Friday, May 6, 2011

Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Two Tribes

I was a little girl when Frankie said Relax. I was a little girl when I saw Frankie's video to 'Two Tribes'. I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. What does a 7 or 8 year old know about the world? The Cold War? World Leaders? Apparently enough to be fascinated by the video. I remember being captured by the television when they showed the video and still the song stands the age of time (sadly). The biting off the ear. The bizar nature of the video and how this was reality. I knew this, I must have known that the world was a weird place to be with world leaders battling each other over idiot issues. Politics was something that hit me at an early age, apparently.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bevrijdingsdag 2011, a Dutch celebration

Today, the Netherlands are celebrating Bevrijdingsdag. Independence Day, Liberation Day, not sure how to translate it. On May 5 1945, the WWII ended for the Netherlands. The South, under the main rivers, had already been freed from the occupation by the Germans but the North had to go through one long, cold winter of cruelty, possession and what not by the German army. This winter in known as Hongerwinter, the winter of hunger, where people walked days on end hoping to find something to eat for them and their families.

This is no history class, today is Bevrijdingsdag. It's a national holiday but not a so-called bank holiday. For most people it's a working day. Schools are off during this period, most clerks are having the day off and there's a reasonable amount of people taking this day off. Because regardless, it's celebrated. There's 14 Bevrijdingsfestivals across the country, in every capital of the provinces one plus one in Amsterdam, with popular music, markets, speeches and what not and the theme is Freedom on the Streets.

It's been 66 years since the Germans left the Netherlands and by now most people have learned that the Germans who live in Germany today aren't such bad people after all (the hatred lies deep, personally not for me, my parents are both born and raised in Germany and my father has felt the cruelties of war as a little boy in Berlin. Mostly you really feel this in football). The day is very symbolic, it's a day to realise that freedom as we know it isn't a natural fact, as much as we like to think that. It should be, it just isn't. Since WWII, there hasn't been a day on this planet without a war at some place on Earth. Isn't that sad? There are places in the world where you can't say what you think, where you can't do what you want, where every day a bomb could explode in your neighbourhood, where you wonder while going home if your house is still standing and if your family is still alive. Unthinkable, but reality in the Netherlands also 70 years ago. It's nearly 71 years ago that my hometown of Rotterdam was bombed. Something to think about of you ever visit this city and awe the amazing modern architecture.

Freedom is respecting each other for what they do, think and who they are. Freedom is one of the most precious gifts in life. Are we free? Can we really do and say what we want? It's something to celebrate, year after year after year. I think it's important, to realise it's importance and that it's not a given. I'm really glad the Netherlands keeps doing this every year and that once again the question is raised whether this day to be a bank holiday again, not just once every 5 years, every year. So that every citizen can go out on the streets, celebrate with each other, is able to go to the (free) festivals in their own province (state).

I took the day off. I'm going to one of the festivals today. Granted, I chose to do that only because Kate Nash is coming, but it made me realise I probably should do this every year. Celebrating freedom. A life without fear. I wish we all could.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: The Bangles - Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the sun)

Well. The Bangles are once again back with an EP for now, only available in certain clothing shops in America. I never even heard of that shop so the name is irrelevant. This would have annoyed me if the Bangles, and Vicki Peterson in particular, hadn't been so stupid (there's no other word) about the departure of Michael Steele out if the band in 2005. They're still talking weirdly about it. It made me turn my back to the modern day Bangles and gave Michael Steele even more of a cult status. But, I'm going off track and I've tried to not take this in consideration while listening to the new song on the EP, it's only 1 new song, the flip side are merely acoustic versions of old classics and the new song, called "Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the sun)" will feature on their new CD to be released this summer. I was able to listen to this song because one kind person made a video to the song and placed it on youtube. So, is this something to look forward to?

I've listened to this song a few times now. The start is promising, very promising, a raw electric guitar playing some great riffs. Then the acoustic guitar kicks in, the cow bell and the sugary sweet vocals of the remaining 3 Bangles. They all sing together in harmony on this track, with Susanna Hoffs still to be heard the best but she can't help it with her voice. How can a song starting so strong fall back so dramatically? It's in essential not even a that bad of a song, but they lost the last edge they had. It's a nice track to play in the car with windows wide open on an American highway in the sun but that's about it. You can't argue with it, it's very Bangles and then it isn't.

