Vanessa Peters in De Witte Bal

After the theater gig in Zwolle, Vanessa and band traveled to Assen for their next gig in De Witte Bal. A quick stop at my house and then off to the venue for soundcheck and dinner. The gig started at half past eight. Unfortunately the café wasn’t nearly full and with most people in the rear of the café it almost felt like a private gig for me.

The sound was great and they played another lovely set with a lot of songs of the various CD’s and the odd cover (loved Jolene), but there really ought to have been more people there. The ambiance in a café is a bit different from a theater, but the band does both of them very well. At least it wasn’t very noisy in the café and I had a great evening all in all

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Vanessa Peters in Papenstraattheater

It’s been about three years since I first saw Vanessa Peters. In May 2007 I was asked by Fileunder if I’d like to go and see a singer/songwriter from Texas/America who was on her first Dutch tour. She played in a small pub in Groningen. No stage, only two lightbulbs above her and an audience that barely paid attention. But Vanessa didn’t let that get her down and was back for a tour half a year later, playing small venues and bringing Italian Manuel Schicchi from Icecream on Monday along with her for support on guitar and Dutch Alex Akela on bass, mandolin and violon.

Currently Vanessa is seen as one of the most influential Texan singer/songwriters of the moment and is back for another tour through the Netherlands. Again with Manuel and Alex and on Friday April 16th the band played in the Papenstraatheater in Zwolle. For me a first for the venue and finally back in Zwolle as it’s been a long while I was there.

I was very happy to see the small theater filled up very well. Theaters usually mean a more attentive audience then bars. It also meant that I’d have to be a lot more sensitive with my camera (the Canon tends to sound like a cannon when it’s surroundings are silent). So I took an absolute minimum of images.

The gig itself went fantastic. The sound in the venue was terrific, the audience appreciative and Vanessa and band played fantastically. Some old songs, some from her latest CD and a few well chosen covers. It’d be great to see Vanessa play theaters a lot more. But first I’ll see her i my hometown of Assen tonight, in De Witte Bal

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Calefax Reed Quintet in Vera

The fourth edition of ‘De Derde Helft’ (The Third Half) took place on April 14th. An initiative of Timon Abels and Klaas ten Holt,  it is a series of modern classical concerts, held to introduce modern classical music to a new, younger audience.

Last night the Calefax Rietkwintet (a Reed quintet  and considered to be one of the most successful chamber ensembles from Europe) performed in Vera. They played -fully unplugged- on instruments like saxophones, oboes clarinets and a bassoon (and still managed to reach well into 90dB’s in the back of the hall).

The evening started with a movieclip by Calefax called ‘Studies On Nancarrow’. A bit odd, but a funny way to start the evening. After that the quintet entered the stage and played some pieces, ranging from an adaption of a 14th century classical piece to a modern piece inspired by the 9/11 attack of 2001.

In the second set they premiered a piece by Heleen Verleur and played another composition (sorry, I’m not yet that well known into the world of classical music to remember all of this ;). They also played a composition arranged around the alto saxophone solo from Billie Holliday’s ‘The Man I Love’.

The third set (i.e. The Third Half) was a highly experimental piece of work. Quite interesting, but also a bit hard to follow. Students of the Frank Mohr-institute have created an application that will allow to influence parameters of displayed music. On a big screen at the back of the stage music was displayed and the musicians were asked to interpret this in their own way. Musical notes would be cropped together, stretched, flow from right to left or left to right and would appear in different colours. The four musicians on stage (two of the Calafax ensemble  and two volunteers) sat with their backs to the audience in order to see the screen and play the music. It took a while for the musicians to get in the right flow, but once they did, it turned into an interesting piece of work

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Allan Holdsworth, Tony Levin, Terry Bozzio & Pat Mastelotto in De Oosterpoort

“But, but… they only played two songs?!?”

Well, yes. But in their defense, they were about 40 minutes each. The concert held by Allan Holdsworth, Tony Levin, Terry Bozzio and Pat Mastelotto was unlike anything I’ve seen before. After the first song Terri Bozzio introduced the band and explained the idea behind this gig. They came to the stage completely unprepared and in complete improvisation they let the vibe decide what way the music goes. This way what we heard this night was totally unique. It was different from what they played last night and will be different again the next concert.

