Access 2 Amsterdam: Day 2
by Bob Pomeroy
A2A NOTEBOOK: Under One Roof
One The Melkweg (Milky Way in Dutch) is one of the prime music venues in Amsterdam. Originally built as a dairy, the building was converted into an arts center in the late 1960’s. When you go to the Melkweg today, you’ll find two large concert halls on the main floor, along with an art gallery and a café. One floor up you’ll find a video theater. Two floors up you’ll find two smaller theaters. If you go to the Melkweg on at the right time, you’ll find more going on under one roof than in some cities. Thursday,
October 18th was one of these night with Access 2 Amsterdam showcases running in four theaters simultaneously. The Melkweg showcases were on Thursday also gave a good sampling of the variety of music presented at the conference.
The festivities started early with a special performance by Carabao. A Dutch reporter told me that all of the Thai restaurants in Amsterdam were closed for the afternoon. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly seemed possible. Carabao have been huge in Thailand since the 1970’s and the hall was packed with adoring fans who knew the words to all their songs. Musically, Carabao called to mind an Asian version of Santana. Watching the band’s Thai fans was almost as interesting as watching the band. At the end of the show, I experienced something like a scene from A Hard Days Night. When the band came out to sign autographs, I was caught up in a tidal wave of screaming Thai women surging toward their heroes.
As Carabao were signing autographs, the Women in Music Showcase was getting underway upstairs in the theaters and the Loud Music Showcase was setting up in the other main floor hall. I headed upstairs for to see the women.
First up were a Dutch band called Fairocious. Vocalist Dorona has a powerful voice and a sultry stage presence. Monique provides tasteful pop jazz piano backing. At the time, I thought they were simply a pleasant pop band who would have trouble finding a market for their music. I came to appreciate just how original their style is when I saw some other performers attempt the same sort of thing far less successfully.
Next up was Gena Dry (see related story in the features section). Gena performed solo on guitar and borrowed piano because her band wasn’t able to make the trip. Stripped to their bare essentials, Gena delivered a set of emotionally raw songs highlighted by her composition “Change,” which she announced as her personal reaction to the events of September 11th. Days later, the song was still echoing in my head.
I popped over to the folky side of the Women in Music showcase to check out Kris Wilkinson and Laura Love. Kris Wilkinson is an American now living in the UK. She delivered a nice set of country tinged folk songs backed by bassist Joe Hughes. Kris was followed by Seattle native, Laura Love. Love is has been described as playing Afro-Celtic folk funk. The bass player’s tunes are energetic and unapologetically fun. I went back downstairs and caught a few tunes by the Belgian techno band Buscemi. The group consisted of live drums and bass with electronics and the occasional jazz trumpet solo. I didn’t stay too long because I wanted to check out Priya Thomas who was starting in a few minuets upstairs.
Priya Thomas burned down the house! The Canadian singer is a small woman of Southern India heritage with incredible stage presence. Billing herself a girl with guitar and beatbox, Priya performed on guitar with her loops and samples replacing a band. It looked like Priya was delivering her songs using every fiber of her being. Her body moved in a cross between Jaggeresque strut and temple dancer. Her music is powerful rock in the mode of bands like the Pixies inexorable twined with India nuances. The music is like Priya herself ; Western but with an Eastern character that cannot be set aside or ignored.
Watching Priya Thomas, I thought the world would be a better place if everyone had a chance to witness this performance. When asked later who I was most impressed by, I told anyone who would listen that it was Priya Thomas.
The Belgian band Eden had the unenviable position of following Priya on stage. The six piece band is unique in having two women sharing lead vocal duties. Sofie and Nathalie are both impressive singers. Most band would be thrilled to have either one, but the tandem action of these two singers was quite something. Their set of energetic pop tunes was a good way to wrap up the evening.
As I walked back to my hotel, I pondered the incredibly high caliber of the performers I’d seen at A2A thus far. I really hadn’t seen anything that I would call bad and I’d seen quite a few performers that I was really excited about. What would the rest of the confrence have to offer.
Let me end by giving you links to the websites of bands mentioned in Parts 1 and 2 of this report on Access to Amsterdam.
Marian Hoiting: www.vanengelenburgtheater.nl/stal/hoiting.html
S. M. Mongstad: www.s-m-mongstad.dk
Arling and Cameron: www.xs4all.nl/~drive
Gene Dry: www.genadry.com
Priya Thomas: www.priyathomas.com
Kris Wilkinson: www.kriswilkinson.com
Laura Love: www.lauralove.net
For more information on A2A and music in general, check out www.kindamuzik.net