After making Coachella history, Klangstof are blazing a trail for other Dutch indie bands

KlangstofPhoto by Jack McKain // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Those of us who have been attending Coachella for a while know how difficult it is for artists filling early-afternoon slots to draw large crowds at the Empire Polo Club. The sun, for one, is usually scorching hot by then, and most of the acts performing between the hours of 12 and 3 p.m. are still relatively unknown.

But for some on the come up like Klangstof, who this year became the first Dutch band to ever perform at Coachella, just the opportunity to play one of the oldest and biggest music festivals in the U.S. has already paid huge dividends back home.

“We’ve never really been big in our home country,” says bandleader Koen van de Wardt, who started Klangstof as a solo project when he was 14 years old and living in Norway at the time. “Being the first (Dutch) band to play Coachella gave us that boost.”

It’s only been a little more than a couple weeks since Klangstof hit the stage for Coachella’s second weekend, but since returning home to Amsterdam, van de Wardt says the response has been palpable.

“I hope it’s a start for more Dutch bands to play big U.S. festivals,” he adds. “We have a pretty cool indie scene. I hope we’re a band that can get things going for Dutch indie culture.”

So far, they’re off to a strong start. This month van de Wardt (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards) and his colleagues — Wannes Salome (keyboards, vocals), Jun Christian Villanueva (drums, programming) and Jobo Engh (guitar) — kick off a 21-date North American tour that will see them open for The Flaming Lips and Miike Snow and make appearances at other major U.S. festivals like Sasquatch!, Bonnaroo and Firefly along the way. That’s not bad for a new band with members who have only been playing together for a year.

As van de Wardt explains, turning Klangstof into a touring outfit wasn’t his intention. When he first started writing the demos for what would become — over a seven-year stretch — the group’s 2016 debut LP Close Eyes to Exit, it was simply “out of boredom.”

Yet, everything changed for van de Wardt when he uploaded “Hostage” as the first Klangstof song to his Soundcloud account in 2015. Two days later, he picked up the phone in the middle of the night to learn it was David Dann from Mind of a Genius, the London/Los Angeles-based indie label that has ZHU, Gallant, THEY. and KWAYE currently signed to its roster. Dann liked what he had heard and saw Klangstof as the next addition to his growing list of clients — and van de Wardt was more than happy to oblige to deals with Mind of a Genius and subsequently Warner Bros. Records months later.

“I never thought something like that would’ve happened,” the 24-year-old frontman admits.

It was from that point that van de Wardt had to consider something he hadn’t had to quite yet: How was he going to play his music live? He spent the next six months searching for the right musicians to join him before settling on Villanueva and Engh, two of his friends from Norway, as well as Salome, whom van de Wardt had only “met” through Facebook but knew to be one of the “top synth wizards in The Netherlands.”

“It has been a pretty weird journey because I never wrote the record as something that I was going to play live,” he says. “I just did everything myself.”

And while turning his solo project into a live band was an adjustment for van de Wardt, it’s not like he hadn’t played in bands before. In fact, just a few years prior, he had moved from Norway to The Netherlands to join Dutch indie band Moss, which he says ultimately helped him decide if he wanted to pursue music as a full-time profession or not. Even more, it gave van de Wardt the confidence to start his own project and eventually assemble his own band, the same one that he’ll bring this week to The Theatre at Ace Hotel in LA and Fox Theater in Oakland as opening support for the three-time Grammy-winning Flaming Lips.

“I feel now after one year with the band, I know what the Klangstof sound is,” he asserts.

Such a sound, with its alt-rock roots and electropop tinges, has drawn lofty comparisons to Radiohead, a group that van de Wardt cites as one of his major influences, but you can also hear hints of other prominent UK “indie” bands, from alt-J to Foals, in the finished product. Meanwhile, onstage it’s been an exhilarating experience for van de Wardt, who can’t wait to jump back in the studio with his bandmates once they’re off the road at the end of this year.

“I’m really excited to go in and record the second album because I feel like all four of us know what we’re doing and how it should be sounding now,” he says, and hearing that from van de Wardt should be music to any Klangstof fan’s ears.

With SnowBall canceled again, why does Colorado still not have a large-scale music festival?

SnowBall Music Festival

Ever since I started visiting Denver on an annual basis to attend concerts at the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre, it was easy to see just how important live music was to the state of Colorado. From rock to electronic to hip-hop, there has never been a shortage of shows in The Centennial State, which still boasts one of the best live music scenes in the country today.

Which brings me to yesterday, when a random thought came over me as to when SnowBall Music Festival would be releasing its 2016 lineup. The three-day fest, which I attended from 2011-2013, was forced to cancel its 2015 edition but assured fans that it would be returning in 2016 and specifically to the mountains, where it all started in Avon, Colo.

Yet, after taking a look at SnowBall’s Facebook page, I quickly noticed that no updates had been posted to it since January 2015, when the festival announced that it would not be taking place in 2015. With almost a whole year of no news, it was strange to not see anything by now, so I decided to comment on SnowBall’s last Facebook post, asking when its 2016 lineup might be released.

