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John Robb reports from the fringe gigs from Unconvention music conference in Holland and finds three great new bands…

Perhaps the best idea for a music conference, Unconvention is now a worldwide brand. The basic remit is about DIY culture, the underground and making connections whether its Columbian rappers, Brazilian metal heads or European left field electronica. Eclectic music linked by like minds.
In January 2011 Unconvention set up shop at Eurosonic- a Dutch music festival in the northern city of Groningen.
There is a whole brawl of music on at the event, an endless rumble of Dutch bands and the odd little corner of inventive and brilliant music at special fringe events.


GaBle are a French band who are stunningly original. They describe themselves as a cross genre that plays 15% folk, electro, hip-hop, rock and pop with 10% ‘sans-etiquette’ thrown in.
The three piece, whose music is all manic energy and brilliant ideas, deal in a menagerie of instruments and sounds. There could be random rapping, exquisite atmospheric vocals, a hoover, weird rattling metal percussion, birdsong or a hardcore riff- it’s like the best ipod in the world all mixed up.
There is folksiness about what they do but also some sort of discordant rule breaking going on. They like odd percussive instruments and surprise endings. They ooze an infectious shy charm and bulldoze you with their high IQ brilliance. Quirky and charmingly eccentric they also have a wild energy and a brilliant command of twisting and turning song structures.

Rats On Rafts

There has always been a great underground scene in Holland. From the Ex and the great coterie of bands that worked on the same circuit as them like Grrr, Revenge of Carrots, Zowiso and De Kift (who are still going and have developed into this amazing band who do on stage plays and sound like some sort of story telling Tom Waits type of experience) as well as on the other side of the coin Eton Crop.
Playing the Subroutine Cares Festival, an independent showcase event, outside of Unconvention, Eurosonic and the official program, Rotterdam band Rats On Rafts are only about 17 so these grand old names of the Dutch squat underground from the early eighties must mean nothing to them but they very much exist in that post punk spirit.
Not so much in the punk clank and grind of their forefathers- they are more into the Echo and the Bunnymen/Teardrop Explodes end of the spectrum- the great north west UK psychedelics.
They do it really well and update the template into 2011. They also know the best periods to immerse themselves in and work the early Peel session period of their Liverpool heroes. They also enthuse about the Stone Roses, Swell Maps and the Fire Engines and have some of the genius Scottish bands wild energy in their songs mashed in with a twist of Syd Barrett.
It’s tough, psychedelic pop driven by a hard bass sound and some great melodies. If only John Peel was still alive today they would be doing a session for him next week.

Young Fathers

Edinburgh is not famous for its hip hop scene but there has been one there for years. Young Fathers come from the Scottish capital and the energetic old skool hip hop show is a great combination of early Beastie Boys/ Run DMC anthemic rapping and a DIY spirit with a dollop of Outkast’s twisted pop nous.
They work the stage hard and throw in all their various skills from body popping to individual rap style. They have an infectious charm and some great songs and belie their unlikely background with a mash up of styles that hint at dubstep as well as the heartbeat stomp of original hip hop.

3 great new bands from Unconvention music festival in Holland by John Robb

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Great to welcome you at our Subroutine Cares night in O’Ceallaigh, John. Hopefully you, as a foreign guest, weren’t offended by the quality of the music at the independent side-events, as the festival director said in this (Dutch) interview: httpss://3voor12.vpro.nl/artikelen/artikel/44344057. Google cannot translate it perfectly (as usual) but this quote: “the quality of the festival level is also of paramount importance to us. Sometimes I speak with a foreign guest, that has walked into a bar the night before, and starts talking about this terrible bands he has seen. Then I have to explain to him that this group was not part of the festival”, is actually comprehensible in English…

  2. Spot on John, you’ve nailed Rats on Rafts there. Interesting times in Holland, with a lot of commitment to good quality/interesting underground activities being completely ignored by the Dutch mainstream media interests. In some ways it’s good cos it allows bands to develop in their own way. In others you want throttle the media for their astounding ignorance. I can totally understand why it drives Koen mad though!


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