A Trip Down Memory Lane

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written something. My apologies! Anyway, I want to pick it up again and regularly post something. Starting with this little piece about a band called 7Zuma7.

Last Friday me, my sister, her husband and my father took a trip down memory lane. In the nineties, when I still lived in a small village near Eindhoven, the city was known as ‘Eindhoven Rockcity’. This was due to a festival like Dynamo Open Air, venues like Dynamo and the Effenaar and the large number of rockbands that sprung up around the city. Bands like Peter Pan Speedrock, The Spades, Tech 9, Candybar Planet and 7Zuma7.

That last band broke up at the start of the new decennium, after releasing a self-titled ep in 1997 and their only full album ‘Deep Inside’ in 1999. Crushing, melodic stonerrock that hits you like a truck. It really is a shame that they broke up when they did, as their live shows were absolutely amazing. I think I must have seen around 5 to 10 shows of them back in the nineties and they never disappointed me.

So when the news came that 7Zuma7 was going to play a one-off reunion show in honour of 40 years the Effenaar I couldn’t wait to see them again. It was like a big trip down memory lane last Friday. A lot of familiar faces, some a bit rounder or balder or with more grey hair… Eindhoven Rockcity was alive again, even if for just one night.

And again, 7Zuma7 didn’t disappoint me. It was pretty clear that they hadn’t played together for 11 years and it was quite visible that they were nervous, but as the gig progressed, they eased right back into it. Their stonerrock felt like a bulldozer was coming right at you, like in the ‘old days’. Loud, impressive, visually attractive (great custom made outfits again!) and with those great songs that definitely withstood the test of time. Unfortunately I had to miss my personal favourite, ‘An Instant Cool’, as I had to catch the train back to Amsterdam. But there was enough left to enjoy with ‘Velvet Slide’, ‘Blue TS’ and ‘On at a Time’ amongst others.

Unfortunately, this reunion was a one-off. I’m sure that with some more gigs, the bulldozer 7Zuma7 would be back at full strenght again after which they could reclaim their place as one of the best live bands in the country.

I can only find amateur videos of last Friday, but this one is quite good, so enjoy!

Advertisements

R.I.P.R.E.M.

So after three decades, R.E.M. has called it quits. Is it a surprise? Not to me. But then again, I haven’t really been following them for the past years. Having said that, I am a fan of just about everything they did up and until 1994’s album ‘Monster’. Which, in my humble opinion, is a very underrated album.

Just like many people I got into R.E.M. when they had their major break through in 1991. I was 13 at the time, didn’t understand what the hell Michael Stipe was singing about, but I loved the melodies. A few years later, when I was 16 (nearly 17), my parents let me and a good friend travel to Denmark by ourselves to go to the Roskilde Festival. Headliner: R.E.M.

To this day, R.E.M. at Roskilde 1995 is still one of the best (if not THE best) gig I have ever seen. I’ve seen hundreds (if not thousands) of bands since, but that one stood out. Passionate, musically inspiring, great atmosphere on a beautiful night… It made quite an impression on the 16-year-old me.

Since then, I’ve seen them several times at various venues during different tours, but it was never like that one night in Denmark.

(can’t find any footage of that gig, so here’s their very first tv performance ever)

 

The geek inside

I confess: I’m a geek. A music geek. Who wants to know as much as possible about music. All music, preferably. And I like to get together with friends and test our knowledge during a popquiz. Yesterday was one of those nights.

I’m on a team with three friends and once a month we play the popquiz at the Rozentheater in Amsterdam. If you’ve never been to one of those nights, it works like this: music nerds in groups of three or four trying to outdo each other and answering questions like ‘Name the artist, title of the song and the producer of the song you just heard an intro of’. 120 Times in 1 evening. Probably sounds like hell for most people, but not for us…

There’s a slight anti-social element to these nights. Everybody is so obsessed with the music that the teams don’t really mingle. For some it’s also a case of ‘don’t socialise with the enemy’.

In spite of that, I do really enjoy those nights. I’m really pissed off when we don’t do very well (round 1 yesterday, 30 intros to songs/artists that had to do with colour in one way or another) and I love it when we manage to reach the top 3 teams. It does help that I have two team mates with almost photographic memories and an incredible knowledge of music. And our team is quite balanced. One of us is an expert in fifties/sixties/female singers/Motown/old Dutch music, the second person knows just about everything about punk/eighties/wave/nineties guitarrock and the third team member knows a lot about the last 15 years. And me? I float somewhere in between. I know a bit about everything I guess. I don’t really have a speciality.

