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Le Guess Who? Festival, Utrecht (Part 2, eng)

Le Guess Who? Festival, Utrecht (Part 2, eng)

Some days ago, we published the first part of our review over this year's Le Guess Who festival in Utrecht, with our impressions from the organization and the concerts of Wilco, Savages, Wand and Beak>. You can find it here

This is the second and last part, with our experiences from Black Mountain, Dinosaur Jr., The Ex, Wooden Shjips, Swans, The Cairo Gang, Drinks and Marching Church.

 

The Cairo Gang

*Review By Yasmin Widodo

It's Friday night and it was the only night that I knew exactly where I wanted to be. First stop: The Cairo Gang.

The Cairo Gang is a one man band. The man behind the very funny and historic name is called Emmett Kelly. Yes, Emmett Kelly. You might know him as the guitar player at live shows (since 2015) of bands like...... Ty Segall or Mikal Cronin... oh and he has been playing with the great Bonnie Prince Billy for years. I first met him a few years ago when Bonnie Prince Billy played in Amsterdam. Emmett was Bonnie's guitar player for that theater tour. There were only 100 tickets available per show, so you can imagine that it was one of my favourite shows of all time!

The Cairo Gang played at LE:EN. It's a very popular Thai restaurant. The place was originally a factory and well, it still looks like one. Nevertheless, it might have been the perfect place for Emmett to play. 

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Cairo-Gang-Tim-Van-Veen.jpg*Photo by Tim Van Veen

 

He was really nervous because it was his first solo show in The Netherlands and it's always a bit intimidating when you're on your own up there. Anyways, when he hit the first note and began to sing, he blew everyone away. It was so pure, almost like poetry. While I was standing there I could imagine all the stories and all the pain or joy he has been through. Which is the ultimate goal for an artist and a very intense experience for a spectator. There are a million singer-songwriters in the world and hundreds that played at LGW, but this guy has something special. He is a real artist and those are hard to find these days!

 

Black Mountain

It was our first time seeing the Canadian Black Mountain. The timing was perfect, shortly after the release of a very good album of true rock music. 

The band comes onstage and starts with the 8-minute long Mothers Of The Sun. We look at each other and smile due to the sound we are hearing. Crystal clear, massive and absolute 70s aesthetics! Mike Oldfield keys at the intro, until the guitar riff somewhere at the 3rd and 4th minute starts shaking the whole room! They continued with Florian Saucer Attack, for which Dave Grohl said: "Every so often a song comes around that takes you by the ear, pulls you to your knees, and makes you beg for its claws to release you from its infectious grasp. Thank you, Black Mountain for the spark. Now, where's that guitar of mine..." And this is pretty much how we felt that night as well...

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Black-Mountain-Jan-Rijk.jpg

*Photo by Jan Rijk

 

The band was in absolute form, playing very hard and passionate. The drummer in particular was obviously trying to punish his drums with strong hits and extra fortified drumsticks. The singer Amber Webber was very static on stage without any outbreaks. Strangely, this did not bother us at all, being balanced out with the power of the music and her voice. 

The lion's share belonged to the new album of course, with 5 songs, while the setlist included 4 more older tunes, to a total of 50 minutes. We would have liked more of course. Next time. We don't complain. In other festivals (like Coachella) the first names play 20-30 mins overall, which is annoying. 

 

Black Mountain Setlist Le Guess Who? 2016 2016
 

Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr. need no introduction. A legendary band that has influenced generations of musicians by now, was playing at the main stage of Le Guess Who on Saturday November 12. It was the first time that we would see them as well, being very happy that the promoters chose to give them a full 1,5 hours, in order to play a complete set. 

At 8:45 they came on stage and started immediately with The Lung from the distant 1987! What stands out instantly is how much mass can be produced by only 3 people! A wall of sound fills the venue, led by the guitar of J Mascis! He, indolent as always, sometimes with a gaze lost in space, sometimes with his eyes closed, was delivering us his dirty but inspired riffs and solos. Although everybody can understand from their albums why J has captured such a special spot in american music, we have to admit that eventually only live one can comprehend the dynamics of this guy's music. 

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-DinosaurJr-Jan-Rijk.jpg*Photo by Jan Rijk

 

With stacked amplifiers and speakers behind and next to him at a one meter only distance, we went at some point front row, right in front of J tο understaνd what goes on there. A huge sound wave smacked us! It was so loud that made it absolutely impossible for anything else to be heard at this specific spot. No drums, no base, no voice. We turned back after two minutes in a stake of partial deafness. How can he stand it for so long and every night? 

The band continued with Get Me and Start Choppin from the beloved Where You Been of 1993 and then with Freak Scene from 1988's Bug! Which was a big positive surprise of course. We were waiting for them to focus on the new album. Eventually, we reached the track number 6 until they played something new.