The musicians on stage are each legends in their own right. Terry Bozzio is a well known drummer who has played with Frank Zappa and Thin Lizzy, Allan Holdsworth is an icon amongst his fellow guitarists and has played with Soft Machine, UK, Robert Fripp and Bill Bruford. Tony Levin is one of the most influential bass-players in the world, well known for his colaborations with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, but has also played with (amongst others) Pink Floyd and Dire Straits. Also drumming on stage is Pat Mastelotto known for his work in Mr. Mister and King Crimson, although his kit looked a bit poorly when placed next to the awe-inspiring drumkit of Terry Bozzio.

Musically there are a lot of things that can be said about the gig, but ‘accessible’ is not one of them. Organic, fluid, odd and impressive are the first that spring to my mind. It was really great to experience a gig like this, but I’m not sure I’d be able to appreciate this on a daily basis.

The lights were a bit of a struggle too. Apparently Allen had instructed the lights on him to be turned off completely in order for him to be able to read of the values that his instruments and effects gave to him. But where needed I cranked up the ISO and tried to get the best I could. Under the circumstances I’m pretty happy with the results

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Frank Turner in Vera

On Wednesday April 7 Frank Turner & band played at Vera in Groningen. It just so happened that I found some Youtube videos  of Frank a few days earlier and was thinking of checking this gig out myself, when asked if I’d like to go for them. Well hey, why not?

Opening for Frank Turner was an American band called Crazy Arm (they’ve recently recorded a split-record with Frank). They were a great opening act. Enthousiastic, wild, loud and fun (not to forget good) punky rock.

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A little later Frank Turner and band came onto the stage. The audience was extremely enthusiastic, sang along to much of the songs and danced and jumped on queue. The music of Frank is kind of a folky punk (or punky folk). The lyrics are fun, reflective an lend themselves well to sing along with. I’ll bet Frank’s sets go down very well at festivals, but in a well filled Vera it surely didn’t do worse. Great gig and for the final encore Crazy Arm also returned to see to a well filled stage.

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Tom McRea in De Oosterpoort

Would I mind taking some photos of Tom McRea’s gig in De Oosterpoort to go with an interview for FileUnder? I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of the man so far, but a quick check on told me that there was a good chance I’d like it. The gig was held at the small stage of the venue and wasn’t nearly sold out, but the attending audience was enthusiastic and that usually makes up for a lot.

Opening the gig was Brian Wright, a member of Tom’s band, but also a singer/songwriter in his own right. Has a great voice. At the end of his gig, he was aided by Sally Jaye on vocals

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A few minutes later Tom and band came onto the stage. The sound was bigger, heavier. More bombastic. Aided by Brian on guitars, a keyboadplayer, drummer, bass and cellist Tom McRea had the stage well filled. The audience was very responsive so Tom already had the venue singing along with them at the fourth song and took a girl out of the audience onto the stage to sing along. I wasn’t able to see the rest of the gig, but I believe it went down very well. Looked and sounded great to me

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Bettie Serveert in Vera

Some bands you just can’t see often enough and for me Bettie Serveert fits in that category perfectly. I saw them not so long ago at Noorderslag and the PlatoSonic festival, but both were very crowded and in the middle of the EuroSonic/Noorderslag weekend, meaning I didn’t really have that much time to really listen to the music.

Luckily the Betties were about to tour the Netherlands and that led them to Vera on Thursday March 25th. The venue was nearly sold out in presales. Opening for them was the local band The Monroes, playing a mixture of Garage rock / Surf music and Pop/Rock. A great act, and did a great job warming up the crowd for Bettie Serveert

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After The Monroes set, the monitor speakers were quickly removed or rearranged to make as much room on stage as possible for the Bettie Serveert members to move about. Guitarist Peter already warned me not to place camera’s or lenses on stage during the concert (took that advice to heart ;)). Currently their touring with Voicst drummer Joppe Molenaar and I was in awe seeing him drum. He’s a brute force driving the band on. Carol, Peter and Herman were great as always and Peter was indeed all over the stage. The setlist contained a varies set of old and new material and a Moss cover. I had a great time again and cannot thank the guy who was in charge of stage lights enough, that’s awesome these days

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Songs&Whispers in Platformtheater

Songs&Whispers is a German concept promoting singer/songwriter, alt. folk and suchlike musical genres. It started early 2009 and has now also found it’s way to Groningen (and other Dutch cities). Entrance is free so there’s absolutely no reason for music lovers not to attend.

Tonight three concerts were held and as the Salsa dance lesson in the Platform theater hadn’t quite ended yet, attendants were also treated to some Latin music and Salsa dancing (me having two left feet and being rhythmically disabled, I opted not to try a dance myself as that would have gotten really ugly).

