The August bank holiday has long been considered the pinnacle weekend of festival season. But while Reading and Leeds might continue to dominate (and polarize opinion) on UK soil, there's more than enough happening elsewhere to satisfy those not inclined to spend their weekend in a muddy field surrounded by drunken teenagers celebrating their A Level results.
One of those events just happens to be Fuzz Club Eindhoven, taking place for the first time this year. It's been set up by label founder Casper Dee as a way of not only celebrating Fuzz Club - arguably one of the most forward-thinking independents of the 21st century - but also the scene it's become a pivotal part of along with the supportive community that surrounds it.
Working in conjunction with the in-house team at Eindhoven's legendary Effenaar venue who were also responsible for Eindhoven Psych Lab which ran in 2015 and 2016, Fuzz Club Eindhoven delivered in every possible way. Not only in putting together a ridiculously incredible line up of wall-to-wall unmissable acts, but also in ensuring its surroundings - from the venue itself to the reasonably priced catering and choice of food and drink on offer - meant everyone left here with a two-way sense of appreciation and feeling appreciated.
Of course, what that also meant was clashes were inevitable, but with just two stages separated by one flight of stairs and also excellent disabled access, moving in between them wasn't too problematic. With thirty-four live acts spread across both stages plus several DJs spinning records in the Effenaar's ground floor cafeteria, it's fair to say we were spoiled for choice.
Nevertheless, DiS came away from Eindhoven beaming from ear to ear having experienced one of our finest weekends this year. So without further ado, here are 12 things we learned from the inaugural Fuzz Club Eindhoven.
Eindhoven Is A Beautiful City
It really is. Although 48 hours probably wasn't long enough to take in everything Eindhoven has to offer, what we did see more than justified our visit while making us longing to return in the not too distant future.
Situated approximately 125 kilometers from Amsterdam (which takes around an hour and a half on the train) in the South of the Netherlands, Eindhoven offers a host of sights and activities ranging from the DAF Museum, which documents the city's growth in becoming one of the most technologically advanced in Europe, to the Van Abbemuseum, which focuses on all kinds of modern, contemporary and experimental art and currently features works by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, and The Guerrilla Girls among many, many others. For those into sports such as football, the Philips Stadium, home to the mighty PSV Eindhoven offer an incredible guided tour although sadly, the team themselves are playing away from home this weekend.
Elsewhere, specialist bars and cafes line its streets such as Bobby's, which probably has the largest selection of gins we've ever seen, while just wandering around gawping open-mouthed at the stunning architecture can be enough for some.
Bearing all of the above in mind, it's easy to see why Fuzz Club chose Eindhoven for their very first shindig. And we haven't even mentioned the venue yet...
Effenaar's legendary status is more than justified
Which succinctly brings us on to the Effenaar, a venue that only opened its doors for the first time in 1971 but is already steeped in history. The venue itself was opened in a disused linen factory by a group of people disenfranchised with the political and social climate of the day, and has since hosted performances by artists from all over the world including the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Joy Division, and The Clash along with far too many others to mention. Over its 47 years as a venue, it's become one of the country's most prestigious on the live circuit and continues to attract a wealth of talent from the world of music, literature, and film (The Human League, Father John Misty, and Pussy Riot being just three of the acts scheduled to appear over the coming months).
It's spread across two floors with live music rooms on each - the room on the upper floor houses the main stage with a capacity of 1200, while the more intimate ground floor venue holds around 350. With the shape of each room lending itself to the acoustics, the sound quality in each was flawless throughout the weekend with vantage points also at a premium, even when the smaller room was full to capacity (which often was the case). Also on the ground floor sits a large cafeteria-bar with an outside terrace area that doubles up as a barbecue/pizza oven for the weekend, and while the rain didn't hold off for the entire duration of the festival, it was always a haven of activity for those wanting a brief respite from the live music all around them.
Staff were friendly and helpful, security always in good humour, and a general feeling of camaraderie was enjoyed by all.
As one era ends, another begins...
