Review: Eurosonic Noorderslag 2011
12-14 January - Groningen, the Netherlands
Overall – 9/10
If sex and drugs and rock and roll make the perfect festival, then the Netherlands is something close to the Garden of Eden. But each January, this year for four days, it’s all about one thing at Eurosonic Noorderslag: emerging bands.
The most essential new music event in the whole of Europe, Eurosonic has been squeezing the next generation of field-fillers into the venues of Gronigen for 25 winters as promoters, industry bigwigs and true new talent trainspotters drool over in a Camden Crawl-style bash.
There are the inevitable queues, lock outs and plenty of rain to make the UK organisers feel at home but on the newly-added Wednesday folky-types Dry The River (9/10) are testing the water with different lengths of beard growth. Bassist Scott Miller is winning that one, but the real golden gong hangs around the band’s live performance. It’s folk-with-balls, it’s beautiful-hardcore-gone-soft and the show is the reason we’re going to be seeing these guys at every festival with taste this summer.
They’ve forgone the Mumford waistcoats but packed in the Fleet Foxes’ harmonies as ‘New Ceremony’ builds into a Springsteen chorus and ‘Weights And Measures’ just cries out for a big festival singalong.
In Vera, the TV cameras are on Delorean (6/10) but frontman Ekhi Lopetegi looks as if he’s wishing he could be anywhere else. Their Balearic indie somewhat loses its impetuous in a wet Dutch city, but at least Lopetegi’s bandmates can’t be blamed for not trying as keyboardist Unai Lazcano is dancing so furiously during ‘Seasun’ that his keyboard nearly tumbles offstage.
A day later it feels like the apocalypse is upon us as The Joy Formidable (10/10) shake the grotty Vindicat to its foundations. The trio are brash, bolshy and damn right psychotic with ‘Austere’ and ‘Cradle’ thundering the room to ruins leaving front woman Ritzy Bryan head-banging on her knees.
Post-dubstep whiz kid James Blake (8/10) could well be on his knees too at Simplon but the Dutch are so bloody tall and there are so many people trying to get a glimpse of the Brit-schooler that VF can only hear his lush minimalism. ‘Limit To Your Love’ does the business, as it should, as Blake shakes the bass bins towards their breaking point.
Mama’s Gun (6/10) have the wedding band sound nailed at De Beurs but it’s French geek chic boy Ben l’Orancle Soul (8/10) that really stirs up a show worthy of the Grand Theatre. One part Glee, one part Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed and more covers than an NME ‘collector’s edition’, the star croons as his band synchronise their dance moves, draw out epic sax solos and (at the risk of ruining it all) cover of Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’.
On Friday, as the rain batters the streets, a mini storm blows into Paleis in the form of Slough big mouths Brother (8/10) and, as always, the band are not short of self-assurance. “This is our first time out of the UK,” sneers bassist Josh Ward, “we’re as privileged as you to watch the revolution.” Their self-proclaimed gritpop sound isn’t far from it’s 90’s roots as ‘Fly By Night’ reignites the Blur/Oasis feud in a short three minutes. First single ‘Darling Buds Of May’ is still their stand out number, but the set allays any qualms that they’re confidence over quality.
Yuck (7/10) could learn a thing or two from Brother about working the crowd. For the most part they look uninterested in De Spieghel, but that’s always the case with slack rock. There are plenty of sonic moments to savour though, namely ‘The Wall’ and ‘Holing Out’.
But they don’t pack a party like local act Kraak & Smaak (8/10) though, who round things off at the outdoor stage with a cover of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. It’s not their finest moment however, and although the guest singers could do with a stint of practice before joining Strictly, they power through the brilliant ‘Squeeze Me’ much to the delight of the fans who’ve been stood in the rain for the past few hours.