I have to admit that I was rather reluctant to go to this event at first. Already running late (absolutely no time management skills), I forgot my keys inside. No one was home, I couldn’t unlock my bike, so I had to walk. Fantastic. After 3k of powerwalking I arrived 45min. late, tired and grumpy. After the glass of wine I treated myself with, though, things immediately started to look a lot nicer. Now ready to face what I was expecting to be like a bad casting show on TV, I sat down and listened to the by then 3rd performance. Within a couple of seconds all my negative expectations were proven wrong. So, so, so wrong. Every one of the 5 performers was amazingly talented – not only could they all sing beautifully, no, they also all played an instrument and, most importantly, composed their own songs (wish I just had one of those talents but no, I’m probably as un-musically as one can get). The first song I got to listened to was about a young boy being diagnosed as HIV positive; the next song about travelling from place to place, never coming home, following a road that is leading nowhere. None of these performances was perfect in every aspect but that made the songs even more authentic, more real, more intense. You could truly feel the people and their personalities, thoughts, emotions shining through. It was about real experiences, about telling a personal story – not about ever repeated I-can-treat-you-better-than-he-can-cause-I-am-such-an-innocent-sunnyboy stuff. It was awesome to see how everyone’s pre-performance dread turned into happiness and relief afterwards, listening to the applause and all the positive comments from the jury (actually, there was barely anything that the jury really criticised).
After everyone performed once, there was a break, followed by a second round of performances. Of course, the lovely committee organised some snacks for this break – which, as always, got me super excited. Having raided the plates, I sat back down, but this time very much positively curious about what is going to come. The first song of the second round was probably the one song where everyone got goose bumps and at least internally shed a tear or two. When the singer, Daphne Messelink, announced the topic of her song – a young refugee boy that came to the Netherlands all on his own and tried to poison himself – I, and as it turned out many other people as well, were expecting a cheesy “everything is going to be alright, because together we can make it through everything” kind of song. But it was the exact opposite, about not being alright, about how sometimes you cannot be helped. Her song was praised by the jury – and in the end voted to be the winner of the competition.
Performing after this was probably double as hard then but both of the next singer/songwriters did an amazing job as well. Following Zachary Cawthorne-Nugent lamenting his love life in a very catchy and witty way came a song which perfectly expressed feelings we all have from time to time. We all need a song like ‘I don’t like you’ in our lives, especially when sung with such an amazing voice as Joules the Fox’s. In the end, this was what got her the audience price. Of course the prices were the little extra sparkle and praise for the performers but it was not the most important thing of the night. It was about giving local singer/songwriter the chance to perform, to give their message, their feelings a bigger stage. Even though I really have no musical knowledge or skills, I could see that these people were full of ideas, passion and talent. Also the committee did a very good job with organising this event, selecting the performers, (and providing snacks…). If you happen to still be in Groningen next year, you should definitely check it out – and, as I came to realise again, we should all support newcomers more. Sometimes, such unknown, local artist, be it bands, be it singer/songwriters, give you something that massive concerts cannot. I really had an awesome evening!
By Charlotte Kansy
Photos by Fiona of the Usva mediateam