"And finally, finally, get fucking RID of Giel Beelen as an on-stage presenter. His introduction to Be Your Own Pet was smug, patronising, ever so slightly sexist and idiotic, in that he had no idea who they were. "
Motel Mozaique Rotterdam 14-15/4/06
Right, a few gripes before I review this festival.
1. Firstly, may I just point out to the organisers that handing out different coloured wristbands usually coincides with the streaming of the various sections of people that make up a festival crowd through different channels of entry to the festival in question.
2. It means organisers and back stage people can get on with their job without hindrance, and journos like me can actually see bands efficiently and then make a quick get away (and gain quick entrance to another venue entrance to review yet another band) and then do the same again. It's our job.
3. When everyone; punters, backstage johnnies, journos, photographers and organisers have to go through the same door, regardless of the colour of your wristband/status it means we miss acts we are supposed to be reporting on/photographing/helping set up/sponsoring/filming, which is no help to anyone. Especially the punters, as they have to queue longer for people they desperately want to see.
4. And whilst we are about it, to be met with the smug, fuck you I'm not explaining anything to you 'cos I can ban you from this attitude from the doorstaff is fucking woeful and insulting to everyone. Frankly to entrust your festival entrance policy to a pack of arbitrary and thick meatheads is possibly the own goal of the year. You are in danger of losing your audience. Take note. I don't mind queuing with anyone, I do mind explaining to a record company why I didn't review their band, that's all.
5. Oh, and seeing someone from the bloody organisers/promoters being refused admittance - despite literally just stepping out into the road from the inside of the building to pass a message on to someone standing next to the door said person had just left - was one of the most farcical things I've seen anywhere, including the surrounding areas of British football grounds, where a similar attitude prevails between the public and the authorities.
Contrast this to the following night where beautiful festival people were on the streets trying to offer cut-price tickets... and a not very full venue. Do you get the feeling that people had learnt their lesson from the night before?
6. Oh, and finally, you have too many bloody acts on, Motel Mozaique! All at the same time... If you would have had half the acts on it would have been the greatest festival of the year. At present it is an embarrassment of riches. And don't say that is a deliberate ploy, because that's a weak argument in the face of disappointing lots of people.
I for one feel more regret at what I missed than satisfaction at what I saw, and that's after seeing blazing performances by Akron, CoCo Rosie, Vashti Bunyan, Jenny Lewis, Adam Green and Be Your Own Pet. I wanted to see (but failed since I was elsewhere, watching someone else) most of Akron, We Are Scientists, Coldcut, The Cardigans, Kieron Hebden and Steven Reid, Guillemots, Isobell Campbell, Beautiful New Born Children etc etc...
I know it sounds like a minor thing but what makes it especially annoying is that moment half way through one gig, when you feel compelled to go to another, especially if you've paid a lot of money for the evening. So you stand up and leave a concert, which is annoying enough for the rest of the audience, but think what it must be like for the bloody performers!
And finally, finally, get fucking RID of Giel Beelen as an on-stage presenter. His introduction to Be Your Own Pet was smug, patronising, ever so slightly sexist and idiotic, in that he had no idea who they were. He's a fucking journalist and should be more professional. Even if he has no idea who the band he's presenting are, he could at least co-ordinate his act enough to get the name right.
Okay. Shall I talk about the gig?
Motel Mozaique, Friday
Adam Green was the first act we saw, promoting the new LP Jacket Full of Danger. I was quite looking forward to seeing his brand of fey, other worldly kookiness and was not in the least disappointed, especially as he jumped around like a rabbit for most of one song, then nearly ruptured himself trying to pull a girl up onto the podium for the start of another. The new songs sound bloody great, which isn't surprising as the album is a belter. And his put down to the crowd (who, guess what? Yes, that's right, talked) was a brilliant self-depreciating rant which still shamed the loudmouths. Sadly his triumph over the crowd coincided with the actions of witless security thugs who, amidst lots of grunting on mobiles were just opening up a curtain at the back of the hall; which in itself made more noise than the chatterers in the audience.
