Sunfire – Tales of the Old West

Premiere 18 November 2023, Rijswijkse Schouwburg

Sunfire has been around as a band for quite a while, to be precise since 2017. It started off as a solo project of Satria Karsono, who remains the lead singer and lyricist of the band to this day. When he had recorded his first solo album under the name of “Sunfire”, he realised that he had used too many instruments at once to be able to present his music all by himself. To remedy his predicament, Satria asked two friends, Michel Beeckman and Berend de Vries, to tag along, the latter of whom had already been responsible for mixing the solo album. Michel and Berend agreed and came armed with an electric guitar and an electric bass, thus Sunfire – the band – was born. Within the year, the wonderful violinist Sophie Zaaijer joined, transforming the trio into a quartet, and adding further to the soundscape. The current quintet line-up was made complete by the energetic drummer Jeroen van Leeuwen.

Since those early days Sunfire has built a strong reputation as a popular, energetic live band within the Folk and Fantasy scene in the Netherlands and beyond, having played more than 150 gigs in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France and the UK. Their sound is hard to describe: it is a unique mix of Americana, Bluegrass, Country, Roots, Rock and Folk, which the band itself calls “Western Folk”. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, which genre their music belongs to, because this inability to fit into any category is exactly what makes it special. Their sound is as unique that I am convinced most people, who have heard them play before, would be able to recognise a new song as theirs after only having heard a short snippet. Indeed, their sound and live performance is filled with so much energy and is so well-known among regular visitors of their performances that a fellow CeltCast member, when confronted with the idea of a theatre show by Sunfire, commented: “a seated Sunfire show? I would destroy my chair probably”.

This remark of my colleague is probably the litmus test for Sunfire’s theatre show “Tales of the Old West”. Sunfire’s performances are great at festivals and clubs, but the critical question is: does their show work within a seated theatre setting as well?

Let’s kill the suspense right away – yes, the show works, even brilliantly so and a fortiori in a theatre setting. So, if you don’t feel like reading any further, go check the “Tales of the Old West” tour plan and get yourselves some tickets (or have a look at the teaser first…). If you are still having your doubts or you are just interested as to why I think it’s brilliant, you are very welcome to keep on reading and defer checking out the tour plan and acquiring your ticket until later. Be assured, I will remind you…😉

So now that we got this settled, let me tell you, why you absolutely shouldn’t miss this show and how Sunfire made the show work in this very different setting of a theatre.

If you ask me, the first stroke of genius in the process of planning the show was to get a narrator, and not just any narrator, but exactly this one: Tycho Francis aka “Jebediah Wallace Dumont”. The short character introductions narrated by him, posted ahead of time on social media, already made me very curious, but seeing him do his magic live on stage was nevertheless even better than I had expected. The moment he entered the stage, with his walking cane, next to his lectern and the rest of the stage veiled in darkness (great lighting work by the way), the whole audience fell completely quiet and all eyes (and ears for that matter) were focused on him. When he started introducing Sinner’s Town and the people roaming that town (that is Satria Karsono aka “Billy Tanner”, Sophie Zaaijer aka “Madam Sawyer”, Berend de Vries aka “Deputy Frost”, Michel Beeckman aka “Henry River” and Jeroen van Leeuwen aka “Cole Burner”) with his deep, calm, and sonorous voice and a surprisingly authentic American accent, I was immediately transported into the reality of this imaginary town, set in the Old West and, among others thanks to his regular returns on stage, I remained there for the duration of the show.

This illusion of travel through time and space was not only aided by the careful crafting of the costumes of the band members and the consistent usage of English, avoiding any single Dutch word to ruin the illusion (up to this point no news to anyone, who has seen Sunfire before), but also by the new backdrop, specifically made for the theatre show, probably designed by Satria himself, as most of Sunfire’s graphic art, the props present on stage or lowered down from the ceiling, the great lighting work, which managed to hide any work related to reorganisation on stage, a pre-recorded, atmospheric backtrack that helped those of us less proficient in time travel to navigate to a saloon or the prairie of the Old Wild West and the surprising acting talent of the band members, making good use of the opportunities and space offered by a theatre stage.