With the rumour mill set to overdrive, rumblings ensued that this weekend might mark the final shows for one or two of Fuzz Club Eindhoven's participants. While some of those turned out to be fake news - Nottingham's Cult Of Dom Keller going to great lengths to stress this was NOT their last show despite whispers to the contrary - others proved more accurate.
In the case of Desert Mountain Tribe bassist Philipp Jahn, their epic late night/early morning slot on the first day would indeed be his last performance with the band. Having relocated to Amsterdam with the band being based in London, his time unfortunately had to come to an end. Nevertheless, he couldn't have picked a more incendiary way to bow out, the trio - Jahn, Jonty Balls and Frank Van Der Ploeg - putting on an incredible show to close the main stage on Friday's bill.
It was also the final festival appearance and penultimate show for Southampton's Dead Rabbits. But fear not, as they're not exactly going away, merely just changing their name to Spacers. And if the six new songs they play here are anything to go by, those first recordings under the new moniker might just be their finest to date.
A Place To Bury Strangers blow minds
So we've sang A Place To Bury Strangers' praises here at DiS from the very first time they set foot in the UK back in 2008. Since then, Oliver Ackermann's experimental noise project have undergone several line-up changes yet still managed to both reinvent themselves and the notion of what can be achieved from a live aural experience.
While not being unfair to previous members of the band, the current line up might just be their finest yet, with Ackermann taking centre stage as guitars are wielded like sledgehammers then destroyed, sometimes more than once during the same song. Long-serving bass player Dion Lunadon and recent recruit on drums, Lia Simone Braswell, act as a perfect foil to Ackermann's noise-ridden theatrics, Braswell in particular driving the songs from the back, her relentless mix of heavily accentuated drum beats and percussion sounds coming to the forefront throughout.
The set itself borrows from every era of the band, with only their first, self-titled album unrepresented here. An opening salvo of 'We've Come So Far', 'Dead Beat', and 'You Are The One' sets the scene implicitly, with circle pits and crowd surfing down the front for possibly the first time at a psych festival. As with many APTBS shows, the middle segment sees both Ackermann and Lunadon leave the stage and join the vibrant throng out front to play a selection of their more electronic based material from recent long player Pinned before returning to the stage for an ear-splitting finale of 'I Lived My Life To Stand In The Shadow Of Your Heart'.
Interestingly, when we speak to the band afterwards (full interview to come shortly), Ackermann admits the band nearly split up last year before the arrival of their new drummer. Tonight was the sound of a band revitalised, re-energised, and ultimately remarkable.
Females take centre stage
For years now, the psych scene has found itself open to criticism for being male-dominated. While that may have been the case at one time, it certainly isn't any more, with a healthy mix of genders from every demographic among this weekend's audience.
The same could also be said of its performers, and many females dominat this weekend's live sets. While the aforementioned Lia Simone Braswell's contribution to A Place To Bury Strangers' sound was pivotal, similar plaudits must also be levelled at fellow drummers Olga Dyer of The Underground Youth, The Black Angels' Stephanie Bailey, and Suzanne Sims from Dead Rabbits/Spacers. The Underground Youth's sound wouldn't be the same without the former's brooding rhythms at its heart, which are eerily reminiscent of Mo Tucker only more visceral. While both Bailey's and Sims' roles in their bands prove equally as prominent, not least on songs like The Black Angels' 'Bad Vibrations' and 'Entrance Song', or Dead Rabbits' 'It's All In Her Head', all of which build incessantly around their seismic percussion sounds.
Elsewhere, The Gluts' Claudia Cesana reminds us of a young Tina Weymouth via her vocal and bass contributions to the band's all-encompassing post-punk and noise rock melange, while Stockholm quartet Dead Vibrations' rhythm section of Josefin Ahlqvist Lyzwiski on drums and bass player Louise Erdman make an unholy racket that's nothing short of essential to the band's potent (and extremely heavy) mix of shoegaze, drone and noise rock.
