Subbacultcha Forever, OT301, Amsterdam 28/3/15

The Homesick turn the whole miserable top-down state-approved music propaganda bullshit on its head, simply by having the confidence to be themselves.

The Homesick turn the whole miserable top-down state-approved music propaganda bullshit on its head, simply by having the confidence to be themselves.

Let’s start on the morning after. A SITREP. I’ve lost an hour, and what little sleep I’ve had was disrupted by the drummer from Those Foreign Kids stumbling into the flat I’m crashing at at 5am, and making some bizarre fry up from God only knows what. My mouth feels like a lion’s shithouse and I’m not sure whether putting any liquid into said mouth will make any difference to (or, worse, worsen) what is developing onto a runaway train of a hangover. My wrists hurt, which is inexplicable, and is discounted as another, additional, sign of an “old man’s” hangover (believe me they exist) until I remember that I threw 3 people around at the Homesick gig, and abused a sniffy bloke in a broad brimmed “poet’s” hat along the way. I remember with a feeling of rising nausea that Erik, the heroically out-there drummer from the Homesick brought me a burger from Febo or somesuch place in the middle of “a serious arty moment” (the admittedly great and moreish Venein gig at the start, when everyone in the audience was trying to be deep). I remember talking about Simple Minds’ early records with East India Youth’s manager Andy, and sadly – as my gorge begins to rise like blood in a syringe – remember Subbacultcha’s generosity with the free Warsteiner at the pre-party at the OT gallery (with the obligatory pics of pouting beautiful people lining the walls).

Why can’t I have a normal night out?

I suppose it would be churlish to accept a normal night out this time around as Subbacultcha had just turned 10 (nearly as old as Incendiary, golly) and one thing this organisation can do really well is throw a fine party in Amsterdam. On a night when Clinic and King Champion Sounds were playing just up the road in OCCII, we’d plumped to come here and see a pretty impressive line up of happening Dutch bands and some great foreign guets; namely, East India Youth and Gazelle Twin. Whilst I’ve had a few pops in the past about Subba’s way of promoting and doing things, I’m very glad they’ve fully embraced a lot of what has been happening recently in the Netherlands and looked to bring it to their audience. Whether their audience ever notices is another matter. I shudder when I think that some of the priviledged international grazers I encountered on the night (or rather, felt the ice-cold blast of their forcefields in the OT) will – in the not-too-distant-future – be looking after my pension, losing millions in bit coins or making sure some nurse will get underpaid to wipe my octogenarian bum.

Enough ruminating. First up were Venein in the upstairs Cinema. This was a very very good gig and a fine way to start the night. Keimpe from Subba told me that I should expect a “Suicide without the drum machine”, and he was right; the beat manifesting itself as a series of pulses and deep, growls and throbs. Essentially, one bloked yelled about life and that, and the other made moody electro noises. Those present dug. I got sucked in. I enjoyed the duo’s landlubber grubbiness. Suicide? Well, yeah… but bits of Speed,Glue & Shinki too. And the gig DIDN’T (and this is a big compliment) sound like a “project” or like a “commentary on society”. It was messy, organic, squelchy and actually felt like a warped sort of rock and roll. More of this. Oh, and Homesick Erik brought me a burger to eat because he was worried about my health; and the pervasive smell of its processed beef-pork-chicken arse clippings and reconstituted tomato sauce (with its e-number stabalisers) filled the room like a SBD from your otherwise loveable dog at a cocktail party.