So, let’s dive a bit deeper into the place Sunfire took us on a journey to. This place, Sinner’s Town, is not new to people, who have followed Sunfire during the last few years, because, as my fellow CeltCast member Cliff de Booy remarked in his review of Sunfire’s new album “The Devil’s Drink” (which, by the way, was released digitally one day prior to the official theatre premiere and physically on the day itself – check it out, if you haven’t done so yet, or have a look at Cliff’s review!): “[w]e have come to know main lyricist Satria Karsono as a true storyteller”. But what kind of story is Cliff referring to? What kind of story does Satria (and the rest of the band) tell then? If you were hoping to find a classic Western Cowboy story, telling about a few brave heroes, ruling the Good Ol’ Wild West with the help of their guns and mounts, “Tales of the Old West” is probably not for you. If, however, you are fascinated by a less romanticised (though also fictional) version of the Old West, telling of hardships, moral dilemmas and in general the timeless drama of human existence faced by those roaming Sinner’s town, ranging from absolute destitution, despair and death all the way to a state of uncontrollable joy and ecstasy, you definitely need to experience those tales as they are recited and acted out by Sunfire during the show.

Photo by Jean Paul Karting

After the narrator’s introductory words, “Tales of the Old West” started off with a bang, eh, with a “Shot” and with “Soul” ended on an equally up-tempo, rocking sing-along note, which the audience made ample use of. But in between, it was a rollercoaster of emotions, making us laugh with witty lyrics as in “Jolene” (which has been released on Youtube, too) or weep during the likes of “Ballad of River”. The band kept surprising us, when we were suddenly sent (back) to Sunday school, when an out-of-job drummer showed off his many other talents or when Billy Tanner was driven to despair because his horse was nowhere to be found. We went through more than one moment of uncertainty as to whether the show could go on, when the whole cast dropped dead to the floor, seemed to be on the verge of being hanged or when the lead singer appeared to be too drunk to continue with the show – had he taken one sip too many from the “Devil’s Drink”, and had thereby been incapacitated to “Leave the Bottle”? But in the end, the show must go on, and it always did … and in style, I might add.

Not only did Satria impersonate a drunk singer to the verge of perfection, but he in fact seemed to put his whole soul into every note he sang that night, ranging from powerhouse to emotional wreck, from drunk to sober, from deep to high notes, from singing to mere speaking. No matter what was required by the song, Satria gave it the right vibes with his voice. The same holds true for the rest of the band. The sound was engineered very well, and the instruments were in great harmony with each other. Each band member stepped back from time to time to give the respective other his or her chance to shine, whether it was an instrument predestined for a solo such as Sophie’s violin, Berend’s E-guitar or Satria’s banjo and acoustic guitar or an instrument granted this role less often as Jeroen’s drums or Michel’s bass. The soloists used their moments not only to shine, but to metaphorically light up the whole theatre hall. In fact the waltz driven almost entirely by Michel’s bass playing, while the rest of the band was swaying and dancing along was one of my personal highlights of the entire show.

Furthermore, the harmony was not limited to the sound alone. People who have seen Sunfire perform before will know what I mean, when I say, that it was a feast for the eyes to watch the band members interact with each other on stage. I can only come up with two possible explanations for this fabulous interaction. Either they are even better actors than we had suspected, and we will soon have to go without Sunfire’s music, because they have all been hired by Hollywood or they are not only a random cast of musicians, selected to put on a great show, but rather a crew of friends having a blast together while winning their bread in the meantime. I don’t know about you, but I sure hope it’s the second one and am almost sure it is.

This positive impression of the musicians’ personalities is made complete by the appreciative and respectful behaviour of the band members themselves, on- and offstage. Neither before the show on social media nor during the show did the band members grow tired of emphasising that this was not only their work, but the work of a crew of eleven, including the narrator, the people responsible for light and sound, for taking care of moving things on- and offstage, for booking and promoting and last but not least for selling the band’s merch in the theatre’s foyer. The attendance of many a musician or person otherwise active within the Folk and Fantasy scene underlines this point and is topped off by the cosy atmosphere after the show, when a noticeable portion of the audience hung around to get autographs, take pictures, exchange a hug or simply have a nice chat with each other or the band members, telling them things like “put this show on tape (eh, DVD) right away, capture this masterwork, so it will be there for people to enjoy after the tour is over”.

So, to sum it up, “Tales of the Old West” by Sunfire is not just a concert moved onto a theatre stage, but much more than that … It is a theatre production of its own right, that keeps the strengths of Sunfire as a band, but at the same time hits a whole new level in terms of taking the audience on a journey through time and space, bringing Sunfire’s version of the Old West to life through the tales from Sinner’s Town. Well, now, the only thing left to say is: don’t forget about that ticket hunt you postponed earlier to be able to read on and we might just meet at one of their shows, because I am pretty sure I will be travelling to the Netherlands at least once more (from Germany) to join Sunfire on their journey to the even more distant Old West.

