After four absolutely jam-packed days, Eurosonic Noorderslag has finally come to an end. It’s been another successful year for the Dutch showcase festival, attracting 42,700 visitors across four days, including 4,135 music industry professionals. With 342 of Europe’s most promising acts appearing on 52 stages in and around the centre of Groningen, Eurosonic once again saw itself serve as the most important showcase festival this side of the ocean. All Things Loud spent the entire four days trekking around the Dutch city to discover exactly who looks set to make it big in 2019, and here are our thoughts collated in one convenient Top 15.
15 VAN COMMON
Eurosonic Noorderslag’s final day is centred solely on national talent, with Van Common undoubtedly the freshest of the lot. The Popronde 2018 alumni – real name Sebastiaan van Ravenhorst – sounds like the younger brother of Cigarettes After Sex’s Greg Gonzalez, had Gonzalez himself grown up in the cold and misty Netherlands. With just five songs and a short spell of live shows to his name, Van Common hadn’t given the outside world a lot to go by when he took to the stage at Noorderslag on Saturday, but he pulled off the near-impossible in attracting an almost full entry hall as one of the night’s first performances. Think dreamy bedroom pop mixed in with elements of psychedelic pop, turned up to eleven.
14 KITA MENARI
Each year, Noorderslag produces at least one Dutch artist who amounts for so much buzz that their presence on the country’s big stages becomes increasingly unavoidable. Last year this was EUT, and this year you wouldn’t be surprised if it was Kita Menari. Born out of a near-death experience while diving on holiday in Malaysia, the Micha-fronted Kita Menari operate on an untouchable wavelength with their sickly sweet mix of raw indie rock and energetic dream pop. It’s a combination which sounds as successful on paper as it does on the big stage, and the band’s show at Noorderslag was perfect testament to this. 2019’s going to be a big year for Kita Menari, and it’s only just getting started…
13 BOY AZOOGA
One, Two, Kung Fu! is exactly the kind of title you’d expect from band who sound as lively and quirky as Welsh indie rockers Boy Azooga. It thus shouldn’t come as a surprise that the songs which comprise their debut offering have allowed them to become one of the UK’s hottest prospects in recent months. In front of a packed Huize Maas, Davey Newington and co. transformed a room full of industry executives into everyone’s ideal house party, complete with indie funk tunes, strobe lights and a sense of effortless youthfulness which the UK indie scene has missed for a while. In a world where people are taking themselves far too seriously, it’s nice to see a band like Boy Azooga break the mould and take everyone with them.
12 THOMAS AZIER
Thomas Azier is about as international as most Dutch artists come nowadays. The electropop stalwart moved to Germany at the age of 19, fully absorbing the Berlin scene and incorporating it into his dark blend of industrial synths and exquisite pop hooks. Taking to the stage like a returning hero during Noorderslag, Azier and his band decided to take the low route, bordering on the subtle while injecting pompous instrumental passages in all the right places. New album Stray – his third – is his mission statement, a defining collection of music which sees Azier finally come to terms with the power of his own music. His stage show reflected this for the duration of some 45 minutes, all of which were as captivating as each other.
11 PENELOPE ISLES
The beautiful thing about Eurosonic Noorderslag is that there’s so much wonderful stuff going on which you’ll be absolutely unaware of until the moment it actually happens. Penelope Isles‘ set in the well-hidden Der Aa-Kerk served as one of these things, with the UK indie slackers slowly but surely filling a room of industry executives over the course of their forty minute set. Fronted by Lily and Jack Wolter, the Brighton quartet have already got a big year ahead of them with the release of their debut record on Bella Union. Their Eurosonic set explored every corner of the DIY-centric indie world, highlighting their well-worn ability to mix hazy shoegaze with bedroom pop and the occasional energetic moment. As the show came to a close in front of an eventually packed room, you could suggest that Penelope Isles may well grow into one of Eurosonic’s biggest success stories.
Although you probably aren’t aware of it yourself, Pavvla is quite a big deal back home in Spain. Starting out as an actress in the popular TV show La Riera, Pavvla (real name Paula Jornet) has grown to embracing music, releasing two studio albums and racking up millions upon million of streams in her home country. Sophomore album secretly hoping you catch me looking places lofty emphasis on minimalist beats, soothing vocals and a sense of sonic comfort which you don’t hear often. Live the album truly comes to life, as was demonstrated during her mesmerising show at the intimate Doopsgezinde Kerk. Jornet and her two live accomplices managed to keep a sparse crowd in the palm of their hands with little difficulty, climaxing on the stellar Dance Alone and other highlights from across her brief career. The crowd may have been slightly sparse (an out of the way venue does that to some artists, sadly), but the show was far from disappointing.
9 THE SLOW READERS CLUB
Every now and then, a band comes along who blow all expectations out of the water. The Slow Readers Club are one of these bands, totally not matching the description of your average Eurosonic booking: young, inexperienced and with a small back catalogue. In the case of this Mancunian quartet you could tell from the moment they took to the stage that experience and quality are things they certainly don’t lack or need to work on. Kicking off on the vitriolic Lunatic, Aaron Starkie and co. kept the crowd in the palm of their hands from start to finish, employing a buzzing mix of stadium-worthy alternative rock which took its cues from Kasabian at their laddiest and Editors at their most experimental. A match made in heaven, you could say. With three studio albums to their name and countless successes back home, it looks like 2019 is the year that this translates into even more success across the pond.
