Loud, exciting and crowded to the limit. Once again Eurosonic in Groningen creates an atmosphere of party and complete madness. We checked out the Swedish acts during the festival.
From the outside, Groningen with its 200 000 inhabitants, is like every other city in the Netherlands. You get neat architecture and nice people, it’s like a smaller Amsterdam with canals, houseboats and ”classic” coffee shops. You will find everything you need in a small, flat and walk friendly environment. Eurosonic Noorderslag has been around since 1986 and have ever since made the city an annual destination for thousands of professional music delegates and hundreds of artists. During four days in January the festival occupies the cities clubs, build stages on every open square and creates an atmosphere unlike no other. It’s a shame it doesn’t last longer, but that might be for the best. Groningen takes its toll.
Although Eurosonic is on everyone’s lips, the festival is far from everything happening in Groningen this week. Over the years, the festival has inspired everyone and it seems that every bar and café that earlier would have been on the outside, now also wants a piece of the sweet, sweet cake that is Eurosonic. During later years countless of smaller festivals have been popping up, creating a unique subgenre to the massive main festival. Here you will find the Pleuropsonic Festival, which during Wednesday and Thursday houses in Café de Zolder, a lovely and sweaty bar where the smoking room make up for 90 percent of the area. However, you light a cigarette in the small bar at the entrance and they throw you out head first. Hard and fair. A logic to love.
First night of the festival, Wednesday, The Barn is one of the most visited places. And yes, it’s a venue. In a barn. In the city centre. Groningen is full of surprises and the concept works great. At 8 pm it’s time for the first marked act in the massive Eurosonic schedule. Linn Koch-Emmery takes the stage and does what she does best. The audience is caught from the first time she hits the guitar strings and are kept within her musical atmosphere until the show is over. The raw, melodic indie rock is hard to resist, and her melancholic voice stays with you. If 2019 really is Linn’s year, as many seem to believe, us included, it has started in the best possible way. It’ll be exciting to follow her development.
On Thursday night, when the legal fog lies dense in Café de Zolder, Browsing Collection takes the stage. The band from Skövde (western Sweden) has toured intensively for many years but Groningen is their first stop in the Netherlands. The stage at de Zolder is small, pushed deep in the corner and enlightened enough to allow you to distinguish the band through a smoky atmosphere. The debut is done and dusted without problems and Browsing Collection tear off several classic rock riffs, all to the audience approval. The band is raw and rides on a rock and roll-attitude that characterizes both the songs and the live performance. It’s hard, playful and consists of just the right dose of crowd-pleasing. It’s always a pure pleasure to listen to a distorted guitar in a small venue, and de Zolder and Browsing Collection is perfect match.
During Eurosonic it’s not only clubs that fills up, and even thou it’s minus five degrees outside big amounts of people gather in the streets of Groningen. Eurosonic (and the sub-festivals) create their own world within the city’s canals. This is where it happens and nothing else matters. At the same time the atmosphere is relaxed and undemanding, which must be called a classic Dutch attitude.
On Friday night at 9 pm Sarah Klang takes the stage at Stadsschouwburg, Groningen’s grand theatre and a Dutch national monument dating from the 19th century. The setting is perfect, and a cool, relaxed but also focused Sarah Klang enchants a close to full venue with her big, glittering and as always, sorrowful, country-pop. The applause just keeps on rolling, and you can feel the enthusiasm rise more by each song. The road forward lies straight.
Back to Pleuropsonic and their closing party at ORKZ Bar, Saturday. Located in an old Roman Catholic hospital a few kilometres outside of the city centre the audience is offered intriguing live shows and one of Groningen’s (maybe the country’s?) best venues. Left from the old days is an old autopsy table i steel which works as a merchandise table for evening. The stage is apparently located in the hospital’s old kitchen, however, tonight it’s a steampunk influenced, dark and totally awesome concert hall that shrieks of anarchy. This can’t go wrong. And it won’t.