– Germaine

P.S.: as a reminder – here’s another link to the “Tales of the Old West” tour plan! And, to round it off, below you can find the official teaser of the show:

In addition, you can find Sunfire here:

The Dolmen create their own world

Taloch Jameson
The Dolmen create their own world and take the audience on a musical adventure. Three weeks ago, on Friday 24th, the audience of P60 in Amstelveen got carried away into this magical world. Before this one-and-a-half-hour concert of the Dolmen, The Royal Spuds made an entrance for this world.

Tonight I’m Staying In, the opening song of The Royal Spuds. They might be the only one to stay in, because P60 is filled with people. Bare feet, swirly skirts and long hair with dreadlocks; that is a rough sketch of the audience. The Spuds are here to party and after the third song, the venue is quite steamy. It’s unclear whether that’s the audience or if there are any hidden smoke machines… The curtain falls and it’s time for the Dolmen.

The Royal Spuds   Micky Silver and Robin Janssens

The curtain rises and before we can see the band, we hear the first notes of Nuada. Band leader Taloch Jameson looks like he is having the time of his life. He is dancing and jumping around the stage, which has a contagious effect on the audience. Drummer Chris Jones is taking all of his energy out on the drums, dreadlocks flying around his face.

Taloch Jameson Kayleigh Marchant

It’s time for Crimson Tears and that is clearly an audience favourite. Guitarist Josh Elliot is playing a solo and all three band members are dancing and jumping around. The rock number shifts seamlessly into an acoustic song. Josh’s guitar is accompanied by the raw voice of Taloch. Then we hear the drums. Soft at first, but slowly becoming louder and louder until the entire audience is swinging along. And just like that, the drums stop and it’s guitar only. But not for long, the bass and drums follow up quickly. They are taking the audience on a rhythmic journey, getting ready for the drop. People are living in the moment. They are in their own world. The band and the audience become one with the moment. You can hear the love with which the music is made, and you can see it, too. The Dolmen’s songs leave the audience in a trance. They are not here to dance, but to experience the music.

Kayleigh Marchant with in the the background members of The Dolmen

Towards the end, the party music comes along; Dead Cats Don’t Meow, Rebel Fairy Fling. A few conga lines swing through the concert hall and The Royal Spuds are dancing in the back. Tim Elfring, singer and percussionist at Pyrolysis, is invited by Taloch on stage. It’s the last song and he is dancing, singing and even drumming. The audience is desperate for more and an hour and a half of the Dolmen seems like no time at all. A few people continue dancing after the show is over. The trance of the Dolmen is far from over.

The Dolmen with Tim Elfring

We had so much fun at the concert

Last night we had so much fun at the The Dolmen + Sunfire in P60 Amstelveen concert!

We managed to talk to friends, give hugs, dance, sing, laugh, take many pictures and do some awesome livestreams!!

With both Sunfire and The Dolmen on stage it is hardly surprising that we are still full of happy smiles and amazing memories!!

And tonight we will do it all over again at The Dolmen + Sunfire | Baroeg

Pictures by Marielle’s Concert and Event Photography

Some thoughts while heading home last night

LEAF & Sowulo Concert

As I drive through the old streets of Wervik and the flatlands of Flanders I think back on tonight’s theater show. Contrary to usual, I’m driving in silence, as I don’t want anything to “contaminate” the sounds that are still resonating in my mind and in my heart.

How can I describe it to someone who wasn’t there? How can I convey the warmth and love that Sowulo brought to the room? How can mere words do justice to the depth and power that LEAF official radiated from the stage?

Although I am often moved by beauty in any form I don’t consider myself an overly emotional man. But tonight I just couldn’t hold back the tears, even if I would have wanted to. Both performances were so full of beauty and love that I feel confident in saying that even Bragi himself would have shed a tear or two.

I want to thank everyone involved in making tonight what it was. I’m certain that I will keep the memory of this night locked in my heart for the rest of my days.
Tusen takk!
Picture by Ilona Vd Jagt-Esveld

Cesair & Irfan – Oskar

2015-11-20 Cesair & Irfan (Kees, 750p)
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, unfortunately we can’t be at every concert and we can’t review all of them. That is exactly why we got so excited when we saw this review of last Friday’s main event, the concert of Cesair combined with the Dutch album release concert of Irfan!

These two bands play a very deep style of music, heavily laden with emotion, and that is exactly how Oskar has reviewed it! His words will take you on a trip alongside the bands, through mystical times and epic tales, and they describe the sensation of the night perfectly!

Having experienced the wonder and amazement ourselves several times, it is awesome to read how someone else is moved by the music, especially someone as knowledgeable about the tales and meanings behind the songs as Oskar.

We are honoured that he offered his review for us to share with you and hope you will enjoy reading it as much as we have. Thank you again, Oskar!