So after a small delay local singer/songwriter Tamar Lewis kicked off the evening. And of course I should have known that at some point my luck with the fantastic stagelight I had the last few gigs would end and unfortunately this was that time. I can’t remember the last time I shot a whole gig at 3200ISO, must have been back in the good old days of film :). Anyway, I missed quite a few shots finding some settings that would actually result in an image. Luckily Tamar, aided by Daniël, managed very well without me so although I didn’t get the shots I wanted, I did hear a great set of songs.

After Tamar’s set had ended and a short break English Katey Brooks (from Bristol) took over, mostly on acoustic guitar and sometimes backed by a guy on keyboard whose name I didn’t get. Again a lovely set of songs that ended way to soon.

A short break later Pollyanna was on stage, center singer and guitarplayer is French Isabelle Casier and on this occasion the was backed by Léa Le Meur on cello. A wonderful set made all the more special by a song on banjo unplugged style.

After this set Tamar Lewis took to the stage again, but as I had to get back to work the next morning and had to edit the photos for, I wasn’t able to stay any longer. All the sets I’ve seen were a joy to see and hear. It’s a fantastic initiative and it will return next month with three new artists/bands.

The location for the concerts was great too: the stage looked like kind of a small box, just the right size for a singer/songwriter with one extra band-member. If only there was one decent spot light for the musicians (well ok, for me actualy)

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Katzenjammer in Vera

Last night, after finishing work on the Joss Stone photos I headed back to Groningen. This time to Vera where Katzenjammer was to play. I had expected there to be quite an audience, but not that I’d be standing in line for 20 minutes not even sure whether I’d actually get to see the girls at all. Luckily I did get in and once inside immediately made my way to the front of the stage. Not much later three lovely ladies of the Dutch band La Gaîté entered the stage. Their songs and stage presence set a lovely mood for the rest of the evening. They looked like they were having a lot of fun and the audience responded very well to that. Lovely songs in various languages and styles

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The set of La Gaîté ended way to soon, would have loved to see more of them, but the main act was about to start. Katzenjammer (formed by Anne Marit, Marianne, Solveig and Turid) hail from Norway and play a very broad set of styles: pop, folk-rock, bluegrass, gypsy, close harmony, balkan and polka to name a few. They also play a huge amount of instruments and they all switch between them, making for a wonderful ‘dance’ on the stage between the songs switching from one instrument to the other. The Balalaika bass ranking among the most impressive ones.  The enthusiasm of the is impossible to ignore and the whole audience is soon captured by the band. It was an incredible evening and I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun at a concert. The cheerful enthusiasm, the fantastic songs and the beautifully dressed girls have made one heck of an impression

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Joss Stone in De Oosterpoort

I could not believe my luck (or my eyes) last year when I was checking out the upcoming concert in the Oosterpoort venue in Groningen. Did they really mention Joss Stone? They did, even when I checked it again a few days later and again and again. And thanks to the wonderful people of the Oosterpoort I was also allowed to take some photos of Joss. Sometimes life’s just sweet :)

And so, on Tuesday March 9th I was at the Oosterpoort where it was already very busy (mail hall fully sold out) and could again not believe my luck that I made it so easily to the front of the stage. The venue filled out pretty quickly and not much later Dutch singer Jenny Lane, touring with her debut album. A lovely lively girl with great stage presence. Great opening act and I hope to catch her with a gig of her own sometime

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After a short break in which the stage was cleared of the instruments of Jenny’s band, the musicians of Joss Stone’s band entered the stage under great applause, but the full force of the audience was heard when Joss came onto the stage, smiling ear to ear. It took her a few seconds to get into the gig and then the gig truly started. Joss was wonderful, a fantastic voice and a lovely girl at that. After two songs and a sip of coffee she suddenly found the stage to be bombarded with stuffed animals big and small and a huge dog. She collected them all to form a second audience. The light at the concert was awesome, and I greatly enjoyed the gig. Joss Stone was fantastic

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Ham Radio: Various artists in Vera

Ham Radio Communications is an independent platform for (inter)national indie and underground music. Last night they celebrated it’s second anniversary in Vera with six acts. I wasn’t able to see the last two bands as I had other plans for today, but I did see the first four and they were just great. I love indie acts, you just never know what your gonna get.