Sweden is represented by Browsing Collection and Bottlecap, and the former opens the night in the best possible way. ORKZ Bar is packed from 9.30 pm and the crowd are pleased from the first second, that is – when the lead singer Mimi Brander starts shouting in harmony with Moa Lenngren’s sharp guitar sound. It’s great to finally see the band on a real stage with well mixed sound (by all means – de Zolder is a good venue but shit just got real). Browsing Collection knows how to build a concert from A to B and how to write songs with simple yet catchy melodies and hooks.
Gothenburg based Bottlecap puts in gear five and succeeds in starting the first mosh pit of the evening. Drummer Pontus Robertson hits harder than most and actually looks half dead after just five songs. But his looks and the venue’s lights are deceiving, and he keeps delivering a stable and intense drumming throughout the concert. Bottlecap are filled to the rim with energy and the bass player Johan Reiman takes every opportunity he gets to leave the stage for crowd-pleasing dance together with the audience. The show is intense, loaded with a punk attitude, but at the same time stable and controlled. It’s obvious that the band has gathered a lot of experience from ten years of playing. A new record is on its way and high expectations are well founded.
Four days in Groningen leaves you with plenty of impressions, a sore body and a slightly light mind. Swedish bands have once again made an impact in the northern Netherlands, performing on both the main Eurosonic and its sub festivals. Groningen comes with laughter, excitement and great live music. See you next year.
Words: Wolfman Jackson
Photos: M. Roth de Fries Lündbergh
Viva Sounds 2018 was just the perfect thing. The weekend came and the weekend went – and we had so much fun living it up!
Thank you so much, everyone, who made Viva Sounds 2018 such a magical gathering! Big ups to all the bands, artists, our fantastic speakers and guests, people helping us out, the venues and of course our beautiful audience who came out!
When we get time we’ll upload more pics (by Nikos Plegas btw) but for now we need the rest. Let’s get in xmas mode, get some time off and we’ll see you next year!
We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to have artists to Festival Marvin in Mexico City for the last two years – The Bongo Club in 2017 and Linn Koch-Emmery plus Annelie this year. And since Marvin seems to be such a stellar set-up within both music media and live, we dared to invite them to Viva Sounds. Happily they accepted our invitation, so of course we had to do an interview.
This Saturday you’ll have the chance to meet Ceci Velasco and Uili Damage at our conference at Pustervik, and also around town checking our program out. Given their work they do give the most humble impression. Love people like that. Here’s what we talked about.
You’re running quite an impressive platform, all based on music. How did that all come together and what has been your strong points in making it happen?
– It all starts from our magazine Revista Marvin, devoted to music, arts, movies, literature, and now even stand up comedy. Having already taken over www (with the website and social media) it needed a final experience to live music culture in every way possible. The natural step was taken 8 years ago with Festival Marvin, which presents all this approaches to both burgeoning and consolidated music culture.
I know you travel as well, what is the most significant differences you see with music and the life around it looking at Mexico (plus the areas around it) and compared to Europe?
– Mexican modern music and its industry is still younger than its peers and we’ve having a hard time catching up due to economic differences mainly. Nevertheless, Mexico has gained favorite status along common tour destinations because of the ardent audience welcoming not just hip music but also a wide range of acts.
What is similar and what’s the bigger diffrences?
– From several years now, we’ve reached competitive standards for production to make an appealing healthy scene useful to many outputs in the industry.
What is still far apart?
– Economics are still a hassle, not taking in count the transportation fees. You can get to see top notch acts for really affordable prices week-round in many major cities worldwide, but the promoters still insist in elevating their fee rates excessively, just on the idea that the Mexican audience will pay anyway. With the rising number of show opportunities year-round we truly hope to even this scenario in order to have a more healthy circuit.
“Mexico has gained favorite status along common tour destinations”
Since you also run a festival, what makes your festival special – what is so Marvin about it?
