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Netherlands latest EU country hit by summer event ban

There will be no festivals in the Netherlands this summer, as the Dutch government imposes a ban on all large-scale events until 1 September.

The move follows similar decisions taken in some of Europe’s biggest festival markets including Germany, Belgium and Denmark, where events are banned until 31 August, as well as slightly shorter bans in France (mid-July) Austria (end of June) and Luxembourg (31 July), and is in line with European Union guidance.

The government in the Netherlands had previously stated public events were not permitted until 1 June, affecting festivals including DGTL Amsterdam, Awakenings Easter and Dauwpop.

The extended ban has resulted in the calling off of major festivals organised by Live Nation’s Mojo Concerts, Friendly Fire – part of the CTS Eventim-owned FKP Scorpio group – and dance music giant ID&T.

“We all saw it coming, but the hammer has finally fallen: there will be no Lowlands this summer,” reads a statement on the Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (Lowlands) website, set to take place from 21 to 23 August with performances from Stormzy, the Chemical Brothers, Foals and Liam Gallagher.

“Like you, we are heartbroken. All we can do now is look to the future and promise you that we’ll make Lowlands 2021 an all-out party beyond your wildest dreams.”

“Like you, we are heartbroken. All we can do now is look to the future and promise you that we’ll make Lowlands 2021 an all-out party beyond your wildest dreams”

Mojo-promoted Lowlands is part of the Netherlands’ ‘Save your ticket, enjoy later’ campaign, supported by the Dutch government and competition watchdog ACM, encouraging fans to hang on to tickets for a later date, rather than request refunds.

Lowlands will return from 20 to 22 August 2021.

Fellow Mojo festivals, Pinkpop (Guns N Roses, Post Malone, Red Hot Chili Peppers), Down the Rabbit Hole (Tyler the Creator, Disclosure, FKA Twigs), North Sea Jazz Festival (Alicia Keys, John Legend, Lionel Richie) and Woo Hah! (Kendrick Lamar, Asap Ferg, Aitch) have all moved to 2021 following the ban.

The cancellation of the 8th edition of Friendly Fire’s Best Kept Secret, which had a line-up including the Strokes, the National and Massive Attack, is a “massive blow”, say organisers.

“This news has an enormous impact on our festival and everyone involved. For us it makes an enormous difference if you decide to stay with us in 2021. By doing so, you’ll help secure the foundation of Best Kept Secret so that we can organise a fantastic edition for you next year.”

Best Kept Secret returns from 11 to 13 June 2021.

Netherlands-based dance music promoter ID&T has also had a number of events affected by the extended ban. The group states “we will do everything in our power to find an alternative date for all concerned events,” with the 2021 dates for festival including Defqon.1, Awakenings, Mysteryland and Amsterdam Open Air already announced.


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Dutch govt bans all events until 1 June

The Dutch government has tightened up restrictions on live events, extending its existing ban on public gatherings until 1 June, applying the ban to events of all sizes and issuing fines to those not in compliance.

The new measures were announced by the cabinet on Monday evening (23 March). Under the new rules, groups of three or more not keeping one-and-a-half meters apart will be fined. Previously, events were banned until 6 April, and gatherings of up to 100 people were still permitted.

Companies not complying with the new rules will face fines or up to €4,000, whereas individuals will be charged €400.

The extension brings the event ban into festival season. Following the announcement, the organisers of DGTL Amsterdam cancelled the 2020 edition, due to take place on 11 and 12 April. Acts billed to play DGTL included Nina Kraviz, Sven Väth, Bonobo, Marcel Dettman and Honey Dijon.

“In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, we at DGTL believe in putting the health and safety of our visitors, crew, volunteers and society above all. After closely following the advice and precautionary measures from the Dutch government and health officials, it is with deep sadness that we have to officially inform you that DGTL Amsterdam will not be taking place as scheduled,” reads a statement on the festival’s website.

“Despite all the hard work that everyone has put into the organisation of the festival, this obviously feels like the only right decision. Our current priority is to play our part responsibly in the fight against this global health crisis.”

