So, another year is drawing to a close, and I have attended a very small amount of gigs. I seem to have reached a point where I would much rather be indoors with a nice cup of tea rather than be out, y’know, having fun and all that, although I was lucky enough to see utterly spellbinding performances by The Space Lady and Haiku Salut. Half the problem is the expense and the other is that because I have an anxiety condition, I don’t like to be doing one thing for very long, as a result I tend to want to leave after about half an hour of a performance. My favourite gigs are ones that finish nice and early or where all sets are ridiculously short, I know, I sound like a right laugh.
Because of this, festivals are basically my worst nightmare, so I have only attended a few, usually switching off about 7 hours before the thing actually finishes. It becomes an exercise in endurance and tolerance. However, the lure of seeing one of my favourite artists Lekiddo – Lord of the Lobsters!” in Rotterdam, one of my favourite cities, was enough for me and my wife to book a last minute trip over the English Channel to attend the Ver uit de Maat Festival. It took place at Worm, a really excellent venue which I was lucky enough to play at roughly this time last year. It has a great little bar which serves great cheap food as well as a drink called Wostok, which, much like last year, I consumed my body weight in. I’m not sure what is in it but never have I tasted a more wonderful beverage, I’m just glad there is a body of water between
me and it as I would surely hospitalise myself from over consumption.
I should point out now that all of the pictures in this review are bloody terrible……..
So yeah, basically, with my condition, I constantly experience high levels of anxiety and as a result depression, but as I have had this since for over half my life now, I seem to have developed a sadistic attitude towards it and tend to do things that are basically the opposite of what I want to be ideally doing. Like when I was walking towards the plane I had that familiar “why the hell am I doing this to myself again?” thought. It was then that I had a ghostly apparition, it was Lekiddo, hovering in the air above me, and then I remembered, I was doing all this for the lobster love.
Rotterdam is bloody wonderful, a very modern city but it still has bucket-loads of charm, and it has a really great vibe about it, a positive and progressive attitude resonates wherever I go. It also seems that a metric fuck tonne of money is pumped into the arts scene as well. The VUDM Festival is curated by two awesome people, Niek Hilkmann and Mariette Groot.
I met Niek as he programmed Floppy Totaal, the event I played last year, he is also an excellent musician in his own right and well worth checking out. At the time Mariette ran the Worm Shop, an in house record store which now exists online here – http://underbelly.nu/ http://underbelly.nu/ She was responsible for one of the most awesome record shop experiences I have had, endlessly helpful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. On the day of the festival Mariette ran a small pop up shop where I was handed a great magazine called “FAKE”, well worth a read!
I met Niek the day before the fest and he very kindly showed us around Rotterdam’s Natural History Museum, which is incredible, where I got to see a victim of the “Homosexual Necrophiliac Duck”. I was then treated to a lovely traditional Dutch Christmas Concert.
Anyway, where VUDM truly excelled was that it appealed tremendously to my ideal gig set up, as every artist had roughly a 20-25 min set and as it was on multiple stages, there were no changeover times, which means it is incredibly difficult to get bored. We arrived as it started, having enjoyed one of the incredible burgers at Ter Marsch & Co. opposite and I was instantly enamoured by the fact there seemed to be an endless supply of these lovely iced biscuits available, although I can’t for the life of me remember what they are called. The event was hosted by an incredibly dapper looking gentleman called Jacco, who also happened to be in the first band of the day, Rotterdam natives, Moonflower Warrior.
The sharp suited Jacco arrived in a haze of smoke alongside his bandmate Xenia and treated us to an incredibly varied and deep textured performance. Ritualism clashed with retro-futurism, as Casio drones were complimented by wailing, strong vocals followed by discordant stabs of guitar. It was a very enjoyable performance, Xenia’s vocals are very powerful and at times unsettling, which only adds to the theatre of suspense and unease. An ideal bad to start the day, as they were in a lot of ways very lo-fi but this didn’t seem to impact on the epic scope of their ambitions.
Next up were The Asses who I also believe are a local band.
They were great fun, very straightforward driving rhythms infused their fuzzy noisy pop. There is a distinct feel of American slacker rock stylings about them but this quickly gives way to lounge-esque numbers, with some brilliant organ action, closely followed by a funky disco influenced number. What is great about them is that it all feels like it might fall apart at any time, such is the casual nature of their playing, but at no point does this occur, it very loose, fun and unpretentious.
