During those first cold months of the new year, alternative underground music festival Grauzone takes place. For the first time, this international and multi-disciplinary festival residues in the Paard van Troje venue in The Hague, NL. On February 11, enthusiasts for new wave, punk and psychedelic music, film and art make their way through the snow-covered streets of The Hague, bundled up in black coats, parading sturdy Dr. Martins and preparing their earplugs.
Grauzone festival 2017 is officially opened at the mini-exhibition in the Koorenhuis. The subject of interest was British new wave band The Sound, and especially its frontman Adrian Borland. Unique and rare items were exhibited, from Borland’s guitars, hand-written lyrics and diary entries to vinyl records and newspaper articles.
// “Walking In The Opposite Direction” (2016)
Following the theme of the exhibition, the festival’s first program listing is a documentary, focused on the story of The Sound and its frontman Adrian Borland. The film starts out as a historical overview of this influential and controversial band, but then it evolves into much more of a biography of Borland and his struggles with mental illness. The intense and undeniable love for music, and the constant struggle of Borland go hand-in-hand in “Walking In The Opposite Direction” (2016). It’s especially interesting to see the connection between The Sound, Borland and the Netherlands. The band was always very popular in our little country and later on in his life, Borland sought peace in Leiden, where he worked on most of his solo work.
// Agent Side Grinder
After this beautiful and touching documentary, it’s time for our first musical performance of the day: Agent Side Grinder. All the way from Sweden, all dressed in black and all ready for battle, the band brings a sound reminiscent of Joy Division. Frontman Kristoffer Grip narrates with his low, gloomy voice and lyrics, while his four companions play vintage drum-machines and spin tape-loops between their fingers. Agent Side Grinder’s music is dark and angry, with just the right amount of beat and electronics, and a great stage presence and live performance.
// Anna von Hauswolff
From one Swedish band to the other: Anna von Hauswolff takes the main stage shortly after. I was absolutely floored to experience how a small, blond and cute-looking girl can produce such an earth-shattering (or in this case, concerthall-shattering) hurricane of guitars, synths and eerie vocals. The entire band is mysteriously playing in a purple-colored fog, barely lit, while backlights show us merely their gloomy profiles. Anna herself, positioned on the middle of the stage, like a queen upon her throne, is a whirlwind of fingers confidently creating and blonde hair flying. The audience is swept up by the musical hurricane, heads following the thunderous beats and ear deafening silences in-between tracks.
// Jehnny Beth
Near the end of our evening, we’re back in the Koorenhuis in the same room we witnessed “Walking In The Opposite Direction” earlier that day. The cinema chairs are gone and up on the stage is a shiny, silver grand piano. Front woman of the all-female postpunk band Savages, Jehnny Beth takes place on the bench and casually announces she’s never played these songs for an audience before and that this is as new for us as it is for her. The audience doesn’t seem to mind, as they eagerly cheer her on and collectively hold their breath as Beth starts her solo performance. She plays beautiful, honest and raw songs, some stripped-down versions of Savages songs and others she has recently written while touring. A personal highlight us Beth’s cover Beyoncé’s “Haunted”, which suits her unique voice and raw piano sounds perfectly.