8 QUEEN ZEE
There’s no way that you’re going to be able to avoid the rise of Queen Zee in 2019. The Zena Devine fronted quintet are not afraid of putting themselves out there, operatic on a radio-ready wavelength of frenetic, fuzz-laden garage rock and ferocious indie punk. The Liverpool band have been tipped by everyone from Iggy Pop to Liam Gallagher (“only Scousers could make this”), with their self-titled debut album due on 8 February via their own Sasstone Records. The quintet’s set at Groningen’s Huis de Beurs on Eurosonic’s opening night served as a perfect introduction to what this band is all about, aka crazy riffs, boundless energy and untameable swagger. There aren’t many (if any at all) bands around right now who can do what Queen Zee can, so keep your eyes peeled for an undoubtedly massive year.
7 FOR I AM KING
Heavier bands tend to find themselves rather underrepresented at Eurosonic Noorderslag, which puts even more pressure on the small quota of heavy groups that do get booked to put on a good show. Dutch heavyweights For I Am King seemed to have no issue with this, transforming one of De Oosterpoort’s mundane meeting rooms into the showcase equivalent of a sweltering club in the deepest, darkest depths of underground Amsterdam. Frontwoman Alma Alizadeh is an absolute force to be reckoned with, strutting her stuff onstage and leaving no stone unturned in the process. Metalcore might not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds in this day and age, but with a band like For I Am King doing their thing (and doing that well), this might change sooner rather than later.
6 THE VICES
The Growlers and The Strokes form a brand new band, but what do they sound like? Groningen’s very own The Vices are probably as close as you’re ever going to get to an answer for that hypothetical question, performing only their third ever show at the intimate Drie Gezusters bar in the centre of the city on Wednesday evening. Frontman Floris van L, bassist Simon Bleeker and drummer Mathijs Louwsma previously went under the moniker Ten Years Today, ditching it in favour of The Vices at the end of 2018. With the name change comes a completely new catalogue of music, including wavy debut single So It Goes (due 15 February). The band’s new live show demonstrates their ability to mix silky sweet Growlers-esque melodies with the urgency of Julian Casablancas and Anthony Kiedis, promising a big year for the band if they play their cards right. Their first two shows last week saw them support Yungblud, so it’s safe to say that they’re already off to a good start…
Belgium has seen a resurgence in cutting-edge rap and hip hop coming to the forefront, and blackwave. are most certainly leading the way. The Antwerp-based collective have been burning up the national scene for the best part of two years now, hitting an early peak on the David Ngyah collaboration Elusive, a track which has racked up some five million streams to date. However, it’s on standout track Whasgood?! where we hear exactly what blackwave. are all about – tight rhythms, solid beats and a tangible sense of vocal brotherhood from fronting duo Will and Jay. During both of the band’s shows at Eurosonic the Belgians demonstrated exactly why they’re on the tips of everyone’s tongues, burning down the house at Sony’s own showcase party before putting on a barnstorming performance at Huize Maas a day later. If blackwave. don’t make it big this year, then something has gone terribly wrong.
Last week we described Cassia as the kind of band who could start a house party in an empty room. The Mancunian band have a knack for turning any room into a space where the only rule is to have fun, doing exactly that during Eurosonic in front of a near-packed News Café. With plenty of new music on show during their set, Rob Ellis and co. managed to keep the intimate basement venue on their feet for the best part of forty minutes. Set highlight 100x Over saw the set reach an upbeat climax, incorporating tropical rhythms and summery guitars alongside Ellis’ radio-friendly, smooth vocals. With new music on the horizon this year, it’s safe to say that Cassia have got an incredibly bright future ahead of them.
3 BLACK MIDI
How do you deal with a band when their only recorded output thus far consists of impossibly secretive live recordings and just one single? Easy, you latch on to the absolutely justified hype which surrounds their every waking movement. London’s black midi have little out there in the big wide musical world right now, but it hasn’t stopped absolutely everyone from hyping them up whenever possible. Standout tracks Ducter and bmbmbm both stood out during the quartet’s jam-packed set at Vera, a show which produced queues which stretched out all the way down the road into Groningen’s main market square. Hype can go both ways, but in black midi’s case it looks like it’ll only grow.
2 THE MURDER CAPITAL
In 2017 we had Shame, and in 2018 we had IDLES, but which ferocious post-punk band will reign supreme in 2018? Three words: The Murder Capital. The Dublin quintet initially made a name for themselves on the back of a sole live recording, releasing their debut single (the impeccable Feeling Fades) just over a week ago to unsurprising critical acclaim. Also unsurprising was the line to get into their show at Huis de Beurs last week, one which saw frontman James and his band stagger across stage while giving the crowd their absolutely ferocious all. There’s something quite spectacular about the grimacing look in James’ eyes which adds to the already grim undertones of the Dublin band’s live performances, so when more new music finally makes itself known over the course of 2019 it should be nothing short of exciting. Don’t even dare consider passing on this band, because you’ll be kicking yourself if you do.
1 SPORTS TEAM
There was only ever really going to be one winner, now, wasn’t there? The ambitious, larger-than-life Sports Team are undoubtedly going to be the UK’s biggest success story this year, something largely indebted to the charismatic and charming Alex Rice, a truly unique frontman. Plenty of new bands who take to the stage at Eurosonic remain relatively silent and let their music do the talking, but oh no, not Alex Rice. He spent as much time as possible between songs entertaining a packed Huis de Beurs with stories about Ashton Kutcher, almost becoming a Cricketer and the two-word vocabulary he picked up while living in The Hague. Debut EP Winter Nets was one of 2018’s best released, with the band performing all five songs during their forty minute show alongside recent singles Margate and Kutcher (plus two unreleased cuts). Set highlight Stanton brought the night to a raucous end as Rice descended into the midst of the crowd, leaving his bandmates (including comically stone faced keyboardist Ben) to revel in their own glories during the track’s momentous end. Sports Team have always dreamt big, and with Eurosonic successfully out of the way it looks like the time has come to make these dreams fully-fledged realities.
Eurosonic Noorderslag returns in 2019.