Festival Preview – Eurosonic Noorderslag 2016

The first big European music festival of 2016, Eurosonic Noorderslag, takes place from Wednesday, 13 to Saturday, 16 January. This will be my third trip to the city of Groningen in northern Holland for the festival which will be marking its thirtieth anniversary. The festival prides itself on providing a platform for emerging European artists to showcase their music to a mixed audience of booking agents, promoters, record labels, and general punters. Eurosonic showcases European acts and takes place during the first three days of the festival, while the final day focuses on Dutch acts (Noorderslag). Many acts that have played Eurosonic previously have recognised it as kick-starting their music careers, not only in Europe but also internationally.

There is no specific genre of music at Eurosonic, so you can always expect a good mix. Irish acts which have taken part in recent years include Hozier, James Vincent McMorrow, Girl Band, The Strypes, Little Green Cars and Villagers, while European acts who have performed include Anna Calvi, Ásgeir, Ben Howard and Daughter.


European Border Breakers Awards:

The opening night of the festival kicks off with the European Border Breakers Awards (EBBAs).  The EBBAs recognise emerging European acts who have, in the previous year, achieved success in countries other than their own.  This year artists from ten European countries have each won an EBBA, including Irish singer-songwriter SOAK, Norwegian singer AURORA and Years & Years from the UK. The overall winner will be announced at the ceremony taking place on Wednesday evening.

Each year Eurosonic places particular attention on acts from a certain European country or region who will showcase their music during the festival. The focus this year is on acts from Central and Eastern European countries (CEE). Thirty-four CEE acts have been confirmed, including Carnival Youth, the EBBA winner for Latvia.

With over three hundred acts scheduled to play over the four days in Groningen, here are the ones I think will feature strongly:

European Acts:

Axel Flóvent (Iceland, Folk/Indie)

Axel Flóvent There is always a high standard of singer-songwriters on the Eurosonic bill, and this year is no exception. Nineteen-year-old Icelandic sing-songwriter, Axel Flóvent, recently released a four-track EP, ‘Forest Fires’ which has received over one million listens on Spotify. Flóvent’s soft harmonies on the track ‘Nightlife’ coupled with the delicate piano can be compared with the likes of Bon Iver and Ásgeir.  He plays twice at Eurosonic, firstly upstairs in the Grand Theatre on Wednesday at 23:45 and on Thursday at Stadsschouwburg at 21:25.

Axel Flóvent – ‘Forest Fires’


C Duncan (UK, Classical/Dreampop)

C DuncanChristopher Duncan hails from Glasgow and his second album, ‘Architect’, recently received acclaim after being shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize Album of the Year 2015. Having studied music composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Duncan’s passion lies in composing and performing classical music.  In saying that, ‘Architect’ is contemporary, combining classical and modern music with beautiful harmonies. C Duncan plays the main stage at Minerva Art Academy, Praediniussingel on Thursday at 22:40.

C Duncan – ‘For’



Fews (Sweden, Alternative/Rock)FEWS

This four-piece dreamy pop-rock band hail from Sweden and the U.S., and are currently based in London. Their tracks are dominated by a heavy lead guitar, with psychedelic vocals taking a back-seat. Having released just two tracks to date, it will be interesting to see if their other songs follow a similar pattern. Fews play Huis ‘De Beurs’ on Thursday at 21:25.

Fews – ‘The Zoo’




Grandbrothers (Germany, Electronic/Classical)

GrandbrothersInstrumental two-piece, Erol Sarp and Lukas Vogal met at university in Düsseldorf. Combining their passion for classical and electronic music with their piano and synthesizer skills, Grandbrothers create a modern classical uplifting sound. Described on their website as ‘classical, yet forward-thinking; expressive and emotional, yet with one foot on the dancefloor’, I am intrigued to see how their music translates to a live setting. Grandbrothers’ debut album ‘Dilution’ was released in 2015 and following Eurosonic, they embark on a sixteen-date tour around Europe. They play upstairs in the Grand Theatre on Friday at 20:45.


Grandbrothers – ‘Ezra Was Right’



HÆLOS (UK, Synth-Pop/Electro-Pop)HÆLOS

Using keyboards, drum machines and soothing vocals, HÆLOS create a tranquil, calming sound which will be welcome at midnight on Friday as Eurosonic draws to a close.  The London three-piece are already on the radar of many booking agents and promoters. Following Eurosonic, HÆLOS have a string of tour dates in the States and have just been announced to play Coachella in April. They play the main stage at Simplon on Friday at 23.45.

HÆLOS – ‘Cloud Nine’


HonneHonne (UK, Electronic/R&B)

Electro/Soul/Pop/R&B two-piece Honne formed in London having met at university. Describing their music as ‘warm and sensual, late night vibes, serious babymaking sounds’, Honne’s influences include Quincy Jones and Jungle. Honne means true feelings or desire in Japanese and, according to James and Andy, this is an accurate representation of their music. With their radio-friendly single ‘Gone Are The Days’ released in November 2015, Honne have received much acclaim from various DJ’s including BBC Radio 1 DJ, and Other Voices presenter, Huw Stephens. Honne play Vera (one of my favourite venues in Groningen) on Wednesday at 21:30 and main stage in Huize Maas on Friday at 20:45.

