Jolene – 1,2,3

I can’t remember the name of the band who were about to take to the stage. Judging from the queue of people I’d had to make my way past at the entrance, they must have been an act with a lofty reputation. I was feeling hot, bothered and on the edge of heading back to my rented apartment in the centre of the city. It had been a heavy weekend. 

Two swaying women, probably more drunk than I was, came and stood in my general vicinity. One was very tall and the other less so. The shorter one said something to me in Dutch. At least I assumed it was in Dutch; this would have made sense as we were all in the Netherlands. 

“I’m sorry. I can’t understand. I’m English”, I apologised. This was my first conversation with Jolene.

(Click on page 2 for more of this story)

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Gitta De Ridder – Altersonic – Groningen

My legs are aching. I was standing on them for much of yesterday, either watching a show from the next bright young things or wandering around Groningen hoping to catch those next bright young things before they’re on the radar of everybody else. 

 A fuller review of yesterday at Eurosonic will surface on eFestivals in time but for now I want to focus upon one small part of the day. 

 It was about 5PM and I was wandering back to my fine room in the centre of this City. I needed to get ready for the evening – snow was forecast for the night and I wanted to add a layer or two (and an extra pair of socks).

 

A lot of activity takes place around the Grote Markt here; there’s a big outdoor marquee (Eurosonic Air) which hosts bands for free, lots of pop-up food stalls if you want a snack or two and many of the Eurosonic venues. This also seems to be the space where much of ‘Altersonic’ happens. 

 

I’m guessing (my Dutch isn’t great) that Altersonic is one of the alternative spin-offs from the main Eurosonic. Eurosonic can only schedule a certain number of acts and others need opportunity to show off their talents as well. I like that Groningen has this festival within a festival even if it also means that my sense of overall confusion at the complexity of it all has heightened. 

 Anyway, I was walking past what can best be described as a pop-up radio station, a room with windows looking out onto the Grote Markt. A cheerful woman handed me a headset and said that I could listen live to what was being recorded within this room. I put the headphones on, watched and listened. Some sort of live lounge was in progress. An act who I didn’t recognise, just her and a guitar, was playing. “Sweet and solid folk music with a familiar twang”, I thought. 

(Click on page 2 to find out who it was)

 

ESNS 2017 – First Hate – Holiday

I’ll be heading to Groningen in the Netherlands in less than two weeks. Knowing this, I probably should have taken it a bit easier over Christmas.

Eurosonic Noorderslag has been a festival I’ve wanted to do for some time now. There’s something particularly attractive about the idea. Whilst others are finding ways to get fit and limit their expanding waistlines, I’ll be partying with festival bookers, up and coming bands and writers just like me in Holland. 

This is apparently where the festival industry goes to do their summer deals. I’ll be doing my utmost to unearth the best rumours for eFestivals. 

But, I’ll be honest. The scale of it all feels a tad overwhelming. 350 bands or so promoting their wares over a few days during which I’ll have to get my bearings in a strange city. It could be carnage if I had no plan. 

And I have one (of sorts).

(Click on page 2 to read that plan)

 

Dusty Stray – Blood Trail

I’m reminded that, back in the chaos of 2015, I was sent a video from Dusty Stray’s new record. I was also sent a link to that album, ‘A Tree Fell And Other Songs’, which was being released early in November.

I exchanged some E-mails with Jonathan Brown, the incredible talent behind Dusty Stray and confirmed that I was definitely going to write about ‘Blood Trail’ on Sonic Breakfast. But then, the stuff of life got in the way and I stopped updating my blog.

I say to all who’ll listen that it was a perfectly treatable skin cancer without really stopping to think about the effect it had on my head in those Autumn months. As the trees became bare so did my cupboards.

Born in Taiwan, Jonathan Brown grew up in Texas as a son of a preacher man. Raised on songs about death and resurrection, he began writing his own songs taking influence from early American folk music. Travel, dead end relationships and forming freak folk bands led him to a place where he’s now based in the Netherlands. Jonathan curated the recent SnowApple video that I featured in my Sonic Breakfast Top Ten of 2015.

A Tree Fell And Other Songs, the fourth full-length Dusty Stray release, was written in a small, lone trailer in the flatlands of Holland alongside the dead end of a river. The twelve original songs illustrating “dead end” relationships flow into one another in a natural, organic way. It’s a fine listen if you want to indulge in a bit of melancholy. 

