ESNS 2018 preview – Zulu Zulu

Tomorrow, I head to Groningen for Eurosonic Noorderslag 2018. Needless to say, I’m very excited. My mailbox is creaking from artists, agents and PR companies who are keen to get their acts on my radar. With so many artists playing, it’s easy to overlook things without getting those prompts. 

I thought it the right time to do another of my entirely random ESNS searches (here’s the previous one) to identify another band to quickly preview. The random word generator gave me ‘Waves’ and the random number generator ’16’. I’m taken right to the alphabetical end of the Eurosonic line up for ‘Zulu Zulu’ – this might be interesting! 

The ESNS website describes them thus:-

Delivering some much needed mediterranean vibes to cold Groningen, Zulu Zulu is a project born in Mallorca in 2015. Their proposal, African music based on onomatopoeia, does not leave anyone indifferent. Bright landscapes, ancestral rhythms and an impeccable staging are some of its virtues. Their first record Defense Zebra came out in January 2017, and they have quickly been picked up by many venues and festivals.”

I was in Mallorca for the lovely Fira B showcase back in September (I wrote a small bit about it here). One criticism that might have been levelled against many of the bands I saw playing was that they lacked originality. I saw some cool stuff and met some lovely people but band-wise, the level of derivation often felt clumsy. There were exceptions to that rule; bands that had gone beyond direct copycat mimicry of their heroes to add something new and vibrant. It would appear that Zulu Zulu had made great strides at Fira B in 2016, the year before I was there. 

A quick listen to ‘Defense Zebra’ and a watch of their YouTube videos leaves one in little doubt; Zulu Zulu are an exciting, unique proposition. I’m a sucker for visuals, especially when it involves masks, costumes and mystery. Zulu Zulu are a band who’ve raised themselves above the humdrum and the obvious by employing a tribal theatricality of their own. They’ve overcome the barriers of language by creating one of their own.

Most of all, and the reason why they’re now on my list to watch on Friday night at the Huis De Beurs (00:15 – 01:00), they look like one hell of a live proposition. 

See you in Groningen.

 

 

 

El Goodo & Bob Of The Pops – Duffy’s Bar, Leicester – January 12th 2018

I made the last-minute call. This was something of a coup for the Leicester gig scene and I really should be going to see the lazy Welsh wonders, El Goodo, work their magic within the confines and the pillars of Duffy’s bar.

Biff Bang Pow, the local promoter who have excelled in such things for a decade now, clearly have a robust address book for things psychedelic and sixties-twinged. It surely must be this passion for sparkly, cinematic jangle that’s persuaded the El Goodo sextet to stop off here in their 2018 mini tour of bigger cities.

The sense of anticipation duly builds during the charming opening set by Bob Of The Pops. A side project for Robyn Gibson (of The Junipers) whilst those ridiculously under-appreciated Leicester locals take what’s likely to be a permanent sojourn from the scene. Bob Of The Pops is Robyn’s chance to take a set of songs from artists he’s clearly most influenced by and give them a Gibson re-gloss. Tonight, he’s joined on the drums by Ben Marshall (also of The Junipers). Without recourse to the studio knobs that make the cover records so fine, some of the layers are lost. But Gibson is too good a guitarist and too accomplished a performer with effects pedals a-plenty to allow the sparseness to bother him too much. Delightful – and your average punter wouldn’t know who the originals were by such is the eclectic taste employed.

 

 

One wonders how El Goodo can feasibly fit onto Duffy’s stage. In truth, there’s an art in just about managing. Hardly elevated, members of the band peer out from behind pillars whilst Pixy shuffles with awkward confidence centre-front. He shyly mumbles introductions to songs as the cool and the trendy of Leicester gently jostle to get better views.

But this is one gig where obscured viewing doesn’t dampen the enjoyment. For the sound that washes over you makes everything temporarily alright with the world. Joyful and uplifting, we take a tour through last year’s wonderful album, By Order Of The Moose. Let’s hope for our own selfish sakes that the next one isn’t a decade in the making. Original tunes that might have been lifted from Spaghetti Westerns pulsate alongside numbers from further back in El Goodo’s catalogue. It looks effortless; this is a band who have clearly spent lots of time together in the studio perfecting the exquisite harmonies and solid fills. The friendships with the Super Furries are evident; this is a very Welsh sort of derivative and that is no bad thing.

At times, the mood is such that you half expect a sheriff (from Nottingham perhaps envious that we’ve got this gig?) to burst into the dark room lifting his or her gun from the holster smashing bourbon glasses by way of rebellion. But, there are no horses tied outside on Pocklingtons Walk and we’re only standing on tables to get a better view of El Goodo. 

Friday nights don’t tend to get better than this in this town. 

ESNS 2018 preview – Millionaire

As I mentioned yesterday (here), I’ve got a last minute press invite to Eurosonic Noorderslag next week in Groningen. I can’t wait until I’m once again on those cold streets drinking coffee and beer with music fans from around Europe. 