The main hall in Nighttown was getting very crowded and given its rabbit warren nature Incendiary decided to keep out of the building for good that evening, after all, it just meant a night of queuing for virtually everything in a very unappetising mass of sweaty human bodies from then on. We decided that the best action to take was to go to the Schouwburg and stay there. So we did, and decided to watch Emiliana Torrini, who was bloody wonderful. Her dizzy personality (as demonstrated by countless stories about Spanish boyfriends and ice skating) was matched with the ethereally beautiful music she produced. The audience responded in kind; you could hear a pin drop, which is, as you know rare in Holland. There is definitely something in her music that draws parallels stylistically with Mazzy Star, Sigur Ros or CoCo Rosie but it would be unfair to label her too much. A dreamlike, wistful and quite enchanting performance. Then, it was back to the bar for a quickie (as drinks weren't permitted in the auditoriums) before Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. But lo! What did we see when we entered the small room? Yes, that's right, a tray of drinks on stage in full view of us poor sufferers. On came Jenny and the twins, in a line, as if in a funeral procession, singing their way on stage, straight into a repertoire built on the solid foundations of her last LP. And, yet again, I have to report a simply brilliant performance. Her band being amazing didn't exactly hinder things either, especially the rhythm guitarist & the drummer. No that is a bit unfair. They are one of the best line ups I've seen in a long while, successfully exhibiting brilliant technical musicianship without being overly (or overtly) indulgent or smug. And furthermore, I begged a beer off of her majesty... Cool! After Jenny Lewis we ran in to catch the last part of Mogwai, who, it's safe to say, didn't perform to the utmost of their capabilities. There's something indelibly 1990s about their stage presence. Lads slouching around in casual wear doesn't really do it for me, never did. I know it shouldn't matter but... anyway, they were bloody loud and not much else, a shame as I've seen them on much more inspiring form in Holland. Well off they went and that was that. Time for the train and another late, late night.
Motel Mozaique Saturday
The night before had been a nightmare what with all the queuing and angry bouncers and stuff.... But hey! Were we dismayed? Not a bit of it, for we had a cunning plan. Yes, we were going to TENT in the afternoon to catch some of the radio sets (normally 4 songs) which would, in turn man that we could miss some bands in Nighttown and stay in the Schouwburg, because we reckoned (as you do) that the wretched Nighttown would be heaving with people again. Yeah, makes sense. Let's hang out in the Schouwburg. That had CoCo Rosie & Vashti Bunyan.
So off to TENT we trotted. First up were CoCo Rosie, who, after a lengthy delay sorting out microphones and various pieces of technical stuff (like wires), produced a captivating performance. God they are something special they really are. I always found them a bit too much on record, only to be totally captivated live by them. Maybe it's the added sense of space that playing live brings. Certainly they are an incredible proposition at the moment and surely heading for the big league.
Next up was Akron/Family who seemed, in many ways the total opposite to the ethereal CoCo Rosie. Looking like a bunch of lads pulled from a midday drinking session in the pub, they sat down amidst a great deal of inter band laughter and shaking of heads. Something was up. We weren't given much time to wonder why because they began the set with a hell of a racket, which suddenly became a becalmed meditation piece, which, in its turn became a Krautrock style wig out of sublime proportion. It was like Neu! jamming with Faust and Amon Duul2, it was that fucking amazing. Amazing. Drums were smashed, guitars never let up and bizarre wailing vocal harmonies rent the cerebral atmosphere in TENT asunder. What made the entire thing really special was the band's admission that they played the entire thing (in all a good 20 minutes long) without working monitors. One of the truly great moments of the entire festival, if not the entire year and witnessed by about 100 people. Another, more folksy song, (played as an encore), and they went off, laughing to each other.
