MOTEL MOZAIQUE FESTIVAL
5-6 APRIL, ROTTERDAM
Choices… it’s all about choices you have to make. Not only in real life, but also when visiting the Motel Mozaique Festival In Rotterdam, which took place on the 7th and 8th of April 2013, because with so many acts on the bill at various locations in downtown Rotterdam, it is almost impossible to see everything. The festival is already running its 13 edition, but for me personally it was the very first full-time non-stop visit. The festival focuses on new acts in the music industry, which are about to breakthrough or are the bright hope for the near future. There are also a couple of established acts programmed, just to make sure that the festival will attract enough audience and it is quite obvious that also this year there are a lot of visitors from all over the world. This is not so strange, because for example in 2010 the band MUMFORD AND SONS were one of the featured acts. They even performed a free outdoor show, so with that in mind, people are very eager to discover the undiscovered during this festival.
I was able to see about 20 out of the 51 music performances during Friday evening/night and Saturday afternoon/evening/night, so afterwards I was safe to say that I caught a lot of the action. Starting on Friday evening, the first act I witnessed was a Belgian act called SX. Although no Hardrock and Metal bands are part of this festival, when entering the sad Corso Music Hall, it is clear that the sound/mixingboard is really way too loud. SX is a pure 80s Electronic-Poprock sounding band, but during this performance the band sounds as heavy as a Metalband, but without my earplugs, it is almost impossible to make it to the end of their performance. A pity, because musically they are not that bad at all, with a sound that reminds me of LUBA and DALBELLO, so massive keys/synths, a pumping heavy rhythm section and powerful female vocals. The guy at the mixing board had absolutely no clue that the sound quality was very messy and as loud as possible, because he was dancing to the music. Although the hall looked quite empty, some people didn’t mind the loud sound and danced their way through the set, but it became obvious after 30 minutes that you had to leave and check a different venue, as otherwise you could have been deaf already at the start of the festival.
Moving to the most important and most professional venue of all the locations, the Rotterdamse Schouwburg had an excellent line-up and also a terrific sound quality in the 2 music halls. Although I was unprepared and didn’t know the featured acts, it was a good choice to stay in this venue for the rest of the evening and following night, because the ambiance was also very pleasant and some of the performances were very impressive. First act to witness was a London/UK based band called BEAR’S DEN. They are from the same district/area in London as the mighty MUMFORD AND SONS and despite some music similarities, throughout the set the band is slowly showing an own face. Without a doubt, this is a fantastic band that musically combines Folk with Pop Melodies and at times even sounds like a Westcoast/AORish band, because the smooth harmonyvocals and rather catchy choruses even reflect some of the classic L.A. Westcoast sound of bands like POCO and THE BUOYS (DAKOTA for the insiders among us). 1 hour of beautiful music in a small hall and it was clear that most people did enjoy it as well, because not many people left, unlike the SX performance 1 hour earlier.
The festival makes it people to see a lot of different acts and when you get tired of one performance, then you leave and go to the next venue, but as already mentioned within the Schouwburg you can stay in the same venue and jump between 2 music halls and also rest a little in the big entrance hall. A lot the visitors of the festival appreciated this and therefore didn’t leave this venue at all. Up next was JOHN GRANT, a singer/songwriter I was not familiar with, but the American musician left a great impression on me and a lot of other people after his 1 hour-performance. He settled himself in Iceland a few years ago, gathered a bunch of musicians, recorded a record and is now currently touring. Although the whole setting and feeling of the concert was rather dark and depressing at times, the diversity of the featured music is very interesting. John has got the strongest voice of the whole festival, which becomes clear as soon as he starts singing. He sounds like a cross between BONO VOX, ALFIE ZAPPACOSTA and DAVE GAHAN of DEPECHE MODE and musically it is also a combination of them, so a very 1980s inspired adventure is what you get here. However, there is an enormous diversity going on here, because John has a part pure 80s Synth Pop, a lot of Electronic Pop, some Folk moments and a few of the songs can almost be labeled as atmospheric progressive pop/rock in the style of STEVEN WILSON. The keyboards and synthesizers are very prominent during the performance, sometimes sounding very electronic and danceable a la DEPECHE MODE/NEW ORDER and did I hear those QUEEN “Radio Ga Ga” synths? While at other times sounding like a laid-back progband, with even some similarities to PORCUPINE TREE, minus the rock. One of the most surprising songs is “I wanna go to Marz”, which features a keyboard intro that is identical to the keyboard intro of the SURVIVOR classic “I’m not that man anymore”, although the rest of song is of course completely different and has little to do with SURVIVOR. It’s just that keyboard intro that is so identical and it really took me by surprise! The beauty of this festival is that you learn about acts you never heard of before and JOHN GRANT is definitely an interesting name.
