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The EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG is one of the most important dates of the year for European music industry professionals and it’s both – the official start of the new season and the recap of the previous one. A huge showcase festival, full of up- and coming bands and also something like a family meeting (if you consider the music industry a big family). In each family, there is a wide range of diversified characters – may it be the loud father, the rich uncle, the sexy niece, the idealistic cousin or the weird relative you’re never sure how to handle. And like a big family is bound together by blood and tradition, the family that came together in Groningen during these days is bound together by the love and passion for the one thing that all keeps us moving: music.

Actually it doesn’t matter for which reason and in what kind of form these family members share their passion – whether it might be a commercial approach or a more idealistic one. In the end we all share the same spaces or – if you prefer that metaphor – sitting in the same boat. Well, despite the public perception this boat isn’t sinking. It’s just discovering new waters, it is about to change familiar courses and everyone on board, from the sailor to the captain, has to find new ways and work closer together. Therefore festivals like the EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG are important for musicians, bookers, promoters and journalists to network and exchange ideas. That does not only happen in all the panels and official meetings, it also happens while having a drink together and just openly welcome everyone you’re introduced to via another person. It’s about connecting, strengthening contacts and partnerships as well as getting to know new people and creating new ideas together.

Wednesday – “I hid my lust in cold hands”


European Border Breakers Award 2013 - by René Keijzer Fotografie

C2C at European Border Breakers Award (EBBA) 2013
[Photo by René Keijzer Fotografie]

The first day is the traditional day of arrival and time to get to know the city of Groningen, a lovely place that combines traditional and modern aspects. The first day is also the day when Europe celebrates its musical diversity with awards. First there are the European Boarder Breakers Awards (EBBA) to honor the artists who were successful beyond the boarders of their home country. This year’s winners included bands like Iceland’s OF MONSTERS AND MEN, EWERT AND THE TWO DRAGONS from Estonia and French electronica producers C2C who also won the people’s choice award. The glamorous ceremony was hosted by British TV legend Jools Holland. Right afterwards the European Festival Awards (EFA) honored all the spectacular open air and indoor events Europe has to offer.

Once the official part at the congress center is over, people are flooding on the streets of Groningen, to discover almost 300 artists playing in more than 30 locations. Schools, theatres, cafes – there is room for music everywhere and quite often the bands are playing more than one set during their attendence at EUROSONIC. German songwriter HONIG is one of these acts who played several concerts in different locations – which was really good, since we could not make it to his first show, because the location was simply too packed. But we grabbed one of our favourite acts of 2012: Esben Andersen aka. RANGLEKLODS – that night with another stunning performance of his sinister electropop anthems. Unfortunately his slot was quite short – but that’s typical for showcase festivals, since they are mainly about to introduce new acts.

Thursday – “Roll the dice and win the game”

The other days at EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG work like that: the first half is focussed on panels, discussions and meetings. Events like the BERLIN MUSIC WEEK and REEPERBAHN FESTIVAL invite to meet and greets to connect with others. Once the clocks turned eight, it is time to discover clubs and events. Our evening started with Stefan HONIG who played at a small cafe this time, almost a secret gig since it was outside the regular schedule. An enjoyable gig thanks to the joyful playing band and the stunning voice of their lovely frontman. Thursday evening brought lots of appreciable music – like the tender britpop melodies by ANDY BURROWS or his amazing colleague JAKE BUGG, the haunting chillwave elctronica by MMOTHS and the always touching sound wonders by EFTERKLANG. Some really mentionable highlights on that evening.

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IIRIS played on of the shows at Eurosonic Noorderslag

Estonian pop singer IIRIS was definitely one of them – even if she had to shorten her set due to voice problems, she wrapped everyone around her finger with her stunning aura. German electronic newcomers VIMES did a really fascinating showcase in a totally crowded club, which made it quite hard to get in. Further THE KYTEMAN ORCHESTRA made people dream away at the open air stage and – at the same stage – Groningen’s very own dubstep trio NOISIA made the old walls of the old city shiver with their pumping beats.

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Netherlands most promising act: SKIP&DIE

Another highlight: CHVRCHES. The uprising Scottish pop stars are currently one of the most buzzed about bands on the world wide web. Shimmering bubblegum electropop with not that in-depth lyrics, still nobody can deny the enormous hit potential of the songs on their upcoming debut album. It’s the sort of radio pop that doesn’t force you to change the station.

A totally different interpretation of the whole pop concept comes from Dutch shootingstars SKIP&DIE, who probably played the show at this festival. The songs of their debut album Riots In The Jungle seem to include almost every thinkable sort of genre and influence. The whole show was pumping, surreal, sexy, excessive, hypnotic and just too enjoyable to not fall in love with SKIP&DIE and their front woman Cata.Pirata.

