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Le Guess Who? 2015 - Sunday

  • Published in Live

Things start early at Le Guess Who? on the final day so I find myself part of a respectable sized crowd (bigger than normal he reckons, if you can believe that) to see Kelley Stoltz in Ekko at 4pm. As a definite fan of the man’s work I’m obviously biased but I’m happy to name this as the best gig of the weekend. Not only do he and the band play songs from across his career (new material such as ‘Litter Love’ and ‘You’re Not Ice’ slotting in fine with the superb Double Exposure material and earlier tunes) we’re treated to ‘Hot Igloo’ and ‘Don’t Let Your Dreams Die’ from his Willie Weird alter ego, a minor Leonard Cohen/Pink Floyd mash-up and some amusing banter, anecdotes & philosophising. If he could actually have remained on stage for the three hours he joked about I’m sure everyone would have stayed put for the duration, such was the level of inclusion and entertainment on offer.

Jacco Gardner was curating the programme in Pandora today so a look in at the chiming charms of Eerie Wanda was possible. Crowd sizes generally were on a par with Thursday & Friday today so the hall wasn’t packed out but there was a good level of appreciation for the band’s whimsical and mildly psychedelic output. Fans of a poppier take on the psychedelic side of things could head to the Ronda where Byron Bay's The Babe Rainbow (looking and sounding a tad out of place beside the rest of the weekend’s bill) were dressed to impress and giving it their all. Pandora would though probably have been a better setting for them to do it in.

What festival goers there were on the day clearly knew who they wanted to see so public areas were far less congested but bottlenecks did develop due to the smaller number of performances on the slate. As such it was impossible for me to see Follakzoid once I got back to Ekko. There was queue out of the gig space into the bar so, making it a point never to queue, I turned tail back to the Tivoli to pass the time before the second of the shows I was personally most eager to see – Mikal Cronin (with added horns & strings).

As part of his chat Kelley Stoltz had referred to Cronin and himself sharing a resemblance and having seen them both in the space of a few hours I’ll admit to there being a bit of a “separated at birth” thing going on. Cronin has far less chat but then as it’s the first time he and his band have been augmented by violins & brass there’s probably more to concentrate on than usual. In all there a dozen players on stage and the Ronda hall does full justice to the fuller sound produced. Final song ‘Change’ was the one I was expecting to really resound with the extra instruments as it’s exciting in recorded form for that very reason but throughout the set you were constantly being reminded of how expansive Cronin’s creations actually are. Great garage rock it may be but his talents for arranging and incorporating more traditional instruments cannot be underestimated. A further great show raising today to the top of the weekend pile.

Jacco Gardner naturally caused one of the regular Pandora access issues but we were lucky enough to have had five minutes or so to steal a march on the latecomers. As mentioned in an earlier piece the hall was prone to tech issues over the four days and so after the first song of the set there came a bit of a gap as pedals were plugged into each other in a different order so as to nullify a persistent buzzing. After that delay though the set progressed as you’d expect and there was a greater sense of band/crowd interaction than when I’d previously seen the show at the Liverpool Psych Fest. For all his falsetto and supposedly fey attributes the live setting fully allows for the darker elements of his work to shine, in keeping with the Giallo imagery associated with the Hypnophobia album.

More tech issues mean the start of the Ariel Pink show was delayed back downstairs in the Ronda. Some people were getting very stroppy about not being able to hear either their own or other folk’s vocals. That finally dealt with the first song upon returning to the stage contained the word goodbye a lot so, coupled with the trashy rear projection, the surrealistic nature of what was in store was readily confirmed. Dancing was certainly possible as the underlying funkiness of the bulk of the songs was very to the fore but, possibly due the theatrical element referenced by that projection, there was an air of the band going through the motions with its leader in his little baffle pillbox conducting proceedings and occasionally playing his duck whistle. A fun performance but one lacking warmth. 

Jacco Gardner’s Cabinet Of Curiosities contained as it’s crowning glory Os Mutantes. Re-discovered in the Nineties after decades of cult (if any) following outside of their native Brazil they put in a performance that at one and the same time managed to give the impression that they had all the time in the world, whilst that they were also keen to make up for lost time. An impressive feat and one that causes you to wonder whether those acts witnessed who’re supposedly in their prime will have the desire (or even the fan base) to manage the same. Yet another good addition to the list of older bands Le Guess Who? has scheduled over the years. 