Then we head over to a singer/songwriter called DAVID LEMAITRE, a German/Peruvian musician who delivers a Singer/Songwriter type show that also leaves room open for typical South American influences. Although he might not have the best voice in the world, it is a nice performance to watch. Nevertheless, it was also one of the shows that saw people going in and out very frequently, because there wasn’t any interaction with the audience and the material started to sound the same after a while. So an early departure from this gig was inevitable.
The closing act of Day 1 was a band that already achieved some fame and fortune in the music industry, although a massive break-up has not happened yet. It’s THE VEILS from the UK and New Zealand, the only rockband to perform in the Schouwburg venue and it becomes clear after a few songs that a lot of people were very keen seeing them live on stage. It seems that the band’s charismatic frontman FINN ANDREWS doesn’t feel too comfortable on stage, because there are quite a few silent moments in between the songs and besides, it’s almost impossible to understand a word he’s saying when he actually does speak. The show itself was good enough to watch from start to finish, although at the end you feel there’s something missing. The focus is on their new album ‘Time stays’, but despite that fact there isn’t a single moment during the performance where you feel that this band is finally about to become huge worldwide. Nevertheless, it is a nice closing of Day 1 of the Motel Mozaique Festival.
For some visitors, Day 2 starts in a rather unusual place, because the Music Hall of DE DOELEN was a place where people could sleep overnight and enjoy a nice breakfast. The Saturday is during the daylight the part of the festival where a lot of free-of-charge outside-activities are going on around the Schouwburgplein are in downtown Rotterdam. Not only music performances take place, but also all sorts of outdoor cultural and arts performances. This makes it a very pleasant visit for anyone who is in downtown Rotterdam during the saturday afternoon. Thankfully the weather was good enough for the outdoors, although spring itself is still far away on this cold but partly sunny afternoon. There is a nice little 3ONSTAGE where we can watch every single hour between 12 and 7 o’clock a 15-20 minutes counting performance by one of the bands that perform a full show in a venue during the evening.
I sadly missed the early performance by one of the new Dutch discoveries, MISTER AND MISSISSIPPI, but I was able to catch 3 performances in a row during the later afternoon. First a great performance by all-female American band TEEN, who play some sort of mix between quirky early 80s female wave/poprock and 60s garage Rock, kinda feeling like a cross between BLONDIE, SHANDI, SHANGHAI and THE BANGLES. “Paradise” is one of their catchy tunes, which during the evening I get to hear one more time when I pay a visit to their evening performance at the Rotown venue. The 2nd act in the outdoors is a Californian duo called THE MILK CARTONS, who feel quite uncomfortable due to the extremely cold weather, although they learned just before the performance that during their evening gig in a church there will be heating. The 2 youngsters both hold a guitar and sing together some beautiful harmonyvocals and musically speaking it is safe to say that they sound like a cross between SIMON AND GARFUNKEL and THE EVERLY BROTHERS. They have humor too, because after each song they announce that the next song will be even quieter. And the 3rd outdoors gig I witnessed was a performance by a Californian band called THE GROWLERS. Although they do not feature the world’s greatest singer and their overall sound is sounding flat and pretty dull, they have at least a high entertaining factor. Their typical Californian poses and retro hippy looks are making them the most colorful act of the day. They play light psychedelic rock that comes straight out of the late 60s San Francisco area, reminding a lot of THE DOORS and I suspect that the band was pretty stoned before they went on stage, because all the members are unable to keep their eyes at a normal mode during the performance. I’m afraid this band will be a clubact for the rest of their lives, although they are able to entertain quite a bit due to their funny looks.
After a quick dinner, it was around 8 o’clock when I entered the Corso venue, which once again was not the most atmospheric place to be, but after checking out the new album of the British band STORNOWAY recently, I was quite excited to catch them live. The sound quality was better than the night before with SX and musically speaking we were hearing some good clean fun melodic celtic pop/rock a la BIG COUNTRY, with some progrock influences and also a bit of traditional Britpop. Although at first sight it all sounded quite nice, somehow the lead vocals were not really strong. In fact, after 20 minutes the singer misses a few notes, with as result that a lot of people leave the hall and go look for other entertainment elsewhere. Funny side note is that only a few minutes earlier, the singer mentions that last night they played a double bill with LAURA MVULA in London and at the very same time STORNOWAY is playing in Rotterdam, also Laura is giving her first performance in Rotterdam (both scheduled between 8pm and 9pm). He jokes that she’s no good and everyone should stay and watch STORNOWAY, but sadly halfway the set it looks like people have chosen the watch Laura instead and that’s what I decide to do as well. Laura is the bright new hope in the music industry, where she is already marked by the BBC as 2013’s most talented female singer/songwriter, who is destined to breakthrough very soon. When entering the venue of the Schouwburg where she is playing, it becomes clear that she is indeed an amazing vocalist, because the atmosphere in the music hall is absolutely astonishing. She has just recently been discovered, but It was clear that the majority of the audience was highly impressed and despite I found out that she started 15 minutes later, I am safe to say that Laura might be the winner of the festival. The music is a mixture of Indie Soul, Jazz and Pop, with as main focus of course Laura’s voice.