“In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, we at DGTL believe in putting the health and safety of our visitors, crew, volunteers and society above all”

Organisers will reach our to ticketholders in the coming weeks, offering a ticket exchange for the 2021 event or a full refund. In accordance with recent government advice, fans are urged to give organisers “time and space” and to resist getting into contact regarding refunds.

Organisers of Kingsland Festival, set to take place on 27 April in celebration of Kingsday (the Dutch King’s birthday), are currently working “to find a suitable solution with all authorities and parties involved” and ask for the understanding and patience of ticketholders.

The one-day festival takes place simultaneously in the cities of Amsterdam, Groningen, Rotterdam and Tilburg. Acts scheduled to perform include Afrojack, Wizkid and Fisher.

Awakenings Easter, a four-day series of events across Amsterdam over the Easter bank holiday, will no longer take place. Awakenings Festival is still set to go ahead on June 27 and 28, with acts including Amelia Lens, Avalon Emerson, Charlotte de Witte, Helena Hauff, Ricardo Villalobos and Maceo Plex.

Mojo festivals including Paaspop (2 to 4 April), Momo Festival (16 to 18 April), Dauwpop (21 May), Ribs and Blues (30 May to 1 June) are no longer taking place, although all will return in 2021.

Major Mojo festivals such as A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise, Woo Hah!, North Sea Jazz Festival, Down the Rabbit Hole and Pinkpop are all currently going on as planned once the ban is lifted.

Other Dutch festivals going ahead this summer include Mysteryland, FKP Scorpio’s Best Kept Secret and Defqon.1 Weekend Festival.


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Jazz: Rebirth of the cool

This year marks a full century since the arrival of jazz in the UK, one of the first countries outside of the US where the genre really took root after American musicians started touring to appreciative British audiences. In that time, the style has evolved and faced backlashes from purists, and has become a byword for both effortless cool and difficult or indulgent music. Jazz is all of these things and more, but the fact it has endured and evolved, finding fresh ways to reconfigure itself and reach new audiences, is something to be celebrated.

Part of its endurance is due to the support of jazz festivals and how they have contributed to the rolling narrative of what jazz is and what it can be next.

For these events, jazz is a common thread running through the music on offer rather than existing as a full stop. This allows the events to bring in musicians forged exclusively in the furnaces of jazz as well as others who come from very different traditions but have jazz DNA in there somewhere.

Founded in 1967 by the late Claude Nobs, Montreux Jazz Festival is a giant in this world as well as a talisman for those events that came in its wake. “Montreux has always been about multiple genres of music,” says Mathieu Jaton, CEO of the festival. “It is not only about jazz.” He has been involved in the festival for the past 22 years, eventually taking over after the passing of Nobs in 2013. He is keen to retain that committed and adventurous spirit brought to the event by Nobs and ensure its eclecticism continues.

“The focus on jazz music is getting higher and higher,” he says of the new acts coming to the fore today. “Jazz has never been in such good shape.”

Another key development was the establishment of the International Jazz Festivals Organization (IJFO), which can trace its origins back to 1982. Now headed up by Fritz Thom, who also runs the Jazz Fest Vienna event, it is intentionally tight in its focus and membership.

“The focus on jazz music is getting higher and higher. Jazz has never been in such good shape”

“IJFO is not like other organisations around the world that might want to gather large membership numbers and try to have as many members as possible to collect membership fees from them,” explains Thom. “Our aim is to have one festival per market that interests us. We are an umbrella organisation for 16 festivals currently.”

Thom suggests that it was Claude Nobs who really set the benchmark for all the other European events who are members of IJFO.“Montreux was the first one to really open wide to other genres in its programming,” he argues. “But there is always a media discussion around if this counts as jazz and if it should be allowed to be programmed in a jazz festival.”

The Montreux founder was also a huge inspiration for Jean-René Palacio who has been running the Antibes Jazz Festival for the past decade and which will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2020.

“What I’m trying to say with this programme is that jazz is an open music,” says Palacio. “It is open to everybody. Like Claude Nobs started doing years ago, jazz festivals must be open to other types of quality music. This is a way to bring new people into the jazz festival. You want to bring in a younger audience and a new audience.”

The Montreux effect was also felt outside of Europe, with the Montreal Jazz Festival in the 1970s taking the lead from its near-namesake. As co-founder André Ménard says, “We were influenced by festivals like Montreux that would go into different styles. We never went as far as Montreux by booking Johnny Hallyday and Motörhead. But I would love to have booked Motörhead!”

