Haarlem, the city that’s somehow always in the shadow of Amsterdam. While it’s best known bands are probably Relax, Chef’Special, Alain Clark and The Sheer, there’s a lot more brewing under the surface than you see at first sight.
Haarlem hosts a lot of festivals every year. Most famous are probably Bevrijdingspop, and Mysteryland, the oldest dance festival in the Netherlands.Haarlem also has a city theatre and philharmonic concerthall in one. Stadsschouwburg & Philharmonie Haarlem’s program contains mostly classical music and musicals.
But the city got more to offer. Like last years ‘De Stad Als Podium’, which translates to ‘The City as a Stage’. This festival combined a lot of different cultural organisations, old monumental buildings used for performances and art shows, international bands like Battles, Man Man, and a lot more lesser known and local bands. (Both bands also performed at Incubate)
Haarlem is a city with a lot of live music incorporated into the smaller bars, pubs and venues. Some notable bars with live music are:
- Café Pitcher (alternative and local bands)
- Café Briljant (open mic nights and some live music)
- Café Stiels (Jazz, Rhythm and Blues café with live music 5 nights a week)
- Café Storing (live music and dance nights).
Most of the Haarlems music scene revolves around Patronaat. This is the largest music venue in Haarlem. With a large mainstage, small stage and a café.
Patronaat hosts a lot of shows, from pop music to noise and metal. Besides shows they also organise club nights with dubstep, 80’s hits and even a 40+ night.
The good thing about Patronaat is that they also give some organisations the chance to program their own events in the Patronaat Café. There is the hardcore punk organisation Minor Operation Bookings, Haarlem Reggae Movement and Gold Diggers. All these organisations are able to book the music they like and showcase these to an audience.
The Irrational Library
One of the organisations that regularly program Patronaat café is The Irrational Library . This is run by Joshua Baumgarten a.k.a. DJ Weird Beard. The Irrational Library programs the Patronaat Café one Saturday each month. Recently they’ve also opened their very own store with vintage clothing, records, books and more.
The focus mainly lies on more Garage and Rock ‘n ‘Roll oriented music. Some bands that could be considered part of the scene surrounding The Irrational Library, are E.T. Explore Me, The Pignose Willy’s and Pussycat Kill Kill Kill. These bands are making music you could define best as blues trash. E.T. Explore Me and their distorted and overdriven organ they are making what they call: organ trash. And they totally hit the right spot with that definition. The Pignose Willy’s are a duo, featuring one of the members of E.T. Explore Me. They use a distorted blues harmonica that gives them a unique sound.
The Pignose Willy’s at 3fm DemoZone
Pussycat Kill Kill Kill is a seven-piece band. Resurrected from death in February they are currently playing shows again. Their music is a mix between punk, blues trash and just straight-up rock ‘and roll.
When we asked Joshua if he thought bands from Haarlem were getting enough attention and praise he answered:
“Haarlem bands need to push harder to get the attention they deserve. Being the shadow city of Amsterdam is tough. Being a band in Amsterdam, then you get the cool indie label. Here you are suburban geeks.”
Not all music events in Haarlem are held in a regular venue. Geertruida is such an exception. From the outside it’s just an ordinary house in the north of Haarlem. But the brave house owner under the name of Yannick Tinbergen decided he wanted to set up his own shows, and so he did.
At first the shows featured smaller, and more unknown bands like Agent Side Grinder and Jeans Wilder. Then Marijn Westerlaken joined the house (he also brought his guitar/pedal showroom Digitaar with him). With his coming they also started setting up bigger shows.
The shows are known for their craziness, indoor-stage diving and the open atmosphere. Bands in Geertruida never play for commission. The shows are done out of generosity and are often a very good stop for touring musicians. The bands get a free place to sleep, food and drinks. During the events Geertruida asks for donations from the crowd. They split these donations with the bands. The band is also able to sell their merchandise. A few bands that played Geertruida also played on the Incubate Festival, for example: Cold Pumas and A Grave With No Name.
The guys behind Geertruida, Yannick and Marijn, are musicians too and both play in their own bands, respectively The Treasure of Grundo and Those Foreign Kids. These two bands will play on the very first edition of Incubate Scene Report: Haarlem.
Geertruida also has a connection with the guys from The Irrational Library, but their shows are considerably more underground oriented.
Being the main rehearsal space in Haarlem for almost 17 years, a lot of musicians mourn the loss of their beloved Daisy Bell. The building became part of a conflict between the landowners and the local government and finally had to close its doors.
As a benefit for the owners and a last goodbye to the building a few people came together and organised a party in Patronaat, using all three stages.
Joshua Baumgarten from The Irrational Library reflects upon the moment that for him signifies the Haarlem music scene:
“There were over 50 bands, hundreds of people. Bands that had broken up reformed for a one-time gig for the Daisy Bell. I was one of the hosts of the event. Standing back, watching all the bands, all the friends, fans and family. It gave me a special feeling about Haarlem, the wealth and diversity of its music scene and the people it brings together.”
While globally a lot of record shops are forced to close due to the decrease in physical sales, the Haarlem-based record label and distribution centre Suburban Records decided to go against the grain and open their own record store. The store will focus mainly on vinyl and only sells music they release or distribute and will also be open for material by local bands.
It goes without saying that Haarlem is in fact a musical city. There’s music in so many different places: bars, living rooms, monumental buildings and the traditional venues.
Unfortunately this post can’t even begin to cover all of the music that’s going on. There is a lot more. From commercial to underground, quiet to loud. There is dance, dubstep, punk and so much more. That’s why we encourage you to contribute to the knowledge about Haarlem’s music scene by posting your comments below.
You can also add currently active bands to the overview of bands and musicians in Holland on GetSatisfaction. The topic for Incubate Scene Report can be found here.
We hope to see you at the first edition of Incubate scene report
29 March 2012 – Cul de Sac, Tilburg
With: Treasure of Grundo + Those Foreign Kids