Danish pop-rock heroes TURBOWEEKEND had a hard slot to fill after that blast, but their uplifting melodies were irresistible and just too good to not love this band. Not to speak about the big party a Swedish hiphop/electro act brought right after that.

Friday – “The shadow behind the light is sorted”

Our final day at the conference brought – of course – a lot of meets and greets and tons of meetings.

Highasakite - Eurosonic Noorderslag 2013. Groningen the Netherlands (c)sanderbaks.com

HIGHASAKITE at Eurosonic Noorderslag 2013.
[photo by Sander Baks]

This year’s EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG had a special called All Eyes On Finland – a lot of Finish bands were introduced and the Fins invited to a special event later that day. All eyes were on Finland – even those of legendary Jean-Louis Brossard, head of the French TRANSMUSICALES FESTIVALS. He is constantly looking for new bands at events like this as he told during an interview back at “his” festival. So maybe there will be some Finish act at this year’s TRANSMUSICALES? Probably – but without any doubt at least one band that played at EUROSONIC was also booked by him for his festival. That’s how showcase festivals work – bands introduce themselves, bookers and A&R’s see them and sign them. So maybe we’ll see CHVRCHES at this year’s MELT FESTIVAL, SKIP&DIE at HURRICANE FESTIVAL, HIGHASAKITE at ROSKILDE and BIRTH OF JOY at GLASTONBURY? We’ll see  – at least HIGHASAKITE are already confirmed to play ROSKILDE.

HIGHASAKITE played definitely an amazing concert that night and Justin Vernon aka. BON IVER was definitely right when he hyped this band after seeing them at 2012’s ØYA FESTIVAL in Oslo.

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Finland is full of musical jewels

Huoratron at Eurosonic 2013 - by Lauri Hannus

HUORATRON at Eurosonic 2013
Photo by Lauri Hannus

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Back to All Eyes On Finland: the impressive performance by sound collective ACID SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA challenged and fascinated the crowd with electronic compositions. And SINAI, LCMDF, LAU NAU, RUBIK and SIN COS TAN impressed with amazing concerts, too. Not to speak about the insane electro show of HUORATRON, who made people go crazy and blew their shoes off once again (as we already experienced back at FLOW FESTIVAL HELSINKI 2012). The Nordic country is full of musical jewels that are about to conquer Europe and maybe even the rest of the world – so All Eyes On Finland!

But Finland is not the only Nordic country that brought great acts to Groningen. Norway brought indie-pop bands YOUNG DREAMS, BERNHOFT and – once again – HIGHASAKITE. Sweden brought the magnificant dreampop twin sisters SAINT LOU LOU and dark electropop queen KARIN PARK, who performed tracks from her recent album Highwire Poetry together with her – clearly from the heavy metal socialized – brother behind the drumset.

Of course also Iceland and Denmark sent some of their amazing acts to the festival like PASCAL PINON, EPIC RAIN, INDIANS, , BROKEN TWIN and RANGLEKLODS.

More stunning performances that night came from Conor O’ Brien aka. VILLAGERS, which was really enjoyable and came right in time for the release of his second longplayer {Awayland}. Further dubstep legend NETSKY made people go wild with his tunes – same with RUDIMENTAL, who attracted so many people that a lot of them simply didn’t fit into the club.

And once we are talking about the countries artists come from: also great German acts were at the festival: HONIG, FENSTER, SEA+AIR, VIMES and GARDA – to just name some of them. Definitely each of them is a big deal and definitely amazingly international. Hope to see these guys playing shows all around Europe pretty soon!
Probably we could tell you about way more acts that played at EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG, since simply every act has been fantastic in its own way. High quality in every club, on every stage, at every time. There were decisions to do – choosing one concert to attend when there are at least ten more at the same time can be really hard. Too sad that we still missed so many acts, although we did our very best.

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Eurosonic Air stage
[Photo bx Brt Heemskerk]
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To sum up: EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG really is the place to be for music professionals and for people who like to discover up and coming things. It is the place where you have the chance to see amazing acts in a wonderful atmosphere, acts that probably play one of their last smaller shows in their career right there.

Of course the business aspect is a big part – but even more important are all the concerts, the massive talents and the wonderful dedication of Gronigen to a festival that is nothing but exceptional amazing and mind-blowing. Exemplary organization, unique atmosphere and perfect live sound – an ode to music. Stressful but harmonic days usually not even real family meetings have to offer.

Thank you EUROSONIC NOORDERSLAG, thank you Groningen. See you next year.

report by Robert Helbig and Norman Fleischer