Inside Eurosonic: A Music Festival That Feels Like A Religion

Band Photo Courtesy of Pillow Queens.

Dispatches from Groningen

I seem to be spending much of my week inside churches. I don't mind this, really. If you grow up godless, you don't have any real association attached to churches, positive or negative. They're just these big, cavernous buildings that stand tall while cities change around them. They also happen to double up as pretty excellent music venues, and are in plentiful supply in the northern-Dutch city of Groningen, the location for Eurosonic—probably the most important music festival and conference outside of SXSW.

Italian songwriter Violetta Zironi quickly sound-checks in front of an amassing, attentive crowd at the Lutherse Kerk in the center of the city, a Lutheran church built at the end of the 1600s. "I want the audience to feel like they're being serenaded," she tells me earlier in the day, a picture of calm given a hectic schedule of meetings, interviews, songwriting sessions, and having to find time to pick up her band before the evening's show. "We won't really have time to warm up or chill before the gig. I'm still trying to find my headspace." Suffice to say, she finds it. Her set is beautiful, full of the kind of torch songs you weren't sure were being written anymore, with Violetta's crystal-clear voice soaring up into the rafters.

Groningen is a small city with much of the action of the festival taking place in venues clustered in its middle, a weaving tangle of seemingly exclusively beautiful streets surrounded by a canal. As well as the venues—not just churches, but theaters, rock clubs, basement bars, converted schools—bands spill out of record shops hosting in-stores, do deals at the multi-purpose Oosterport center, and shuttle between the city and a giant, Mad Max-style artist's village on the edge of town: Imagine a post-industrial warehouse space decked out with strings of lights and playing tunes.

One of the more prestigious venues is Vera, a 400-old capacity club that each year runs a poll of its regular visitors to pick the best bands to have come through its doors. These names wrap the wall of the main room: Henry Rollins in 1987, Mogwai in 1999, Villagers in 2010. The name for 2019 could easily be spiky folk-rock band Any Other from Milan, who played to a packed-out room and were being talked about in hushed tones around the city the following day. Led by songwriter Adele Nigro, there's an early Bright Eyes vibe to her songs, and her voice in particular, which trembles and peaks like it's being wrung out. Backed by keys, bass, saxophone, and probably the best live drummer I've ever seen, she delivered one of the most immediately intoxicating, invigorating sets of rock music I've seen in a long time, with most songs coming from her 2018 album Two, Geography, which I insist you listen to immediately.

If there is a common denominator to the artists at Eurosonic, then it's probably something more intangible: ambition, drive, self-assurance. Norwegian electro-pop singer Ina Wroldsen has already written a ton of songs you'll know, for pop behemoths like Pussycat Dolls, Calvin Harris, Demi Lovato, Anne-Marie, and Britney Spears. Now taking the mic herself, she's clearly a pop star in her own right, and has been keeping a few gems in her back pocket away from the prying eyes of the existing musical elite.

In a similar mold, albeit with a more textured melancholy, was Romanian singer Helen, whose latest single "Wild Roses" dropped back in November. Wearing a custom-made jumpsuit of her own design that seemed to shimmer somewhere between copper and gold under the stage lights, she danced her way through a set of synthy hooks and beats that immediately stuck in your head. When I meet her a couple of days later, it's clear her journey to that stage, and those songs, hasn't been the easiest: "I've always had a challenge with the pop industry. As I was writing for other people, I was also trying to become a pop singer, trying to make it in the industry. Because I was so different, I didn't have the so-called 'pop looks,' I've always been told, 'You're very talented, but you can't do this because you don't look like that.' I really struggled with that for a long time, I felt like I had to change who I am. Only until I decided to do this project I could free myself from all that."

Pillow Queens - Gay Girls

We agree this is bullshit, this pre-conceived notion of what a singer should look like, or the feeling that your music alone isn't good enough, isn't the most important thing. Maybe a decade or so ago, faced with these criticisms, an artist like Helen would have been forced to compromise herself or, worse, abandon music altogether. It's a shame to think of the artists who could have been incredible but were kicked away at the first hurdle. There doesn't seem to be a lot of this going around at Eurosonic. Every band here is, essentially, out to market, showcasing themselves for major European and North American festivals, but, also, everyone seems very chill about the whole endeavor, the fact of their being here enough ballast to see them through.

One band who exudes nothing but confidence—in their music, their presence, their everything really—are Dublin four-piece Pillow Queens. Despite a ghost in the pedalboard, they smash through a short set at a packed record store on Friday afternoon, having only arrived in town a couple hours earlier. It's their first time playing outside of the U.K. or Ireland, having only played their first gig a couple of years ago, a fundraiser for a dog rehoming charity that sold out. When talking about how they got together, lead guitarist Cathy McGuinness mentions they weren't expecting huge things, before singer Sarah Corcoran interjects: "I was!" The other members, drummer Rachel Lyons and singer Pamela Connolly, describe Sarah as "the power force of the band," but you can tell there's a very natural, balanced chemistry between all four, not least in the harmony vocals that help make their sound so distinctive. "It's the first band I've been completely creatively comfortable in," Pamela says, "I've definitely been in bands before where it's just like being around your brothers or sisters or whatever, but this is the first band where I'm comfortable to try and make mistakes, try again, and put myself out there a little bit."

Later that night, just after midnight, the band take the stage at Minerva, an art school on the west of town, the same place Chvrches played when they hit Eurosonic back in 2013. No ghosts in the pedalboards anymore, they play as if they're in a stadium, turned up loud and singing to the back of the room. There are 15 bands in total from Ireland over for the Festival, and a few are present here, lending some national pride and moral support. It's an incredible set, from a band whose debut album (currently in the works, hopefully to be released this year) is sure to be gorgeous, but the support in the room from fellow musicians—something that's true of every show I've seen at the Festival—is telling. Something about how a rising tide raises all boats, maybe, or just a general nervous, electric excitement that there's still so much good stuff to get nervous, electrically excited about.

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale


These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video)

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Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.

Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Getty Images for Topshop Topman

We'll miss you

According to Business Insider, Topshop will close multiple Topshop and Topman locations in a step to avoid bankruptcy, including all 11 of its U.S. stores. In total, 23 stores will be shuttered globally.

This decision follows Topshop's recent filing for bankruptcy in the U.S., and a string of controversies surrounding the chairman of Topshop and Topman, Sir Philip Green. Last year, Green was investigated for sexual assaulting and racially abusing employees. Business Insider notes that though the brand thought it would fare much better in the States, it has not grown as quickly here as it expected. This is likely due to the successes of less expensive U.K.-based online retailers like ASOS.

Topshop stores first arrived here in 2009, and were met with crowds and excitement—for a time. The brand's dwindling success in the U.S. and declining revenue globally has been chalked up to a "challenging retail environment, changing consumer habits, and increased online competition," according to Ian Grabiner, the CEO of Topshop's parent company, Arcadia Group.

Arcadia Group is also submitting a restructuring plan for approval, which would involve negotiating lower rents for its shops and cutting pensions for employees in half. These proposals have not gone into effect yet. Grabiner said that the restructure and closings are a "tough but necessary decision for the business."

If you live in the U.S., you'll still be able to shop from the retailer online and at its wholesalers, such as Nordstrom—but it won't be the same as stepping into its stores.