Then it was time to check The Moi Non Plus on the OT main stage. Bugger. I was hoping for a smaller, more intimate place, like the cramped basement at Kult a few years back, when they played a blistering show. The thing that wrecks lots of gigs in this particular space for me is that the sound is weird; especially if you want to do something nuanced or layered, or use silences and pauses. Frankly the place sucks up atmosphere – the noise floating up to the ceiling – and unless you’re damned loud or brutally upfront, you seem to have no chance. This, in part, happened to MNP’s gig. It didn’t really help that it was early and the room was still “cold”; and MNP need heat and sweat to balance out their existential battering. They are a band that utilises a certain distance in their sound; and the contrast with a tough sweaty room gives something extra to their music. In here, the new songs (both very, very promising) and the old classics sounded a bit perfunctory. It was good, for sure. But I wanted epic, because somewhere I see a band, and dammit I wanted them to succeed! They have the ingredients to do something really special; drummer Leon has this panto-villain menace about him on stage which is very appealing, and Bas is adept at bringing out the smallest nuance from a flat, grisly pallette. Their music is dangerous, minimal and poppy, but – on this evidence – it needs to go much further.

Naive Set were overlapping with MNP on a stage in the De Peper restaurant, which – on this night’s evidence – turned into a pretty cool venue. Naive Set are great band; and more proof of the fact that the acts that don’t get caught up or compromised in the false sureties of the Dutch music bizz are making some incredible music. Those in the know know that this band is probably the Netherlands’ best kept secret; making timeless, beautiful music that seeems to skip round considerations of taste and fashion. During this gig, especially when they balanced the cerebral and the witty, caustic elements in their sound (like in Like That), they came across as being up there with Aztec Camera or Love. Big claims, but I think that they are justified. Naive Set are always at the point of falling apart when playing live, and tonight was no exception; their bashfulness and quiet truculence adding to a show that was exciting and reasssuring in equal measure. The major-minor switches and long, extempore work outs just showed off the underlying (and brilliant) pop sensibility. And you felt that they could make something utterly magical soon. We in the room believed, we wanted, but will anyone care?

I’m pissed. I think I’ve already missed gigs, such is the relentless, “Zhukovian” press of the programme. Now what?

East India Youth in the main hall, that’s what. And here in the cavernous and frosty main hall, he’s trying his damnedest to get people to dig his romantic, synthed-to-the max gesture pop. But this was proving difficult. The monitor played up, making dying fly noises and strange barks every now and again. A cameraman leant over the equipment and shoved his lense right under Doyle’s nose. Still, William Doyle is incredibly talented, and able to deal with crap like that. What was harder was getting people to see what his music is about. Weirdly, for one who makes such open-hearted music, he seems to be a bit misunderstood. You see, his muse is one that allows you an emotional parity, whether you want it or not. And the songs, for all their bravura sweeps and uplifting chord changes, is anti-sensationalist in a manner that doesn’t allow an audience to hide. In one way he’s like a busker confronting you on the street (the keyboards, laptops, nobs, pedals and bass guitar just adding to this image). Doyle also wants you to be as open and as honest as him, and I think that freaks people out. Throwing away any emotional prop, and inviting an audience to share a feeling through music is a high risk strategy. And this wasn’t something the crowd really wanted at this particular junction. When he wigged out at the end however, the atmosphere became more accepting and those who stuck about appreciated how rewarding his music actually is.

Enough of feelings! Back to the inescapable vanities of Young and Groovy Hamsterjam! At this point I decide to fop about, and saunter round the gaff, indulging in a great deal of chatting. OT301 is a place to stand and chat, or walk about. Lots of stuff was going on everywhere, a weird disco near the bogs and a poncey disco across from the cinema. And other shit elsewhere. Somehow the lots of stuff to see in OT guarantees you do absolutely nothing but sit down in the main bar or wander around. The place affects your attention span. So I miss TV Wonder (whose single is great) and I miss the fabulous Apneu who really are turning into a great sarcastic, funny pop band. I add both names here because I want to assuage my guilt in missing them (cos I’m chatting to someone and have the attention span of a Mayfly) and to tell you to check them out, pronto. Suddenly it’s time for Gazelle Twin. This is the point when the night starts to take on a semblance of a real event.

