Eurosonic Noorderslag 2015 – Thursday
Day two of Vic Galloway's Dutch adventure becomes a pan-European experience in every way
There has long been a global monopoly on pop and rock music by the UK and the USA, and possibly for good reason, but I do feel some kind of sea change. Over the last two decades, African, Asian, Central American and yes, continental European music has crept further into our collective consciousness and made inroads into the underground and mainstream. Scandinavian and Nordic countries have certainly led the charge with countless success stories influencing global trends and tastes, with other countries following closely. It feels genuinely exciting being amongst a truly dynamic European collective of nations, and if you ever needed to see proof of the benefits of the EU then attending something such as Eurosonic definitely helps.
After waking and blasting out the first part of my diary piece in my apartment, I took the 25 minute walk into central Groningen. The advantage of staying in a hotel near the main square is its ideal location and ease. Being a little further out allows you to see a little more of the city, its canals, waterways and green areas – beautiful they are too. Heading straight to the registration point and general hub of the festival De Ooosterpoort, I met up with an Italian radio station Babylon Rai 2 to discuss an intriguing, possible pan-Europe radio venture. After a friendly and helpful discussion, as well as discovering we had some mutual music-loving friends, I then bumped into the booker for the Rockhaal venue in Luxembourg and the centre-piece for the 'Sonic Visions' festival which I have also attended. I then shared a coffee with an Estonian band manager I knew from a meeting at the Reeperbahn festival in Hamburg, before finally being interviewed on camera by Holland's equivalent to BBC Radio 1, 3FM for a documentary series on Eurosonic and Dutch music in general. In the space of 2 hours, I'd conversed with a huge cross-section of European cultures on a number of topics in one fell swoop... It was eye-opening and kind of exhilarating.
Again, the clock was ticking and I soon realised it was high time I saw some more music... Iceland is the focus country at this year's festival, and their official Iceland Eruption launch party opened its doors at the Stadsschouwburg. A short historical film about the country's music heritage, a few short speeches and an intimate, acoustic performance from hotly tipped new songwriter Junius Meyvant was an excellent start to the evening. Avant-electronic ensemble Samaris followed with a typically dramatic, glacial and haunting performance. The setting, the lighting, the atmosphere and audience were just right in this grand hall.
Catching a couple of songs in the Simplon venue nearby from Belgian-based duo Joy Wellboy, whose playful mash-up of indie-pop, garage rock and electronica was a treat also. I then marched towards Der AA Kerk for German visual artist and songwriter Miss Kenichi. Although the venue was superb and the audience rapt, I found her songs a little flat and predictable. I left for another German buzz act in possession of a rather ominous moniker, Warm Graves. With effects-laden guitars, pounding drums and saturated organ, the trio's songs were dark, epic in outlook and hugely powerful without actually making a memorable, melodic impact. I enjoyed them, but needed another kind of musical nourishment, kindly provided by the next act at the Academie Minerva.
Possibly the best thing I've seen at the festival so far, Cristobal and the Sea are signed to the City Slang label and have already notched up two plays on my weekly BBC show, but this was my first opportunity to see them in the flesh. Imagine a free-wheeling, psychedelic indie band of guitar, bass, drums, flute and harmony vocals; all of whom have grown up listening to Latin music? This kind of sums them up. Their sound has rich melodies and to-die-for vocal dynamics, whilst remaining poly-rhythmic with bossa-nova and samba textures. They reminded me a more stream-lined and modern Os Mutantes and I was smitten. Check out their Peach Bells EP now.
My counterpart at BBC Wales and another lover and champion of new music, Bethan Elfyn was helping promote an support a young, Welsh-language band appearing at the festival called Swnnami. I arrived a little late, with increasingly sore feet from traversing the cobbled streets and standing for hours on end, to see a surprisingly fresh-faced band with a sizeable audience in the Vrijdag venue for a set of bubbly, ecstatic indie anthems. The night was drawing in, so chomping on some 'churros con chocolate' in the main square, I watched local Dutch heart-throb Jett Rebel fly through a medley of crunching power-pop numbers, coming across like Prince meets Queen meets Jellyfish. I was impressed, as were the legions of the brave, young fans squashed at the front of the open-air stage.
Sheltering from the icy temperatures, I ducked into infamous local dive De Spieghel for low-slung garage-punk maniacs Acid Baby Jesus, Greece's answer to the Black Lips; then grabbed a taste of surly UK slackers Happyness back at the Academie Minerva. As I started to fade, my last port of call was yet another excellent discovery in the form of tribal, Krautrocking, electro wizards Joycut from Italy. It was a euphoric end to a very fine day but I was definitely done... I hobbled home and went straight to bed! I will however be back tomorrow with more ramblings from Groningen...