No Room With The View

Nobody seems sure how it happened but a shortage of yellow wristbands meant several journalists didn’t get preferential access to gigs at the Eurosonic showcase festival.

Believing the green bands entitled them to stride to the front of the queue, the writers were soon firmly but very politely disabused of this idea and told to get back in line and wait their turn.

"There weren’t enough yellow bands to go round," explained Eurosonic press officer Pieter van Adrichem after acts including The View, Oh No Ono, and Five O’Clock Heroes had played their sets while some of the media queued outside or gave up and went to another show.

With 20 venues within walking distance of each other, there was no shortage of other shows to see. Europe’s premier showcase conference had produced another lineup that was so impressive that even the surliest pack of news hounds would have been hard-pushed to growl about it.

The View has been touted by NME, the U.K.’s The Guardian and The Sun, and after a U.S. debut at New York’s Mercury Lounge, the New York Times got on board and also began singing the act’s praises.

These self-proclaimed "gadgies from Dundee," with Scottish accents so thick it’s a wonder that they even understand each other, look to be one of the acts that will do best out of this year’s European Talent Exchange Programme.

And so does Denmark’s curiously named Oh No Ono. Again, the NME has been quick to pick up on the "eccentric new romantic-tinged insanity" of an act that "sounds like Buggles covering Spandau Ballet songs."

Those who managed to get into Groningen’s Stedeluke Muziekschool January 11th may or may not have opinions on whether the U.K. weekly music mag was right about the "Strokes haircuts."

Either way, the NME is boiling over with Oh No Ono and already referring to it as being "in line to be our new favourite band." So the journalists can feel appeased that sometimes even the acts have to stand in line.

Mads Sorensen from Copenhagen-based Beatbox Booking looks as if he’ll join a long list of agents who suddenly got busy with an act after it played the Noorderslag weekend.

ETEP organizer Ruud Berends’ point about the programme helping to create a less "U.K.-centric" market is reinforced every time an act with an agent based outside of London does well.

The same point was made when Tobbe Lorentz from The Agency Group’s Scandinavian office got more than a half-dozen shows for Sweden’s Soundtrack Of Our Lives in 2004. That year, only Franz Ferdinand got more.

Scandinavia does well at ETEP. Norway’s Kaizers Orchestra and Sweden’s Moneybrother have both come out best in the last five years.

Dúné, from Denmark, and Sweden’s Peter, Bjorn and John – which is already selling out European club shows – could well be the acts to help Oh No Ono fly the Nordic flags in 2007.

Prior to this year’s Eurosonic-Noorderslag weekend January 11-13, the U.K. still looked to have the strongest hand.

Apart from "the gadgies" (blokes or dudes) from The View, there was Larrikin Love – "larrikin" being Aussie for "hooligan" – and The Magic Numbers, which have already had so much U.K. chart success that the journalists didn’t even bother trying to queue for them.

Most sat in a nearby bar and agreed that it would be a waste of good drinking time.

Steve Zapp from ITB, who had the Editors pull 10 European festival gigs from last year’s ETEP showcase, looks set for another good summer with his breaking acts. He reps "The Gadgies" and "The Hooligans."

Less well known to anyone who hasn’t heard X-Ray Touring’s Steve Strange talking them up is Ireland’s Five O’ Clock Heroes. The day after the act played, several European festival bookers were also talking them up.

Julie Feeney, also from Ireland, also attracted attention from festivals that believed her Grand Theatre performance would translate to a big open-air site.

Adam Saunders of Helter Skelter is also likely to be busy as Enter Shikari’s performance caused more than a ripple of approval from the talent buyers.

The U.K.’s Air Traffic, Sunshine Underground, Shitdisco, and The Young Knives are also likely to pick up a festival show or two.

Best of the local Dutch contingent looks to have been Taxi To The Ocean, but Isle Delange, which played the Saturday night Noorderslag Festival showcase at De Oosterpoort, is likely to pick up shows in Holland and the neighboring countries.

As for Eurosonic inside information, creative director Peter Smidt said he enjoyed the rumbustious approach of Leningrad – the first Russian act to play an ETEP slot.

The weekend attracted 2,400 delegates – 400 up on last year – with the mix of Dutch and foreign delegates remaining the same. Last year, there were 1,500 Dutch and 500 foreign visitors. This year, it was 1,800 Dutch and 600 from other European countries.

It’s just as well the event shifted so many tickets, as it’s run out of EU funding. It was only due to other financial supporters – including The Noorderslag Foundation, the Buma Cultuur organization and the European Music Office – that it happened at all.

Smidt is quick to stress that Brussels isn’t to blame, and that ETEP and the rest of the Groningen-based gathering’s cultural initiatives have support within the European Commission. He said the finalizing of budgets is the problem.

Some EU members, particularly the smaller states that have entered in the last five years, believe they’re paying too much to the EU’s cultural budget and would prefer to spend some of it on local culture.

Until the EC had finalized the budget, and the European parliament had ratified it, it was impossible to start allocating it.

Both Smidt and van Adrichem are quietly confident of future funding.

They’re part of a team that has built an event that’s broken down cultural and geographical borders, which is the whole point of having an EU cultural policy. It has won the support of such European music organizations as the European Live Music Forum, the International Music Managers Forum, Yourope (the European festival platform) and Network Europe, the European conglomerate of independent live music bookers, promoters and agents.

As for the panels, the Dutch government’s decision to stop taxing visiting foreign artists and athletes as of January 1 resulted in Dick Molenaar explaining what it means to a room full of local promoters and agents.

Along with Dr. Harald Grams, he did a second packed-out panel on the implications of their European court victory in "the Scorpio case." The victory has stopped the German government from collecting withholding tax without taking account of the athlete or performer’s outgoings until the end of the tax year.

The irony is that Grams and Molenaar weren’t known for playing to packed houses when they were explaining what they were trying to achieve regarding changing European tax laws.

Now that they’ve started to achieve it, there’s a steady stream of music biz people who want to hear how they will benefit from it.

The atmosphere at the daytime seminars was similar to that in the evening showcases, like a giant party where guests keep bumping into old friends and new business acquaintances.

When Willem Venema from Holland’s The Alternative, Claudio Trotta from Italy’s Barley Arts or Tapio Korjus from Finland’s Rockadillo told tales during the two panels dedicated to rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes, all the stories were so funny that no one cared if they were accurate.