Snowball Music Festival 2013

Within 30 minutes of posting my comment, the festival released an official statement on their Facebook page, stating that SnowBall had been canceled for a second straight year and would not be returning to the mountains in 2016 after all. The news, of course, didn’t shock me, as I expected at this point it wouldn’t be happening considering that there were no updates on the festival’s social media channels for nearly a year.

But as I continue to think about the live music landscape in Colorado, it continues to surprise me that the state has yet to host its own large-scale music festival on a year-to-year basis. With comparable U.S. cities like Seattle, Austin, San Francisco and Las Vegas all holding their own unique music festivals, it’s hard to understand why Denver hasn’t jumped on board by now. Add in the fact that AEG Live, which produces the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in conjunction with West Coast concert promoter Goldenvoice each April, is a subsidiary of the Denver-based Anschutz Corporation, and it’s even more perplexing when you stop and think about it.

That’s not to say that Colorado doesn’t have its fair share of music festivals already — Global Dance Festival, Sonic Bloom, ARISE Music Festival and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival are all still in circulation — but none of them feature an eclectic bill of artists that garners national attention like Sasquatch!, Austin City Limits, Outside Lands and Life Is Beautiful all do. Riot Fest, which returned to Denver for its third year last August, is the closest thing Colorado has to a large-scale music festival, except it also throws separate editions in Toronto and Chicago, where the multi-day punk fest was born. In fact, when SnowBall debuted in 2011 with Pretty Lights, Bassnectar and The Flaming Lips serving as its headliners, there was hope among the festival’s organizers and fans that it could eventually develop into something bigger. But with SnowBall’s future looking rather bleak now, it’s unclear whether a large-scale music festival will ever make its home where the columbines grow.

Sasquatch! Music Festival releases 2016 lineup

Sasquatch! Music Festival - 2016 lineup

Sasquatch! Music Festival //
Gorge Amphitheatre – Quincy, WA
May 27th-30th, 2016 //

Returning to the majestic Gorge Amphitheatre over Memorial Day weekend, Sasquatch! Music Festival has dropped another impressive lineup for its 2016 edition.

Now in its 15th year, the Pacific Northwest fest organized by Adam Zacks and Live Nation will feature performances by The Cure, Florence + the Machine, Disclosure, Major Lazer, Alabama Shakes and a whole lot more over four action-packed days. Some of our favorites include Leon Bridges, Jamie xx, A$AP Rocky, Caribou, M83, Kurt Vile, Yeasayer, Mac DeMarco, Big Grams, Chet Faker, Lord Huron and Tycho. See the poster above for the full lineup.

If you’re thinking about going to Sasquatch! this May, you’ll need to act quickly. GA tickets go on sale Tuesday, January 12th (in other words, today) at 10 a.m. here, and VIP supertickets can also be purchased on the festival’s website here.

Last spring, Showbams made the trek to The Gorge to cover Sasquatch! for our first time, and we didn’t leave disappointed when it was all said and done. With another stellar bill of artists, Sasquatch! is sure to shine once again in 2016.

Sasquatch! continues to reign supreme as the Pacific Northwest’s premier music festival

Sasquatch! Music FestivalPhotos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Nik Crossman //

Sasquatch! Music Festival //
Gorge Amphitheatre – Quincy, WA
May 22nd-25th, 2015 //

2015 marked the 14th successful year of Sasquatch! Music Festival thanks to a hunch followed by a Pacific Northwest concert promoter. Back in 2002, when the U.S. festival scene was an infant, Adam Zacks decided to try his luck with an untapped market and bring the festival experience to the Pacific Northwest. The single-day festival sold out its first year, quickly validating Zacks’ hunch and setting the stage for one of the world’s most unique festival experiences.

Embracing the culture of the Pacific Northwest, Sasquatch! caters to the growing breed of indie-centric fans caring just as much about the festival experience (if not more) than the music itself. Over the last 14 years, Sasquatch! has become a “must-do” for festivalgoers and continues to impress with a stellar lineup playing against the majestic backdrop of The Gorge.

So, when I fell into tickets the week before the festival, I jumped at the opportunity to see some of my favorite bands jam out at Mother Nature’s cathedral. Having no campsite and no ride to/from the festival, I posted a Hail Mary message on the Sasquatch! Facebook page, asking a bunch of strangers to take me in as one of their own … and it worked! That’s when I realized Sasquatch! is more than the music — it’s coming together as a community to lend a hand and help a fellow human.

The two-hour drive from Seattle to The Gorge wet the appetite for the alluring landscapes to come. My two new friends and I arrived Friday afternoon, just in time to set up camp and catch the sun fall behind the mountainous horizon.

Sasquatch! - Little Dragon


Little Dragon

Friday

Kicking off the festival, Friday’s lineup included the sounds of Ought, Mother Mother, Gogol Bordello, Action Bronson, Angel Olsen, AlunaGeorge, Little Dragon, Of Monsters and Men, Sleater-Kinney and of course, Flume, the 23-year-old Australian DJ/producer who has been taking the electronic music scene by storm since dropping his debut album in 2012. Despite a little rain early Friday night, the festival was in full swing and the energy inside the grounds built on itself with each performance. The unique sound of Little Dragon had the crowd flowing together, sprinkling in rumors and heightened anticipation for SBTRK‘s set on Sunday night. “Will Little Dragon come out for ‘Wildfire’?!” By the time Flume dropped his first beat at the Bigfoot Stage, the energy was palpable and everyone could feel why this young DJ was chosen to close out Friday night.