‘Blood Trail’ has a haunting, memorable lilt. It’s almost got the feel of a murder ballad save for the fact that nobody dies. I asked Jonathan what the song was about: – 

“It’s all about a somewhat traumatic childhood memory of when I was about 7 or 8 playing in the dirt/mud along our driveway — making some kind of “castle” or something — and some neighborhood kid came along and completely destroyed it. I was so angry that I picked up a nearby brick and threw it at him hitting him in the head and causing a lot of bleeding and screaming. He turned out to be ok — didn’t even need stitches — but the image of that little blonde-haired kid suddenly blood red-haired sitting on our kitchen counter while my mom was helping him is still with me. And I think that was my first and last violent act…”

I love this. Have a happy weekend SB readers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacco Gardner – Find Yourself

I’ve had a restless night of half-sleep. I lay wide awake at half past four in the morning aware that, if I did fall to sleep, I might again be woken by one of the fleeting nightmares that are punctuating my dreams. In the past half hour, a ghost-like witch has briefly joined me in bed, poked me hard in the back with a long fingernail, cackled as I jumped awake and left as quickly as she came.

Fortunately, such dreams rarely disturb my sleep as much as this. I’ll be tired when I head off to present in Bedworth later but I know that I’ll probably sleep better tonight. I turn to music and listen to Jacco Gardner’s single , Find Yourself, from his forthcoming album, Hypnophobia, that’s getting a release in May.

I feel for those with hypnophobia. Hypnophobia is the often irrational and excessive fear of sleep. It results from a feeling of control loss, or from repeating nightmares or anxiety over the loss of time that could be spent accomplishing tasks or maximizing leisure time instead of sleeping. Maybe, I’ve got a mild form of this tonight. My mind is full of the things I need to do.

‘Find Yourself’ is taking me away to another place. I don’t need to defrost my car later today because I’m transported to a warm summer day. I’m lying under a tree, taking shelter from the warm rays of the sun. Men and women, dressed in white robes and with long flowing locks are beaming broadly as they dance and whirl around me to the sound in the distance of a Wurlitzer organ. Next to me a beautiful woman smiles as she pulls daisies from the earth and ties them to others that she’s previously picked. This is bliss.

Jacco Gardner is described as a baroque-pop prince. A Dutch producer/multi-instrumentalist, Gardner’s all set to cast a majestic and vibrant psychedelic spell that will hypnotize listeners at the point dreams and reality meet. Since unveiling his Cabinet of Curiosities in 2013 (released on the Trouble In Mind label), fans have been drawn deeper into his fantastical fairytale kingdom. The opening track from ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, ‘Clear The Air’ sets the tone and ‘Find Yourself’ strides further down that path of discovery.

 

 

Femke Weidema – Stranger Than A Stranger

I sense that I’ve probably not embraced Twitter like a good blogger should. Sometimes I’ll get DM’s (I’m reliably told this is the abbreviation for a direct message) from artists who might want me to check them out for Sonic Breakfast. But, these artists often seem to struggle to capture my imagination within 140 characters. Indeed, I often just feel sullied by the brevity of the experience and rather suspect that the approach is the PR equivalent of a mass mailshot in which, if I’m very lucky, I’ll be a guaranteed winner.

This makes it a little bit surprising that I gave Femke Weidema the time of day. A couple of months back now, I got a DM from her twitter account that simply said, “Hi! Thanks for being awesome, would love to know what you think of my new video!” I didn’t let such praise swell my head. I didn’t think for a minute that Femke thought that I was any more (or less) awesome than the many other people she probably DM’d with the same request.

Despite this, I am, of course, particularly susceptible to blatantly inaccurate flattery and so I clicked on the link to the video. Typically with such approaches, I will regret doing so almost immediately. But, this was not the case with Femke. The link that Femke had sent was for her song, “Mixtape”. It was a perfect, perky, upbeat pop song. It brought a smile to my face to see the quirky Femke and her band dancing around the lounge, bedecked with studio equipment. I needed to find out more.

A quick internet search revealed that Femke was originally from The Netherlands. Periods of travel took her to America and she’s now holed up in Nashville with her fingers in all sorts of musical pies. She recently won a Latin Grammy for her work with Beto Cuevas on Transformation. (Beto Cuevas anyone?)

I watched further videos. ‘Leave The Lights On’ inhabits a similar space as ‘Mixtape’ – a credible pop song with Latin rhythmic influence. It might not change the world but it’ll make your day happier. I was now chuffed that Femke thought I was awesome because I was coming to the same conclusion about her.

It’s difficult to catch up with Femke’s output. Just a few days ago, she posted a new track on soundcloud, ‘Stranger than a stranger’. On hearing this less upbeat beauty, I knew I had to write a Sonic Breakfast post. You suspect this is a pretty autobiographical piece. It’s about being away from home and trying to fit in to your new surrounds whilst fighting loneliness. It’s pop with a Nashville country twang. And it’s brilliant.

Thank goodness for the Twitter. 