– It’s a community gathering. It’s made possible with the participation of the people that lives and works in the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods. It has the high production standards of the main festivals and also works in an intimate, laid-back logistics and spaces where you’re not bounded by the site’s specified grounds. It happens in the heart of the city with the participation of the city.
What do you know about Swedish music?
– For years now we’ve received amazingly high level of several pop music creators (yes, ABBA, but also within this lines of The Knife and Refused) and then enjoyed the most audacious music experimentators. We perceive that the years have brought the most interesting blends along those lines and though today Berlin is an important creators magnet-location for art from all aver Europe, Sweden still have interest in projecting talent from the homeland rather than moving carrying the flag.
Or any other things you’re interested in checking out when over where?
– Of course there is the Marvin axis of interest but also the places and conditions that provoke this to happen as it’s happening today. How you approach it, how it affects you and then how it reflects on anywhere outside Gothenburg, Sweden and abroad. There’s The Swedish Theory of Love movie approach, the Millenium saga approach, some more pop culture to name here and there, but there’s also a number of faces of the Swedish culture to be showed and discussed to create both better understandings and collaborations between our societies.
Awesome, thanks – and welcome to Gothenburg. It will be quite dark, might get cold, please bring some warmth with you.
– Thanks, I’m sure we’ll love it!
Photo credit: Carlos Maycotte
(Linn Koch-Emmery at Festival Marvin 2018).
John Robb formed The Membranes 1976 in Blackpool as punk rock saved his life, and he has ever since been part of music – as a musician, as a journalist and as an author. Given his broad experience we could not be more happy to have him part of Viva Sounds and had to get in touch to ask him a few questions.
Just to add to the picture, John was probably the first person in Europe to interview Nirvana, he coined the phrase Britpop, did the first interview with The Stone Roses plus most of the bands from the emerging Manchester scene. He runs the magazine and online music platform Louder Than War and the festival Louder Than Words, he interviews people on stage at various events, he makes Ted-X’s, spoken word performances, and is still active touring with his band, who inspired both Big Black and Sonic Youth.
Hey John, you’ve spent your life in music, has the industry gotten better or worse in general, in your opinion?
– It just fluctuates and changes. Pop culture at its best is about change and going forward. There was no golden era when it was ‘easier’ or music was ‘better’. If you exist outside the whims of fashion and on the edge of culture it’s never easy! Technology means you can get yourself listened to outride the circus but that’s not a given either. When I started it was about records first, you toured to promote the album, now it’s about live music and pushing on through the internet – this means there’s a million gate keepers and that’s reflected by the music which has become more and more diverse and this should be celebrated. There is no-one in control and I celebrate that.
“There is no-one in control and I celebrate that.”
With music being more and more driven digitally, what role do you see the live game playing now?
– The live experience is more important now than ever – in a world where everything is shrunk onto an iPhone screen it’s great to be in a room with the shamanic tribal and powerful force of music in full flow – also enhancements in technology have meant that its possible to create quite ambitious music and live experiences that can be really diverse – I love the way that music can be a myriad of styles from Aphex Twin byte-techno to primitive guitar bass and drums sonic violence to orchestras or choirs hooking into ancient melodic structures – in 2018 you can listen to all of these and they all make sense. Post Spotify all music is on the table and the tribal restrictions of my youth have been shattered.
As we’re running a conference and club festival, and I know you travel a lot, what makes a conference being a good one in your eyes and experience? And what makes a bad one?
– I love the conferences where music and culture are centre stage – there is a polarisation between the business orientated events which I’m sure are really important but mean little to me and the events where a real imagination and care is taken over the music, like Tallinn Music Week in Tallinn or MENT in Ljubljana, where you see bands that blow your mind and spend time with people who are as immersed in art and culture as you are – Tallinn gets extra points for still believing you can change the world with culture – a big plus in the cynical times.