So, back to yesterday. Four rounds, 30 intros per round, each round had a theme. As I said before, the first round we didn’t do too well, but luckily it turned out that the rest of the teams didn’t score a lot of points either. The following three rounds we scored very consistently and did quite well.

In the end, we finished as the fifth team. Not our best performance, but out of 20-25 teams we didn’t do too bad. Not that we were satisfied, afterwards we always go through the intros we didn’t guess, as music nerds should!

On to the next music geek night on October the 17th!

The unlikely winner

At the moment, I’m sitting at home watching Elbow perform at the Reading Festival, which I recorded last weekend. They’ve got the audience in the palm of their hands and it’s not the first time this festival season. I’ve seen (parts of their) sets at the Lowlands Festival, Pinkpop and Glastonbury on tv and to me they really stood out this year. Obviously, the band’s been around for a long time, but it seems like (at least in the Netherlands) they’ve really made an impact this festival season.

Which, to me at least, is quite unusual. Most of their material is ballad-like, long 9 minute songs with many layers, which would almost suit a film more than a festival. Songs like ‘The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver’ and the absolutely magnificent ‘Lippy Kids’ aren’t exactly the first songs that come to mind when you think of festival hits. Quiet songs that you really have to listen to. Emotional. And most of all beautiful and touching. Usually Dutch audiences aren’t very good at listening to that kind of material. They prefer to chat to each other instead of giving the artist and the music the respect they deserve. But somehow it’s different with Elbow.

Elbow commands your attention. I’m not quite sure how, but I think that the likeability factor and the charisma of singer Guy Garvey might have something to do with it. He’s a proper frontman who can dictate an audience. And he seems genuine when he shouts a cliche line like ‘You guys are great!’ or ‘We love being here!’. But I guess most of all it’s the music. The beautiful songs of Elbow.

Time Machine

The summer of 2011 is the most miserable one (weather wise I mean) that I can remember. It’s even worse here in Amsterdam this year than the four summers I lived in Ireland. The Irish summers are notorious for their rain and relatively low temperatures, but they’ve got nothing on this Dutch one. And so, as it continues to rain outside, I focus on music. Playing music, buying music, watching YouTube videos or music documentaries.

And my favourite passtimes during miserable, rainy days are buying vinyl records or going through my vinyl collection, reading the sleeve notes, putting some records on I haven’t played in a while… Geeky stuff, I know. Let’s face it, the vinyl record is so much more beautiful than a cd (even though I’ve got quite a selection of those as well). And as much as I would like to encourage people to buy mp3’s instead of downloading them for free, digital music doesn’t do it for me. Yes, I’ve got an iPod to listen to music while on my way to work. But buying from iTunes doesn’t give me the same exciting feeling as going to a record shop and buying a real life record (or two… or three…) after browsing for an hour or so.

I actually feel sorry for the generations who aren’t aware of the beauty of all of this. There are plenty of kids out there who don’t know what a record is. They probably still know what a cd is, but it’s just a matter of time before they have mostly disappeared out of the shops as well. Although… there is hope on the horizon! I recently read that vinyl sales in the first half of 2011 are up 55% and that vinyl is making a come back.

Just the other day I came across a series of photos of the HMV record shop on Oxford Street in London in the sixties. I swear, if I had a time machine… that’s exactly where I’d go!

Highlight of the year…

The events and circumstances of this weekend are the trigger to write this blogpost about festivals. Obviously there were the sad events in Belgium at Pukkelpop, a lot of my friends are currently at the Lowlands festival in the Netherlands and yesterday I volunteered at the Magneetfestival in Amsterdam.

The Magneetfestival is a new type of festival, for me at least. It’s loosely based on the Burning Man festival  and focuses a lot on crowd sourcing. Artists can submit an idea in any art form, the audience can vote and the ideas with the most votes gets to actually be a part of the festival line up. There are huge art installations, dj’s who created their own space, poets who recite their work etc. The festival aims to be completely environmentally friendly and thrives on the work of volunteers. It had a bit of a hippy feel to it yesterday, but I had a great time and met some very friendly people.

I’m not much of a festival visitor anymore really (especially not festivals that last longer than a day), but they used to be the highlight of my year. I think I was about 14 years old when I first went to the Dynamo Open Air festival, a massive  metal/hard rock/punk/hardcore festival that was held annually near where my parents live. It was always a bit of a family reunion, as usually my uncle and aunt, some cousins, my father,  my sister and my brother would be there. The festival unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore, but I went there for a good few years in a row and always had a blast!

