The 12 acts who made a sonic boom in Groningen

The annual Eurosonic festival in the Netherlands has become one of the key platforms for new European bands – and it’s where many Irish hopefuls aim to make a big noise internationally. Join us as we crack open some Dutch gold

Fri, Jan 31, 2014, 00:00

It’s remarkable to observe Eurosonic’s rise and rise in recent years. This writer first visited Groningen in 2005 for its annual showcase of the best new European bands. Back then, on its seventh outing in the Netherlands, the festival was on a much smaller scale, with 178 acts and a couple of hundred music industry hardy bucks in attendance.

People knew about Eurosonic but MIDEM in Cannes was judged to be more worthwhile in terms of doing business and making deals. And, let’s be honest, in January, the south of France is much more alluring than northern Holland.

The weather situation may remain the same, but everything else has changed in the interim. In 2014, Eurosonic attracts bumper crowds at every turn. The number of acts has almost doubled – 337 this year – and there are around 3,500 music industry high rollers in town, as well as nearly 40,000 punters (up from 15,000 in 2005) checking out the acts in the fantastic venues and clubs around town.

Slowly but surely, Eurosonic has become a very big deal. Aside from the live music, there is now a significant music industry convention, a growing technolgy focus, the European Border Breakers Awards ceremony, where 10 European acts are highlighted for successful debut albums and tours outside their home territory, and the European Festival Awards, which pats the big cheeses on the festival sector on the back and sends them home with gongs for their shelves.

But Eurosonic’s real importance comes from how it has positioned itself as a hub for festival bookers and promoters. This year, there were representatives from more than 500 international festivals, including bookers from Irish festivals such as Body & Soul, in town to run the rule over acts with a view to future bookings. At a time when the live music business is the one seemingly with all the cash, a band who impress bookers at Eurosonic could well enjoy a busy summer on the festival circuit.

It’s something which the Eurosonic orgaisers have recognised and put on a more formal footing with the European Talent Exchange Program (ETEP). This scheme has been using European Union cash to send rock’n’roll bands all over the continent since 2003. ETEP acts get to play at foreign festivals and enjoy increased media support on the back of the appearance.

There’s a long-running Irish association with Eurosonic thanks to 2fm producer Ian Wilson, who was beating a drum about this event long before it was popular or profitable. Each year, the station selects and supports some acts for the event, but there is now an increasing number of Irish bands heading to Eurosonic under their own steam.

It’s certainly well worth the time, effort and cash and may well be far more benificial to acts than travelling thousands of miles to join the overcrowded cattle-market at SXSW in Texas. In the past, Irish acts such as Villagers, James Vincent McMorrow, Little Green Cars and Kodaline have all seen a rise in festival bookings on the back of a January gig in Groningen.

It will be interesting to see if 2014 Irish visitors such as Daithí, The Strypes, Hozier, Kid Karate, Girl Band, Daniel James, Hudson Taylor and Le Galaxie will see similar bumps in the months to come. That’s the real bellwether of Eurosonic success.

Vibrant, epic and euphoric sounds for the dancefloor produced by a French/
Luxembourg trio armed with two pianos and a drum kit. Francesco Tristano, Aymeric Westrich and Rami Khalifé are classically trained musicians making music which is an awesome, ear-catching blend of classical, electro and improvised post rock.

Cambridge band pushing classic modern guitar rock riffs and powerful songs written with stadiums and arenas in mind. What makes them intriguing is the emotional intensity and introspective unshowmanship of frontman David Jakes, who favours hiding behind other members to standing out front.

The west-coast thriller is set for a very good year with a debut album due in the coming months. A whirlwind of ecstatic fiddle, thumping house grooves and tons of energy, Daithí’s live show has become a powerhouse over the last year, full to the brim with excitement and insane pop hooks.

You’ll never look at the vegetable aisles in your local supermarket in the same way again. From Austria, the Vegetable Orchestra create experimental neo-classical sounds by bashing auburgines together, blowing on carrots and drilling potatoes. It’s a schtick but, man, what a schtick.

Right time, right place: the Dublin band showed that they’ve found the sweet spot when it comes to mixing invigorating noise and alluring pop. A wham-bam of a set as the band turn huge potential into solid gold.

Teenage house fiends from Lancaster, Bondax are perfectly tuned to gather all “the new Disclosure” accolades. Live, they’re all about pushing infectious hooks, dastardly grooves and the kind of sunny-side-up vibes which will fit perfectly within any festival tent you care to mention.

Young Danish band playing intense and dramatic noiresque post-punk rattles. Comparisons to Joy Division, The Cure and The Birthday Party will follow as sure as night follows day.

The less-is-more approach works well for Belgian duo Rozanne Descheemaeker and Ruben Lefever, whose dream-pop is full of subtle detail and songs such as Someday to ensure you stick around for more.

From Munich, Claire have already enjoyed a bunch of success on the back of Games. Going by the hypnotic, fresh purr of Invincible and the panache of their live set, that’s not only potent arrow in their quiver.

Naturally, the room goes completely buckwild when the Austrians play their Balearic delight Sonnentanz, but the room is equally enamoured of everything else on show. A pristine, well-booted display of modern house style.

From Swedish duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Mariam Wallentin is all about beguiling freak folk which can switch from sweet Karen Dalton-esque lilts to Tim Buckley-style intensity at the drop of a hat.

Pop music with heaps and heaps of sussed attitude and brattish hooks from Heloise Letissier and her two voguing dancers. The Loving Cup is the track which will bring you back for more.

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