European Music Rocks the Summer Festival Scene | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 20.07.2007
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


European Music Rocks the Summer Festival Scene

US and British bands usually steal the headlines at Europe's most important summer music festivals. Yet in recent years musicians from small European countries have begun rocking festival lineups and winning over fans.


Some people don't care if it's the Red Hot Chili Peppers or an unsigned Icelandic yodeler

Most festivalgoers have been partying for a day or two by the time zZz gets its 30-minute shot at fame.

"It's very compact," Björn Ottenheim, zZz's drummer and singer said about playing such a short set. "It's like you can make love to a woman all night long or you can also make it quick and dirty, which can also be very beautiful."

The "wham-bam, thank you ma'am" of their short festival set is not the only sleazy factor of zZz's current act. You can definitely hear the funky porn soundtrack influence and the heady dope and sex atmosphere from the Red Light district running as a lusty undercurrent in this Amsterdam duo's organ-fueled dance music.

Playing to the people who have yet to be introduced to their sound is something zZz are getting used to. However, they've been working hard to spread the word this summer as the Dutch duo found itself playing to large enthusiastic crowds at major music festivals in Great Britain, Slovenia and Belgium.

It's an on-going mission. Last summer, it was much of the same as they trawled through festivals in Italy, France and Spain as well as getting booked at Popkomm, a festival associated with a large trade show for the music and entertainment industry held in Berlin.

It's not easy being European

Musik Band zZz aus Amsterdam Die Musiker Björn Ottenheim und Daan Schinkel (r)

Björn Ottenheim, left, and Daan Schinkel of zZz

Bands from non-English-speaking European countries have always had to contend with getting a lot less media attention and air time than their American and British counterparts.

"When you don't come from the US or UK, it's already pretty hard," said Ottenheim in a phone interview from the Dour Festival in Belgium. "Being from Holland, you have to have that extra bit of luck that people take some time to check us out. And then most of the time they're stuck immediately when they hear us."

For many years, festival promoters didn't book European bands because they simply had no way of finding out about them.

But things have been getting better. The situation began to change for the musical minnows in 2003, when the European Talent Exchange Program (ETEP) launched an effort to bring together festival promoters and potential talent. ETEP-sponsored bands will play 200 shows in festivals this summer, up from 50 in the first year. Until recently, part of the funding came from the European Commission.

"We think it's working very well," ETEP founder Peter Smidt said of the program. "But it's definitely not yet the case that a German or a Dutch or a French act automatically have access to the European market. It's still very difficult."

Summer soundtrack

Impressionen vom Musikfestival Rheinkultur 2006

Festivals dot Europe's summer landscape

Summer music festivals are big business in Europe. About 144,000 alternative music fans showed up for the four-day Dour Festival.

"We love playing festivals of this caliber," Ottenheim said of the Dour Festival. "To have a whole tent of people freaking out on my music is a pretty immense feeling. It's rewarding and it's very sexy."

With record sales stagnating, the summer festivals have become an essential way for bands to get exposure outside their home countries, said Christof Huber, of the Swiss-based European festival association Yourope.

"I think the people want to explore new bands. If the quality of the live act is there, bands from Europe can be headliners right now," Huber said.

Deutschland Musik Rock am Ring Fotoreportage

Many festivals are multi-day events

While most bands sing in English regardless of where they are from, some have had success singing in their native language. The German band Wir sind Helden (We are Heroes) have been selling out shows across Europe, as have Norwegian outfit Kaizers Orchestra.

Icelandic trance-rockers Sigur Ros are also a big draw on the European circuit despite the fact that most people don't have a clue what they're singing about.

The diversity and quality of European bands is at an all-time high, Smidt believes. "That's the nice thing about European culture, that it has this diversity and it's not like one sound," he said.

Big in Japan

Bands from small European countries like the Netherlands "need to go abroad to survive," Smidt said.

Which explains zZz's relentless touring, which has included stops in places as diverse as Japan and the South by Southwest music event in Austin, Texas -- considered to be a must for any band wanting to break into the US market. Ottenheim and bandmate Daan Schinkel will head back to Britain in August to play the Summer Sundae Weekender festival.

Despite the odds, zZz has every intention of making it big in the music business, Ottenheim said. That's a bold statement. It's been 33 years since the Dutch band Golden Earring showed up on US charts with its hit "Radar Love."

"I wouldn't mind kicking it even further than Golden Earring," Ottenheim said. "We're doing pretty good in Japan. We're just working as hard as we can on the music we make and the shows we do."

DW recommends