While jazz is the unifying thread, none of the jazz festival organisers IQ spoke to for this feature considered themselves to be dealing purely in jazz, all regarding a hybrid approach and programming eclecticism as key to their continued presence in the market. The trick, they argue, is moving in lockstep with the musicological evolution of the form.

“Jazz is an alive music. It is no longer American music. It belongs to the world”

“Jazz is an alive music,” is how Ménard puts it. “It has taken lots of influences and it has given lots of influences. It is coming back in new waves from around the world. It is no longer American music. It belongs to the world.”

Jaton adds, “A good definition of a jazz musician is someone who is ready to share music with others and to open minds to different styles of music.” This, he says, is reflected in the bookings that happen at Montreux, where acts like Jamie Cullum, Gregory Porter and Rag’n’Bone Man can comfortably be added to the festival running order.

Jan Willem Luyken of North Sea Jazz Festival concurs. “Because we book a lot of young talent every year, there were lots of artists who performed in an early stage of their career,” he says of his role in helping to break new acts through the festivals and, in doing so, give the events a new energy. “The ones on the top of my mind are Gregory Porter, D’Angelo, Maxwell, Jamie Cullum, Jason Mraz, Amy Winehouse, Snarky Puppy, Cory Henry, Kurt Elling, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau and Melody Gardot.”

Palacio suggests that diverse running orders can become symbolic statements of intent. He cites the example of having Sting play last year on the same running order as Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda and pianist Hiromi as a ripe example of this in action.

At times, these festivals have had to battle against the purists – what Ménard jokingly refers to as having “the jazz police on our backs” – but they also can delight in proving the naysayers wrong with inspired bookings.

“When Prince arrived in Montreal [for the 2011 festival] he saw a newspaper that said he did not fit in with the festival,” recalls Ménard. “He then opened his show by doing one hour of freestyle music – just him and Larry Graham! […] Then he launched into two hours of his own hits.”


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 80, or subscribe to the magazine here

North Sea Jazz launches Groningen fest Rockit

The Oosterport in Groningen, Netherlands, will this November be the venue for a new jazz festival, Rockit.

Rockit – named for a 1983 composition by Herbie Hancock, who will headline the event – is jointly organised by Mojo Concerts’ North Sea Jazz Festival and the in-house promoters at the Oosterport (1,850-cap. in the main hall), a music/performing arts venue and the long-time home of the Eurosonic Noorderslag conference.

Joining Hancock as the first confirmed performers are BadBadNotGood, Donny McCaslin, Shabaka and the Ancestors, Ben van Gelder and Reinier Baas, and Jeff Parker and Rob Mazurek.

Like the song ‘Rockit’ (a “groundbreaking mix of funk, jazz, hip-hop, dance and a touch of rock”), Rockit festival says it will focus on experimental programming, featuring acts “who are open to the unknown”.

“The first headliners … are artists who are open to the unknown, who wish to enter a new ‘galaxy’…”

“These artists and groups collaborate with hip-hop, pop and rock musicians, and integrate those influences into their own projects and records,” reads a press release. “For example, you can hear saxophonist Donny McCaslin on David Bowie’s Blackstar and Jeff Parker is a band member of the post-rock group Tortoise. […]

“Rockit has it all: hip, contemporary, stinging, pioneering. In short: future music.”

IQ spoke to North Sea Jazz’s festival director, Jan Willem Luyken, about artist fees, sponsorship, the Dutch market and the festival’s philosophy shortly after selling out once again last month.


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Luyken: Artist fees “getting crazier every year”

North Sea Jazz Festival, the biggest indoor jazz festival in the world, has once again sold out, this year shifting all 75,000 tickets four months ahead of the event.

Festival director Jan Willem Luyken says the strong ticket sales are a tribute to North Sea Jazz (NSJ)’s unique venue and the originality of its programming, both of which help it stand out in an ever-more crowded festival market as it enters in 41st year.

“The Dutch market is very busy, with lots and lots of festivals going on,” he tells IQ. “Big open-airs and smaller local niche festivals are everywhere.

