Dutch gold: Eurosonic 2013
If it’s January, it must be time for the annual trip to Groningen. Over the last couple of years, the Eurosonic music festival has become the best possible start to the year in the binge-gigging business. Those seeking fresh new …
If it’s January, it must be time for the annual trip to Groningen. Over the last couple of years, the Eurosonic music festival has become the best possible start to the year in the binge-gigging business. Those seeking fresh new European acts make a beeline to this likable Dutch university town where, this year, over 300 acts played on three dozen different stages over three nights. It’s not quite as crazy an assault on the senses as SXSW, as the numbers of acts dictate that you don’t have hundreds of day shows happening, but there is a similar sense that you’re seeing the best acts around right now.
Eurosonic’s appeal in recent times has rocketed thanks to the fact that European festival bookers come to the festival to book acts for their events. The excellent ETEP programme has helped in that regard, but there are many bookers here who are also not part of the ETEP scheme. Over 400 festivals were represented in Groningen this year, all of them actively looking for acts to fill their schedules for later in the year. No wonder acts – and especially their agents – have copped onto Eurosonic as a key showcase festival at the right time in the calendar.
It’s interesting to see how the festival has become more and more attractive to Irish and British acts in the last few years. I first went to Eurosonic in 2005 (the festival began here in 1999) and you just didn’t have the same number of acts from here or the place across the Irish Sea heading to Holland then. There were a few – various European Broadcasting Union radio stations have always sent acts to represent them and 2fm has been very much to the fore from day one in this regard – but nothing like the numbers you get now. For example, there were seven Irish acts at Eurosonic this year (Villagers, Little Green Cars, Kodaline, Adrian Crowley, MMOTHS, Girls Names and DJ Fitz) and many more applied for a berth at the festival. There were also a huge number of British acts, including a ton of acts currently in the next-big-thing saloon (such as Palma Violets, Chvrches, AlunaGeorge and Laura Mvula).
The British industry have certainly discovered the value of Eurosonic. I lost count of the number of UK-based agents, managers and promoters I bumped into over the course of the festival, all of them here to do business, take meetings and use the festival as a springboard to European festivals. At a time when record sales are not producing the same returns as was historically the case, live revenue is now the big line item on various balance sheets and festival appearance fees play a huge part in that regard. The feeling is that if you go to Groningen at the end of the first working week of the new year, you could well be setting yourself up for a very busy year. Further proof of Eurosonic’s appeal as a festival can be seen in the growing number of US agents and reps in town to check out acts.
Icelandic twin sisters playing the most gorgeous, tender indie-folk imaginable. Name taken from the Two Headed Mexican circus performer Pasqual Pinon, trivia fans.
MØ Danish culture to rave about. There’s a strong bang of Lykke Li to Danish singer Karen Marie Ørsted, but there’s also bits which will remind you of Grimes, Santigold and Karen O as well. Really strong, vibrant songs like “Pilgrim”.
Now, this was something to behold. Ten producers in tuxedos and suits sit on the stage armed with a 303 synth apiece. A very dapper Jori Hulkkonen is out front manning a drum machine and using a mixing desk to conduct the orchestra and improvise on the spot. It looks great, but it also sounds marvellous. Most definitely coming to a festival near you – Castlepalooza, Longitude and Electric Picnic (if it happens in ’13) bookers, please note.
Husband-and-wife duo Daniel Benjamin and Eleni Zafiriadou have had many musical adventures over the last 12 years (including supporting Whitney Houston on that infamous 2010 tour), but their Sea + Air outings are something else entirely with the German and Greek pair’s minimal, orchestral songs and lullabyes full of spark and intrigue.
I caught the Norwegian band playing an instore at the excellent Plato Records and was hugely taken with their superb harmonies, melodies and grooves. The rock-math equation would have it as Beach Boys, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend and Studio – and it sounds very jot as compelling as that algorithm.
Another Nordic act blowing us away in Groningen, Paskalev has long had a knack for writing catchy, radio-friendly tunes like “Jive Baby” and live, he and his band add some superb layers to those tunes.
Soul power! From Barcelona, The Excitements play full-throttle, action-packed, wham-bam soul, funk and r’n'b. They’ve got that Daptones’ look down pat and frontwoman Koko-Jean Davis is a blooming amazing star.
Finnish duo Tommi Koskinen and Hanna Toivonen left the world of tech start-ups behind to make fantastic spooky glacial slo-mo pop which has the likes of The xx going “yes” about them. They haven’t quite left the tech world behind – we were very taken with the onstage musical gadget Koskinen used, which was activated by motion sensors.
Menacing Swedish punk rock with a syth. We’ve been big fans of their Captured Tracks’ debut album for some time, but they’ve also got snarl and punch live.
Psychedelic pop from Ketting where “Lonerism” is obviously a very big hit. Great frontman too with a likable touch of the Marc Bolans.
Bass heartbreakers and soul stirrers for the blue of the night. If you haven’t checked out their ace debut album from last year, make amends soon.
Formerly known as Gnucci Bananana, the Swedish singer (AKA Mrs Spoek Mathambo) has now peeled off the banana skin and is operating as Gnucci, bringing bleepy pop with uber-pizzazz to the masses.