The festival season kicked off in ravishing fashion thisweekend as independent radio station Pinguin Radio hosted the second edition of Pinguins in Paradiso, a one-day festival which honours some of the most popular artists among Pinguin Radio’s listeners. Following appearances from Swim Deep, Catfish & the Bottlemen and Will & the People in 2014, this year saw the edition expand within the four walls of Amsterdam’s Paradiso. Headline performances from Blood Red Shoes and De Staat were accompanied by the likes of Nothing But Thieves, Lonely the Brave and Paceshifters, among others.
The evening kicked off with a performance from Paceshifters in the 250-capacity Kleine Zaal, which is essentially a big living room. The Dutch three-piece performed songs spanning across their first three albums, with brothers Paul and Seb Dokman sharing vocal duties during an extremely energetic set which saw the brothers headbang and leap across the small stage in sync with one another. Drummer Jesper Albers provided some backing vocals during moments in which he wasn’t thrashing his drum kit apart, particularly during set highlight Drone. The end of the month will see the trio play shows in Los Angeles as they slowly start to gain more recognition, particularly on home soil in Holland. Cambridge rockers Lonely the Brave followed Paceshifters over in the 1,500-capacity Grote Zaal, which was formerly a church hall. Tonight, however, a different kind of worship was demonstrated as the first evidence of Lonely the Brave’s growing fan base emerged in the front few rows. As the quintet took to the stage, frontman David Jakes placed himself towards the back of the stage, with his microphone stand placed just in front of drummer Gavin Edgeley. It ensured that Jakes had little contact with the crowd, something which was made up for completely by the energy possessed within guitarists Mark Trotter and Ross Smithwick, as well as bassist Andrew Bushen. Set highlight The Blue, The Green made for one of the most anthemic moments in the set as Jakes’ vocals soared through the Paradiso. Trick of the Light saw the band express considerably more energy, whereas Islands got the crowd dancing at Trotter’s request. April is a busy month for Lonely the Brave, with tonight’s performance the first of three shows in Holland alone (they’ll also be playing at Paaspop Festival before joining Silverstein on tour). The heavy-touring band will be back in June when they perform at Vestrock and Pinkpop, the latter of which could definitely boost their popularity in Holland.
Up-and-coming alternative quintet Nothing But Thieves followed up in the Kleine Zaal, playing a handful of songs from their hotly anticipated debut album. The band, fronted by the pint-sized Conor Mason, took the stage considerably stoned as they kicked into new single Itch. A twangy melody and haunting vocals made way for a huge chorus which saw Mason wail, “I just wanna feel something real”. A dark and distorted breakdown riff played the track out ahead of its final chorus, before breakthrough song Wake Up Call rang familiar bells with the crowd. A powerful opening riff led into a smooth and soulful chorus, one perfectly suited for huge festival tents and arenas. “Sometimes we never get started, no I won’t give you a wakeup call” sang Mason, before the likes of the emotional Lover, Please Stay and Graveyard Whistling demonstrated huge potential for the Southend-on-Sea five-piece. Set closer Ban All the Music sounded like a classic from the moment its opening riff, courtesy of Joe Langridge-Brown, left the speakers, showing everyone in the room that Nothing But Thieves can only get bigger and bigger. Back in the Grote Zaal, Blood Red Shoes were just about to take to the stage when the announcement came that the whole event had finally sold out, something which a majority of the room either drank or cheered to. There was more cause for celebration on the way, as Blood Red Shoes were welcomed to the stage like old heroes. Having been in the Pinguin Radio hit lists for a number of years now, their set was by far the
most anticipated one of the evening as the Brighton duo kicked straight into the instrumental Welcome Home. Taken from their 2014 album Blood Red Shoes, its two-minute duration consisted solely of a gritty riff and powerful drums as Laura-Mary Carter and Steve Ansell powered their way through the upbeat track. Without any hesitation, the duo went on to pull old classic I Wish I Was Someone Better out of the bag. Taken from their 2008 debut album Box of Secrets, the track encompassed gritty garage rock elements and shared vocals from Carter and Ansell. Don’t Ask subsequently went on to produce the first pit of the evening, before a razor sharp rendition of An Animal got the whole room on their feet. Crowd interaction was at a minimum, until Ansell instructed a member of the crowd (whom the band had met earlier in the day) to come onstage and start crowdsurfing. They dedicated the anthemic Cold to the leather-jacket clad fan, his descent into the crowd being followed by a huge pit and one more crowdsurfer. The brooding Cigarettes in the Dark followed later on in the set, before catchy rocker The Perfect Mess made for one of the set highlights. They closed the show with Colours Fade, but not before breaking out into a rendition of Je Me Perds, 90 seconds of hardcore punk powerful enough to rattle every single skull in the room. Blood Red Shoes are no longer an unknown band, yet that hasn’t stopped them from attracting huge swathes of interest wherever they go. This year will see the band take it easy as they get to work on their fifth studio album, due in 2016.
Later on in the evening, Sue the Night frontwoman Suus de Groot made her way to Amsterdam to play a solo acoustic set after her band successfully rounded off a set at Paaspop Festival, before Dutch indie rock act De Staat played a similairly well-received set in the Grote Zaal. If tonight is anything to go by, it’s that independent music is at an all-time high. As Pinguin Radio always say – “no bullshit, just music”. And that’s exactly how it should be.