Northside 2014: I Am Oak and MTT
I Am Oak via Dutch Culture USA
Brooklyn, New York -- One of the coolest things about music festivals, especially multi-venue festivals like Northside, is they give you the opportunity to learn about and see bands that you never would have otherwise. If I hadn’t been attending Northside, I don’t think I would have ever come across a band like Dutch indie-folk group I Am Oak.
Along with the indie-electronic band MTT, who are also from The Netherlands, I Am Oak played the Dutch Culture showcase at The Grand Victory on Day Two of Northside. I had already decided I was going to The Grand Victory days before The Netherlands laid a 5-1 drubbing on Spain in the World Cup and Robin Van Persie scored probably the prettiest goal we’ll see all tournament, but after the Dutch got their own grand victory, I definitely knew this was the place to be. On to the bands.
I Am Oak
I’m a big fan of folk music, which was probably enough to get me in the door to see I Am Oak. In actually listening to them, I enjoyed the heavy nature imagery in singer/songwriter Thijs Kuijken’s music. The songs were definitely pretty, but they also had a lot of substance behind them.
Live, Kuijken was able to breathe even more life into his songs. For most of their set, I Am Oak, which included Kuijken and a three-piece backing band, played harmony-driven acoustic folk. Everyone’s voices were on point, and songs like “Don’t I Know Enough” and “On Trees And Birds And Fire” were especially strong. It’s nice to be able to see a band create sweeping folk songs without having to resort to shouting “Hey" or “Ho”.
I say “most of their set” because for the last two songs, “Yojihito” and “Palpable,” Kuijken picked up an electric guitar. Suddenly, the band gained a heavier edge with with a bit of a psychedelic flavor. They reminded me a lot of the band Black Mountain, who also combine elements of folk, psychedelic, and hard rock. On set closer “Palpable,” I Am Oak really turned on the rock with a fantastic guitar solo and an awesome instrumental outro. As pretty as the more acoustic-driven songs were, songs like “Yojihito” and “Palpable” made me think they should go for a heavier sound all the time. Either way, I Am Oak performed a really cool set, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on them in the future.
The Internet tells me that MTT at one point stood for “Minus the Tiger.” Since we already have a band called Minus the Bear, we only need a “Minus the Lion” in order to complete the “Minus the Oh My!” trifecta. Then the world will be complete.
MTT played electronic music that sounded somewhere between a full-on 80s aesthetic and the trip-hop of bands like Portishead. The band was at its best when the music was at its most dramatic. On songs like “Years From Now,” the title track off MTT’s newest album, lead singer Anne Broekman channeled Beth Gibbons to deliver a striking performance. These moments where the music is emotional and everything feels like it’s falling apart really suit both the band and Broekman’s voice. When she sings the lyrics “Don’t look back at us” on “Years From Now,” MTT’s music almost sounds apocalyptic. The lighter, more 80s-driven songs sounded fine, but songs like “Years From Now” showed a band rolling on all cylinders. Embrace the drama, MTT. Embrace the drama.
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