A Tale of Two Cities – April New YX, Wolvon in Den Haag and Leiden

At one stage singer Ike was writhing on SUB’s filthy floor, eyes rolling and gob agape, howling through some form of bozo incantation, waiting to be beamed up to some guitar playing alien world where beer was permanently cold and Ash Ra Tempel played all day on the coin-op.

 

Café – Paard van Troije, Den Haag 19/4/12

The Paard café has seen some memorable gigs; not least the marvellous Nieuwe Vrolijkheid evening back in 2006, which ended up with instruments being hurled off the stage and singer Vincent sitting and calmly puffing a pipe amidst the chaos and recriminations. The main creative force behind that long lost, almost legendary band, Natasha van Waardenburg was present on this gloomy night in 2012 – along Hallo Venray’s Henk Koorn & RedThePlaneet! And Rats on Rafts’ David and Arnoud – to check out April and New YX’s mini tour of the byways, laybys and underpasses. Off the radar these gigs may have been, but they have seen some hip followers show support.

Onto the gig. A slightly breathless April arrived and almost immediately had to set up and play. Still this didn’t really put them out of their stride: their rise in terms of becoming a good live act is getting more and more evident. On this particular evening, despite the quieter, thinner sound, (if only Julia’s guitar could have been louder but maybe that’s the café’s sound restrictions), their passionate songs had a committed romantic quality that couldn’t be ignored. Slowly the set started to seep into the audience’s conscience. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a normally chatty bar so silent and concentrated on a band. Jorn’s onstage movement was sleeker, more menacing and less thought through; whacking his bass against the drum cymbals seemed just a natural thing to do... As to their music, we’ve said before that there’s something of Nick Cave about April’s songs, or The Associates: big slightly gothic, mannerist compositions. And (as I’ve also said before) that their tracks remind me of the stuff Aztec Camera used to produce back in the mid-80s. Something of the show tune too: even (God forbid) Elaine Page. Still mixing the ridiculous with the sublime is what Rock and Roll is all about and their songs have presence and tangible and clearly delineated emotion that a listener can tap into. If only the guitar could have been that little bit more acerbic and free, but still they are beginning to sound a really promising band.

If April were on this occasion a diverting and stimulating presence then New YX provided the empathy and warm rush needed to get a crowd moving. When I saw them at OT301 they looked a wee bit out of place, but seen in an intimate setting they are dynamite. There’s something of the bedroom about them, the thrill they provide is similar to illicitly smuggling your parents’ brandy up to your room; greedy, sticky fingered, cheeky. Though they do act like the ultimate gang, when seen up close their different personalities are far more evident and as such much more instructive when considering the music they make as a whole. This time round the star was singer Lili whose quiet determined charm and tongue in cheek pirouettes and poses sat very well indeed against the fluid, metallic pop the band are adept at making. There’s something “very 1920s about her”, wan and determined in equal measure - like one of those silent film stars who pulls the same set of fluttering eye tricks to win herself a new set of admirers. Their cartoony element was well to the fore at the Paard, their easy human charm had most people jumping around with (for the Paard’s ultra-critical café at least) a surprising amount of abandon.

After this Rats span some tunes and the night descended into a chaos only reserved for those times when you swear to yourself that you’ll only have one drink and be home by 11… oh well.

 

SUB071 – Leiden, (with Wolvon) 28/04/12

Fast forward a week; Incendiary is in good company and in good form; members of Electric Soft Parade and The Hazey Janes, old university colleagues and current editors all combine to descend on the legendary SUB in a state that can be described as euphoric. April and New YX, great gig – that’s a given but WOLVON too? Truly ambrosia rained from on high, provided by charitable and generous Gods.

First up tonight in SUB’s famous Tardis like surroundings were New YX who were on blistering form; the smallness of this space suited them and their brash, warm waves of sound even better, their songs began to show a distinctive pattern in the smoky gloaming, a clear plan of attack. You always get the feeling that their innate sultriness, their seemingly endless energy and good vibe needs to be channelled, their talents and strong musicianship given a push through the door. This started to happen here and turned into pulsating stuff by the end, Líu and Jilis bouncing about like pups, setting the audience up for April, who went one further and simply blasted through their set. Facing each other, Jorn and Julia were (literally given the atmosphere) dripping with a sense of conviction, and not a little tension. Tarek hammered the drums in that big, simple, doom mongering way he has. The reserve and cut-glass atmosphere of the Paard was nowhere to be seen, their noise sounding like an underwater John Maus, or a poppy, guitar-laden take on 1a Düsseldorf (note “1a”, NOT “La”, hipsters). Once again Incendiary was struck by the increasing fluidity and confidence of their show, the manner in which they are hammering what were quite gauche songs into some shape.

By this time the beer was literally flowing. The moral being here, never take people to expensive pubs and then cheap nightclubs – why? Because people find they can’t control themselves that’s why – why have one beer bottle (price 1 euro) in your hand when you can have four? Makes sense, non? In any event, by the time those mighty Lotharios known as Wolvon hit the stage; most of Team Incendiary were seeing things. But like Mallory glimpsing the top of Everest we struggled gallantly on, and like Mallory we are pretty sure we glimpsed a Nirvana of sorts, albeit a bearded one. On this showing Wolvon were rabid and bestial, veritable Gabriel Ernests of Rock: battering their equipment and shredding the atmosphere like a bear in a supermarket. At one stage singer Ike was writhing on SUB’s filthy floor, eyes rolling and gob agape, howling through some form of bozo incantation, waiting to be beamed up to some guitar playing alien world where beer was permanently cold and Ash Ra Tempel played all day on the coin-op. Some of the audience were howling at this point too, things got ridiculously loose and things were going decidedly fuzzy at the edges, like a barn dance where someone’s put acid in the lemonade. Not only that but theplace was in near darkness, as someone had knocked the lights off in the SUB. In true werewolf fashion, Wolvon played on, howling and crashing with only the light of two underpowered disco lights and a phone flash. Epic. Bananas.

How Incendiary got home is still an operation shrouded in mystery, but we won’t be forgetting that night in a hurry.