Sasquatch! -  Modest Mouse


Modest Mouse

Saturday

With the loving melodies of Milo Green rushing over the Bigfoot State by mid-day, Twenty One Pilots picked up the tempo with an animated performance on the Sasquatch Stage, where the dynamic duo commanded their early-day crowd. Sylvan Esso threw down a Bigfoot dance party when their hit “Coffee” ignited the entire crowd to dance along with the ever-so-strange Amelia Meath on stage. Chromeo‘s love for themselves may only be surpassed by the massive turnout the funky duo brought to Sasquatch! main stage early in the evening. Their funk-tastic sound and vibrant stage presence was perfectly timed to set the stage for following acts like Glass Animals, Kiesza, Modest Mouse, ODESZA and Spoon. Kiesza took the El Chupacabra tent by stormy lights and surprisingly produced more vigor into the crowd than the Seattle duo ODESZA, who seemed to play a more mellow version of themselves than most are familiar with. Just down the hill from ODESZA, 22-year-old rock band Spoon spilled heavy guitar riffs over the crowd and presented an alternative ending to Saturday’s electronic scene. For the second night in a row, Sasquatch! closed out the night with a young, up-and-coming electronic act, staying true to their committed mix bag of new and established performers.

Sasquatch! - St. Vincent


St. Vincent

Sunday

Milky Chance wooed the crowd at the Sasquatch Stage in the late afternoon on Sunday with their unique electro-folk-reggae sounds, lead vocalists Clemens Rehbein’s deep, melodic vocals and the magnificent backdrop of The Gorge. Shortly after Milky Chance stirred the crowd, the unlikely future of rap, Kate Tempest, lived up to her reputation as a force to be reckoned with while showering the crowd with positive affirmations. The sun started setting behind The Gorge while the idiosyncratic St. Vincent moved so distinctly across the stage like an elegant robot, convincing the crowd they made the right choice. The sultry vixen Lana Del Rey attracted one of the largest crowds to the Sasquatch Stage on Sunday night. While Del Rey is not as active as some of her siren peers, her presence was not lacking. Captivating the masses while her white dress blew in the wind, Del Rey abandoned the stage to walk among her amorous fans before leaving her set early to pass the spotlight to an epic instrumental jam session by her band. Madeon, the 21-year-old child prodigy, proved himself once again in the El Chupacabra late on Sunday night when he led the crowd on a fantastic journey of impeccable mashups and psychedelic lights.

Sasquatch! - Slow Magic


Slow Magic

Monday

Monday was the last day of the four-day festival, and the crowds started to thin between the intermittent rain clouds playing hide and seek with the sun. Monday was also the day of drums, at least in the El Chupacabra. Armed only with a wolf mask, laptop and two drumsticks, Slow Magic kicked off the night in the Spanish-flavored tent with a one-of-a-kind experience. With his rare combination of synth and live drumming, Slow Magic is re-imagining electronic music as we know it. Not far behind the solo drumming DJ were the three-piece veterans The Glitch Mob. The trio conquered the stage with their new musical element “The Blade,” which combines both lights and instruments into something that looks like it came out of a space-age movie scene. Drumming their way into the bones of the crowd, The Glitch Mob elicited some of the most hands-in-the-air praise I saw all weekend. They closed out Sasquatch! with a bang, literally.

Sasquatch! Music Festival

Camping

The Sasquatch! campgrounds were far from organized, which presents pros and cons, pending what you’re after. The grueling trek from general camping to the grounds made going to the festival more of a commitment than many appreciated. After a few journeys to and from, premium camping seemed well worth the investment. The wheel-and-spoke layout of the grounds made it easy to find other campsites and stumble into the food trucks for a late-night zombie dog. The camping community itself was friendly and full of love for each other, inviting neighbors to play beer darts and other awesome lawn games.

Sasquatch! Music Festival

Activities

Despite the loving nature of the campers, the Sasquatch! campgrounds lacked the festival-sponsored activities so many of us have come to appreciate and expect like morning yoga classes at Coachella and personal development workshops at Lightning in a Bottle (LIB). The Sasquatch! community inside the grounds attempted to provide this outlet with a vintage arcade, self-defense demonstrations and community dance parties, but they fell short relative to other festivals. One could also argue the lack of art installations throughout the Sasquatch! grounds presents an area of improvement for the festival. That is, until they’re reminded of the natural art blanketing all of The Gorge. Well done, Mother Nature!

Sasquatch! Music Festival

Sustainability

While LIB has been dubbed as “The Greenest Festival in America,” you’d think all festivals would have a strong commitment to sustainably responsible business practices by now. This was an oversight for Sasquatch!, as recycling bins were nowhere to be found and trash cans were often overflowing — a pretty easy, yet significant improvement that needs to be made.