One day, I promise, I will get bored about writing about Rats on Rafts. But not yet. Rats are unstoppable at the moment.
How about an indoor festival? Why not? Den Haag once again (I must really love the place after Park Pop) and this time bang in the middle of the city. Previously billed to be on the Spuiplein, the worst storm in 30 odd years in the Netherlands meant a swift move to Paard van Troje (props to them) and consequently a weird non-festival feel to a festival. Ach it was free, but 2:60 a beer?? I know it's getting the norm, and probably not the Paard's fault, but it's still shocking to get so little adult liquid for so much. And the sight of a thin crowd due to weather and trains tempered expectations built up by a strong programme. Still, we got three good gigs which we will describe now.
First up (having missed the brilliant Droppings due to train fuck ups at Leiden) we took in Nisse Bodil, who was in the main hall, bashing out a fiery set of ROCK numbers (caps intended). Bodil's work has certainly come on a lot since a demo she sent to me from a year or so back, something which sounded a bit too perfunctory for my taste. But now she's found some space to express herself through a loud mix of that metallic, urban-American rock underground that was the preamble to the Seattle sound, and an aggressive take on 80s' Euro-Goth aloofness. Compact, and combative, and possessing a pair of lungs that could smash glass, Bodil roared through her 30 minutes, backed by a tremendous band. Now, anyone can rock out, to the point of abstraction. But her band were great, really great, and maybe the reason I got sucked into the set in the first place. Somehow (not an easy feat given the terrifyingly loud PA) they pushed themselves to make the biggest racket possible AND managed to keep their sound in check and exciting, helping to lift Bodil's songs, showcasing their powerful, catchy and tough melodies that sound like they've been welded together with a blow torch. These songs also hinted at tough feminist bands like Babes in Toyland and Sleater Kinney. I think Bodil could be really onto something.
One day, I promise, I will get bored about writing about Rats on Rafts. But not yet. Rats are unstoppable at the moment. They are at the stage where they are on the launch pad to somewhere else; showing off to all and sundry that their innate belief in their own music was justified (and quite right too), and flexing their considerable - and hard-earned - live skills. They have become adept in presenting their heady, mashed up proto-psychedelic howl on a bigger stage; able to fill up the gaps, not to push too hard, knowing when to ramp up the pressure. Their live trick of loosely following the tracklisting of the LP (and starting with the sonic hand-holder, Sleep Little Child) is a brilliant one; it allows people to feel comfortable with their raucous attack through being able to guess what comes next; and replicates - on an existential level - the headtrip of the LP proper. And some of their songs are (predictably) taking on a life of their own. Jazz always was a vehicle for other ideas live (maybe why it's still in the set) and newies 1-6-8-Machine and Last Day on Earth are following suit; being gently warped out of shape and added too, tinkered with. Rats are such a physical band in their approach to sound; something which their audience can also appreciate. Predictably the gig was a firestorm by 1-6-8 Machine; balancing out the real storm raging round the country. People even began to wig out at the ungodly hour of 6:30 pm (though the bench, strangely placed in front of the stage, had two hipster types who had sat immobile throughout; regularly checking their phones and doubtless dreaming of their new feather cut, and man-creams from Lush.)
A beer, a chat and then the third band on our list, Iconoclast, who were presenting their new LP at the festy. I like Iconoclast's new LP well enough. It's got some tremendous hippy-punk anthems on it, though I have the odd reservation; the relentlessly ferocious mix of Pinkwindisms and ramped-up, blitzed-out Sabs glam can make you feel out of puff now and again. (And the slow tracks don't fully balance out that attack; but that's a minor quibble. You really should go check the record out.) ANYWAY, in the Paard main hall, and in front of a very appreciative crowd of fellow travellers, they took these songs to another level; using their old nous (two of this bunch were in the "old Plurex band", The Mollesters) and taking full advantage of the (surely by now deaf) soundman. In summary, Iconoclast were powerful and raucous and relentless, in the way you'd expect a King Tiger to be, crashing through all bystanders at full speed. They revelled in this showbizz, glitzy take punk of the kind espoused (latterly) by late era Damned, and (formerly) by Sham 69. And they employed the cavernous live sound to good effect; lifting, and giving space to, their slower numbers. Iconoclast kept their horde entertained. Entertaining; actually, that's a very good word for this gig. Impressive in a way that was totally different to Rats (none of that band's scally intellectualisms here), Iconoclast dug up rock's corpse one more time and paraded it round the room to general merriment and approval. Good stuff!
So, fun all round. After this we bumped into Henk and Natasha from Sahara studios and found ourselves acting as impromptu YouTube deejays whilst the beer and chatter kept coming long into the night. I enjoyed myself in Den Haag; who'd have thunk it?