I guess I'm just disappointed and will stick to the sound I prefer which is the garage sound from the early eighties and the rock sound the brought back in the 80s. To compare, here's the new track back to back to 'Everything I wanted', the single that went with their Greatest Hits album in 1990 and was dropped last minute from their 1988 smash 'Everything' which featured, yes indeed, 'Eternal Flame'. I guess the producers thought it was too rough but I say this is the Bangles most fans preferred. Shame, such a bloody shame.

The Bangles 2011 - Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the sun)

The Bangles 1988 - Everything I wanted

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why I gave up #skirtathon2011

I started with a lot of faith and energy, the skirtathon 2011, I heard about it the day it started and was actually wearing a skirt that day. The skirtathon is an online 'run' where the contesters wear a skirt or dress every weekday during the month of April. What a good way to finally not just wear my skirts and dresses, but feel comfortable with it. I started enthusiastic and where I still think it's such a great idea, I had to give up. And it's not even because I ran out of dresses and skirts, which I first thought could happen.

The thing is, I'm working in an office at the harbour. I'm going there on my bicycle which takes about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the weather conditions. It started out nicely but after a while it did start to bother me that I had to keep my skirt down, also the long one. I live in a coastal place, there's always a wind. After a real short night I decided it was enough, I could not get myself to once again hold my skirt down while on my bicycle, trying to ignore the blokes looking at me. Skirts and bicycles simply don't go together.

Is that saying I'll never wear a skirt or dress to work ever again? No it's not because every once in a while holding the skirt or dress down, fine. But every freaking day... Plus I missed my jeans, I'm sorry, I did. Maybe I'm weak but I'm out. It was fun doing it and I managed 14 days which for my standards is a massive accomplishment. Thank you all for this!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: The Coathangers and The Thermals, Trouw Amsterdam 21-04-2011

The Thermals played in a basement in Amsterdam and if you think that it sounds underground and rough, you're right. The crowd went mental for the Thermals, 60% of the crowd was the moshpit and the Thermals themselves played a pretty tight set as well. With a stage so low and so so close to the audience, I stood eye to eye with bassist Kathy Foster, it was a very intimate setting. Despite the Thermals playing really good, I can't help but feel that I wished I saw someone else instead, in the same setting, with the same reaction from the crowd. I love the Thermals, but there's bands I love more who I would grant this venue and a crowd mental like that too. The only crowd I saw more mental than this is a Cribs crowd, you can't top that. All gigs should be like this one though.

The highlight of that night, for me, were the Coathangers. Before the Thermals took them on tour I never heard of them and as some kind of research I went looking on the net for them. The first picture I saw of them, all four girls drinking, didn't exactly appeal to me but reading more about them I got curious. I got their album 'Scramble' and it's a fantastic piece of punk rock. Short vicious songs. Sometimes catchy, sometimes a lot of screaming. I saw the appeal and after seeing them live even more so.

These four friends, you can see they're friends, loving playing together. They switch instruments, lead vocals, position. Their drummer is the wildest out of the bunch who went into the crowd with two microphones raging the lyrics of her song, no idea what she sang but it sounded amazing and gave such a vibe. I was pretty much taken by their bassist who is quite cute which lead me to thank her afterwards for an incredible show. She thanked me for liking her incredible show. What a girl! What a band! Just let the Coathangers do their job and let it come over you. It might not all sound clear, it might not all have rhythm, it might sometimes be a bunch of noise, it's fun and you feel that.

