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Kids ‘n Billies 2024 (Music Review)

Saturday, 6 July 2024 | Adriaan de Groot

Kids ‘n Billies is a yearly music festival in Nijmegen. The genre is rockabilly, folk, ’50s, punk. It is a family friendly festival, outdoors in the fairly small (seats 900) open-air theatre the Goffert. I got “married” – by two Elvis impersonators – to my nepgenoot at the festival in 2012, so it’s our yearly musical outing. Here are some notes from this year’s edition, which was two weeks ago already.

The festival is arranged around two stages. Main stage is the central theatre, and there is a bospodium (forest stage) in the shrubbery where maybe 50 people can crowd around a stage that is about 4-by-3 metres. My preference goes out to the bospodium, because it is such a more intimate experience.

On the whole, this is also a kid-friendly festival (like there’s buckets where you can re-load your water pistols, if it’s a sunny day). The birds are singing, you sit on the grass or stand under the trees. That does make some genres feel a bit out-of-place.

Notes from the Main Stage

  • The Gories felt out-of-place. If I was at a dark and boozy get-together and hanging around at the edge of the pit, it’d be fine. Not by the light of day.
  • King Salami and the Cumberland 3 seemed like a racist caricature of themselves. I felt a bit uncomfortable watching them – because is it me projecting racist expectations, is it them playing with my expectations, or are we just all having fun – but they absolutely had a blast on stage and were really good with the kids. King Salami is a top-notch front-man.
  • Slim Cessna’s Auto Club did not resonate with me at all. Kinda slick country, and I thought George Cessna’s solo set (Bospodium) was way better.
  • Tornado Beat! have all the right moves and a very traditional rockabilly line-up. Danceable, and a tight set.
  • Angry Zeta are a pack of raccoons (mapaches, as they translated for me later) from Buenos Aires in punk rock clothes with rockabilly sensibilities and a bunch of really sweet people, too. I learned some Spanish, and was reminded of various independence movements by their tour poster – as in, their tour locations were in Euskal Herria, Catalunya, Schweiz, Nederland, .. . They look scary, make a lot of noise, and have fun doing it.

Notes from the Park

Thanks to Korte Metta for doing my hair, so I had lovely flowers and ’50s girly bows and things. At the festival she mostly does kids and a few adults, and I commend her for making one big hairy dude totes adorable.

Notes from the Bospodium

  • Posessed by Paul James had two sets, and they played in Eindhoven a couple of days later and was good enough that I had to go see him again. One guy with a guitar, a banjo, and a violin. “Posessed” is a really accurate description. It’s personal, it’s wild.
  • Hymn for Her was a trio – no dog on this tour – for the set and projected really well. With a synth piano, which I thought was a bit daring at a rockabilly festival, but Diver (the pianist) nailed it. The way the family plays together is really nice to see.
  • George Cessna looked like a hipster, had a backing track he recorded earlier, and was both soulful and country and I really liked it. Raised my hopes for the Auto Club, later, but that was a disappointment.
  • Van Tastik reminded me a bit of the Reverend Deadeye. It’s a one-man band, good stage presence and connects to the audience. My nepgenoot didn’t like some of the first set, but the good fallen Reverend Van Tastik promised a more friendly second set, and delivered. That’s one really nice part of a small festival like this – you literally can grab a beer with the artists and sit a spell. Anyway, for grunchy-punchy one-man noise, this is a man to follow.

A recurring theme from the artists is that the socials are really important to them from a financial perspective. I’m personally not on any of those socials (YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, …) so I can’t help them there, but I figure I can at least make a little noise for them all. And buy the T-shirt.