The last day of Le Guess Who was Sunday 11 November, which was an exciting day for me as it was the hundredth anniversary of the Western Front armistice, about which I had many posts on my amazing World War 1 blog. But being now in 2018, the day began not with last minute heroics but with food. My beloved and I had signed up for this thing called Le Feast, which was another spin-off from the main Le Guess Who, which in this case saw people (i.e. us) going to the homes of random Utrecht residents for brunch. In our case we made a short journey outside the central zone to the home of Daniek and Jaap where we were served tasty noms of a broadly Middle Eastern inspired variety. Other guests included a Dutch goldsmith and an anglophone couple who revealed that they were Welsh when I asked if they were from “England” [/embarrassment]; they turned out to be coffee roasters. The whole experience was very enjoyable, largely thanks to our gracious hosts and the tasty food they served us, which was delicious without being nonsensical. In fact the brunch might be the highlight of the festival and I urge anyone who goes to Le Guess Who next year to make sure they sign up for it. I am making myself hungry just thinking of it again. If the table looks bare in the photographs that is because we had eaten all the food by the time the photographer arrived.
I then tried to catch a concert in by Eleanor Friedberger playing in an out of the way venue but so it turned out did everyone else. Once I realised that the queue I had joined was for people to be admitted on a one-in-one-out basis and not the queue to be let in once the doors opened I made my excuses and left. I did think of heading into the outer suburbs of Utrecht to see Mudhoney but this plan ran aground on account of my not being arsed and also fearing that their venue would also be too full, earning me a wasted journey for our troubles. So instead beloved and I went to the Belgian beer pub that boasts its own pub cat, or so Mr B—- had informed us. We did not see the cat but we did see his bowl.
And then to the Tivoli for a last evening of music. In the big venue we saw Circuit des Yeux performing music with members of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. I had previously listened to Ms des Yeux’s recent album Reaching for Indigo but I can’t say it made much of a positive impression on me. I recall enjoying the live performance more but did wonder how much of that was down to the semi-orchestral accompaniment. I’m not sure exactly what it is that puts me off the Circuit des Yeux project. I mean, she is a bit goth so should be right up my alley, but I find her deep vocal style a bit unappealing (and yet a deep female vocal style has never put me off the likes of Nico). I think I might be the problem here.
It may have been around this point that I had an Old Fashioned from the festival cocktail bar. It was very nice.
The next performance was a more bizarre one as it was by Eartheater, whose description in the programme as a “Queens based artist” was considered ominous in some quarters. Ms Eartheater vocalises to synthesiser accompaniment, with her vocals seeming to me at least to be more or less completely non-verbal. There was also a dance element to her performance or at least a physicality to it that approximated to dance while perhaps deriving from first principles rather than any kind of rigorous dance training (NB I have no idea of Ms Eartheater’s background; she could be trained ballerina for all I know). As avant-garde nonsense goes I found this performance very impressive but there were aspects of it I found a bit problematic. Specifically she wore some class of crop top that continuously threatened to fall down and reveal her assets to the audience; eventually it did [/spoiler]. I suppose I am bit old and weird and not down with the young people and their letting-it-all-hang-out philosophy, but this bit seemed somewhat gratuitous to me and undermined the serious bonkers avant-garde artist schtick that the rest of the performance was going for.
“Your embarrassing drunk aunt at a wedding” was how one person was heard to describe Ms Eartheater but, poppage and subsequent topless performance notwithstanding, I would still judge her to be one of the festival’s highlights.
We stuck our nose into the venue where Lucrecia Dalt was playing but left again as her music was a bit too quiet. But when we found ourselves watching The Comet Is Coming the opposite was the case and their extreme volume sent us on our way, as well as the faint fear that with their combo of synthy keyboards and jazz saxophone they were like the evil progressive jazz band in La La Land (an unfair comparison).
That brought us almost to the end of the night. For the want of anything better to to do my beloved and I repaired to another of the Tivoli venues to see Swamp Dogg, who is an R&B performer of advanced years. The music was of the old school blues and R&B variety but the real star here was Mr Swamp Dogg himself, who is both blessed with a still impressive voice for that kind of music and an extremely rofflesome persona. I particularly liked when he stopped in the middle of singing a song about how he is some class of lover man to say “Not anymore I’m not – maybe 20 years ago”. His inability to remember his band’s names when he was trying to introduce them was a poignant reminder of what lies ahead of us. And he also had to be restrained by his band when he was looking to climb down off the stage into the audience, an attempt that looked like it could have led to disaster, given his now fragile state. There was something very life affirming about Swamp Dogg’s performance and it made for a perfect end to the festival.
The test with any festival is whether you would go again. I am not sure with Le Guess Who, as two of its featured irritated me. Firstly was the massive multi-tracking and the FOMO it engendered, rendered all the more acute by the fact that so many of the acts were unfamiliar to me that it was not always obvious which ones should be plumped for. I have been to other massively multi-tracked festivals before, notably Glastonbury, but the problem here seemed to be much more acute, perhaps because this indoor city festival was not as relaxing as an outdoor hippy festival in olde England. The other irksome factor was the frequency with which it proved impossible to see plumped-for performers, because the venues they were playing in were full to capacity. That meant that it was consistently impossible to rush straight from one concert to another as one needed to be in a venue half an hour before an artist started to be sure of catching the performance. But maybe these are minor irritations and I will next year find myself at Le Guess Who once more.
Le Feast images, by Mirel Masic (Facebook: Le Feast 2018)
Swamp Dogg and I, by Jeimer De Haas (Le Guess Who: LGW18 – Photo Recap Day 4)