Back in 1985 at the height of the sixties revival, when we were listening to the Fuzztones and the Chesterfield Kings, the sound of the original beat music that we regarded with a mixture of devotion, amazement and nostalgia (for something that we had not actually experienced ourselves), it was as though we were looking back on the stone age. It felt like the distant past… whereas only a mere twenty years had actually gone by. Now, in 2018, it seems weird to be discussing a festival that is in its twenty-sixth year. The arithmetic implies that we’ve literally grown up with the Festival Beat: with respect to the present, it was very much a different world back in 1993. Just about everything has changed, but apparently there’s still passion for a musical genre and an attitude that have remained intact since the sixties, against all odds. Beat, in all its various guises, is still alive and kicking, and in 2018 it is entitled to full recognition.

Not convinced? Twenty years ago, did you really think that the shelves today would still contain those wonderful round pieces of black plastic that we call records? Be honest: of course you didn’t. Well, just as we witnessed the death and the subsequent resurrection of vinyl, every year we witness that other small miracle known as the Festival Beat. During the hottest period of the year, it is responsible for drawing aficionados from all over the world to Salsomaggiore, attracted by top quality music and a certain togetherness that is hard to explain. Every year, I’m called upon to write these introductory paragraphs, and I make every possible effort not to repeat myself while still underlining the same concepts. But perhaps there’s no point in fussing over it any more. The Festival Beat is just that: good music and good vibes… same as it ever was.

And if we’ve got as far as edition number 26, there must be a good reason. What is it? Try visiting Salsomaggiore from 27th June to 1st July. You can enjoy the Chocolate Watchband, the Scientists, the Hypnotics & co. of course, but you’ll also see that the visitors to the Festival come for a host of other reasons in addition to the music itself.

SottoTerra rockzine.

FESTIVAL BEAT Vol. 26 (2018)

What can you say about the Link Quartet that hasn’t already been said or written? You only need to look at the numbers (a lengthy career, huge discography, long tours around the world), their numerous (and well-received) appearances at the Festival Beat, but especially their music: that cocktail of Hammond-beat, exotica, lounge, funk/soul/garage that has made them both famous and greatly revered. In short, the success of their performance at the 2018 edition of the Festival is practically guaranteed (as is a “Telegatto” career trophy as the sexiest band on the planet!).

THE MEN FROM S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Switzerland)
The Men From S.P.E.C.T.R.E. are old friends of ours. This Swiss outfit appeared at the Festival Beat no less than 16 years ago: edition no. 10 at Pianello Val Tidone. But some passions last forever, so here they are again at the Festival, ready to re-evoke the glories of the past. Their live show is quite something, as fans of pure sixties instrumental sounds are well aware. For this reason, we’re in no doubt that the Men From S.P.E.C.T.R.E. will leave their mark once again.

This quintet from London is the latest pearl to adorn the bill at the2018 Festival. Three guys and two girls with an ability to combine garage, beat, ska, northern soul, surf and sci-fi, all with the simple aim of having fun. There’s even an element of wave, which is no bad thing, plus the sheer verve of a band that is itching to show an Italian audience what they can do. Make sure you’re prepared for this very promising live act.

Young, fresh-sounding Americans with an approach to rock’n’roll that is bang on the money. On vocals we have the daughter of the great Howe Gelb (the leader of Giant Sand), together with Christian Blunda of the Mean Jeans. Yankees to the core, both inside and out, Patsy’s Rats play a modern brand of power pop with certain indie inflections that pay homage to the tradition without ever sounding dated. If you’re fond of bold guitars and infectious harmonies (but, more simply, if you just love basic rock), Patsy’s Rats will tickle your fancy. Just the right thing if you’re looking to unwind.

There aren’t many contemporary bands in Italy that play punk rock as competently as these guys. Sophisticated yet powerful, the Diplomatics (from Vicenza) can boast a sound that epitomises the proverbial punch in the stomach. Throw in a sprinkling of Detroit, a whole lot of 1977 punk, a touch of mid-eighties Australia, and it’s ready to serve. As if that wasn’t enough, you might be interested to know that their live set includes a cover of a tune by Television. Get the drift? You have been warned.

Those of you who are in touch with the garage scene are aware that the Devils are very much on the up. This Neapolitan duo (she thumps the drums while he grates on his guitar) are carrying on the tradition of the Cramps in terms of both spirit and sound: minimalists, but dirty and unhealthy. So what sound am I referring to? This is rock’n’roll at its most offensive. Good to listen to, but equally enjoyable to see live. Not to be missed!

LAME (Italy)
This trio consists of a lo-fi veteran and a member of the Movie Star Junkies on guitars, and a young female drummer with demons in her arms. People have long been hailing them (and rightly so) as the “next big thing” in contemporary garage rock. Lame have three records to their name and a solid live reputation based on gigs that reach levels of hysteria. If you adore the essence of garage, you’re convinced that blues and punk go arm in arm, and you pine for torturous chords and primitive rhythm, then Lame are the solution to your needs: their show at the Festival Beat will satisfy your hunger for (brutal and romantic) rock’n’roll, so be sure not to miss them.

