Eurosonic Festival, Holland – Day One

Festival season has begun! I’m hip-high in mud, making devil horn signs with cider-sheened hands and trying to forget that I just paid £40 to a man in a jester hat for ten aspirin tablets that aren’t making me want to inappropriately hug anyone. Rock’n’roll!

OK, I was getting a touch carried away there – it’s a good few months before we encounter those kind of scenes. But festival season has kicked off, in a way – I’m at Eurosonic in Groningen, north Holland: a Camden Crawl-type affair but with less Mohawks and much more continental lager. And band names like Vincent Van Go Go.

Oh, and meatballs:

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With a population of just over 180,000 Groningen isn’t quite the kind of metropolis you’d expect to attract a venue-hopping music festival such as this. But with a bursting student population and, as a result, a slew of ace venues, it works as well as mayo does with chips (that’s the delicacy here).

A quick glance at the line-up showed a series of band names Chris Morris would be proud to have cooked up. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, The New Wine, Trixie Jelly Pudding, Naïve New Beaters, Shameboy – I’m sure they’re all great.

But before diving headlong into watching the kind of bands who could just as likely turn out to be the next great guitar heroes or the kind of act you see soundtracking the Eurotrash closing credits, yesterday (January 15) I went for a quick catch-up on the fast-rising types just, you know, in case they’re all playing Wembley next time I catch them.

The hot wristband was for Huize Mass – a large venue with a stage at each end of it, meaning that after each band the (huge) crowd rolled down to the other end like sailors on a tipped ship.

The Jessie Road Trip – featuring Jessie, who initially appears to be an averaging out of Kate Nash, Florence Welch and Amy Winehouse – is first on what is (probably inadvertently) a kind of Manchester area showcase, with Lowline and Twisted Wheel (from Oldham… it’s close) on the bill later.

Pretty impressive: Wino-esque warble, Nash-esque piano ditties, Florence-esque quirkiness (though not as contrived)… now would seem pretty much the perfect time for Jessie Rose to blow up. Especially considering that on last night’s evidence she’s got more than enough tunes to lay a few ‘Foundations’ of her own.

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Dinosaur Pile-Up’s set-up

Any memory of Lowline’s lifeless northern bluster-indie was repressed as soon as we could scoot back to the bar, but Dinosaur Pile-Up showed how they’ve been crashing through the evolutionary timeline since their more tepid earlier shows. If they’re not the closest thing to Weezer outside of Rivers Cuomo’s trousers I’m a stegosaurus.

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Baddies – simply the sweats

Then an Arctic-cold stroll and 20 minutes of queuing later (it really isn’t a city festival unless you’ve said the phrase, “We’ll give it ten minutes then make a call” at least five times) and we were in the large Vera venue rocking out to Baddies, who are becoming more and more like a brilliant Futureheads/Hives splice every day.

Deadpan shouts of “Very good” from the audience confirm their excellence. And the five pints of sweat frontman Michael Webster must have expelled from his pores during the set.

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Twisted Wheel – “Oldham!”

Back to the Huize Mass, and Twisted Wheel twist my conception of them as second-tier Britpop-pikers to something rather closer to the punk aesthetics of the Pistols. Every song sounds like a hit, and after a few dozen of those tiny glasses of beer with heads on them, it works.

I wasn’t too happy about two moshers tapping me on the shoulder then giving me the wanker sign, accusing me of shouting “Manchester!” at the band (they’re from Oldham). As Shaggy once said with such resonating eloquence, “It wasn’t me”.

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Micachu. She looks a bit like Jamie T, don’t you think? Photographer Tim does.

Micachu then impressed with her Tom Vek-esque pop clunk, White Lies played probably their perfect slot (half one in the morning, venue as dark as a Dutch dungeon), and all that was left to do was to buy unidentifiable fast food from the rather odd vending machines in the main square.

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Yum

And, really, what is a festival without unidentifiable fast food?

Today’s stupidly-named bands I’d like to see: Neimo, The Sedan Vault, First Aid Kit, The Ideal Husband, Rita Redshoes.

What I’ll probably actually see: James Yuill, I Blame Coco, Emmy The Great, Mongrel, Rolo Tomassi, The Big Pink.