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Every now and again, a band comes along that compels you to move heaven and earth to see them play live – 3AM are one such band.

“3AM it’s the solo project of Chino Burga (La IrA de Dios, La Garua, Necromongo, Los Entierros, Black Saqras, Espira) based on riffs, loops and a lot of tremolo.”

I guess it’s fair to say it was that, whole “lot of tremolo” that initially grabbed my “trembling earballs”!

I first heard 3AM courtesy of the ‘Disappear / Waves‘ split with Sula Bassana, it literally blew me away. I needed, and I mean NEEDED more. Thankfully there was the “UFO Blues Tapes” LP release to quell my raging vinyl-lust.

The icing on the cake was the release in October of ‘Transmissions‘ on Lay Bare Recordings, along with a European tour that I was going to witness by hook or by crook.

I figured that if Chino was coming all the way from Peru, then the least I could do was make the short hop across to Holland. Family logistics dictated a Friday jaunt, so Zwolle became the destination of necessity.

I love flying into Amsterdam, I love the understated, calm, laid-back efficiency of the Dutch. I wouldn’t care if I never saw London again – give me Europe every day.

Chino Burga is a phenomena. A force of nature. The whirl-wind. A one man, “DRONE, DIY NO FI”. The real deal, an original Andean pagan.

Suffused with a shared listening heritage that includes Suicide, The Stooges, and Joy Division, the unique sound and tone of this man, has the hairs on my neck bristling with every listen.

Zwolle is an hour or so inland from Amsterdam. It’s intimate, narrow streeted low rise historic centre is a photographer’s wet dream – I could have happily spent a couple of days exploring those winding streets, winding up in a cafe or bar or two along the way.

Tonight’s gig is held at the Sociaal-culturele vereniging Eureka.

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“SCV Eureka is a social and cultural club. In 1991 the building was “usurped” by a group of about 15 creative people. They lived there and organized a lot of activities for the neighbourhood like jam sessions and other cultural activities. In 1995 we legalized and became a club. The building was remodeled for this purpose. We started our dining-cafe where people from the neighbourhood (and beyond) can come to eat a nice meal for a nice price. We organized (big) parties and band nights so we can stay independent from our government. We are not subsidized and although it is sometimes a struggle to make ends meet, we really choose to do it this way so our “Eurekianen” are in control. All the people that are active within SCV Eureka do so as volunteers. The cooks, the dishwashers, the people that keep the building clean every day, bar personal everybody works here because they want to.” – thanks to Lydia for the enlightening, whistle-stop history lesson. This is what real community is all about…

Promoted by Legendary Minstrel Sessions, and boasting psychedelic visuals by Sahara Farm Light Show, tonight also brings the unexpected delight of fellow Peruvians – The Dead-End Alley Band.

The Dead-End Alley Band are new to me. Their “Psych/Stoner/Blues” though has infiltrated my peer group, a tour of their output via YouTube and Bandcamp, confirmed that it was truly shaping up to  be one of those night’s to remember.

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Chino is first up. The computerised, less is more, backing tracks are initialised and all hell break’s loose with ‘Can’t Stand’ – it’s ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ intro, setting the diabolical, reverberating, B-movie tone.

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‘Run Through The Jungle’, gives the Creedence Clearwater Revival original, a rumbling, sinister, menacing new edge.

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‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio’, is a drone behemoth, decrying the dearth of radio talent. Coming from a generation, nurtured by John Peel, god help those afflicted by what passes for culturally informed listening these days. The track video showing vapid electronic devices meeting a grisly, mangled, righteous end, says it all.

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‘People Of The Dusk’, is a towering clarion call. Uniting “brothers in arms” with “burning hearts”, “shining like a thousand suns” in “a brand new dawn”. Bring it on.

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‘The Game’ is a sonic monster. I’d first heard it on a Balcony TV YouTube post. A cloaking, clawing, dystopian social commentary, the chiaroscuro of the dark lyrics, wrapped in an incandescent, soul cleansing, droning riff. A spiritually uplifting track, brimming with kaleidoscopic, soulful resonance.

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All too soon, the final track is ‘Fire’, who better than the man himself to explain this one, “I was recording the Transmissions sessions….and on a break, smoking a cigarrette…the riff came to me…started to play and inmediately programmed the drums…and recorded all the guitar layers…I think I made it like in 5 min…happened the same with the lyrics…its was bum! Just like that……didn’t put it on Transmissions cause I think it didn’t fit there well….so its the opening track for the split with Farflung (coming out in a couple of months).”

And what a fitting, incendiary finale it is to tonight’s set. The pounding rhythm coupled with that howling, green burst Univox 330 hollow body, has scorched a path, heralding armageddon itself…

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The Dead-End Alley Band take the stage and quickly find their groove. Their set comprises; 01. Devil’s Mask 02. Trapped Inside A Lava Lamp 03. (Don’t) Bring Me Back Home 04. Venus 05. The Cosmic Cry Out 06. Silvergreen Theme 07. The Nightmare Goes On 08. Soul Sucker Blues 09. Lost Again 10. It’s Too Late 11. Whispers of the Night 12. Blues of the Highway.

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Javier Kou (Bass / Guitars / Vocals), Sebastian Sanchez-Botta (Vocals, Organs, Piano), Leonardo Alva (Lead Guitar) and Jaime Diaz (Drums) treat the faithful to a balanced set that showcases their 2012 LP, ‘Whispers Of The Night‘ and the darker themed, ‘Odd Stories‘ from last year – both released on the Nasoni Records Label.

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I wish I was better acquainted with their records before tonight’s show, and I apologise for not being up to speed.

What is readily apparent, is the ease with which they unwrap each song for tonight’s audience.

These guys are comfortable playing together, generous enough to allow each member his deserved moment in the spotlight.

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Their version of Summer Of Love classic ‘Venus’, quickly dispels any memories of the Bananarama rendition.

Unless that is you have a fertile imagination like my own, picturing them smouldering and gyrating, Salma Hayek like, as one of the acts at the Titty Twister Bar, in ‘From Dusk till Dawn’.

The Dead-End Alley Band have made this track their own, even outstripping local favourites Shocking Blue, who took it to number one in 9 countries in 1970.

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The Dead-End Alley Band play an accomplished set. They seamlessly morph through their “Psych/Stoner/Blues” influenced repertoire, the quality of the musicianship is a pleasure to witness.

The music ebbs and dissipates into the chilled Dutch night air, but any thoughts of going home are some way off yet!

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photo by Patriccia Ramos

Backstage, there is still an hour or two of warm friendly chat, with beers aplenty ahead of us.

As Chino points out, in a way the music is merely the conduit, the means of establishing common ground, camaraderie, bonds of friendship.

There are tales of Visa applications, run-in’s with over zealous cretins, masquerading as “airport security” – pumped up with overinflated egos, courtesy of their temporary, uniform inspired, power trips.

Then there is the no small matter of touring in a European winter! Yes, the tour had been dubbed “Soaked In The Cold”, but I sense the novelty is beginning to wear off for these high plains drifters – the return to the Peruvian sunshine will be a welcome one.

Before I know it, there is about 3 hours before my alarm will go off at 05.45 and the trip back home. These guys, have the logistics of navigating their way to the next gig at Yellowstock the following evening.

In the words of Johnny Cash, “We have had a ball, have we not?”…

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photo by Patriccia Ramos

Time and again on this musical odyssey, I am reminded of the Jim Morrison line, “I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft.”

The raft may be thin but it’s crew are hardy, stalwarts all – it is indeed my humble privilege, to be able to call some of these shipmates friends…

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