Mr. Jim Jones is coming back to Salsomaggiore Terme. After tearing up the Festival Beat in 2013 with his Jim Jones Revue, Jim has decided to reform his original band, thee Hypnotics. These folks were already merging “Fun House”-era Stooges with the hard psychedelia of Blue Cheer some thirty years ago; rivers of distorted power and a liberal helping of acid. They’ll be joining Jim on the Salsomaggiore stage where, we’re quite certain, you’ll welcome them with the warmth they deserve. Your ears might be at risk, but satisfaction is guaranteed. Ladies and gentlemen: Thee Hypnotics!

If the term “blues-punk” exists today, then much credit is due to legendary bands such as the Scientists from Perth, Australia. As far back as the early eighties, the band fronted by Kim Salmon (a man with a CV that includes the Scientists, Beasts Of Bourbon, the Surrealists and the Cheap Nasties, to name but a few) was combining mid-sixties garage with the urgency of early punk and traditional blues. The result? Earth-shattering songs like “Frantic Romantic”, “We Had Love”, “Atom Bomb Baby” and “Demolition Derby” that went on to influence generations of musicians. Back in Italy after an eternity (they did come here on tour with Siouxsie & The Banshees in ’84 and again for a lightning visit in the early 2000s), the Scientists are coming to the Festival Beat to show us how and why they’ve created history. You’d be advised to book a hotel room right now, just in case…

Who isn’t familiar with the Manges? An Italian pop-punk institution, in every sense. Their calling card comes in the shape of nearly a quarter of a century of gigs and a large discography, but this outfit from La Spezia is by no means anchored to the past. Anything but! They are very much a reality in 2018 too, and well capable of making their presence felt. They’ll be doing just that at the Festival Beat, where they’ll be appearing for the very first time; celebrating their career achievement but always looking to the future.

Don’t think we’ve forgotten the fans of trash: from England, Mr. Hipbone Slim! Everything is ready for a set that is sure to derail everyone: beat, garage, punk, Diddleyesque stomp rhythms. You get the picture: primitive rock’n’roll in (dirty) working overalls and the crude approach of a one-man band that thrives on coarseness and the rawest of sounds. The perfect ingredients for the ultimate “dumb gig”. We’re looking forward to it!

A young, enlightened promise. It’s difficult to put a label on the Bee Bee Sea: their garage-pop style nods its head at the upper echelons of the indie movement without ever allowing its guard to drop. Dense, fast tempo sounds and an acute sense of melody. Feeling totally confused? Perhaps that’s not a bad thing: it’ll be even more enjoyable for you to discover them at the Festival. Not to mention quite a surprise.

This edition of the Festival Beat has really stolen a march on the competition! We’re presenting possibly the next big thing on the American psych/garage scene: Ron Gallo, whose “Heavy Meta” album has won plaudits from experts right across the board. This artist from Philadelphia draws on a variety of influences that enable him to give new life to the sounds of the sixties and seventies, applying a more urgent contemporary arrangement to the Paisley Underground style of Dream Syndicate in much the same way as the garage sound draws upon the lesson of Ty Segall, while borrowing a certain punk or even glam approach to add greater freshness to a sound that is allowed to flow freely. Ron Gallo even manages to renew the classic American singer-songwriter tradition, without ever departing from an essentially rock’n’roll approach.

Take James Brown, the MC5 and the Make-Up, pour them all into a saucepan, light the gas and wait for the explosion… because the name of this particular mixture is a guarantee: King Kahn & The Shrines. The King and his associates will use the Festival Beat stage to celebrate a career spanning 20 years… and they’ll do it their way, unleashing their customary brand of torrid garage-soul on an audience that simply cannot help dancing, engrossed in a voodoo ritual that is more than just a concert. Prepare body, mind and soul for a unique experience and let yourselves be overwhelmed by a swollen river that goes by the name of King Kahn & The Shrines. You’ll never be the same again.

THE COCCOLATE WATCHBAND (USA) [one-off European show]
Here they are. You already know them from “Nuggets”, from the cult film “Riot On Sunset Strip”, “Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In)?”, “Let’s Talk About Girls”, “No Way Out” and “Expo 2000”. They are the Chocolate Watchband, a piece of history from the musical scene that we love. Straight from the legendary mid-sixties, back where it all started, this Californian band is the final piece in a Festival programme that already includes a host of big names: an important and prestigious addition, as the disciples of garage rock are only too aware. They’ll be playing all their classic hits on the Salsomaggiore stage, for an audience keen to pay a deserved tribute to a band responsible for making history.

Country music at the Festival Beat? Keep your hair on; Birdcloud’s brand of country music is not what you think. Jasmin Kaset and Makenzie Green, from Nashville (where else?), stand opposite each other with their guitars in their hands and sing about the real America, that of 10, 30, 50 years ago: an America that is not in the spotlight, an America that we’re not so familiar with. They’ll be telling us all about it on Sunday, as the Festival winds down at the Dragoon Pub. So let’s make the acquaintance of these two girls from Tennessee, who don’t appear to fear anyone or anything.

Salsomaggiore 27 giugno-1 luglio 2018