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Photo by Gerard van de IJssel

The news hit me hard: one of the very few decent record stores for us music junkies in The Hague, Plato, is closing. The description ‘decent’ is actually a horrible injustice. Plato is (was) a glorious place to wile away your Saturday afternoons, rummaging endlessly through the neatly lined up cd’s, listening to what the staff have carefully selected to play in the store, asking if your long awaited foreign import has arrived yet and casually checking out the likeminded talent wandering through the isles.

Well, that’s how it was until a few months ago, when financial struggle forced Plato’s owner Harry Hoving to leave his original location and move further up the street, to a hole in the wall not even half the size. And now Plato has received the final blow, it’s closing all together.

Last Sunday I went in, trying to ignore the depressing signs for the 20% off sale. “Do you have the new Hot Chip?” I asked, trying to strike up a casual conversation. “No, I don’t have any new stuff, I’m closing up you know”. “Yes I heard, it’s so sad!” I said, “Where are we supposed to go for real music now? Free Record Store?”. He gave a grim smile and urged me to never go to Free Record Store. That’s a promise!

Even though my bank account is a bright red these days I couldn’t help myself and bought a few cd’s, realising with guilt I haven’t been buying as mush as I used to. I too am part to blame for this tragedy. “Be sure to come back in two weeks when everything will be 50% off” he said, “that’s something to cheer you up at least right?”. How horribly bittersweet I thought, a clearance sale in your favourite store.

Well Harry, here’s hoping you will indeed start something new like you said you might, because I’m struggling to find anywhere else to go now. It’s the end of an era. Thank you for the tunes. And please keep up that great newsletter.

Last night saw the start of 2009’s Crossing Border festival in the Royal Theatre of The Hague, so much to see so much to choose!

We started off where most people seemed to: Yo La Tengo in the majestic main room of the theatre. Yo La Tengo is one of those bands I always read a lot of good things about,  but I never got into them. As we stood there in this suffocatingly quiet almost funerial atmosphere with people ssshhhh-ing you for even saying something to your friend, and the band playing these extremely low fi songs with shrill vocals, it just wasn’t clicking. Unconvinced and uncomfortable, we ran after three songs.

We were planning to go and see Montreal based indie hiphop twosome Beast, but due to a change in schedual we walked in on the raucous finale of Dead Confederate, headbanging allowed. Then we wandered into another band we’d never heard of: Madensuyu. A Belgian outfit who’s music friend MvS accurately described as “two frustrated teenage boys who didn’t get what they want and are taking it out on their instruments”. They delivered an industrial wall of drums & guitar noise peppered with the occasional grunt & shouted lyrics, as if on speed. A lot more entertaining than I would have thought from that description.

Next up the band I was most looking forward to: The Low Anthem. Again in the posh grand room of the theater, but this time the atmosphere was much more relaxed. We got nice and close, the perfect spot to be bowled over by the folk styled Low Anthem magic. The first half of their set was very easy going, beautifully arranged songs packed with meloncholy and that dusty old folk feel. Ben Knox Miller has the perfect voice to pull this off, and it was nice to hear Jocie Adams switch from backing vocals to howling gal during Cigarettes and whiskey and wild wild women. Great show!

We finished off the evening with the psychedelic harmonies of the Grizzly Bear boys, who were much more at ease than at Melkweg just ten days earlier. I prefered this show, so I was happy I went for a third visit this year. They closed their set with a goosebump inducing acoustic performance of All We Ask because “this is such a beautiful place”, thanks Royal Theatre after all!

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