Finally, Josefin Öhrn and the Liberation are another of this weekend's highlights, playing a heady mix of errant, shamanic psychedelia that's hypnotic in both execution and delivery.
Spectrum take us back to the early 1990s
It's probably fair to say that without Pete Kember aka Sonic Boom and the music he's bestowed upon us throughout the course of his career, the psych-rock scene wouldn't exist in the way that we know it. So it represented something of a major coup for Fuzz Club that they secured his booking for the opening night of this extravaganza bearing in mind the reverence Kember holds within the scene.
Playing this evening as a duo alongside Cult Of Dom Keller guitarist and longtime collaborator Jason Holt, with Kember himself on keyboards and guitar, Spectrum are something of a revelation. In a Spacemen 3 heavy set that's bookended by opener 'Transparent Radiation' and a fifteen minute version of 'Big City' for the grand finale, interspersed with highlights from Spectrum's back catalogue, particularly 'Lord I Don't Even Know My Name' from 1992's debut Soul Kiss, their set transports us back over a quarter of a century to an era most people had forgotten yet, for forty-five glorious minutes, welcomed back into their lives like a long-lost relative.
The psych community are like one big extended family
While psych rock has enjoyed numerous peaks coupled with the odd trough in recent years, its devotees continue to embrace and support its progression and existence. The vibe here is of one big family all coming together under one roof for the weekend, and its community spirit is embodied by the fact at least 35 different nationalities are represented at Fuzz Club Eindhoven. Many are only acquaintances via email or social media, but all have one common goal; to support their scene and contribute towards its sustainability and future growth.
Which means every single act plays to an enthusiastic and receptive audience, whether their set takes place just after doors open at 4pm or twelve hours later as the sun gets ready to rise. Old friends become reacquainted as new ones are made, while artists mingle with audience members throughout both days, stopping only to perform on stage. Promoters from all over the globe are encouraged to leave fliers or stick posters up around the venue and travel arrangements are made for this autumn's Karmafest and Astral Elevator Psych Weekender respectively. Fanzines and records are swapped, bands provisionally booked, and a general feeling of solidarity is prevalent all weekend.
We're not saying it's exclusive to this scene - the indie pop community works on a similar ethos, as does the world of DIY punk - but it's undoubtedly one of the reasons why psych rock continues to exist on its own terms without interference (or feeling compromised by) from the mainstream.
Italians do it better
If Fuzz Club Eindhoven was to be measured by the impact of individual nations, Italy would put in a fair shout for owning Saturday. While New Candys glorious doom-laden post-punk set the scene and pulses racing around tea time, Lazio's Sonic Jesus lived up to their name later that evening.
Their performance became something of a consecrated celebration, as members of the band both past and present combined for one glorious, show-stopping production. Musically reminiscent of several eras of alternative guitar music, whether it be Sisters Of Mercy's relentless death disco, The Brian Jonestown Massacre's sensory psychedelia, The Chameleons' brooding post-punk, or Nine Inch Nails all-out sonic assault, there's little doubt Sonic Jesus have earned the reverence that accompanies their name through sheer hard work and dedication to their craft. They even bring their own Bez in tow this evening, contributing the odd tambourine or maracca shake here and there, while in 'Funeral Party' possess a fearsome anthem of their own.
Later that night, Milan four-piece The Gluts play a concoction of sounds that's equal parts punk, art rock, lo-fi, and shoegaze, at times reminding us of The Fall or Talking Heads, Ringo Deathstarr or even The Saints. They're an undisputed highlight of the second day, the rhythm section of Claudia Cesana and Dario Bassi providing a distinctive underbelly for Marco Campana's angular (and occasionally feedback doused) riffs while frontman Niccolò Fornabaio's incessant rants initiate a moshpit on the floor below. As a result, we implore you to check out last year's Estasi and 2014's Warsaw, and in particular 'Rag Doll', one of the stand out numbers from their explosive set. However, with new music coming later this year (much of which also formed a large part of tonight's repertoire) we suspect you'll be hearing a lot more of The Gluts over the months ahead.
