Between January 16 and March 29, the Noorderlicht Fotogalerie is presenting a selection of illustrious past and present photography in and about music venue Vera in Groningen. Stranded in the Mystery Zone gives a photographic glimpse into this spirited venue that continues to hold its own against the current as “Club for the International Pop Underground”.
For over 35 years, Vera has been a renowned stage worldwide where every relevant (underground) artist and band is a welcome guest. Underground certainly does not imply marginal: U2, Nirvana, The White Stripes and many other greats were on the programme in the early stages of their career. It is part of a scene where innovation in pop music is born. It has become something unique in the Netherlands: while almost all other pop venues began to broaden their programming due to economies of scale, Vera continues to stubbornly put bands on the programme that are not necessarily looking for big money but primarily for interesting and exciting music.
Visiting bands regularly say how honoured they are to take the stage and how impressed they are by the impressive history of the club that is displayed on the walls in the form of posters, photos and other paraphernalia. That’s why the Belgian rock heroes, Triggerfinger, who have long outgrown Vera, happily returned for a performance in 2011. Photographer Dirk Wolf, who has followed the band for years, captured it all in a reportage. The images of the performance breathe the rich history of the venue that literally explodes from the walls backstage too.
Nick Helderman visited Vera many times during his time as a student and met in 2007 The Ex during a performance with the Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya. He then followed and photographed them during a tour in Europe and the United States. Last October, he rounded off this long term project in Ethiopia where he witnessed the last series of performances of this unique collaborative project.
Between 1989 and 1995 graphic designer Willem Kolvoort photographed numerous bands in raw black and white images, including Dead Moon and Nirvana, at a time when Vera was known as the venue for alternative guitar music in the Netherlands. During that period he also did the design for the now defunct Vera Newspaper and joined the so-called Vera ARTdivision that today still designs and prints posters in its own screen printing workshop. All carried out by dedicated volunteers. With the emergence of digital photography, the Vera photo group saw the light. Once again this is a volunteer driven group that captures almost all the concerts in the club; it complements Stranded in the Mystery Zone with a kaleidoscopic overview of concert photography.