The other festival I visited a lot of times is Lowlands. First for pleasure, later for a mix of business and pleasure when I started working in the music business. I think that I’ve attended Lowlands over 10 times and again, I always had a great time. Although those early years were the best, when it wasn’t that busy yet. Other festivals I’ve visited over the years include the Roskilde festival in Denmark, Pukkelpop in Belgium, Oxegen in Ireland and Rock Werchter in Belgium (and dozens of other, mostly smaller festivals).

It’s hard to comprehend that five kids, for whom the Pukkelpop festival was probably the highlight of their year, will never come back from that festival. People go to a festival to have an amazing time, to dance, to party, to socialize,  they don’t go to a festival to die. May they rest in peace.

Spotify: love it!

20110813-115718.jpg

Got myself a premium subscription and I think it’s well worth the money. I’ve created several playlists of hundreds of songs and I stream them (laptop) as well as using them offline (iPhone, iPad). Like now for instance. I’m on a train to my parents and while I’m typing this I’m playing an offline playlist on my iPad. Very handy!

The coolest part about it though is the fact that when you do have an internet connection (like the 3G connection on my phone) you have literally got millions of songs in your hand. And all of that for €9,95 per month. for the sceptics who say that it will ruin the music industry: I buy more music now than I ever did! I listen to it first on Spotify and if I really like it I’ll buy it. I use Spotify mainly for when I’m commuting or otherwise travelling. It’s a great way to find new music, if you ask me!

Anyway, there is one thing I don’t like. As you can see on the photo I just took of my iPad Spotify looks very silly on it. So, here we go: Spotify, why isn’t there an iPad app yet??

Hillbillies, Alcohol & Roadtrips

I’ve always had a weak spot for a band called Southern Culture on the Skids. One of the things I still want to do in my lifetime is travel across the southern states in the US and I can totally imagine the music of Southern Culture on the Skids being the soundtrack to my trip.

Their hillbilly surf country would fit perfectly with a roadtrip from North Carolina all the way across the States to Arizona. I might just continue on to California, even though I’ve just recently visited that state. I haven’t seen all of it yet and I’ve got a couple of friends living there, so why not?

I can already see myself cruising through Louisiana with ‘Daddy Was a Preacher, but Momma Was a GoGo Girl’ blasting on the stereo. Or driving across Texas playing ‘My House Has Wheels’. Hell, might even throw in some ‘White Trash’ or ‘Too Much Pork for just One Fork’.

If you ever get the chance to see this band live, do it! You won’t regret it as they are great musicians and their shows are mostly a lot of fun. And if you like songs about alcohol, hillbillies, cars and fried chicken you can’t go wrong at all. Oh yeah, and check out their website, it’s awesome!

I am human and I need to be loved

The lyrics to The Smiths’ classic song ‘How Soon Is Now?’ have never been more appropriate than last Friday night at the Effenaar in Eindhoven. The occasion: an afterparty for (ex-The Smiths singer) Morrissey’s gig in Eindhoven. 

There’s a club if you’d like to go
you could meet somebody who really loves you
so you go, and you stand on your own
and you leave on your own
and you go home, and you cry
and you want to die

When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
well, when exactly do you mean?
see I’ve already waited too long
and all my hope is gone

Especially at the beginning of the party, it was like being at a disco night for people with autism. Lots of (mainly male) Morrissey-fans standing on their own with a drink and their backs against the wall, waiting for god knows what to happen. Awkward at first, that’s for sure. As the evening progressed and as more alcohol was consumed the atmosphere changed completely. By the time it was past midnight, a lot of them had actually picked up the courage to start dancing. In that awkward ‘staring to the floor so nobody will notice me’ kinda way.

The Morrissey afterparty in Eindhoven

Reading the above, it may sound like me and my friends didn’t enjoy myself, but it was quite the opposite. We had a really good time dancing and chatting. It was just a very unusual atmosphere when we first arrived.

And the gig? Well, I’ve seen Morrissey on four or five different tours now and I must say: his voice has never been better. The gig could have been a bit longer (it only barely reached 1,5 hours) and of course with a back catalogue like Morrissey has I will always complain about the setlist (FOUR new songs in 1,5 hours, was that really necessary?), but all in all it was a very good gig. The highlight for me was probably a haunting, explosive rendition of ‘Meat is Murder’. And I’m not even a vegetarian…

Here’s a clip of that song that I filmed last Friday, unfortunately I didn’t get the whole song. The ending was absolutely brilliant!