A quick pint over the road ensured that we missed Kiara Moving South, but we came back in time for the Veils. I know next to nothing about the Veils but I must say I was very, very impressed by their repertoire. Seemingly a sonic mix of the icy observations of The Triffids and the braggadaccio of The Saints, these boozy, angry, seemingly self-confessional songs had a real spark to them. Again a very tight band gave the songs a real emotional platform, Can't say much else (as I am woefully unfamiliar with them) but I won't be for long after this.
Our forces then split. Some of Incendiary shot off to the Schouwburg whilst the madder element decided to catch Akron/Family again and brave the crowds for Be Your Own Pet. Akron were more folksy and whimsical in the main arena, maybe more technical, but still bloody great. They also seem a sound bunch of lads too. Sadly we had to leave half way through the gig because (yes you guessed it) Be Your Own Pet were about to start in the basement. I felt ashamed of not being able to support Akron more and felt their stares burning in the back of my head as we went off to the next gig. Really, I am sick of doing this. Anyway, Be Your Own Pet were ready and waiting onstage in the sweaty basement, waiting for the ahem, rather smooth Giel Beelen to sod off and let them start. To starve him of the oxygen of publicity I won't compound what I've already said about Mr B, just read my notes at the beginning of this review. Once Be Your Own Pet started things picked up. A perfect example of teenage hormones made communal, musical flesh, the band made the biggest unholy racket you could imagine, leaping offstage countless times, indulged in screaming and swearing, and smashed everything they could (only for the equipment to be mended by the most laconic looking fifty something you ever did see). There was also lots of rolling around by the impressively loud chanteuse and incredibly silly antics from the drummer, which included the dismantlement of his kit, the hitting of his fellow band members with his kit, the throwing of his kit into the audience, the throwing of himself into the audience, and the wearing of a jumper on his head for most of the night. A truly memorable performance and I want to see more of this lot.
Suitably refreshed we ran off to the Schouwburg to see CoCo Rosie and Vashti Bunyan as things were running late enough over there for us to make up time. Funnily enough Nighttown was pretty quiet, the chaos the previous night seemingly scaring off most of the gig-goers. Still, we weren't bothered.
Once in the Schouwburg we were blown away by the performance of CoCo Rosie. They were brilliant. Not only did they look incredible (full Native American Indian gear for Bianca it seemed) but they sounded incredible; the Schouwburg's acoustics suiting their floating weirdness. A truly magical performance was given packed with far too many highlights to report to be frank. After that, cushions were scattered, incense was seemingly lit and Vashti Bunyan quietly slipped on stage. Now this was the gig I was looking forward to most of all. I wasn't disappointed in my expectation, for not only did Vashti play old favourites like Magpie Farm and lots of my favourite stuff off the surprise hit LP Lookingaftering, she also played quite beautifully, indeed, for about forty minutes it did feel like we'd all been transported away into a more idealistic, fragile world. Bunyan's shy explanatory whispering between each song only made the spell more binding. God, is this how all those folkie hippies in the late sixties really felt? It must have been a truly wonderful time. Indeed, so strong was the atmosphere of innocence and magic in the hall, I found myself with tears running down my cheeks; especially when I recognised the opening bars of Lately. A stunned and enchanted audience sat quietly, except for the girls from CoCo Rosie, who hollered enthusiastically between each song (which was in itself a wonderful tableau). Trooping out after the show I bumped into a head of a rival publication, whose dazed, rather sad expression betrayed the same look of bewilderment on re-entering the real cynical world - after spending time in the enchanted hall - as everyone else's wore. We both agreed that Bunyan's concert had to be the highlight of the entire weekend. Incendiary could take no more, as anything else could have shattered us emotionally. We bid adieu to Motel Mozaique for another year, dreamed of owning a small-holding whilst wearing smocks and Arran sweaters, and got some chips on the way to the train.
Words: Richard Foster.