 

 

Eurovision – The Final Countdown

Flashback – I am sat in a school assembly. The Deputy Head spins a record and encourages us all to sing along to the words. The words are projected on an overhead projector. We all know the tune. It’s mass karaoke before karaoke was widely known about. ‘A little loving, a little giving, a little peace‘, we all sing as we attempt to emulate Nicole from Germany and her winning Eurovision entry. 

The borders and the countries have changed in the 58 years that Eurovision has been running – but the message from Nicole shouts out stronger than ever. It’s just such a shame that, by and large, the lyrical content for songs in this years Eurovision is so dire (Iceland’s entry is at least naively different). 

I’m reminded of that game you sometimes see on fridges at parties and wonder if there is an Eurovision equivalent. A box of metallic phrases and words that can be rearranged into any order and stuck to your fridge in an effort to help struggling songwriters come up with their lyrics for their songs. In 2014’s bag of words,we have lots of ‘hearts’, ‘tons of ‘time’, a few ‘storms’ and a supply of ‘worlds’ and ‘universes’. Painting by numbers.

 The Easter weekend is nearly over. It’s almost time to head back to work at which point ‘normal’ service will resume for this blog. I’ll cover the local, the national and international that’s caught my ear. I hope that this Eurovision diversion hasn’t been too painful. Just another ten to go.

 

28. Netherlands – The Common Linnets – Calm After The Storm

The Dutch go all Country on us and give us a song that wouldn’t sound out of place if Bob Harris played it. I don’t know how many ‘highways’ there are in Holland but this is driving along one of them complete with slide guitar. I like the fact it sounds unique amongst the Europop but the tank runs out of petrol before we get to Copenhagen and we need to hitch a lift. By which i mean, it’s pretty boring.

 

29. Norway – Carl Espen – Silent Storm

See what I mean about the use of the word ‘storm’? This is a rock/pop ballad and it’s duller than Dutch dishwater. Carl tells us that he has a ‘silent storm inside‘ him. I reminded of the phrase ‘silent, but deadly’ and can only suggest that he changes his diet before arriving in Denmark if he wants to impress Ruth Lorenzo.

 

30. Poland – Donatan & Cleo – My Slowianie

Starting like something out of  ‘Hairspray’ and then heading into M.I.A. territory, these Polish girls at least sound excited about representing their country. It all goes a bit tap dance on a merry go round in a fairground in the strange middle section before the girls come back and translate what they were saying in the first verse. Interesting so doubt it’ll win.

 

31. Portugal – Suzy – Quero Ser Tua

Portugal take us back to the 80’s and give us something akin to ‘Tarzan Boy’ quality, happy pop. This is the sort of tune that’ll get played this summer in beach resorts – the sort of beach resort that I never want to go to.

 

32. Romania – Paula Seling and OVI – Miracle

I played this tune to my 17 year old son, Ollie. He thinks it sounds like a winner, not because he likes it but because it’s the sort of song that’ll pick up votes. Mark his words. “I got a feeling and I want to believe it’s magical“, sings either Paula Seling or OVI. I can assure you that it’s not and in my opinion, it’ll take a miracle for you to win. 

 

33. Russia – Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine

The Tolmachevy Sisters from Russia are “telling all the world to show some love”. I guess this is only if it’s of the heterosexual variety eh Putin? The most interesting thing about this will be to see which countries vote for it and which are about to be invaded. I’m sure that the Tolmachevy sisters are lovely as well. 

 

34. Sweden – Sanna Nielsen – Undo

Sanna’s songwriters have clearly been playing the fridge game as we get both ‘silent’ and ‘storm’ in the first line of the song. Sanna then proceeds to ‘undo’ all of Abba’s great work from forty years ago with a dull piano ballad. Sweden could offer so much more to this. 

 

35. Slovenia – Tinkara – Round And Round

Bonus points for the use of assorted whistles and pipes over the standard Euro dance track. “I’m going to show you how to breathe“, offers Tinkara generously. “Thanks Tinkara – and once you’re done with that, I’ll show you how to sing an interesting song?” I reply.

 

36. San Marino – Valentina Monetta – Maybe (Forse)

Way back when I started this preview,I noted that Austria’s entry sounded like a song that should accompany Sean Connery era James Bond films. This is from that ilk but should accompany George Lazenby era James Bond films. ‘Maybe’ it’ll do well. ‘Probably’ it won’t.

 

37. Ukraine – Mariya Yaremchuk – Tick Tock

Wahey – we’re there. I can’t begin to tell you how happy this makes me feel. In this one, Mariya entertains us by seeing how many words she can rhyme with ‘Tock’. I’ve got a couple more for Mariya. Crock of cock. Seriously though, I hope that this is a good year for the Ukraine. A little peace.

 

It’s harder to pick two songs today. Let’s go home along the Dutch Country roads and then perk ourselves up with Donatan and Cleo from Poland. This video of the tune gives a different edit to the song they’ll be performing on the night.