Visiting OCCII—a beautiful and ornate venue seated at the bottom of the famous Vondelpark in Amsterdam—for the first time since the pandemic was an exciting and vibrant experience. The music venue is part of a historical collective, which represents alternative and indie subcultures, advocating for a safe and inclusive space. The building itself is notably stunning, beautiful wood and flamboyant colours, taken over by the squatting collectives in Amsterdam during the 1980s and now reclaimed for the purpose of sharing underground music scenes and cultures.
Stukafest is an annual organised event which aims also to showcase a variety of different artists and acts, spanning across different cultural and musical spheres. This notion was embodied by the two differing acts at the OCCII, where the juxtaposition was as complementary as it was highly enjoyable. Amid a darkened, stripped-down backdrop, entering next to the bar already conveyed a compelling energy, people dotted around the space, beer bottles in hand.
Three Little Clouds were the first act, setting the scene, welcoming the guests with a steady and deep-set rhythm. Heavy, patterned flow to the beat of their drum, forcing the peppering of the crowd to edge forward. Pink, fluorescent lighting overshadowed the dim podium, as focused beams hit the six figures on stage. Immediately, the mood was there; unmistakeably modern but a palpable throwback to an older era, the atmosphere was a fantastical fusion of funk, disco and hip-hop. A sunflower-patterned army vest adorned by one of the frontmen perfectly matched the theme, uplifting the setting with a, psychedelic feel.
The vibrant act burst into the room. To say that they were supposed to be a warm-up for the following ensemble would be an understatement. The level of intricate control that both the instruments and the leading vocals were striking. They engaged you first, enticing you subtly and seductively with a drum-beat rhythm and a deep, skilled bass in the backdrop. And then the flow of lyrics would interweave themselves within, dragging you gently but powerfully into the focus.
Three Little Clouds continued to clasp ingeniously onto that energy throughout. There were dips here and there, into lower, deeper moments that established a variety of rhythm, which were immediately juxtaposed by a thrust into their signature style, amalgamating funk, hip-hop and a fiery passion for it into a rupture of pure, blissful sound. They played a few of their released and known tracks, such as “Fuck the Sunshine”, “Five to Nine” and “Lsdisco”, which consolidated the room, peppered in between with new releases.
Klezmagic were the highly-anticipated act of the night. Branded as a Balkan and Klezmer outfit—a instrumental musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe—their first appearance on stage certainly created a stark contrast to the previous vibrations of music. Their impressive stage presence was dotted with a variety of intriguing instruments, as they energised the air, those in the crowd craning their necks and swivelling their gaze to the darkened lights.
As an Amsterdam-based collective, they enticed a gathering, particularly as the huge and complex genre of Balkan-style music is quite popular within the city. A range of instruments in combination with the wonderful intricate sounds gave a feel of transporting backwards into time and space. The music begged a new style of dancing, people raising their drinks and jumping upwards. Leading vocals were powerful and rich in tone, perfectly galvanised by the saxophone giving a feel of electric potential.
Their control of rhythms and sounds was both epic and exceptional. The crowd was driven by passion; if they moved across the stage, the crowd sidled along with them. Towards the end, the band crouched down, as the lights dimmed across the front and a single person stepped forward. Amid a sea of soft cymbals, they began to recite some Dutch poetry. Suddenly one felt as though they were actually an intrinsic part of their composition, hearing the words being spoken softly and gradually, the instrumental hardening and increasing in volume. And finally, they forced the crowd upwards again slowly, controlling and feeling, until everybody was on their feet again and dancing wildly. Absolutely incredible.
Three Little Clouds:
Instagram - @threelittleclouds_
Facebook - Three Little Clouds
Spotify - Three Little Clouds
Instagram - @klezmagic_official
Facebook - Klezmagic
Spotify - Klezmagic
Written by: Emma Betts of South Lanes Studios