“The best thing you’ve never heard”. That’s how Rotterdam’s Metropolis Festival has billed itself in order to become one of the most exciting “discovery” festivals in Holland. Once a year, the harbour city’s Zuiderpark opens its doors to tens of thousands of music fans in a free event which features the best national and international newcomers. This year, the festival is headlined by Australian breakthrough sensations Jagwar Ma, alongside American duo Twenty One Pilots. All Things Loud went down to Rotterdam to bring you coverage of the event.
So what’s the deal with Metropolis? There are three stages (four if you include the incredibly small Dutch talent stage), two of which are tents and one of which is a small, waterside open air stage. Everything runs up until the meagre time of 9pm, before the organisers regroup and head for the Rotown Bar in town for an afterparty. With the day starting at 1pm sharp, there are 21 bands on throughout the day, all supposedly the “best things we’ve never heard”. This is certainly evident when Dutch-quintet AFTERPARTEES take to the Garden Stage for a 30-minute set to an average-sized crowd. Their Garage-meets-indie rock is similar to the likes of The Vaccines and Palma Violets, with a slightly rawer edge to it. Debut single First/Last closed the set, in a tense moment which saw the band rapidly speed up the song upon discovering they had two minutes left to play. Despite playing a tight set (with a brand new drummer), the crowd didn’t seem awfully receptive, save for a handful of individuals who unsuccessfully attempted to start a circle pit mid-show. This is one of the drawbacks of a free festival such as Metropolis, the crowds. A majority of the crowd was of extremely heavy metal nature, which was slightly odd considering there was no metal on the bill. It did lead to some interesting pits during certain bands, but for the most part it did lead to extremely stagnant crowds during certain acts.
The Sore Losers followed in the Thinkers tent, with the Belgian-quartet playing an extremely well-received mix of blues rock, garage and classic rock. Frontman Jan Straetemans had plenty of energy and kept the crowd perfectly on their toes during the likes of Girl’s Gonna Break It and Gold. London’s Woman’s Hour, on the other hand, performed a very laid-back and subdued set over in the Workers tent. Playing their first show with a brand new drummer, the five-piece played songs from their upcoming debut album, such as new single Her Ghost and its accompanying A-Side, I Need You. With a sound very similar to that of The XX, Woman’s Hour are the first band today who really look like they could make a real impression in the future music scene.
Back in the Thinkers tent, the London trend continued with The Bohicas and their punchy post-punk riffs. Set highlight XXX showed how the group are definitely a band to watch for the future, with plenty of promise in their music. Following this, Bear’s Den took to the stage in the Workers Tent to perform their eclectic mix of Mumfors & Sons-esque folk rock. Featuring a cover of Drake’s Hold On, We’re Going Home, the trio (featuring an extra member on keyboard duties) proved why folk rock is ever rising in today’s saturated music market. The Jezabels’ then brought their indie pop to the Thinkers tent, featuring the likes of Time to Dance and The Brink, from the Australian groups’ debut album of the same name.
So far, the day had trudged along slowly but surely, with the music either being very subdued, laid-back and poppy (Woman’s Hour, Bear’s Den & The Jezabels) or very punchy and upbeat (AFTERPARTEES, The Bohicas & The Sore Losers). By the time that Australian thrash pop duo DZ Deathrays took to the stage, that all changed. The Shane Parsons-fronted maniacs opened their set with the powerful No Sleep (from 2012’s debut album, Bloodstreams), before going into the super energetic and heavy Cops Capacity. Their set drew from both Bloodstreams and the duo’s second album, Black Rat. With Black Rat’s more polished and thought through sound, the band required an extra guitarist to help them pull of newer songs. The penultimate song in the set, Reflective Skull, showed off a dancier vibe to the duo before Gina Works at Hearts encited a massive circle pit filled with everyone from metalheads, to hipsters and the elderly. DZ Deathrays are by no means hardcore metal, but their thrash pop certainly proved for the craziest moments of the day so far. By the time Black Rat is released on European shores in August, Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley will have a whole new monster on their hands, ready to destroy venues around the continent.
Hot Chip side-project New Build followed DZ Deathrays in the Workers Tent, with its Caribou-esque psychedelic neo-rave proving fantastic as the crowd completely lost themselves to the trio’s music. Featuring Hot Chip’s Felix Martin and Al Doyle, as well as percussionist Joy Leah Joseph, the music seemed a perfect sub-headliner for what was to come from Jagwar Ma later in the evening. Before the Jono Ma-fronted trio took the stage, though, it was time for Twenty One Pilots to take to the Thinkers tent in a set which was delayed by 30 minutes. The balaclava-clad duo took to the stage just before 8pm, opening with a rampant rendition of Vessel’s Guns for Hands, before vocalist Tyler Joseph turned his balaclava into a beanie as they went into the emotional Holding On To You. Joseph used this song as an opportunity to launch himself into the crowd, with the fangirl-filled crowd supporting him as he stood on their hands. As he got back onstage, drummer Josh Dun launched himself atop Joseph’s piano in order to pull off a perfectly timed backflip onto the stage floor. Tons of teenage girls then proceeded to literally scream their hearts out to ukulele-led House of Gold, before the rest of the set featured the likes of Car Radio and Addict With a Pen. One moment in the set even saw Dun’s drum riser being carried across the front rows, with him still drumming on top of it. Twenty One Pilots are already on the way to being massive in Holland, with their rap-meets-indie pop and extremely exciting live show being a perfect formula for thousands of fans across the country.
With Twenty One Pilots a hard act to beat, it was then up to Jagwar Ma to rock a slightly empty Workers Tent. Opening their psychedelia-laden set with What Love, from debut album Howlin’, Jono Ma’s hypnotic voice perfectly complemented Gabriel Winterfield’s fledgling beats and Jack Freeman’s pulsating bass. Uncertainty saw Freeman grooving onstage, with the crowd following suit as they lost themselves in the Australian’s powerful dance beats and jangly guitars, a combination perfectly pulled off during Let Her Go, which saw the whole crowd bouncing once the bass came in. Extended set closer The Throw was a final moment for the crowd to go crazy, as Metropolis Festival 2014 came to an end.
As the festival finished up, it was evident that Metropolis Festival 2014 was a great success. Magnificent sets from Twenty One Pilots and Jagwar Ma closed the day off in style, as the likes of New Build, DZ Deathrays and Bear’s Den provided other fantastic discoveries. With music today becoming more and more saturated, and with new bands being harder to discover, festivals such as Metropolis and London Calling are the first port of call for great music entering Holland. Here’s to an exciting future of new music!
For more pictures from Metropolis Festival, click here