The evening started with Dutch Kim Janssen and his Major Cities Band, or at least part of that (the full band consists of about twenty friends providing orchestral and vocal backup, he had a few less with him now). Great Singer/Songwriter gig

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A short stage set-up later Karl Blau from the USA took to the stage. A genuine one-man-band with a mix of folk, hip-hop, R&B, grunge and anything else this he could fit in. This was one odd concert, but greatly enjoyable

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Cedarwell was up next, another American band and this time a duo (although it was a trio last night). A great pop-rock folky gig with an incredible vocal solo by the drummer. So good, he had to do it again. Really great fun this band

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The last band in the main hall was Dutch band We vs. Death. Last time I saw these guys (also in Vera) they were an instrumental indie rock band. However last year they released a new record and introduced vocals to the We vs. Death sound. The overall sound however is till very much like a soundtrack for travel. Terrific!

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After these gigs, the party continued in the below area with The Secret Love Parade and I Am oak, two Dutch bands, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to see those as well.

The Ettes in Vera

Checking out the gigs in the Vera venue in Groningen a while ago, I noticed the name The Ettes and reading the announcement I got very intregued: Great Garage-rock band with punky edges and vocals reminiscent of 60’s country. The Ettes had already toured with names like The New York Dolls, Gossip,  Kings Of Leon and (my favorite) The Black Keys and their latest album got great reviews. All in all more than enough encouragement to go and see this band.

They played in Groningen last night and were even better then I had imagined. Coco the singer/guitarist has a great voice but drummer Poni just blew me away. Style, rhythm and looks, that has to be a female drummer :) And she was phenomenal, ferociously driving the band on and creating a fantastic rhythm together with male bassist Jem. From what I’ve read this trio makes up The Ettes, but they had an extra guitarist with them on stage.

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Apparently they’re about to tour with Jack White’s Dead Weather shortly, so go see them in the small venues while you still can. They’ll be in the big venues on their own shortly.

El Pino & The Volunteers in Vera

On Thursday February 18 El Pino & The Volunteers played at the Vera venue in Groningen. Opening for them was The Information, a fairly new band from Meppel (nl).

The Information played a great set. The voice was incredibly familiar, but I couldn’t really recall what it reminded me of. I’ve been thinking about that a lot and I think it’s the Norwegian band Helldorado. But it’s been a while since I saw and heard Helldorado, so I’m not 100% sure. The Information played a great set, but it was weird seeing the audience so far in the back.

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After a quick stage rebuild and a large audience increase El Pino & The Volunteers, led by frontman David Pino, took to the stage. The bandmembers have quite a history. Nearly all of them have a history in various punkbands. Longing for other, ‘simpler’ music, El Pino & The Volunteers was born and had -initially- a rootsy Americana-sound. However after the first album and an extensive and successful tour one of the bandmembers (and with that the banjo player) quit. If I remember correct I saw one of their very last concerts in Hoogeveen back then. After two years the band is back with a new album and sounds a lot punchier and pop/rock.

The concert in Vera was terrific. The band played with lots of enthusiasm, the venue was well filled and the concert just flowed and had a lovely raw edge. Lots of new songs, some oldies and before we knew it 18 songs were played and the gig was over.

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I would like to express my thanks to the stagelight operator. Can’t remember the time I had such an amount of light, it was AWESOME!

Benjamin Herman Kwartet in Simplon

On February 11 Benjamin Herman, well known for his part in the New Cool Collective jazz band came to Groningen. Not as a New Cool Collective gig, but with a quartet and under his own name: The Benjamin Herman Kwartet. Still very jazz, amazingly cool and it’s still absolutely brilliant, just fewer people on stage. But the names on stage are impressive: Carlo de Wijs on a modified Hammond organ, Jesse van Ruller on guitar and Martijn Vink on drums. Herman himself of course on saxophone and occasionally on tambourine. The gig was steaming (the fact that the venue was packed helped a lot too). Had a terrific night, only the lights could have been a bit better (what is it with these endless red lights on stage, are they cheaper?).

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Lou Barlow in Platformtheater

Last night Lou Barlow (known for his work in Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Sentridoh and Folk Implosion) came to the Platformtheater in Groningen. It was my first visit to this theater, but it looked great and had a fantastic atmosphere thanks to great placements of lights. The stage for the bands looked a bit makeshift though, but that didn’t matter a bit.

Opening for Lou was Vox Von Braun from Groningen. A great band, but I found the vocals a bit hard to follow. Would love to see them again sometime.

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When Vox Von Braun finished the set the stage was quickly reset for the main act: Lou Barlow & The Missingmen. Lou started solo, sounding ever so fragile. Then the Missingmen took their place on stage and the concert gained a lot of power. As an encore, Lou played a bunch of requests. He did this solo again and it sounded (like the rest of the gig) absolutely fantastic. Had a terrific night.

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