You will be talking on music journalism when at Viva Sounds, and our under-label is “Can we shake it back to life” – where do you think it’s all headed?
– New punk can’t happen. Punk was a moment in time in the UK where a small amount of people tore a hole in the stuffy fabric and let the madness out. That is not to say there can’t be new revolutions – there are always musical revolutions – acid house was a massive musical revolution but very few music writers were involved in it so it is not written about much. Black metal was a music revolution and post black metal is where some of the most fascinating modern music gets made.
“These days you can hear the music yourself and make your own mind up”
Music writing now is vastly different from what it used to be but don’t be fooled by the idea that there was a golden period – the 60 year old writers like to tell you that they were in the golden era of writing but there are great writers now as well – their voices are harder to hear in the avalanche of media but that’s not a bad thing – these days you can hear the music yourself and make your own mind up – the role of thew writer is not dead – just changed – now it’s about saying “listen to this!”. Some writers still believe that slagging off a Mumford and Sons album will end that bands career but Mumford and Sons fans are not reading those reviews – they follow the bands facebook pages instead and listen tot heir streams. Our job now is to say: look there’s loads of other great stuff going on like the current Russian music scene and try and tell people how good it is and why it’s there…
Last, what’s your opinion on Swedish music? Any bands, artists that you like now, or in the past?
– Sweden is fascinating really – it is a high flyer in music for a relatively small country – I guess the Abba factor helps there. It has always been good at pop music but the darker underground of bands like Opeth is interesting and fascinating to see and how big they have become on their own musical agenda. I also really love The Hives – I saw them play recently and they were as good as ever. I also like choirs and Sweden has some of the best choirs in the world.
John Robb will be talking on MUSIC JOURNALISM
Ricardo Veiga got into music via fanzines, radio, shows and bands at an early age and went on to form the NAAM Association in 1999 and he flips his title being a booking agent, a manager, a talent buyer, a promoter and a festival director. Today NAAM is the common denominator for several major events in the north of Portugal, including SWR BARROSELAS METALFEST, one of the oldest and most respected metal festivals in Europe, running for 22 consecutive editions since 1998. 50 bands in 3 stages during 4 days, ranging from all over the world and bringing the best in extreme music, from main acts to upcoming bands and also hosting the national final for the Wacken Metal Battle in Portugal.
BRAGA MUSIC WEEK is a 9-day event celebrating the International Music Day and runs and includes shows in the historic city streets with a mobile sound system, a football cup between local musicians and promoters, club shows and showcases in local pubs and cafes, music fairs, cinema and talks. Latest up on the plate of NAAM is Soundville – an eco-friendly-festival around the beautiful Neiva river, connecting the margins of different districts with Music and Nature. It started in 2017 and won various prizes for his sustainability and preservation of the environment.
As a manager Ricardo works with the electronic duo ERMO, who mixes harsh beats and harmonies with slang Portuguese poetry. Considered the best Portuguese act in 2017, they are preparing the recording of the 3rd album and played recently most of the summer festivals in their home country and have also toured Brazil and Scandinavia.
Pace Management / Welfare Sounds & Records
Fredrik Andersson runs the Gothenburg-based artist management Pace Management and is part of the record company Welfare Sounds & Records. After graduating from Music and Event Management at Linne University in 2005, Fredrik began working at the lawyer and management company Flagstone. During his eight years with the company he was involved in projects and campaigns with Mando Diao, Division Of Laura Lee, Christoffer Berg, The Royal Concept and The Hives.
In 2013 Fredrik Flagstone left Flagstone to launch his own company, Pace Management, and in 2015 Fredrik joined Olle Björk and Per Stålberg, producers and studio owners of Welfare Sounds, to launch the Welfare Sounds & Records record company. Welfare has quickly settled in on the map as one of Sweden’s most interesting indie labels and has over three active years released artists like Terra, Linn Koch-Emmery, Missios and Tyred Eyes.