Cesair and Irfan

Last Friday I did something I have not really done since I became father: I went out. The night before, I mobilized some of my dear dancing friends to attend a CD-release party with two music groups that create music that has become precious to me.


The first band is called Cesair. Their music is not very easy to classify. They tend to describe it as ‘epic’, because of the drama and the emotion they aim to transpose from a variety of ancient myths and legends. In 2013 they released their first album Dies, Nox et Omnia, which I think is one of the most advanced début albums I know of. The songs on it are very complexly composed, while still very symphonic and beautiful. The musicians are very talented and versatile, capable of playing multiple uncommon historical instruments as well as better known contemporary instruments. Their lead singer Monique van Deursen is able to flawlessly (as far as I can assess, of course) sing in a number of exotic languages, ranging from Swedish to Gaelic, to Arabic.

The themes of their music also dwell in my domain of interest. The Wanderings of Oisín, for example (though it was not played at the release party), is inspired upon W.B. Yeats’ recounting of the romantic Irish legend of Oisín through the fairy realm. I once wrote an essay on Yeats, because of his rich imagination and understanding of myth and magic. The song has a nice galloping cadans in it, which evokes the image of Oisín’s horse, that prevents the heroes’ feet from touching mortal soil.

A song that actually was played Friday was Ishtar. I especially like the hammered dulcimer in it, played by my friend Fieke van den Hurk. Cesair performed the song together with the other band Irfan. It is about Ishtar, the Akkadian goddess of both love and war (incidentally, I wrote my bachelor thesis on Ishtar and other goddesses with these combined attributes). The song is very sensual and evokes images of the sacred temple in ancient Babylon.

The following song was called Enuma Elish. It is the Babylonian creation story as we know it from clay tablets. The clip will speak for itself:

Cesair’s music is rich in beauty and evocation. And I think it deserves a bigger audience than it currently has. While the musicians were very sincerely grateful to the more-than-hundred people who came just to see them perform, I think many more people deserve to learn of their music. The music is very capable of moving the body, sometimes sensual, sometimes powerful. At times, it can also move the soul.

The following song is called Atiny Naya, it is an Arab ode to music. It was the final song played at the gig, together with Irfan. (I especially like the dropping of the beat at 2:18).


I have known the Bulgarian group Irfan for some years now, and I’ve always found their music very compelling. For reference, it is often compared with Dead Can Dance (but I do not know their music, save for the song that was covered by Irfan). Irfan’s music is, I think, less accessible than Cesair’s. Irfan’s music resonates on a deeper level, I think. Cesair’s music first moves the body, and spirit can follow, Irfan’s music touches the soul and the body may follow the motion. It is not too surprising that Irfan roots in Gnosticism.

Irfan’s performance is always very modest. The musicians seem stoic at times and they emanate much calmness (they seemed undisturbed by technical trouble). They always seem to be more in touch with their music than with the audience. But this never seems to matter, because when they play, the music is prevalent and takes the audience away. The music is very trance-like.

Irfan makes use of deep male vocals, sweeping female vocals, ethereal sound effects and traditional snare and wind instruments. I am very fond of their occidental and oriental sound. Most of their music is quite slow, though they also feature more sparkling and almost seductive songs.

The Golden Horn is one of the more lyrical songs. It is my personal favourite. (Unfortunately my car had broken down, so I depended on crappy public transport and had to leave during the performance of this ultimate dancing tune, only to find out that no bus would be leaving at that time…)

Irfan’s songs often bear a message. The Cave of Swimmers, for example is about the discovery of a cave in the Sahara, wherein swimming people were depicted. The song is about the ephemeral nature aspect of our physical existence. Not even seas remain. The message is that we therefore should not focus so much on our personal existence, but should have a wider gaze.

Another song played was The Eternal Return. A song with a loving esoteric message and this Eastern sound that I’m so fond of.

There are many more songs I would have liked to share, but I hope to have sparked curiosity. I really enjoyed dancing to the music of both groups. They are manifesting beauty, and are re-enchanting our world in their own way.

– Samhildánach (Oskar)

– Picture by: Kees Stravers

About the author:

Oskar not only wrote this review, he also writes frequently about a range of topics that inspire him to do so on his blog Samhildánach, named after the Celtic sun god Lugh (one of his many names).

There you can learn about his many faceted life: Oskar teaches philosophy of life at a high school, holds a master’s degree in Theology and Religious Studies, and is specialized in Western Esotericism and Mysticism, which as an elevator pitch, he usually describes as “anything that has to do with magic”. And his has (many) other creative outlets you can learn about!


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