He is a whistling sensation, truly unique and I can feel the jealously of my YIKIS colleagues seeping from every pore as I sit down stage front and centre to take in his performance, and what a performance it was. I have always been confused when I watch old videos of The Beatles and see the hysterical reactions of the audience, but having seen Henry play, I think I understand a little more. Henry treats us to whistled versions of our favourite hits, complete with midi backing tracks. Hello, Yesterday, Ob-La-Di, You Lift Up My Senses and many more are given the Henry treatment, and I love every minute of it. He comes across as very honest and is clearly serious about his whistling craft, which only further endears me to him. By the time he pulls out a comedy cow for the finale (he can whistle on anything) the deal is sealed. Here is me and my stupid face next to him, I think this picture might showcase me at my most genuine happiest, he is my hero and it nearly made the trip over worthwhile single-handedly –
How do you follow that? With some good old fashioned Dutch Country music of course, courtesy of Ongeregeld. This is great, straightforward good time blues infused country rock’n’roll. One word that repeatedly seems to come to mind for me during this festival is “unpretentious” and this can apply to Ongeregeld in spades. They seem to be having a great time and this transfers itself to the audience and it’s a genuine delight to be treated to an entirely different genre of music to that I would usually choose.
I went through a stage a while back where I pretty much exclusively listened to noise, but I know seem to have settled on anything fun and poppy. Sleep Gunner straddle this mix rather nicely, as they rattle through a set of frazzled noisy country esque music. They exclusively play covers of 50s duo The Louvin Brothers, who I must confess I know nothing of but if you can imagine some freaked out, wired, noise infused finger-picking guitar work, you are more or less there
Next up was another standout act for me, Mr Marcaille, who was, quite frankly, mind-blowing and it signalled yet another twist in genres as he offers his one man in just his pants hardcore thrash metal awesomeness. Most definitely one of the most impressive acts I have seen in recent memory, made all the more impressive by the fact that this incredibly rich, full noise is being created by a cello and two base drums. It genuinely sounds like there is a number of musicians up there, such is the richness and complexity of his sound and he is probably the best metal act I have seen live and it really blew me away. He also manages to spit very high up in the air and catch it in his mouth again, what more could you ask for?
I have to admit, by this point, I am incredibly tired and anxious, starting to get the feeling that I need to escape, I’m pretty amazed that I got this far actually but I steal myself because up next is Enrico de Profeet, who was one of the acts I was looking forward to seeing, and he doesn’t disappoint. His set is totally air punchingly awesome, an absolute triumph and he commands the stage and audience like the pop star that he is, the crowd is adoring and he works them tremendously. His day job involves showing people around his hometown of Charleroi and when he is not doing this, he channels higher powers, including American presidents like Ronald Reagan. This gets projected in the form of super slick and insanely infectious disco and I’m left wondering why Enrico isn’t a superstar, but of course, I realise, he already is.
At this point, cabin fever has well and truly set in, so we escape to the streets of Rotterdam in search of some mighty fine pizza. I don’t know if it’s the high standard of entertainment I have enjoyed influencing me but the city looks particularly beautiful tonight, and a slow walk by the canal, as well as some delicious ice cream is a real treat.
We return to the venue just in time for M&M who are really great fun. They are pretty much a Worm house band, featuring people whom are involved at the venue, and the duo offer up an excellent sound of super upbeat chip pop. It is a delight to get lost in a virtual world of square waves, infectious beats and samples, bringing to mind a poppier AK/DK, this is video game music of the most
There is no escaping it though, I feel like utter shit. It’s at this point I would usually make my excuses and leave but having come all this way and lasting most of the day, I can’t miss out on the reason I made this trip. The final act of the day is Lekiddo – Lord of the Lobsters! who I was deemed to be Audi Prozac™ and this is probably the best way to describe him.
I can be having a harrowing day of depression and by simply watching one of his videos, it helps to remind me that actually, life isn’t so bad after all. I have been desperate to see one of his live shows for a while but alas, he often only performs at festivals, and we all know how I feel about them by now. He is every bit as wonderful as I had hoped, Lekiddo quite literally bursts with joy and energy, like he actually looks like he might explode with positivity. And then it happened again, all of my symptoms slowly started to evaporate, the nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, all started to go, as I was too infected by the joy and love of Lekiddo. His disco pop is quite simply joyous, and ludicrously catchy, these are more than just earworms, they straight up climb in and infect your brain for ever after. He constantly implores us to show him our claws and I even dance, well, I say dance, it is akin to a clumsy chimp who has accidently left the coat-hanger in his shirt and is trying to retrieve it. A true force of nature, Lekiddo is special, and should be treasured by all, as he so often reminds us, be sure to spread the word of the Lobster Love. Again, here is my stupid face looking stupidly happy with the man himself, the world legend is overused but he is genuinely deserving of that title.
With that, I went off into the night, returning to my easyhotel completely blissed out by the experience. It was a wonderful day, I was treated to such a wide variety of incredible performances, and in such lovely environs. It had such a great atmosphere, completely lacking in pretence and judgement, it was just a collection of nice people, enjoying each-others company and performing great, honest music, I felt free of a lot of my hang ups and was able to relax and have a good time. Same time next year?
Visit the event page for not terrible photos – https://www.facebook.com/events/1685082361777031/