January 20, 2014
by Richard Foster
A week before Eurosonic it seemed that there was more expectation amongst NL music bizz types about the prospect of eating eierbals than watching Katadreuffe; though I suppose that’s understandable, even reasonable in most quarters. Humourous references abounded on social meeja updates. What is it about this eierbal, then? As a low grade, (and semi-retired I must add) connoisseur of late night deep fried snacks, I was mildly intrigued, then slightly disappointed. No-one from Groningen seems to eat them, certainly not the rocker fraternity I was hanging round with. They looked at me like I was a madman. For the record an eierbal looks like a Scotch Egg; a breadcrumb coated snack encasing the egg in some kind of roux or pease pudding, rather than a load of potted ham. Pictures are added below for perusal. Anyway it seems that eating an eierbal from a wall vending machine is something out of towners do and talk about; like buying rock at Blackpool or currywurst in Berlin. Maybe Katadreuffe could hand them out free at one of their shows; maybe THE show when the unveil their shiny new single, a cover of the Nolan Sisters’ “I’m In the Mood For Dancing”. That’s my master plan for Katadreuffe by the way.
In further bad news, what happened to the incredibly camp fish seller in Groningen city centre? When I walked past de Grote Markt on the Saturday, his normal spot had been usurped; where once the vending of fish was accompanied by some arch – and obviously rehearsed – popinjay behaviour (including a mincing routine that lay somewhere East of Kenneth Williams) there was a bloody great stage and what sounded like the Dutch pop band, Mainstreet, accompanied by loads of screaming (and some very flatulent) teens. Dutch pop band, Mainstreet’s LP, by the way is called “Breaking The Rules”. On Saturday, unwittingly, they broke my heart.
Still the kebab places roll on; places where the fastest and most continual production line of kebabs are served, probably in all of Europe. Because of this processed chicken/mutton Fordism, Groningen must be the only town where walking past a kebab shop can cause serious injury; as in broken bones. I shit you not. The pavement outside is a veritable ice rink of frozen/congealed/solidified/polished grease.
Luckily Irish bar O’Ceallaighs serves Irish stew. This is a Godsend and the most underrated of rock and roll food. Next time ESNS hits town, go and get some, you don’t have to hang around for , or join in, the outsider chic that Subroutine & Lepel peddle (that’s where their showcases are at, since time immemorial it seems) you can just go and get some stew. Now, eating something that may look like a plate of hot slops (to the untrained eye of course) can seem unappetising on paper, but it means that crucial extra hour’s raving at Kult or Warhols – if you’re a raver* – or that extra 30 minutes of tablet bothering –if you’re a blogger.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten fruit or veg in Grunnen. Now I’m not boasting, or trying to indelibly link rock with meat as that’s just disingenuous, rather, ESNS usually means eating whatever’s to hand at 4am, and that’s normally processed mutton clippings doled up with a salad that’s been round more blocks that a New York cabbie. This has never bothered me before but it most certainly bothered me this time around. Whilst walking through the artists’ village** on the way to town from my Oosterkade lodgings, I saw a stall flogging all kinds of small portioned, ethically sourced foodstuffs with long names I don’t understand; foodstuffs moreover that don’t, in essence look all that different (no rephrase don’t look ANY different) to Marks and Spencer/Albert Hein “urban wraps”. Furthermore they were being flogged from one of them pretend wooden fairground stalls that Dickens, or Thackeray or Collins or any old git you can name probably used to write about, a place where they’d serve plum pudding from a bag doubtless. Why wood brings a cache of authenticity and trust to a stall flogging food or serves up a notion of “health and wellbeing” is on one deep, embryonic, “endorphinal” level, beyond me. Maybe it’s ‘cos it’s like “wood” is grown in the ground, man. Why fall for this? Are artists demanding of such things? Regardless, here, we see food given a role, performing in a context, adding intrinsic value to an “experience”. How depressing.
There are certain people in Groningen I know who I’ve never seen in daylight. The couple who comprise the fine Dutch noise act Svetkoff Lamps for instance. When I do see some rockers in the daytime they seem to be coming round from being cryogenically frozen (Ben from Vox, Frank from Propellor/Accadians I’m looking at you here) or wearing clothes fit for a Polar expedition (the Legendary Harm Weirda springs to mind on that point). Groningen rockers suit the dark. They’re all for looking mean and seedy, they’re alive to night’s possibilities as a receptacle of time where clocks can be rolled back to a never ending 1966. At least for another night… Krontjong Devils, I turn my gaze your way. In some ways the town has two populations; the sober, hardworking, quiet Groningers who bustle through the daylight hours shopping (there are a lot of bijou/frou frou shops here, there’s money here) and the Midnight to Six people. People who send Messages of Dark.
It’s great; you can avoid all of the tablet botherers at ESNS, because they’re normally, or seemingly, in one of two places. The first is the artists village come meeja centre that is a glorified building site, the other is at Oosterpoort. The café de Drie UIltjes has a number too. The normally excellent Incubate is a notch down in this regard, as the spread of venues in town means you can’t help but bump into people engaged upon a tablet, like Hittite Scribes of yore.
It just felt, old and tired, as if something wasn’t right. I hope I’m wrong as that place is the greatest, and a continual rock on which the waves of musical fashion have broken. It’s a total hunch I have, but I’d love to know if anyone else felt that way. Standing outside, or mooching about during the day waiting for a pal, some weird psychic whisper told me that Vera was reaching the end of an era. Maybe it’s because the final printed Vera Krant was in a box outside? I dunno.
Why are the Dutch bands showcased on the last day when lots of international press dudes are going home? I’d like some constructive reasons. I’m not looking to bait anyone; I’d like to know why.
*I use raver here in the John Cooper Clarke sense of the word.
**Villages are often depressing, closed communities that are resistant to change, to the point of being petrified in aspic. An excellent metaphor for an artist village set up!