Dutch Masters of the Music Industry.
The Netherlands, for all its fine qualities, does not figure large in the annals of rock history. After Focus, and perhaps Golden Earring, you’d be pushed to name any Dutch band or artist that has made a significant contribution in the world’s charts in the past fifty years. However, while they are perhaps not significant in performing there is one company that is world class when it comes to promoting.
Mojo Concerts was established in a small room in Delft by Barry Visser and its first event was in September 1969 when he presented top English bands Jethro Tull and Soft Machine at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Mojo has since gone on to book the world’s greatest acts into giant venues around Holland and has created numerous iconic festivals. It is Mojo’s fiftieth anniversary that this exhibition celebrates.
This beautifully designed show creates an immersive environment by using videos, posters, many of which provide the floor covering, a virtual reality room and lots more besides. Concerts and festivals are by their very nature ephemeral so a lot of the exhibits, especially those in the few glass cases, are ephemera. There are lots of tickets stubs, backstage passes, running orders, photos, press cuttings and so on.
From these bits of paper we get an insight into the logistics, and to be honest, nightmares, of running a giant gig and the requirements of the bands laid out in what are called riders in which the artists list things that must be provided for them backstage. These can run into many pages ranging from the ridiculous – a supply of blue-only M&Ms to the sublime – champagne and caviar. Most bands travel with everything they need and one of the more mundane exhibits is Metallica’s fridge which accompanied them around the world in its own padded flight case. Rock stars are, after all, only human and their lives exist out of the spotlight. In London, I used to live opposite of Dave Vanian, singer with 70’s goth punk band, The Damned. Now, Mr Vanian presented himself as a Dracula-like figure (Vanian – Transylvanian, geddit?) on-stage and off and I always enjoyed meeting him in the street in his black frock-coat, slicked-back oiled black hair and whitened face, carrying a bag of cat litter which he had just bought at the local convenience store. But I digress. My point being that being a rock star does not immure you from day to day life – nor, indeed, death.
The most poignant part of this exhibition is the rock stars’ graveyard. In the museum’s secluded internal courtyard, rows of white crosses are lined up on the grass, almost like a war graves cemetery, each bearing the name of a rock star who died prematurely. So, you have Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison right through to George Michael and all the rest. One conspicuous omission though – there is no cross for Brian Jones, one of rock’s first victims.
In order to avoid the audiences becoming victims there is a large section of the exhibition which deals with safety issues and crowd control, a subject which has become a science in its own right.
This is a beautifully presented exhibition which provides insight, and a lot of the excitement, associated with mega rock concerts – and don’t forget to cross the Prinsenhof to the annex where the exhibition continues. A must-see if you have ever been to a giant gig or festival or if you are interested in the history of popular music. Highly recommended. Michael Hasted 18th April 2019
MOJO BACKSTAGE continues at the Prinsenhof Museum in Delft until 1st September