Bands reform just to play here
OK, so maybe just one band in particular. Which in the case of Danish psychedelic pioneers The Wands, was another of this weekend's major talking points.
Not least because after 2016's swansong EP Faces, it seemed highly unlikely founder members Christian Skibdal and Mads Gräs would share a stage under that particular guise again. However, it didn't seem like they'd been away as they ploughed through a career spanning set featuring the best moments from their back catalogue, which had the security staff guarding the exits as one-in, one-out was in operation.
Whether their reunion will continue remains to be seen, but for now, this Fuzz Club Eindhoven "exclusive" was about as good as it gets.
The spirit of post-punk and goth is alive and kicking
Another criticism levelled at the psych-rock movement - and at times it has been justified - has been the number of bandwagon jumping, Black Angels/Brian Jonestown soundalikes hitching a ride on the scene when it threatened to go mainstream a couple of years ago. So like any creative scene, psych had to return to its underground base in order to continue to exist on its own merits, which as a result, means a whole new array of ideas, styles, and sounds have entered the mix.
Aarhus four-piece Tales Of Murder And Dust aren't exactly a new band, having formed over a decade ago, but their claustrophobic, introspective coldwave sounds like Fields Of The Nephilim covering Black Sabbath with a dose of Hawkwind, and all the more potent for it. Indeed, the proof is in the pudding as they also play to a packed second stage where by the third song, it's impossible to move either in or out.
We're also deeply enamored by Malmo's Sekel even if a few technical hitches - the only ones we encounter all weekend - threaten to curtail their use of vocals at one point. Not that it really matters, as the band's heady mix of ska, post-punk and new wave influences bring to mind Killing Joke, Sun Ra, and PiL (Metal Box era of course!) while turning the stage dancefloor into Amsterdam's Paradiso circa 1980.
Finally, although we've already covered The Gluts earlier, it would be churlish not to mention them again in this context. Particularly as their live show brings out the best in all four members' distinctive qualities.
Ulrika Spacek's 3rd album may well be their best yet
OK, so it's very early doors in the process, and we're basing this purely on the one new song they play on the Friday evening (and a conversation we have later in the evening with excitable band members Rhys Edwards and Callum Brown) but the next Ulrika Spacek really could be their best yet.
Which, considering they already have two near-flawless long-players under their belt in The Album Paranoia and Modern English Decoration, is no mean achievement in itself.
Playing in an early evening slot on the first day of the festival, they're a steadfast addition, consistent from beginning to end as old favourites 'Strawberry Glue' and 'There's A Little Passing Cloud In You' mingle enticingly with choice cuts off last year's second record. 'Full Of Men' and 'Everything All The Time' bring an ethereal presence to the Effenaar while 'Ultra Vivid' reminds us why we fell in love their woozy, atmospheric wares in the first place.
Fuzz Club epitomize the true spirit of DIY
Despite only becoming a label in 2012, Fuzz Club has established itself as one of the most highly respected independents in the world over the course of its six-year existence. Formed by Norwegian music lover Casper Dee after discovering The Underground Youth on MySpace (remember that?), his label has since been responsible for a number of significant releases including the aforementioned's third (and breakthrough) long player Delirium, Dead Skeletons' Buddha Christ EP and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's Polygondwanaland.
So the next obvious step is to curate a festival featuring many of the bands whose careers have been launched by the label and more besides. What started out and continues to be a labour of love has brought together an underground scene from around the globe, while encouraging other like-minded folks to do the same. Because the first edition of Fuzz Club Eindhoven was nothing short of being a resounding success.
Both stages pretty much ran to time, every performer played as if their lives depended on it, and the venue was as perfect a platform as its curators could have wished for. Perhaps more tellingly, there were no corporate sponsors, major advertisers, or branding of any form - this was a purely DIY event managed by a label who embody the true ethos of DIY in everything they do.
Long may it continue.
For more information about Fuzz Club Eindhoven, please visit their official website.
Photos by Anna Yorke