Van Onderen: 24-hour party people
Amsterdam pop temple Paradiso has pretty much seen and done it all over the past 48 years, but until today there's never been a 24-hour event. So forget how nippy it feels in January, put aside any thoughts of an early night, and step aboard for slice after slice of interesting and surprising music. The line-up really is a true who’s who of the Dutch underground and absolutely dazzling if you’ve ever spent time out in Amsterdam, showing up at small gigs and digging through releases of the nation’s independent labels. To pick out just a few highlights from more than 60 bands feels cruel, but that’s why I’m here: Nouveau Vélo (shimmering ‘80s-influenced guitar pop); Ottoboy (the one-man sleaze blues of Otto de Jong); Spoelstra (guitar/synth/percussive experiments with no boundaries); Zea (high-energy lo-fi pop); Hunter Complex (superb synth pop); Wolvon (breathless indie and noise rock); and The Ex (because you can’t fail to mention these art rockers who’ve been on the go for more than 35 years and remain at the heart of the scene). But don’t stop there. The Van Onderen festival has its own website with bios and samples of all participating bands and partners, so go lose yourself in the underground.
Saturday, 7 January // Paradiso
Big Thief: not quite a heist
In a music scene bustling with earnest singer-songwriters, Brooklyn’s Big Thief seem to have struck it lucky in 2016 by breaking through the crowd and finding an audience. Okay, so they aren’t exactly massive yet, but they got picked up by Saddle Creek Records (better known for showcasing emotive indie outfits than straight-out rootsy bands), released a debut album called ‘Masterpiece’ and collected a fair amount of praise – for their live shows as much as the album. If you think ‘Masterpiece’ is a bold title for a debut, you might be right, but track two of the record takes the same title and it’s a cracker, touting a loosely distorted guitar folk sound (recalling Mark Olson / Victoria Williams back in the mid-‘90s), while the voice of Adrianne Lenker – Big Thief’s vocalist/guitarist – soars and cracks with an enamouring alt-country lilt. Melodic, electrified folk is probably the best way to describe the group, bouncing back and forth between indie pop and purer Americana. And yeah, whenever they do let rip, the sound harks back to the loud-quiet-loud of the ‘90s guitar world, but unlike some of their peers, Big Thief don’t just sound like they’re ripping off the past.
Monday, 23 January // Paradiso
E: by gum
This ain’t Sesame Street and if you haven’t heard of a band called E, it’s partly due to the fact that they’re pretty much unsearchable in an online sense, and also because they make dissonant, noisy, unwelcoming art punk that you’re unlikely to encounter on a TV or radio, despite having plenty to say. E aren’t young upstarts either. Instead they’re a driven trio featuring Thalia Zedek, Gavin McCarthy and Jason Sidney Sanford. Of the three, Thalia Zedek is best known as a soloist and from a number of acclaimed bands (Come being the biggest). She’s arguably as poetic and influential as Patti Smith although has never had the same degree of mainstream celebration. Putting that aside, she released a solo album titled ‘Eve’ last summer, dripping with low-key blues that lets her raspy voice shine, and it was probably one of her best-received albums in years. E, on the other hand, is vicious and wild, reminding of first generation Mission of Burma and feeling like a necessary reaction to the state of the world today. If that hasn’t got you riled up enough to leave your front door, the gig is a whopping €7 and features support from HWRH (Dutch indie noise featuring members of old local heroes Zoppo and Space Siren) and Claqueur (who even Google has never heard of, but let’s assume it’s experimental indie folk due to the proliferation of strings and because violist Lisa Fannen previously recorded with Clearlake).
Monday, 23 January // OCCII
Shovels & Rope: preaching to the unconverted
Shovels & Rope are husband-and-wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst – he plays guitars and sings, she plays drums and sings. But unlike other memorable guitar/drums duos, such as The White Stripes, the balance here is properly 50/50 and the harmonies of Trent and Hearst entwine like a couple who really do spend their lives together. On record they're at their most moving when breaking out the ballads. But they know how to rock out too, which is maybe what’s so exciting about their live shows and why they end up playing in bigger rooms every time they pass through the Netherlands. Latest record 'Little Seeds' allows them to offer up a tad more rock 'n' roll protest than usual – hopefully not a sign of marital strife – but they have a terrific sense of fun too. For example, 2015 saw the release of a covers record (‘Busted Jukebox, Volume 1’) in which they teamed up with friends to countrify everything from Guns n’ Roses to Nine Inch Nails, as well as delivering beautiful takes on Neil Young and Elvis Costello. Basically they’re a no-risk show.
Tuesday, 24 January // Paradiso
Video: ‘I Know’
Fiber x The Rest is Noise The minds behind the FIBER Festival collaborate with the Rest is Noise programmers for an all-encompassing audio-visual event. The line-up sees ambient producer Paul Jebanasam team up with Dutch artist Tarik Barra to present 'Continuum'. The second duo of the night is Scott Monteith (Deadbeat) with visual artist Rainer Kohlberger, together presenting the new album 'Qawwali Quatsch'. Friday, 6 January // Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJKeep an Eye The Records 2016 January seems to be an ideal time to look for something new, hence this jazz event at Bimhuis could throw up some interesting young talents. There are live performances from 2015 winners, the BVR Flamenco Big Band, EvenSanne and Koeniverse 3, each presenting their new albums. Three new winners will be announced on the night, plus the whole thing is free, making it a proper bargain. Sunday, 15 January // BimhuisBlinkfest What happens when Europe’s ‘best’ new punk talents get together and take to the road? Yip, a Blink-182 tribute night. No need to say much more than that, but acts include Bounds of Modesty (NL), Future Idiots (Sweden), Odi Acoustic (Germany), Good But Stupid (France) and more.
Saturday, 21 January // Melkweg