"Somehow, despite the best intentions of the promoters to lift Werfpop onto a level that could be seen as equal with other Dutch festivals, there is always a feeling that this is an excuse for the good burghers of Leiden to stroll around the park. "
Werfpop - Leiden 13/07/08
Ah Werfpop! There’s something peculiarly endearing about this festival. Somehow, despite the best intentions of the promoters to lift Werfpop onto a level that could be seen as equal with other Dutch festivals, there is always a feeling that this is an excuse for the good burghers of Leiden to stroll around the park. And for the flocks of Goths to silently creep in from the surrounding suburbs and squat uncomfortably in vast rows of studded black, creating a pasty-faced gloom that permeates the atmosphere.
This year, the line up boasted Jon Spencer of Blues Explosion fame; with his rockabilly outfit, Heavy Trash. But more of them later. Firstly, Hospital Bombers. Incendiary has long been a fan of this outfit and we arrived just in time to see their Jonathan Richman-style songs create a minor stir amongst the crowd. They are very reminiscent in parts of Camper Van Beethoven, albeit with a soft side (Richman) but enough punk ethic to prevent them becoming twee and boring.
Following that was a hideous Dutch fun group, Enge Buren, who covered Queen (yes, the Guantanamo bay of popular song-craft that is Bohemian Rhapsody), Andre Hazes and most bizarrely, Underworld’s Born Slippy. It was too much. I, like many others, enjoy irony in most of its forms, but this was a bridge too far. We retreated from the stage to a convivial spot near the beer tent. Luckily, Japan’s Electric Eel Shock dispensed with any suggestion of comedy fun in a blistering, slightly glam set. Imagine early Iron Maiden jamming with the New York Dolls (Nippon style) and you are there. Extra kudos points must go to certain members of the band who were later seen to be drunkenly wandering round trying (and mostly failing) to eat chips.
Then we got Noisia who laid down some pretty subliminal Drum n Bass and Breakbeat. Their rhythms at times merged into that big beat New Order used to trade in (in fact I’m sure there was the odd reference to Blue Monday and Shellshock). Somehow their big sound suited the park very well. A great gig. Oh, and let me tell you at this point that the next band, Hatesphere, are from Denmark and they like to rock hard; just in case you weren’t sure. Lots of head-banging, flowing manes and the three quarter-length black shorts so beloved of thrash/nu-metal bands were in evidence. The audience liked muchly, despite the perforated ear drums.
After some pretty head-banging acts, Surely things couldn’t get heavier? Luckily, Sticks and Rico employed a lighter touch, their engaging Hiphop offering some relief to the throb-fest that had gone before. A good deal of applause and it was time for Mr “thankyouverymuchladiesandgentlemen” Jon Spencer and Heavy Trash. Those expecting similar fayre to the Blues Explosion were to be disappointed. However, any initial bewilderment must surely have been swept away by the magnificent gig that followed. Spencer really knows how to work a crowd.
And his mercurial vocal delivery seem so much more suited to rockabilly than the Bloos; things were lighter, more playful, less forced. It also helped that Heavy Trash were incredibly tight as a unit, allowing Mr S to indulge in his crowd pleasing/baiting techniques to the full. The moments when all hell let loose were incredibly exciting. And what other rockabilly artiste drops 13th Floor Elevators lyrics into his songs? Not many I bet.
At this point Incendiary decided to call it a day, so sorry Claw Boys Claw and Kraak & Smaak, you don’t need our help I’m sure. A thought for Leiden’s council. Maybe next year we could see about organising a separate field for a Goth-fest? I’m sure they’d mopingly show their appreciation.
Words: Richard Foster.