“NSJ, however, has a comfortable position with its unique format and set-up, so we are not too much affected by that.”

North Sea Jazz, founded by Paul Acket in 1976 and now promoted by Mojo Concerts, has since 2006 taken place in the AEG-operated Ahoy Rotterdam following the demolition of its previous home, the Statenhal in The Hague. Its 2017 line-up includes Gladys Knight, Jamiroquai, Usher and The Roots, Van Morrison, Emeli Sandé, Steve Winwood, Erykah Badu, Herbie Hancock, De La Soul, Solange, Laura Mvula and George Benson.

“Big open-airs and smaller local niche festivals are everywhere”

It also, until recently, had a naming-rights agreement with a venue, North Sea Jazz Club, in Rotterdam, which closed after running into financial difficulties. Why, IQ asks, did the deal come to an end? “After a few years, we no longer felt comfortable with the musical direction in which the club was going,” says Luyken. “It was drifting away from the festival more and more, so we decided not to renew the collaboration.”

As an indoor festival, like Montreux Jazz in Switzerland and the new EFG London Jazz Festival, NSJ is protected from the sort of severe weather that disrupted several European events last summer – but having 75,000 people under one roof can, Luyken explains, present its own set of problems.

“The biggest challenge is crowd control,” he says. “The audience has to be able to move freely between the 14 stages, and we are less flexible with square metres compared to our open air-colleagues!”

While NSJ’s line-ups over the years arguably include a number of performers with only a tenuous link to jazz music, Luyken says a focus on other, related genres has always been at the heart of the festival’s booking philosophy. “Since the first edition in 1976, the festival has always been about jazz music and related genres such as soul, blues, funk, R&B, hip hop, world music, etc.,” he explains. “Paul Acket, the founding father of NSJ, realised back then he had to bring in popular headliners to sell the tickets, so he booked acts like Ray Charles, James Brown, Van Morrison and Chaka Khan…

“This is still, after 41 years, our formula. We’ll always stay true to our roots, but, of course, we have to stay up to date, book hot new acts and make sure to stay attractive to new audiences and follow up on trends. Luckily, with 14 stages we are able to do it all.”

“We’ll always stay true to our roots, but we have to stay up to date and book hot new acts”

The greatest challenge in filling those 14 stages, Luyken says, is rising artist fees – a view shared by many respondents to IQ’s European Arena Report 2016.

“To get the best line-up for the available budget is an ongoing puzzle,” he says. “Artist fees are getting crazier every year, so the biggest challenge is to keep the tickets affordable for our audience.”

One solution to the artist-fee conundrum, suggests Luyken, is to capitalise on the growing Dutch economy to persuade brands to part with more sponsorship money. “The economy is finally picking up,” he concludes, “which brings new sponsorship opportunities.”

North Sea Jazz Festival 2017 takes place from 7 to 9 July.


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Bankrupt North Sea Jazz Club closed

Amsterdam’s North Sea Jazz Club venue has closed after its operator, Kop Oost, filed for bankruptcy.

The 450-cap. venue, which offered both live music and dining, opened in 2012 in the new Westergasfabriek development. Its naming agreement with North Sea Jazz Festival – promoted by local Live Nation operation Mojo Concerts – expires in May, and a statement from Kop Oost says a change of name was already underway.

However, venue owner Beheer- en Exploitatiemaatschappij Westergasfabriek refused to sanction the name change, deeming it a breach of contract, and threatened to terminate Kop Oost’s lease.

This, says the company, led to investors withdrawing from North Sea Jazz Club – after which bankruptcy was “inevitable”.

“I find it very regrettable the club has closed, but there has been no rent paid for four months”

Sixty venue staff are to lose their jobs as a result of the closure.

Westergasfabriek director Mark de Kruijk, however, disputes Kop Oost’s version of events, saying the venue was months behind on its rent even before the end of the agreement with Mojo.

“I am surprised about the story [Kop Oost] is putting forward,” he tells he tells local daily Het Parool. “The Westergasfabriek does prefer to carry on with the name North Sea Jazz Club – but where our dispute primarily lies is in the venue’s huge arrears. I find it very regrettable that the club has closed, but there has been no rent paid for four months.”


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