for Eurosonic Noorderslag 2015 

Vic Galloway presents on BBC Radio Scotland at 8pm Mondays, featuring live session guests, new releases, demos and classic alternative tracks.