 

There are a massive number of acts scheduled to play over the course of the festival. Even if I’d had more time to peruse the line up it’s inevitable that I would overlook something I’d really be keen on. I’ve asked mates with more of a handle on these things than I’ve currently got to send me their tips. Obviously, I’ll follow my nose as well and refuse to be too structured with my plans. That’s where the most joy can come from. 

I asked a random word generator for a word this morning and got ‘maggot’. I asked a random number generator for a number between one and thirty and got ‘ten’. I logged onto the ESNS line up page (here) and counted ten acts down from ‘MAG’ in their alphabetical list. 

‘Millionaire’, a rock band from Belgium, is what my lucky dial landed upon. 

I can’t help thinking that ‘Millionaire’ are not a typical ESNS band. Many acts that are scheduled to appear might be considered up and coming. They’ll be making use of their time in Groningen to build industry contacts and to make links that’ll further their careers. 

But Tim Vanhamel, the main man behind Millionaire, arguably has better links than most who’ll be around next week. This is a guy who played guitar in dEUS. Millionaire have toured with Queens Of The Stone Age, Muse and Foo Fighters. Tim’s even written a tune for Eagles Of Death Metal. On one level, it’s hard to see what gain there might be for Millionaire in playing ESNS.

They’ve been away for some time though. A decade is a long time in this fickle industry, Third album, Sciencing, came out last year when many had given up hope of seeing Millionaire again. I’m sure that fans of the band welcomed the release and lapped it up but nostalgic references to glory days will only get you so far. 

And so it begins again; the incessant touring and the re-building of a fan base. I’m looking forward to their show at ESNS Play. It’ll be an opportunity to see a rock craftsman with undeniable pedigree at work. 

Millionaire play ESNS Play on Friday 19th January between 22.40 and 23.20

Tentative plans for 2018

Have I fallen out of love with blogging? A quick look at the sparse, sporadic Sonic Breakfast updates in 2017 might well indicate that to be the case. To my shame, the regular ‘Sonic Breakfast Top Ten Of The Year’ feature didn’t even feature between Christmas and the New Year. 

In truth, I have perhaps lost a bit of that fire. It might come back or it might take another form but at the moment the thought of scanning through the ever-growing mountain of E-mails from PR companies and bands desperate to be introduced as the next big thing holds less allure than once it did. 

There’s such a quantity of great art out there that doesn’t see the light of day; so much great music that gets released to the slightest of fanfare; so many great films that are left in the editing suite to decay and rot. It all becomes a bit overwhelming. Whilst friends did end of year lists documenting their 100 favourite albums of 2017, I simply wallowed in the corner feeling fraudulent for barely listening to a dozen albums from start to finish in that twelve months. 

 A couple things are happening in my life that regular Sonic Breakfast readers might care to know about. 

(1) After 12 years in the day job, I’m taking redundancy at the end of March. I see this as a positive thing though it’s only natural that stepping out of a comfort zone also brings accompanying fears. My plan is to head to Spain. Sarah has a villa over there. I want to give myself the headspace to write words every day. With a view looking out towards real mountains, the ever-growing mountain of E-mails will surely seem less daunting to deal with.

(2) I’ll be renting my house out – or at least making use of the services of AirBNB. Close friends who’ve seen my house will know that there’s a fair bit of largely cosmetic redecorating work to get through if I’m going to achieve the Spanish dream in April.

(3) The day job workload shows little sign of abating. I’ll be kept busy before I go. Appalling at saying ‘no’ to things, I’ll also still be writing comedy festival reviews for the Mercury during February and knocking together the occasional piece for the fine Leicester listings magazine, Great Central. This all takes time. 

(4) I’ve been developing a love for ‘random’ word generation games. I’ve been managing that overwhelming pile of E-mails by not managing them and finding other ways to unearth great music and film. The internet has some great, little tools for generating random words. I’ve been using those words with which to search Spotify or IMDB movie databases. I’ve been forcing myself to expand my horizons; to listen to the music that a random combination of words entered into search tools might spew back; to watch the awful TV movie if that’s what the search results demand. Somewhat amazingly, employing such randomness rarely fails to delight and always seem to inform. Even when the art isn’t entirely to my taste, I’m taken down new and exciting avenues of thought. I’m discovering new things in a way that feels comfortable and pressure-free. I plan to keep playing around with such practice.

Yesterday, to my general surprise, I received a press invite to the incredible Eurosonic Norderslag festival. It takes place each year in January in Groningen, Netherlands and I was lucky enough to head out last year to review it for eFestivals. (My review can be read here). It’s happening next week which gives very little time to plan but after a bit of frantic arranging it does look like I’ll be heading out again. Despite all that I’ve said elsewhere in this post, I’m genuinely excited about the new acts I’ll get to spot. 

And tomorrow on Sonic Breakfast, I’ll make use of random word generation in order to introduce one of the bands on the ESNS bill. For now, feel free to take a look at this.