Festival Review – Eurosonic 2016

Every year in mid-January, the charming city of Groningen in northern Holland plays host to a variety of musicians and welcomes a wide-ranging international audience for the four-day Eurosonic Noorderslag festival. As a result of its diversity each attendee goes to the Eurosonic with a different agenda, be it an agent looking to book acts for upcoming events or radio stations looking for the next big hit.

For me, Eurosonic marries my two passions, music and travel, perfectly. It is about making new discoveries and meeting people with similar interests to me. An hour and a half flight from Dublin and a two-hour train journey from Amsterdam brings you to student city of Groningen, which provides a beautiful base for this gathering.

As with most music festivals I go to, I attended this years’ Eurosonic with a plan. The user-friendly Eurosonic App was installed and the acts I wanted to see were pinned. As a back-up, timetables were printed and acts were highlighted with various colours, according to my level of interest. Unlike other years, I more or less stuck to my plan. Between the official Eurosonic events, Platosonic and impromptu street performances I saw over twenty acts in the three days. In no particular order, here are some that stood out for me:

HVOB -Eurosonic 2016

HVOB

HVOB
Dutch multimedia platform, 3voor12, hosted a showcase in Vera on the first night of Eurosonic.  The line-up included Chloe Martina, Honne and Dua Lipa. The act which caught my eye was Austrian electro pop duo HVOB. Short for Her Voice Over Boys, HVOB’s sound can be compared to Tori Amos meets Faithless. One song in particular sounded like a combination of ‘We Come One’ and ‘Insomnia’, with female vocals.

Producer Paul Wallner created a dreamy electro pop sound and this was complimented by the wistful vocals from lead-singer Anna Müller. The intense atmospheric feel was further enhanced by the vivid lighting. HVOB’s performance style would work well on a late-night slot at an alternative music festival like Body & Soul.

 

Rusangano Family -Eurosonic 2016

Rusangano Family

Rusangano Family
Flying the flag for the west of Ireland was the three-piece Rusangano Family who played in Platformtheatre. The trio were the first act up on the final night of the festival. Described in the Eurosonic programme as ‘alternative, hiphop’ is somewhat vague. It is hard to pigeon-hole this band into a particular category. Rusangano Family are fronted by MC’s God Knows and MuRli, while mynameisjOhn delivers the beats.

On and off stage, they are energetic, poetic, fun, serious and as a result, very unpredictable. A slight hiccup at the beginning of the set (one of the mic’s failed to work) didn’t hamper this juxtaposition as God Knows and MuRli kept everyone on their toes by weaving their way through the crowd throughout the set and throwing some pretty cool dance moves. If you have a ‘must-see’ list of bands to see live in 2016 put Rusangano Family on the top of that list!

 

BOKKA -Eurosonic 2016

BOKKA

BOKKA
The members and sounds of BOKKA are constantly changing and evolving. On the first night of Eurosonic, a five-piece played the main stage in the Grand Theatre.  Mystery and anonymity shrouded this Polish band’s performance. All members wore masks and were dressed in silver outfits.

No one spoke, instead communication with the audience was via messages projected onto a large screen behind the band. At the beginning of their set the words ‘Hello we are BOKKA, welcome to our universe’ were projected onto the screen. Their sound is dreamy pop synth (a sound which was very popular at this years’ festival) with mainly female vocals. Parts of the set reminded me a lot of Empire of the Sun. Towards the end of their set BOKKA surprised with a great cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.

 

MY BABY
I missed MY BABY’s live set on Wednesday night because I stayed for BOKKA’s full set (yes, they were that good!). I did however get to check out the Dutch-trio’s day time performance in a packed Plato record store and I was delighted I did. They played a great extended version of ‘Seeing Red’, a catchy pop dance tune with eerie vocals and cool hints of guitar.

 

 

Go March -Eurosonic 2016

Go March

Go March
An impromptu one-song (albeit an eight-minutes long) performance by this Antwerp instrumental three-piece was all it took for me to come home and listen to them on repeat for a few hours and be hooked! One of many acts to play this years’ festival that are signed to Belgian label unday records, Go March played outside the 3FM studio, across from the Grand Theatre. This was the perfect spot to get noticed by music revellers rushing from venue to venue late on Thursday night.

 

 

Pleasure Beach

Pleasure Beach -Eurosonic 2016

Pleasure Beach

I got to see five-piece Pleasure Beach twice on the Thursday of Eurosonic, firstly during the day at Plato record store then later on in Mutua Fides.

Hailing from Belfast, the three girls and two guys, create dream pop songs. Both performances went down well in Groningen, particularly the catchy closing song and latest single ‘Go’.

 

 

 

 

AURORA -Eurosonic 2016

AURORA

AURORA
Norwegian EBBA winner AURORA is one of the sweetest performers I have seen. Her sincerity and charm has remained the same since I last saw her during a day time performance at Platosonic last year. AURORA is the perfect example of what Eurosonic and the EBBA awards are all about.

During 2015 her music broke through European and international borders. She received much acclaim (and over two million YouTube views) for her cover of the Oasis song ‘Half The World Away’, which was featured on the John Lewis Christmas ad. During her set, AURORA paid a lovely tribute to David Bowie and covered ‘Mars.’

 

 

C Duncan Setlist -Eurosonic 2016

C Duncan Setlist

C Duncan

Due to the huge queue outside Minerva Art Academy before and during his set, I only caught the last few songs of C Duncan. The huge crowd was to be expected given his latest album, ‘Architect’, being shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize Album of the Year. The Scottish composer and musician played with a full band and kicks off a European tour shortly including a gig in Dublin in March.

 

Other acts that I saw over the course of the festival and which got a really positive response were Axel Flóvent, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, De Staat, FEWS, Marc O’Reilly, Grandbrothers, Trad Attack!, Honne, Nao and The Young Folk.

As usual, the four days in northern Holland flew by. Throughout the festival I met some great people, shared stories and partied until the early hours in Warhol – the one spot you can almost guarantee will stay open all night!
Eurosonic works because of the organisers behind it. It works because there is a huge appetite for a platform for those involved in the music industry to meet acts who are serious about their music career.  It allows bookers and musicians from all over Europe to meet each other, face to face, and exchange ideas and interests.

In its thirtieth year, Eurosonic is a festival very much in its prime. Every time I travel to Groningen I experience something new. As an attendee you are always mindful that the band you may accidentally come across in a coffee shop on a mid-week afternoon, could soon be undertaking a world tour and playing at the music festivals you hope to attend the following summer.

Accommodation for next year has already been booked. Eurosonic 2017 can’t come soon enough!

Words by Mairéad McGuinness (@raidysmisc)