The festival returns for its tenth year on the second weekend of November 2016 with Wilco confirmed as the first headliner. Early bird tickets are available for just 92.50 euros here so do yourselves a favour and plan ahead. 


Le Guess Who? 2015 - Thursday

  • Published in Live

With the November weather attempting to do its worst our third time at Le Guess Who? began in a low key fashion tonight. A return to the fantastic Jenskerk, to see the festival's opening act Hildur Gudnadottir perform her mix of cello and experimental pop, was the first stop. A fitting location for the ethereality of the music and one that pulled in a full-sized crowd.

Making use of a bike this year proved to be the wise move its always been touted as (although it does help to read your map correctly) so the trip to see Eric Chenaux in the Tivoli Vredenburg's Pandora hall took no time at all. Bringing to mind the work of Robert Wyatt with his warbling falsetto his was an interesting and warm start to the Constellation Records curated element of this year's festival.

Back to the Jenskerk for another packed-out show next. Last week's Paris horrors will obviously be in people's minds throughout this weekend (Eric Cheanaux had already mentioned the festival as providing a break from the tension there) and for this, the last night of her tour, Julia Holter's response was to put music to a poem by Karen Dalton. You could have heard a pin drop in the hush that marked its playing. 

Squeezing back out through the crowd and past the queue at the door it was back up the road to the Groete Zaal of the Tivoli for the first of tonight's major German acts. The Notwist have somehow missed out on major success in the UK (not that I expect they lose sleep over that) but it's bewildering why that is the case. Given their ability to write indie gems worthy of the likes of a rockier Teenage Fanclub as well as a raft of material that recalls (or even pre-dates) Wilco at the more experimental end of their own scale they should by rights have swept all before them. With their binary lights and pounding performance they'll just have to remain a favourite of those in the know for the time being.

Saltland were next on the list for us but upon climbing the stairs to Pandora we were met by the crowd streaming out some 12 minutes early by our reckoning. A quick look at the programme showed there was time to fit in the unknown The Homesick, part of the the Subbacultcha Presents slice of the festival, over at Ekko. They were tonight's revelatory act. Laddish post-punk from a Dutch trio clearly very at home in the live setting and going down a storm with the home crowd. Bags of energy and talent aplenty on display.

Majical Cloudz were the final act at the Jenskerk tonight. Whilst rather bizarrely not drawing in the same keen crowd as the earlier performers they managed to make far better use of the excellent acoustic properies of the ex-church than for whatever reason Julia Holter had been able to. Having it seemed arrived from Canada during the day Devon Welsh (bearing very fair comparison to David Byrne) apologised a number of times for having little in the way of chat but whether jetlagged or due to having other concerns on his mind his and Matthew Otto's performance was flawless. 'Are You Alone?', 'Heavy' and 'Childhood's End' all featured in the set and it's hard to think of a place where they could have come over any better.

Reconstituted krautrock pioneers Faust were next on the agenda. True to their roots there was a theatrical element in the shape of three knitting girls at the front of the stage. Beginning with a tribute to the victims in Paris and beyond theirs was a thunderous performance of a far more industrial nature than expected but one ideally suited to the cavernous space of the Groete Zaal. Managing to make a hurdy gurdy sound like an air raid siren & harbinger of doom was a particularly evocative part of their dramatic show.

A quick train ride up to the far flung DB's brought the first hiccup of the night as, due to timings seemingly being close to an hour out of kilter, The Great Communicators were not that far into their set rather than The Mysterons just getting ready to take to the stage. Vigorous and sweet-voiced indie from the Amsterdam/Hague quintet was a pleasure to take in nevertheless and they're undoubtedly not the only band appearing over the weekend who, if things go well, can enjoy wide appeal outwith Holland.

Given the train times the only option was to finish the night back in Pandora for a final dollop of Canadian entertainment in the shape of Ought. Live it turns out that frontman Tim Darcy's performance is a curious mix of Jarvis Cocker's sinuousness married to Mark E. Smith's vocal mannerisms, a combination that makes it hard to take your eyes off him. The floor of the hall was packed so they were keenly received by the vast majority of the crowd but for me there was something lacking in terms of the transition of the material from Sun Comes Down and its predecessors from recording to live. Maybe the balcony wasn't the best place to appreciate them from. Nevertheless it was well past the witching hour & so time to head off.

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