Honne – ‘Gone Are The Days’



Four-piece, London-based, INHEAVEN play catchy rock anthems which will be welcome on any outdoor summer music festival stage. They are bound to win over fans of The Vaccines. INHEAVEN play Vera on Friday at 22:15.

INHEAVEN – ‘Regeneration’




Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation (Sweden, Pop/Psychedelic)

Josefin Öhrn and her band The Liberation create sounds that demand an imaginative, enticing and enigmatic performance. It therefore seems fitting that their performance will take place in an art academy. Öhrn’s captivating vocals, coupled with a raw electric guitar and synths draws the listener in. I am looking forward to seeing how it all comes together live. Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation play Minerva Art Academy, Zuiderdiep on Friday at 23:00.

Josefin Öhrn & The Liberation – ‘Anything So Bright’



Liss (Denmark, Pop/Electro)Liss

Liss have a quirky eighties sound which would appeal to those that have enjoyed the revival of Chic in the last few years and the bands such as Jungle. The young Danish four-piece are another act that are sure to get plenty of summer festival bookings out of Eurosonic. Liss play the main stage at Simplon on Thursday at 20.45.

Liss – ‘Try’





PAUWPAUW (The Netherlands, Psychedelic Rock)

Playing both Eurosonic and Noorderslag, this Dutch four-piece have enjoyed a lot of success in their home country over the past few years and are looking to build on that success in the coming year. Creating psychedelic rock anthems, they would fit well on the bill of any outdoor summer music festival.  It is not surprising that they have opened for Temples as there are clear comparisons in terms of influences and sound. PAUW play the main stage at Huize Maas on Friday at 22:15.

PAUW – ‘Shambhala’




Soom T (UK, Hip Hop/Reggae)Soom T

An inactive Twitter account is no reflection of Soom T’s catchy and engaging hip top beats. The Scottish MC can be compared to the likes of Mercury Music Prize winner Miss Dynamite. Soom T’s music touches on religion and politics and she is not one to shy away from expressing her opinion. She is best known for her many collaborations, including those with The Orb and Asian Dub Foundation. Soom T performs at Platformtheatre on Friday at 00:30.

Soom T – ‘Broken Robots’




Stormzy Stormzy (UK, Rap/Grime)

One of the few Eurosonic artists to have already performed on Later… with Jools Holland and shared a stage at the Brit Awards with Kanye West, 22-year-old Stormzy will no doubt get the crowd bouncing during his late-night slot on Thursday. Recommended as ‘one to watch’ by Pollstar and Noisey, Simplon is bound is reach capacity for the London-based grime MC. Known for his many collaborations here’s one he did with Lethal Bizzle..

Lethal Bizzle X Stormzy – ‘Dude’



Seinabo Sey (Sweden, Pop/Soul)Seinabo Sey

Due to perform at the EBBA ceremony on Wednesday evening, following her EBBA win for Sweden, Seinabo Sey will also play the beautiful Stadsschouwburg venue on Thursday at 22:50.  The 25-year-olds’ mature, emotional voice is full of wisdom and compassion. The combination of her soulful vocals with dance music creates a sound which will no doubt be picked up by many daytime radio DJs across Europe. Having released a full-length album ‘Pretend’ in October 2015, Seinabo Sey kicks off a European tour in January including a date at London’s XOYO.

Seinabo Sey – ‘Younger’


Irish Acts:

The Irish presence at Eurosonic has grown in the last few years, largely due to Ireland being the focus country in 2012. The Irish acts that have been confirmed for this year’s Eurosonic are:

Ciaran Lavery (singer-songwriter of folk songs, from Aghagallon, Northern Ireland)

Ciaran Lavery – ‘Shame’

Craig Gallagher (singer-songwriter from Dublin)

SOAK (Irish EBBA winner, SOAK will perform at the EBBAs)

Pleasure Beach (pop/rock/psychedelic five-piece, formed in Belfast)

Pleasure Beach – ‘Go’

The Academic (four-piece indie rock band from Mullingar)

Rusangano Family (hip hop trio from Limerick)

Rusangano Family – ‘Run/Serious’

The Hot Sprockets (rock‘n’roll five-piece from Dublin)

Colm Mac Con Iomaire (fiddle player, founding member of The Frames and Kila)

Marc O’Reilly (singer-songwriter from Waterford)

Marc O’Reilly – ‘The Wayward Shepherd’

Otherkin (alternative/rock/indie band from Dublin)

The Young Folk (five-piece folk group gaining a lot of recognition internally, including in the Netherlands).

As well as all of the above, Plato record store and the Coffee Company, both located in the centre of Groningen, will run the usual free daytime gigs during the festival. The full line-up for Platosonic can be found here and includes Craig Gallagher, Pleasure Beach, Colm Mac Con Iomaire and The Young Folk.


Words by Mairéad McGuinness (@raidysmisc)