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist to make this evening an enjoyable 3-hour trip ‘round town in order to see as many acts as possible, so I left 10 minutes before the end of Laura’s performance, raced on my bike to the Rotown – Paradijskerk – Gouvernestraat area, where the Saturday night really felt like a classic Saturday rock and roll night. The hot new band THE STRYPES from Ireland is hyped a lot since the start of 2013 and only a few lucky ones were able to actually see them live this evening, because when I walked up the Rotown venue, there was already a long row outside. It was pretty obvious that the band was putting on a great rock and roll show inside and nobody considered leaving the place, so it was sad to conclude that I could only catch a glimpse of THE STRIPES from the outside. Thankfully down at the Gouvernestraat an interesting female fronted American band called WILD BELLE. They play 80s influenced Electronic Pop/Rock, with soulful vocals and despite the overall sound was quite heavy, the mixing board got it right this time, unlike the SX performance, so it was an enjoyable gig to watch. I only watched 15 minutes, but felt this was a band one could easily go and see for a full concert. However, I was desperate to see a concert at the lovely Paradijskerk, which is an old church that is currently being restored. The church is home to a few concerts this year and during the festival about 6 performances take place. These are almost all peaceful singer-songwriter concerts, which work very well. The performance by the legendary British producer/musician ETHAN JOHNS is quite excellent to watch. Ethan is a well-known producer in the Rockworld, with an extensive list of records he produced, including quite a few THE KILLERS albums and he is also the son of GLYN JOHNS, who produced records by LED ZEPPELIN, THE EAGLES, BAND OF HORSES and countless others. Glynn however is the brother of ANDY JOHNS, who happens to be a major producer in the 1980s Hair Metal scene (CINDERELLA, LA GUNS, AUTOGRAPH, MSG…) and little did we know that only 1 day later Ethan’s uncle Andy would sadly die at the age of 61. Anyway, during this evening show it is clear that Ethan feels very comfortable standing in front of a rather large audience (approx. 400 people were inside), because when he misses a note while playing his guitar, he apologizes, makes a joke that this never happened before and just carries on with his set, switching to an electric guitar a few times and musically speaking balancing somewhere between Southern Rock, Singer/Songwriter, Americana and a little bit of Folk. After 1 hour, with only a few people leaving their seat, I think everyone present will agree that this was an unforgettable show.
When checking the Rotown venue again, the all-female fronted band TEEN puts on a great Rock and Roll show. A lot heavier than the afternoon performance down at the Schouwburgplein square, the band now touches a lighter side of THE DONNAS and JOAN JETT, so really rocking out. The place is packed and it feels good to be at a Rockclub just a few minutes after being in a Church listening to (semi) unplugged singer-songwriter music. Due to the fact that I had already seen TEEN performing earlier in the day, I decided to head back to the Gouvernestraat and see a Canadian band called BRASSTRONAUT. Now this was a big surprise, because without any info I walked in the venue and heard a very interesting band playing a mixture of Post-Rock, atmospheric Ambient Pop, some Wave and a little Progressive Rock. RUSH meets PORCUPINE TREE meets SIGUR ROS meets THE CURE might be a possible description of this band. They sounded pretty good live on stage, with a great sound/mixboard and enough people to make it a pleasant stay. Definitely a band to watch out for in the future! Down at the Paradijskerk church once again, we can find the Dutch twin duo of TANGERINE. They put on a nice show and sound like a cross between EVERLY BROTHERS and SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, but everyone who witnessed the THE MILK CARTON KIDS show will probably feel that TANGERINE does not reach the same high level. Speaking of THE MILK CARTON KIDS, when leaving the church, the 2 musicians of that duo also leave and drag their own equipment to a car parked on the other side of the street (Nieuwe Binnenweg), which shows that during this festival the possibility to approach the musicians is quite easy.
Nevertheless I went back to the Schouwburg in order to see a Belgian band called MARBLE SOUNDS. This band is playing a mixture of smooth singer/songwriter and a little folk, but also rock quite a bit from time to time, with even some great electric JIMI HENDRIX/JEFF BACK style guitarsolo’s here and there. The female singer who joins the band a couple of times is quite good actually and so we can conclude that after the performance of this band ends at midnight, they are another surprisingly great act to catch live. A lot of people came to see WOODKID, a French musician, but sadly he was rushed to the hospital earlier this evening and so, his massive show in the big music hall of the Schouwburg was cancelled. The Dutch musician JACCO GARDNER was his replacement and after a lengthy soundcheck, Jacco was able to give away a great show as closing act of this festival. Musically speaking he balances somewhere between 60s Psychedelica/Garage, Rock and a little Progressive Rock, with PINK FLOYD and THE ZOMBIES as his main inspirations. After the show, most people go home to sleep their day away until the following Sunday afternoon, just like me, because on Monday the new working week starts again, but with a great memory about a terrific festival in your memory, the week couldn’t start better… C-Ya next year on Motel Mozaique 2014!
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