Overall, 15 songs were heard, including a fuzzed out cover of Cure's Just Like Heaven. It was a concert-revelation for us. A musical, and guitar per se, orgasm. A band with huge strength. 

 

Dinosaur Jr. Setlist Le Guess Who? 2016 2016
 

 

The Ex

For The Ex, we ought to start by saying that it made a big impression to us the fact that, while we were expecting them to be considered as one of the greatest bands in Holland, in relevant discussions we realized that they are not really well known. Even among people that spend much of their time with music. Maybe their reputation is way bigger in our countries vs their own. 

A band that was always restless artistically, for Le Guess Who, they chose to appear with the musical-dancing group from Ethiopia, Fendika. Not having the slightest idea on what we were about to witness, we arrived in the venue right when Zerfu Demissie was playing center-stage the (as we learned afterwards) Begena, an African string instrument. A meditative atmosphere, an introduction for the power that followed with The Ex. The four of them got on and directly started their trip to the noise/punk alleys of New York in the early 80s.

Tight sound and clear, despite the exaggerating distortions. A band that sits at the level of SonicYouth, avoiding the meaningless noise, but rather using it as a tool for inspired compositions. Many problems in the guitar at the start did not affect them, although Terrie Hessels seemed really stressed until they were fixed. 

Some songs later Fendika appeared on stage, with two musicians (percussions, one-stringed masenko) accompanying The Ex. With not much success though, as the sound of Ex was so loud that choked most part of Fendika's contribution. What we were seeing was completely enjoyable, but due to the music of the Dutchmen. The cooperation did not really work. 

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-TheEx-mine-3.jpg

 

Mid way into the live, the Ex retreated and the two Ethiopians continued, complemented by a female singer (with amazing voice!) and two dancers. The band delivered us the absolute mystic feast. It was very surprising how mesmerizing their performance was, taking us to the depths of this continent and back to their tradition. A legendary choice from the great The Ex! Following that, all together again on stage for a show that overall lasted more than 2 hours.

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-TheEx-Tim-Van-Veen.jpg*Photo by Tim Van Veen

 

Wooden Shjips

Wooden Shjips were the ones that, personally, I wanted to see most in the whole festival. A much loved band that we did not have the chance to enjoy as much in Plissken Festival of 2014, due to a mediocre sound quality. 

At the tough time of 1.20 at night, when we were already kinda tired from the day-long cresendo of Le Guess Who and Le Mini Who. Despite that though, Wooden Shjips woke us up for good (so good that we ended up home in the morning)!

The four of them took their position under, mostly, blue lights and a huge screen behind them, that covered almost the whole of the wall, accompanying and translating their psychedelia to picture. The sound was truly perfect. Everybody could hear clearly all the instruments and the voice, despite the fuzz that they were building.

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Wooden-Shjips-Jan-Rijk.jpg*Photo by Jan Rijk

 

They played a bit more than the scheduled 1 hour. But how could they stop? The crowd seemed to enjoy them so much, while some lengthier versions of songs would leave less space for more tracks. Overall, their set included numbers from all the albums, but mostly from Back To Land and West.

The concert transformed us to even bigger fans of this band and, partly made us feel that we were at points watching Hawkwind in the early 70s. The absolute psychedelia, with minimal musical pauses, with the volume continuously elevated and the instruments fighting each other but at the same time being in complete harmony, shooting us outside of this planet. 

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Wooden-Shjips-Jan-Rijk-2.jpg*Photo by Jan Rijk

 

The next day we woke up with Wooden Shjips in mind. We headed to record store Plato in the center of Utrecht to buy in vinyl Back To Land. Near the cashier, some people were standing and, as soon as they saw our selection, they started smiling and asking if we saw them live last night, saying how much of a fascinating experience that was...

 

Drinks

*Review By Yasmin Widodo

Garagepop lovers already knew about Tim Presley's (White Fence) existence, but his, yet pretty unknown, side project with Cate Le Bon is even weirder and way more interesting! Besides that they are, to me, the perfect couple, they both draw much influence from both of their own bands and put it in this great masterpiece.

Drinks have a bit of a New York 80s punk sound, but in a new original and familiar White Fence way. The instrumental parts are beautiful in their simplicity. Like the guitar riff that Cate is playing. It's only 3 notes, during the whole 3 minute song, but it's incredibly catchy. Behind the two front popstars, there is a high quality band. While the drummer plays in a pretty straight, very steady line, the bass player and guitarist are switching sides regularly. Normally, I find this really annoying but it works out great with this band. I just don't know why. They're like sweet skinny boys who are grateful for their upcoming success and maybe really glad that they are touring with THE Cate and Tim. It seems like they're one big family, which translates to a very tight music. If you get the chance to see Tim Presley, White Fence, Cat Le Bon or Drinks live, do it! Go see them. You'll love it!

