Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) 2023

Submitted by Boyan Pinter

Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) made a much-anticipated return to the schedules of music professionals and music lovers from the Netherlands and from across the globe. 

In this first in-person edition since 2020, ESNS delivered over 300 bands performing over on 20 stages around the vibrant college town of Groningen. The associated music conference welcomed over 4 000 music professionals from over 50 countries in the 200+ panels, discussions, and meetings. The fantastic ESNS team, with Robert Meijerink and Oskar Strajn at the helm have put together a dense program full of great networking opportunities and music to satisfy any taste and preference. 

The focus country this year was Spain. The Spanish Wave splashed over the many stages and panel discussions, with live performances featuring over 20 of the most interesting developing bands and artists in the country. Among the most notable performances were the bands Shanghai Baby, Ghouljaboy, and Queralt Lahoz. Lahoz is a multifaceted and enchanting performer combining the contemporary sounds of soul, hip hop and trap with traditional dances like the copla and bolero, all leading to a musical vision that is all her own. It is no surprise that Queralt Lahoz was one of the winners of the Music Moves Europe 2023 Awards, in the company of July Jones (Slovenia), Oska (Аustria), Kids Return (France), and Schmyt (Germany).

I attended the performance of Schmyt at the Stadsschouwburg (Municipal Theater) Groningen and was quite impressed with the mix of contemporary hip-hop alternative song forms, strong instrumental presence and intense vocals. One of the things I like most about this venue is that the audience, effectively, is standing on the theater stage, while the performers are on a platform with their back to the theater stalls. It is in reverse, and it works very well, especially because the bars are positioned within reach. 

The presence of Baltic artists at the festival was diverse and engaging. The wonderful Duo Ruut from Estonia created a very intimate experience, weaving melodious stories in their native language. The two singers face each other while performing percussive and harmonic parts on a single shared zither. Tautumeitas from Latvia delivered an epic mix of traditional harmony singing, violin and percussion amped up by the presence of drums, guitars, and keyboards. It made for an exciting mix at the Aa-Kerk (Grand Church) Groningen. Planeta Polar from Lithuania totally shook the room with their unique mix of carnival vibes, thunderous beats, and poignant sense of humor. It was also the first time I had seen a microphone mounted on an accordion! 

Along with the regular showcase program, I received many invitations for non-official showcases hosted by booking agencies and indie labels. It was an invigorating several days of music from all corners of Europe. I look forward to returning to Groningen in 2024 for another edition of the ESNS. 

Editor’s Note: Boyan Pinter (né Boiadjiev) has been working in the music industry for over 20 years. He started as a musician, playing and recording guitar and other stringed instruments in various projects in Houston, TX. He later became a production manager working on stadium, arena, and club concerts in Europe. He has worked with Sting, Queen + Adam Lambert, Depeche Mode, Roxette, Aerosmith, and many others. He is also an active festival coordinator, currently booking and producing a stage at the legendary Glastonbury Festival. Boyan is the founder and director of SPIKE, Bulgarian Music Showcase – He also currently works as A & R for Bulgaria for the French company Believe Music. He is a valued consultant in many areas of the music industry.  Boyan sits on the Board of Directors for the Canadian-based charity, The Drive Foundation.