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Eurosonic Festival 2019 Preview

Who to See at the Dutch Music Festival and Conference

Jan 09, 2019 Any Other
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What signifies the New Year for you? Is it a three-day-long Faustian pact with a treadmill before packing it in? Maybe it was that Veganuary experiment that you forgot about as soon as you had to return to work. Well, for thousands of music obsessives and industry figures across Europe, New Year means it’s time to descend upon the picturesque Dutch city of Groningen for Eurosonic Festival, by far the biggest annual celebration of new European music.

This year sees the festival and conference taking place from 16-18 January, with the partner festival Noordeslag capping off festivities on the night of the 19th. Some 350 artists, all European, will play to over 40,000 total visitors, including representatives from hundreds of international festivals and media organisations.

The institution was, in their own words, “founded in order to stimulate and push the circulation of European music across the European continent as well as beyond.” A non-profit organisation, it exists to combat the Anglo-centric orthodoxy of the pop music industry that has persisted for decades. Talented artists from across Europe have forever been glass-ceilinged by a myopic worldview that has routinely gifted opportunities to subpar British and American artists. That spirit of injustice fuels Eurosonic, a beacon of hope for many a struggling European musician.

The sheer breadth of the music on offer this year makes it borderline ridiculous to throw the spotlight in any one direction. If you’re going, you owe it to yourself to leap in at the deep end and allow yourself to be surprised by some avant-garde Hungarian folk or post-modern Ukrainian afro-jazz. That said, you won’t go wrong by taking yourself along to see the piercingly honest Italian singer/songwriter Any Other, the Icelandic midnight techno-goth of Hatari, the spritely indie pop of German duo Gurr, or the angelic folk of Dutch artist Pitou.

By day, Eurosonic plays host to the mother of all music conferences, a three-day bonanza with 150 panels, keynotes and other such industry shindigs taking place, covering the media, business, digital, and creative aspects of the current and future music industry. By night, Groningen morphs into celebration of what lies ahead for European music. Forty different locations play host to gigs, with revellers manically scrabbling around the center of the city that is known locally as the Metropolis of the North. The partner festival Noorderslag, which extends the party into a fourth night, centers solely on Dutch artists and takes place at the esteemed De Oosterpoort concert hall.

In addition to all the gigs and conferences, the opening night plays host to the European Music Awards Night, during which the winning artists of the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards will be honored, including Catalan sensation Rosalía and Dutch garage rock powerhouse Pip Blom. ESNS (that’s Eurosonic Noordeslag for those at the back) is surely unparalleled in helping to advance the careers of so many young artists, with Shame, Dua Lipa, Sigrid, and Aurora just some of the more eye-catching beneficiaries of recent years.

In truth, though, the big names aren’t the point. This is a celebration not so much of the moneyed glitterati, but the DIY grassroots movements that survive on perspiration and word of mouth, the lifeblood that ensures that music never dies. For those artists breaking their back just to survive, ESNS is a major opportunity to be seen and heard by the right people.

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