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Drinks.jpg

 

Swans

The great Swans appeared in the festival the last day, Sunday November 13, in Tivoli's Ronda Zaal. One of the most important concerts of these four days for us and many others, as we would have the chance to listen live part of the new amazing album, The Glowing Man.

A bit after 19.00, the lights go out and Swans are on. Plenty of feedback and ambient sounds, complemented with a futuristic melody from the keyboard. Mid song and onwards,  the lead is gradually grabbed by the drone notes of Gira's guitar. They become more and more intense as the end approaches. The synthesis is called The Knot and it does not exist in any album. 

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Swans-Jelmer-De-Haas.jpg*Photo by Jelmer De Haas

 

Following on, it was another new, unreleased, song titled The Man Who Refused To Be Unhappy. With the classic climax happening really fast, for something close to 10 minutes the sound was dominated by a repeated delay-siren in guitar and Gira chanting on top. Until the last 2 minutes, when all the instruments started playing even faster, to a huge sound wave, until the maestro Gira signaled to everybody the end.

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Swans-Jelmer-De-Haas-2.jpg*Photo by Jelmer De Haas

 

And now its time for the new album. Starting with Cloud Of Unknowing, which was the best moment of the concert in our opinion. The music of today's Swans in all its perfectness, with a masterful building of sounds and Gira spending much of his time turned back to the band for the necessary guidance. He seemed really enjoying it, having more energy than any other time that we have seen them! The composition lasted more than half an hour (vs the 25 mins of the studio version). 

Two more songs were heard from the new album, The World Looks Red and The Glowing Man, in which the mystic shamanic atmosphere was equally present and intense. The whole concert was an abstract spiritual journey that obliges the viewer to stay still, close the eyes and enter completely in the world of Swans. It was probably the best performance from them that I have seen.

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Swans-Jelmer-De-Haas-3.jpg*Photo by Jelmer De Haas

 

We should remind at this point that Swans are still touring and will be in Greece for two concerts in March. ClockSound had the privilege to talk to Michael Gira the last days. Stay tuned as we will publish next days the interview, with him describing us, among others, his first visit in Greece in the late 60s through hitch-hiking!

 

Swans Setlist Le Guess Who? 2016 2016, The Glowing Man
 
Marching Church

*Review By Yasmin Widodo

It was Sunday afternoon. I just finished my dinner and then rushed my ass to Tivoli Vredenburg. I had to see Marching Church. I realized that many had never heard of them, but most know the Danish band Iceage (which by the way played at LGW '14). Elias Bender Ronnenfelt, the extraordinary frontman, has a pretty unique and arrogant image. You either love him or absolutely hate him. I can imagine that, to certain parts of the audience, the fact that he looks like he can also start a modelling career added up to his popularity. But he is also one of the most old-school punk guys!

The vibe is different in the room. It somehow takes me to the dark and cold streets of Denmark. Once they start, you just have to take your time to enjoy it. It is not the “o wow, this shit is absolutely amazing” concert. One just has to watch them and pay much attention. They are all dressed up and playing their instruments brilliantly. It's also a completely different experience to hear them live. The records are good, especially the first one. But this is a band one needs to see live. To feel it.

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Marching-Church-Jelmer-De-Haas.jpg*Photo by Jelmer De Haas

 

I like the fact that one of the guitar players is just sitting and playing like it's another Tuesday night or that the bass player looks like a skinhead who wears a fake fur coat and turns his back against the audience. Another young boy is playing the horns and sings as loud as he can (it was really off key, but it was totally okay) and the guitar player, who's right in front of me, looks like he took a break from the set of a James Bond movie. He would be the villain, obviously!

Marching Church is raw punk, like Iceage, but mixed with poetic lyrics like Mr Cave’s. I think I'm gonna compare them to The Fall. Yes. They're kinda similar...I'll admit....

I adore Marching Church!

 

LIVE/Le-Guess-Who-2016/161121-LeGuessWho-Marching-Church-Jelmer-De-Haas-2.jpg*Photo by Jelmer De Haas

 

Digable Planets

We did not see Digable Planets, nor Julia Holter. While we recognize and admit their high artistic value, personally I cannot stand them not even for a minute. However, we attach, for anyone interested, videos of their full concerts in Le Guess Who, as captured by the camera of 3voor12.

 

 

Julia Holter

 

 

 

*We would like to give special thanks to Yasmin Widodo for her contribution in this article. 

Yasmin Widodo plays guitar and sings at the garage/punk rock band Mojitas, which we highly recommend. You can find more details about the band here and here, and also listen their first EP below.

 

 

*We thank the organizers once again, and especially Barry Spooren and Jessica Clark, for their invitation to cover Le Guess Who? Festival, as well as for the perfect festival experience that they managed to offer to us and the rest of the visitors. 

*We thank also all the photographers that contributed their material and the magnificent work they did. For more photographs from the festival, please press here. The cover is part of a photo by Tim Van Veen

 

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