"The heat is now ridiculous and the sun is in all its majesty. Like a true Englishman, I wilt. The band isn't helped by some atrocious sound, and a rather bonkers presenter - plucked from a children's TV slot - who has obviously never heard of them. "
Metropolis, Rotterdam 03/07/06
It's bloody hot. I'm sweating like I've never sweated before; areas that I never envisaged containing sweat glands now reveal themselves to do so, body parts such as the kneecaps and the cuticles run with ever strengthening rivulets of moisture. And lo! The first band we see, About, is playing on a stage (Rotown Ekko Paradiso tent, our choice of hang out every year) where the humidity is emphatically increased by the awning. Bugger. Still, About are a revelation. A boy-girl duo, (boy keyboardist replete in nerdy look laboratory white but with a painted tie on his shirt front that somehow evades derision, girl guitarist in regulation clubbing gear); they bounce around with abandon, eschewing pop hook after pop hook using the wonders of keyboard technology. It's like sugar candy Devo, or early, tinny Depeche Mode (but good). They have a song about Eric Satie, which (with its line "I vant to beee Eric Satiee") is straight out of the Kraftwerk tradition of po-faced camp. They finish on a track that has its feet firmly in the Gabba trance tradition, thumping beats and swooshy keyboards. About are effortlessly brilliant and should be stars. After that we stayed to watch the Spinto Band who sound uncannily like early Camper Van Beethoven at times. They give it their all, and it's very pleasing stuff too. There's also about 15 of them on the stage (maybe it's the heat and I'm seeing double) and boy do they like jumping around. I'm not usually into enthusiastic folksy pop, but fair play, they held my attention. If you like summery pop with a homespun charm, you'll love them.
dNV - boozing
At this point we run over to OOGST 1 to catch De Nieuwe Vrolijkheid, who we've never seen live but whose demo was possibly the only offering from a new Dutch Band in 5 years or so that actually had me copying it and sending out to friends. Yup, that good. The heat is now ridiculous and the sun is in all its majesty. Like a true Englishman, I wilt. The band isn't helped by some atrocious sound, and a rather bonkers presenter - plucked from a children's TV slot - who has obviously never heard of them. Still, their unusual combination of upfront kettle drums, trombones and sax, and some coruscating guitar and drums (truly the drummer plays like Keith Moon, and the girl guitarist sounds like Barrett circa the UFO club) are quite brilliant. We are treated to some mad space rock and then a thumping cover of a Dutch song. Awkward, surly and obviously not at their best but still, a bloody good gig. A forced march is undertaken in the heat - worthy of Beau Geste - back to REP tent to catch The Revs, who have improved on their outing at Haldern last year ten-fold. At times they sound like the Kinks. I am amazed. Still they go and ruin their good work by being too friendly and then compound it all by covering U2. The Revs are stuck between being a rawk band and being an entertainment act, and until they sort it out they'll always have shallow types like me semi-sneering. Not good, I know, and slap wristies to me but there is something that grates.
Things get worse when Shit Disco come on. Nice lads obviously but how long is this Go4 covering New Order's Temptation act going to carry on? Never was a band so aptly named. I lie on the grass in disgust, wilting and passing the time by drinking beer, which isn't a good idea in the sun as beer aids sweating, especially profuse sweating. After the interlude its time for The Wrens who start out like Guided By Voices, jumping around, the singer throwing his bass guitar in the air, whooping hollering and generally having a good time. Their first few songs are great too, but then things slacken off and it all becomes a bit one-paced. Still, fun while it lasted, and their show did improve my mood, which is what its all about I suppose. At one juncture during the Wrens' set, my companion wandered over to the Waterfront/Patronaat/Mezz tent to see what was going on, and returned with some very scary photos of Frank & Lily. Look at them. Apparently the music was as bonkers as the visual spectacle.
frank & lily
Chastened, we await Bromheads Jacket to save what has been a fairly disappointing set of gigs. They do not disappoint. Frankly, Bromheads are brilliant, the observations are never hackneyed and just on the right side of psychotic; indeed, presented in this quick-fire way the songs become almost abstract, and as such avoid the lumpy gravy-isms of like-minded acts who want to portray slabs of real life (any clues who I'm talking about?) As we the audience are behind a barrier, there is no repeat of the now legendary stage diving and unforeseen forehead-wounding as witnessed at the Paradiso, but attempts are gamely made to bond with the crowd. A discussion then ensues about the correct spelling and pronunciation of the word supermarkt. Fabulous, a brilliantly uplifting gig and proof positive that this lot are stars in the making.
Words: Richard Foster.
Pictures: Mariska Van Den Hoven.