So, great show by the Thermals, new band added to the 'great bands to keep seeing' collection. And wishing that the Cribs and Wild Flag will ever come to play at Trouw at some point. Oh, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks too, while we're making demands. Why not? Apparently the Thermals are big in the Netherlands and they played there too.

pictures taken by me

The ballad of Michael Steele

One of the first musicians I admired for who they were was Michael Steele, the red-haired bassist from the Bangles. I don't think I saw it like that at the time but looking back she may be very well the first famous woman I had a crush on. I was a big fan of the Bangles, also after they split (I'm not so after 2005 when Michael left/got kicked out of the Bangles) buying all their records, all versions of the singles, etc. As far as Michael was concerned, I wanted her hair, I so wanted her hair. My mother tried to help me with it ('That's henna red' she said so I tried that, it's disgusting and had little result) but I never got it red so I settled for a Vicki Peterson blond string of hair in my dark brown hair (as where lay the key for not getting that red hair from the drug store). At art class in high school we once had to make an advertisement poster using a certain technique, advertising a product carrying your name. I made a concert poster, advertising myself 'and my bass guitar' drawing a gigantic bass guitar. The teacher had no idea how to deal with a concert poster and gave me a 6/10. But still, Michael Steele ruled!

And she still does.

After the Bangles split new music game into my life and with that punk and grunge. I do see, and try to convince people, that the Bangles very well could have fitted into the riot grrrl scene if they had started in the early 90s rather than early 80s. They were very garage before Prince decided to step in and write them a very sweet Manic Monday. The Bangles have been marketed by their record company and the women all regret not having stepped up more for themselves. It didn't all went the way they wanted it too go which in the end was the reason for disbanding the band.

But, like I said, other music game into my life and the Bangles moved a little bit to the background with me occasionally picking up their records again, mostly their older records, rarely 'Different Light', their pop-album featuring 'Manic Monday' and 'Walk like an Egyptian' (their break-through album). I have always loved Michael's songs the best. Her voice is raw and still very warm. She has written the best songs in my opinion as well. Michael Steele always stood out with the Bangles, it wasn't just her hair, but it was also her attitude. The more internet came to live, the more I was able to look up and the more it became clear. Michael somehow was the black sheep of the Bangles. None surprising she was the one with the least media attention after the split, she kept a low profile with underground bands, taking care of dogs she had rescued from the shelter, with her garden and her painting. She's mysterious, hence her quite cult-like following. And none-surprising, she was the last Bangle to re-join the band issuing concerns about the band still being taken seriously. She left 5 years and 1 year later, feeling that the others in the band didn't take it as seriously as she did. The others quite blamed her for not being understanding. I think it went down pretty ugly.

Due to Michael, I can't get into the Runaways. The oh so cool it hurts Runaways. She was a member of that band, has recorded 1 album that's only been released as a demo-re-release in 1993, and she was the bassist and main vocalist for the time that it lasted. She never wanted to be reminded of that time, called some song ideas retarted and couldn't conform to the sexist wishes of their management. The Runaways were a pretty marketed concept, young girls with guitars exploited for being young girls with guitars. Something young women with guitars 15 years later would rebel against. I do believe that the film made a few years back gives you a wrong picture of the band, Michael not being the only ex-member not wanting to be involved, hence you have a fictional band member in that film.

Michael Steele, she's a hero. She's a true musician. She's such a special lady and still looks amazing after all these years. You could say that unknowingly to myself, she's been an inspiration to me all my life. She still is. She still is in my top 5 musicians list (which only include bassists and drummers, I'm a sucker for the rhythm section, it started with her!). The Bangles can do whatever they want right now, I do not care. Michael Steele rocks. She got class and attitude and you better believe it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's good to plan ahead sometimes

I'm thinking about starting a series of blog posts about why exactly the bands that mean so much to me mean that much to me. It's not just about the music. The music alone is inspiring, amazing, exciting and just plain kick ass good, but some bands have a little extra. That band member or members who inspires you just a little bit more. Those lyrics you find inspiring enough to write down on pieces of paper and stick on your bedroom wall (I did that yes). That band which concerts are mind blowing and life changing and maybe a little bit of both. That band who taught you a different language, don't underestimate that power.

I'm currently thinking of a good title for that and then you will most likely read aboyt why it is why I love The Cribs, Quasi, Wild Flag, Kent, Sleater-Kinney, Michael Steele, Marina & the Diamonds, Ernst Jansz and maybe even more. I will write straight from my heart. Expect long posts, irrational feelings and lots of love for music. Ah, I like how I put that.