10 April 2012

Incubate Scene Report: a guide to Groningen

Incubate Scene Report: a guide to Groningen

April 10, 2012

Groningen is the biggest city in the north of the Netherlands. It’s also a very lively, creative and interesting place with a strong underground scene.
The music scene in this city is diverse. There is De Oosterpoort, which has cabaret, dance, theatre, classical music and some shows from bigger artists. Vera  (photo) is a real music venue. It is located in one of the oldest buildings in the city and has had some artist play before their breakthrough, i.e. U2, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. and loads more. Vera is probably the most interesting music venue in Groningen and when you call your self the ‘Club for the International Pop Underground’ you better have something to back it up, and they do. By having three to four concerts a week, booking international artists as well as a lot of national bands, organising dance-nights and every Saturday night they have downstage concerts. These downstairs concerts are mostly free and have a lot of focus on smaller bands. A fun read is the story about the legendaryHives afterparty, which makes me jealous to not have been there.

There also is Simplon, a smaller venue that has both smaller international and national artists playing. Some bars and café’s that have music and art are Kult and O’CeallaighORKZ is a bar/cinema/old-squat, which once was the biggest squat place in the whole of The Netherlands. Nowadays they host music events, art expositions, play movies and there are also people living in the building. Viadukt is a rehearsal space that is also used for concerts.
If you’re looking for something more dance-oriented you should check out Subsonic , located on Groningen’s Grote Markt. This club goes on ‘till early in the morning and offers techno, dubstep, drum ‘n bass and much, much more.
Even more interesting is probably all the activity and initiatives that are started by people all around the city. There seems to be a small group of people involved to represent almost every kind of music/art/community.
Wishfulmusic is an initiative by Wouter de Boer, Laurens Dijkstra and Ralph Rietveld. They organise intimate shows in living rooms and other cozy locations around Groningen. The organisation focuses on folk, singer-songwriter and acoustic music. Not too long ago they started the Groningen Songwriters Guild. Here songwriters from Groningen get together to share ideas and songs.
In Groningens ‘underground’ scene there is happening a lot happening. Owsum, for example, is a platform and art-collective by like-minded locals. Together they organise concerts, expositions and other events.

They organise a lot of interesting events in Vera, Vespro, Simplon and loads of other locations. In 2010 they organised Scenery (photo), a musical event in the Grand Theatre, where they created different ‘sceneries’ for every band to play in. This year they will bring this back. On the 22th of April with San Francisco drone artist Barn Owl and Teen Radiation, a project by Incubate’s very own Vincent Koreman.
Lepel Concerts is a project run by Ike de Zeeuw, Ruben Walraven and Marinke Kerkhoff. These youngsters put on shows almost every month, trying to give interesting bands a place to play and promote new and unknown music to a new audience. Ike and Ruben also play in Wolvon, our second band to play at Incubate Scene Report on April 26th. Lepel worked together with Subroutine Records to organise Subroutine & Lepel Care, an independent showcase festival that had a lot of bands from Groningen (and other places).
Betontegel is a festival for experimental art and music and is held in different locations throughout Groningen. They have a heavy focus on noise and really experimental/weird stuff. KopjeK  is a creative platform that gives techno-parties on unique locations and has a lot of focus on creativity. They combine art, visuals, and weird clothes with a dance party.
For more regular music programming Fifteen Minutes is a very interesting initiative. They host events in Groningen and Leeuwarden every month, where 6 to 8 bands get their fifteen minutes of fame. They register these shows on photos and film, so you have your own promotional package.
Surrounding Lepel, Subroutine and Vera there are some louder/garagerock/noisy bands. When I asked Marinke from Lepel what she thought was the ‘Groningen’ sound she answered: “I like to think that it’s a bit raw/garagerock/noisy, but to be honest, there are also a lot of (mediocre) popbands and singersongwriters. Typical ‘Groningen’ is a not-too-polished sound. Vera is probably the centre of the Groningen music scene and they always gave room to ramshackle/punkbands.”
Bands such as the previously named Wolvon  a three-piece who released the impressive EP ‘Comfort’ onSubroutine Records at the end of last year. Their sound is energetic, frantic, noisy and they’re sure to give an impressive live performance. Labelmates Vox Von Braun (Incubate 2008) make heavily ‘90’s inspired alternative rock. Svetkoff Lamps sound dissonant and noisy. It does sound a lot like Sonic Youth, but that doesn’t matter since the music itself still manages to impress and set them apart in the music scene.  Be sure to check out Sexton Creeps, a collective of musicians who create beautiful experimental songs.
Incubate 2010 artist Traumahelikopter is a real garage-rock band. That fits in nicely with recent upcoming bands as Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, etc.

A lot of the underground scene is surrounding the art school/scene in Groningen. Like Duizend a solo-project by artist Gijs Deddens , who also works for Owsum and runs the Lekkerkut Platenmaatschappij. The sound is really ambient, but gets darker and more aggressive from time to time. Gijs also plays in Vakantie, improvisational electronic music, more up-tempo and techno. Earth Control, who are playing Incubate Scene Report this month, also released their material on Lekkerkut Platenmaatschappij. The duo has its own weird mix of garage-punk and electro and is often compared to Digital Leather. More interesting bands/projects from this scene are Loud Squirt (Incubate 2011) and Electriciteit is Onze Hobby. It seems to be a tightly knit network of people who know each other and work in different forms and projects. Interesting but also hard to dissect.
Also check out some of the other experimental stuff like Kasper van Hoek. He builds his own electronic instruments on which he makes songs and also collaborates with other artists, such as Sexton Creeps.
In the noise-genre you also have Obsolete Office Equipment and Under Milk Wood,who are more ambient-noise, with some sparse instrumentation and a minimalistic approach.
There is also a scene of bands and artist whom are more folk, acoustic and songwriter orientated. One example is Town of Saints a folk band who stand out thanks to their use of fiddle. Zwaar Licht is a band that stands out because their music sounds folk, but it’s mostly instrumental with a minimal use of vocals. Soothing pieces that are not afraid to take an unexpected turn.
Groningen has strong ties with the Academie voor Popcultuur in Leeuwarden. A lot of students come from, or live in Groningen. Bands as Eklin, Adept, Bonne Aparte, Woud, The Black Atlantic, Kim Janssen, all come from the music scene in Groningen.
Groningen seems to be a city that, because of it’s isolation, takes matters in it’s own hands. They set up amazing shows, create platforms and interesting projects that are unique and gain attention from the local scene. It’s a scene that is tightly connected and covers a large spectrum of musical genres. To best explain this I will quote Merlijn Poolman, owner of nightclub Subsonic, from some questions he answered me by e-mail: “The connection between people who go to parties and organise things in all different kinds of scenes, but still know each other somehow. There is a friendly vibe with a lot of cooperation to set-up beautiful initiatives together.”
Once again there is too much to put into one report. So please add any things you miss in the comments. We try to put together a list of active bands and musicians in the Dutch music scene; you can post recommendations here. I have put up the list I currently have for Groningen. So if you miss anything, feel free to add it.
Feel free to visit the next Incubate Scene Report
26 April 2012 – Cul de Sac, Tilburg
With: Earth Control + Wolvon
Free entrance