These last 12 months have been very important for Dutch music. The last year alone has seen the huge surge in popularity for the likes of Kensington, Jett Rebel and Chef’Special, who are all set to play massive shows next year. Alongside these three ‘big shots’, there’s a whole host of other Dutch bands set to reach those heights. One of these bands is the 9-piece afro funk group Jungle by Night, an Amsterdam-based instrumental collective who took festival tents by storm this summer with their energetic live show. Last night saw them play their final show of 2014 at the Paard van Troje in Den Haag to a sold out crowd of 300 people, which is intimate by their standards.
A few days ago, Dutch disco-punks Fata “el Moustache” Morgana cancelled their support slot, which meant that the whole evening started rather early. Just after 8:30pm, four of Jungle by Night’s nine members took to the stage to a dead silent crowd. These four were trumpeter Bo Floor, tenor saxophonist Pieter van Exter, trombonist Ko Zandvliet and keyboardist Pyke Pasman. As they awkwardly stood there tuning their instruments and sitting silently, the audience was wondering what one earth was going on, before the three brass players played To Sugar a Dream, the unaccompanied album closer from 2014’s The Hunt. It garnered nothing more than silent laughter from crowd members as you could feel the awkwardness grip you tightly, yet this was saved when the rest of the band joined them as they kicked into an energetic rendition of Empire. This was where it all came together nicely with a mix of jangly guitars, groove-laden bass and melodic brass encapsulating the audience completely. It was a packed crowd, yet that didn’t stop people from dancing as energetically as they could, generally with no regard for others around them. Frontman Bo Floor emphatically introduced the band as he asked the crowd for the “sound of Den Haag” before being greeted with rapturous cheers from the crowd. The double-whammy of Piranha and Cyclin’ followed, both grooving along nicely with upbeat brass and eclectic percussion which was countered nicely by Peter Pesken’s smooth bassline and Pyke Pasman’s organ-synths.
The majority of the show followed the same formula, with Jakten’s fuzzy synths and sharp riffs being an exception to the rule. It’s all very fun and danceable, there’s no doubt about that, but after a while it does end up sounding quite similar. Most songs also received the extension treatment, as some went from clocking in at 4 minutes on record to 10 minutes live. Most of the time it was done quite well, yet there were a few instances where this just went on too long, such as with Ethiopino, a slow burning track from 2012’s Hidden. The fan favourite Desdemona followed with a sharp guitar riff leading it before ambient sounding keys entered the frame alongside a funky bassline and flourishing percussion. Hannoman did much of the same with its opening synths being accompanied by a more distorted bassline and slightly chaotic drums in one of the rockier tracks of the night. The very tight brass provided some more ground to the song, and there’s definitely no denying that Jungle by Night are very good at what they do. Not only are they great instrumentalists, but they also know how to work a crowd. This was particularly evident when percussionist Gino Groeneveld got up from behind his conga’s to give the crowd dance instructions during Weapon. Starting with the legs, Groeneveld showed us his dancing skills as he got the crowd to do exactly what he was doing. He went on to show us hip movements and some fist-bumps, before combining all three moves into one upbeat dance which kicked in just as the song reached its climax. It was a really nice touch to the show, and was much better than just standing onstage and playing the songs with little to no emotion. You can see very clearly that Jungle by Night enjoy what they do, and that they do it very well. The main set closed on their “only hit”, the groove-laden afro funk banger Attila. A plucked guitar riff and bleeping synths made way for a very powerful drum & bass groove combination which ensured no one stood still. This was the moment where it all came together, where the crowd and the band fully connected with eachother. Everyone greeted the song like an old friend, before dancing along to its anthemic brass and funky bassline like there was no tomorrow. ‘Frontman’ Bo Floor led the crowd through some “yeah” chanting as the track climaxed and the band left the stage. They came back for an encore much to the satisfaction of the crowd, with Floor first asking everyone to form one massive group hug at the start of set closer E.T. It definitely worked, with the whole crowd huddled down the front before jumping up and dancing manically when the song properly kicked in. As Jungle by Night left the stage once more, it was clearly evident that we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more of these guys in the near future. It may not be the most accessible music, but it’s definitely fun. If you have the chance to see these guys live, do it. You honestly will not regret it.