Advertorial feature From Arlo Parks to Fontaines DC: Looking back at ESNS Exchange over the past twenty years

As ESNS’s talent exchange programme celebrates its twentieth anniversary, our third feature runs through some of the success stories from 2017 to the present day.

Since its introduction in 2003, the ESNS Exchange - formerly known as the European Talent Exchange Programme, or ETEP - has provided a springboard to artists that have played Dutch tastemaker festival ESNS, with the aim of helping them break through into the European festival circuit.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the ESNS Exchange has brought together all manner of artists, festivals and fans along the way: in fact, they’ve supported a staggering 2146 artists - from 26 different countries - in taking to stages across Europe for 5294 live shows at partner festivals such as Sziget, Exit, Open’er and many, many more.

So, to mark the special occasion, we’ve decided to take a look back through the ESNS Exchange results table, and highlight a few of the incredible artists who’ve been involved along the way (with a few of the more eyebrow-raising curveballs, for good measure)! We’ve already rewound the clocks to the years 2003 to 2009, taken a glance at 2010 to 2016, and now we’re looking at some of the more recent success stories, from 2017 until now…

2017: Shame

It’s no secret that South London quintet Shame built their name off the back of their fiery live shows, so it’s little wonder that they made such an impact at ESNS back when they played in 2017. The unhinged chaos of their set would see them stand out from the crowd that year, and earned them a staggering 17 festival bookings later that summer, which would lead them perfectly to the release of their Dead Oceans debut ‘Songs of Praise’ the following year.

Honourable mention: With her neon green hair and big pop bangers, Finland’s pop extraordinaire Alma was always destined to catch attention during her stint at ESNS; since then, she’s released two albums, and toured with the likes of , Tove Lo and Christina Aguilera.

2018: Sigrid

Thanks to her effervescent energy and the buzzy pop of early tracks like ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’, the rise of Norwegian star Sigrid has been rapid, with the star playing at London’s iconic venue Brixton Academy just a few months’ after her inaugural visit to Groningen for ESNS. Now, after just a few short years, she’s been promoted to festival header status too, after she topped the bill at Øya festival in her native Norway last summer. Not too shabby…

2019: Fontaines DC

Despite having only emerged in 2018, the productivity of Fontaines DC has been like none other. Having earned a loyal fanbase thanks to their darkly frenetic live performances - including their “intoxicating” spot at ESNS back in 2019, and the 14 festival slots they played afterwards - the Irish band have gone on to release three albums so far (not including frontman Grian Chatten’s solo release last year), re-shaping the post-punk landscape in the process.

Honourable mention: After appearing on the bill at ESNS almost five years ago, nowadays, Norway’s girl in red has over 3 million followers on TikTok and opened up for Taylor Swift on her huge Eras tour this summer, no big deal.

2020: Arlo Parks

Despite playing her first ever live show just six months before her slot at ESNS (at 2019’s edition of The Great Escape, no less), there’s always been something truly enthralling about Arlo Parks and her performances; that’s arguably why, even so early in her career, she’s achieved so much, having won both a BRIT Award and the Mercury Prize for her gorgeous debut ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’.

Honourable mention: Enigmatic to the last drop, South London collective Black Country, New Road have always kept people guessing, but their intriguing set in Groningen just a few years ago would go on to become one of their few appearances with the band’s original line-up, after Isaac Wood departed the band in 2022.

2021: Faux Real

With the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns still dominating the world in early 2021, it was then that ESNS was forced to shift heir outlook and attempt something different: an entirely digital edition. Featuring performances from a slew of the artists that had been booked to play, it was the playful and creative show of avant-pop duo Faux Real that really stood out in a rather unusual year for the event. Watch their performance below.

Honourable mention: Having become a viral phenomenon thanks to his 2020 Eurovision entry ‘Think About Things’, Iceland’s Daði Freyr had well and truly become a star by the time he appeared as part of ESNS’ 2021 digital edition.

2022: Yard Act

Despite them having to play a slew of remote and socially-distanced shows when they first emerged, Leeds quartet Yard Act have arguably grown into of the most enticing live bands around. Undoubtedly down to their whip-smart humour and deliciously catchy riffs, even without an audience, their ESNS set last year went down a storm, with them going on to become a true highlight at festivals across the globe (when they were finally allowed to take place again…)

Honourable mention: Hayley Williams loves them, Harry Styles love them, we love them: Wet Leg and their cheeky brand of alt-pop really have been on quite the rollercoaster over the last few years.

2023: Sprints

Set to release their incredible, rage-filled debut ‘Letter To Self’ in early 2024, Dublin group Sprints have more than proved they’re a force to reckoned with during their live shows over the past eighteen months, with their set at ESNS earlier this year being one of the stand-out performances. What comes next for the band is still to be seen, but we have a feeling they’ve got big things to come…

Honourable mention: Topping this year’s ESNS Exchange chart with a whopping 13 festival bookings is The Haunted Youth; keep your eyes peeled for the Belgian act later this summer…

Revisit our feature on the ESNS Exchange from the years 2003 to 2009 here, and the years 2010 to 2016 here. For more info on the programme itself, head to their website.

This advertorial feature is brought to you in partnership with the ESNS Exchange.

Tags: Arlo Parks, Fontaines DC, shame, Sigrid, ESNS, Festivals, Features

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