– Friday 11/01/2012 –

Day 3 – Final coverage

Right. I think I finally caught up with everything that went down in that crazy student town in the North of the Netherlands. Sure is clear that even 3 years after my last SXSW visit, the industry still knows how to work hard, play hard.

As part of keeping the locals entertained during the sold-out 3 days of tourist mayhem, there’s a size-able outdoor stage at the main market square for two nights with a few, mainly Dutch, bands playing. And even at -2 and the occasional ‘inside-a-snowglobe’-feel, quite a few hundred people have gathered to watch known-indie pop band Handsome Poets. Catchy, would be an understatement; the radio-friendly, easy-on-the-ear five piece heavily rely on their frontman but manage to grab our attention and keep it for the entire set. Though the fact it is snowing at times, in combination with fairly summer-festival-esque musical vibes makes it all the more surreal.

With a fifty minute change-over, we quickly decide to check the venues nearby and whether anything we’ve been recommended is playing. We quickly decide on the Vera where Last.fm suggest Highasakite from Norway are ones to watch. First to catch our eye is the band’s topless trumpet player who has painted half of his face urine-yellow in a yin-yang similar division. The multi-instrumentalists give the zither a central role and keep a constant stream of synth sounds coming our way. They’re said to have already convinced Bon Iver and you can see why. Think of a morning-dew-covered forest and the first rays of a new dawn breaking through the leaves. OK, got that? Now add music and you got Highasakite: Ethereal nature calling.

Back out in the cold January night, we nestle in the pretty large crowd gathering for Dutch funk punk band Chef’special. As said in our preview ahead of this week, they have a feel good vibe about themselves and manage to heat things up a bit. With vocals reminiscent of Anthony Kiedis, a crunchy bass and some slick synth-licks, they rock the square with everything from reggae to mellow hit single ‘Birds’. Bit of a shame that they finish off with a heavy dubstep mix as it seems to become the go-to-sound for bands if they lack a smashing final song.

As the last dirty electro scratches fade away, we huddle down into the Newscafe’s basement for some Finnish love from Sin Cos Tan. We quickly come to the conclusion that their taste for sunglasses in a dark basement, mixed with Depeche mode-influenced 80s sounds isn’t for us right there and decide to leave it at that. But we’ll leave you to make up your own mind on that one, you can check out their song ‘Trust’ below.

In hindsight, I’m glad we did. There are two electronic acts lined up in Huize Maas, which we’ve heard a lot about and decide they are must-sees. But in the meantime, there is a very pleasant surprise in the form of Lukas Graham, hailing from Denmark. Part-Irish, Lukas Graham Forchhammer fronts a funky, soulful quartet consisting of ‘Mr Magnum’, ‘Mr Lovesticks’ and ‘The Captain’.

Somewhere between Maroon 5, Jamiroquai and the Scandinavian ‘ghetto’, this fella was spawned and mastered a very impressive vocal range. And with lines like ‘We sold all the funk to Norway, all we got left is a funky bassline’ to introduce a new song, you’re sure to be entertained all night.

And then it’s time for Netsky. The Belgian producer/DJ has been Hospital Records-rising star and headlined stages all across Belgium. Just before his set is due to kick off, Twitter is already alight with complaints of people queuing outside the venue and it doesn’t take long for the organisers to officially announce they’ve reached capacity.

Due to some technical issues, it takes an extra 15 minutess for the band to take the stage. And with only 45min of allocated time, the crowd starts to get restless. But all that is forgotten when tunes like ‘Puppy’ and ‘Come Alive’ hit the crowd and Huize Maas is transformed into a sweaty, home-y drum & bass party. It just confirms the lad’s status amongst the genre-lovers and with his debut album ‘2’ released last year, I don’t see his rise slowing any time soon.

We catch a bit of Captain Capa whilst we wait for Huoratron. Think Crystal Castles but slightly more contained and less chaotic. Thumping beats, walls of noise and Enter Shikari comes to mind. The German duo are a sweaty crowd pleaser and keep the energy going after Netsky.

The night starts closing in on us and we let our ears experience one more beating in the form of Finnish ‘Raski the Electro Metal Mozart’, as MSTRKRFT described him. Huoratron is the final of the Finnish beasts let out of their cage tonight and takes us into filthy Nintendo glitch mode that makes your eyes twitch. If you’re not moving to this, you’re a bloody garden gnome. You would expect to have seen a full on electricity blackout in Finland to power this ‘schranz’-Meister’s decibel output.

And with that, our lights shut down for the night as well. It was quite the experience. The town, the line up, the conference. Plenty of new bands that have been discovered and whilst there’ll always be a case to be made for ‘should’ve gone see them instead’ or ‘can’t believe you didn’t go see these!’, I feel we did a decent enough job to get a varied impression of what Eurosonic Noorderslag 2013 had to offer. Hopefully until next year, though I might just pack a few extra cases of Red Bull.

Highasakite – Indian Summer

Chef’special – Birds

Sin Cos Tan – Trust

Lukas Graham – Drunk in the morning

Netsky – Love has gone

Huoratron – Cryptocracy

Music enthusiast | Play guitar | Bit of gig photography on the side | MA Journalism student at University of Salford | Huge Pearl Jam fan