Gazelle Twin‘s gig was magnificent; and somehow the duo got the main hall where they wanted them, sucked into their distorted teen drama. They have this brittle, C21st take on The Revenger’s Tragedy and the less social elements of 80s synth going on all at once (Numan, John Foxx, Fourth Drawer Down Associates). We were pinned down by the huge, crunching electro, (sounding like a demolition job on a tower block)and locked into following the narartive, (sinister revenge fantasies – I think) which was nicely balanced out with a cartload of overwrought gestures and dramatic silences. Elizabeth Bernholz paced round the stage in a mockery of stadium rock; it was like watching a gameshow played out in a bedroom. And for all the hoodies and the technology and the modern takes on gender, and the face masks, there’s something really, really OLD about them. They feel from another age, declaiming and gesturing and threatening in a manner you see in a Caravaggio painting, or in a Conrad novel. It really is a slideshow where someone’s showing their own heart of darkness. Golly mick. No grazing here!

More chitchat and then we’re in De Peper, down the front for The Homesick. I see lots of familiar Leiden faces and relatively few nobbers in the crowd. Ach, that’s how it should be. Watching The Homesick is always more of a pissed up coach trip than attitude fest.

Enter the band. Earlier in the night Jaap and Elias loudly complained to each other (and to anyone within shouting distance) that they were pissed off that they had (unbeknownst to each other)dressed in exactly the same clothing (black shirts, black jeans, “pumps”). Erik, by contrast, had plumped for a fetching blue Orca t-shirt. To combat being upstaged by his drummer – and to retain his crown as elven king of the underground – Elias has found some fake fur stole and draped it round his shoulders. He looks like some young Brunswick Hussar on the razz.

Enter the band. They are the latest in a long line of serious guitar-pranksters like T-Rex, Orange Juice and maybe even Loki if you look back far enough. They are a giddy mix of wit and truculuence, and – given this country’s obsession with the “correct”  presentation and behaviour of bands – a breath of fresh air. The Homesick turn the whole miserable top-down state-approved music propaganda bullshit on its head, simply by having the confidence to be themselves.

Something in the atmosphere snaps, pops, fizzes. Suddenly everyone feels at home and ready to have a good time. And why not, as The Homesick channel many heavy and righteous vibes. We get new songs which sound boss. We get monster raving lunatic takes on Cut Your Hair and Breakfast. And all hell breaks loose when the song about loving Jesus when you’re a teen is aired. It’s a BELTER, that song, mixing wan harmonics and a fiery attitude. Everyone goes nuts. Niek from Nouveau Velo gets hurled about like he’s a straw man at a pagan bonfire. This is ace.

There’s some bloke in a broadbrimmmed hat (reminiscent of poet and scholar Robert Graves, John Lennon in his last Fabs photos, but mostly Dutch pop sensations Kensington)looking pissed off that his front row view is impeded by people dancing and having a good time. He starts to complain and jostle. Incredible. Sirrah! Desist! Fye and fiddlesticks to your First World Problem! We are dancing in a manner that the occasion demands! This is what we plebians traditionally do at amplified rock concerts for young and old! And look, they’ve let off some streamers! Elias is jumping on the mixer table and gyrating and pouting like a drugged-up elf! Jaap is squawking like a randy cockerel! Even Erik looks like he’s alive in the moment!

After this gig everything feels irrelevant. A simply unhinged show / onstage breakdown by Malawi is brilliant and finishes Incendiary off. Nancy Acid rock out too, ramping up their Cramps racket to the max. But we’re gone in the head. The fashionable clubbers turn up and everything feels like a we’ve unwittingly walked into a Vice photo shoot. Where are the hinges? Dystopia. Logan’s Run. As MES said in Shoulder Pads, it was like being back at school.

Somehow it’s 3am, and sitting in the poncey upstairs disco isn’t helping. We ride through Amsterdam, and talk about the UvA sit in, and pass out. Just like Bon Jovi, I wanna live while I’m alive.