Le Guess Who? Festival 2012 Recap

Le Guess who is a Festival that has been held since 2007 in Utrecht, the university town of the Netherlands. Names like A Place To Bury Strangers, South...
Le Guess Who? Festival 2012 Recap

Le Guess Who? Festival 2012 Recap

Le Guess who is a Festival that has been held since 2007 in Utrecht, the university town of the Netherlands.  Names like A Place To Bury Strangers, South San Gabriel, Melissa auf der Maur, Six Organs of Admittance, Micah P. Hinson, James Blackshaw and Pinback, among many others, have visited the different venues the organizers use all over the centre of this beautiful city.

 

THURSDAY, 29TH NOVEMBER

The first day of the festival took us to the Tivoli Oudegracht, the old Tivoli, so to speak, for a night of post-rock or post-something.

Do Make Say Think

Do Make Say Think

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

Do Make Say Think were the first band onstage and their mix of post-rock with some drops of psychedelia sounded pretty good in songs like “Do” or “Frederica”, but we felt it happened to them like it happens sometimes to Chicago’s Del Rey: They don’t seem to go as far as they could, even though they have all the tools to do so.

MONO

MONO

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

The opposite happened with Japan’s MONO.  They were less onstage than DMST but the results were far more effective.  MONODeep, emotional, epic, dense, desperate, hopeful, the quartet played totally in synch, taking extreme care of the execution and the feelings they wanted to transmit.  If you want the same immensity of Explosions in the Sky (QRO live review) or the first Yndi Halda, MONO can provide it.

The Dirty Three

The Dirty Three

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

“What’s this festival about?  Anyway, this next song is about waking up one morning and find you’ve transformed into Coldplay’s singer and then think God’s got some sense of humour after all,” was one of the first things The Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis said in his typical Dada style.  The ingredients were those we always find in their gigs: Noise, tension, improvisation, and electricity…  The same old things that still work, still entertain and still make you feel this trio is unique as very few.

Ultraísta

Ultraísta

UltraístaClick image for full gallery – Tim van Veen

Elsewhere, worth mentioning are Nigel Godrich’s Ultraísta at the Tivoli de Helling.  The Little WingsRadiohead (QRO live review) producer’s combo played for the second time in the Netherlands.  The general impression was that their atmospheric synth-pop kind of sounded half-baked at times, but we must remember the band is taking its first steps.  And Little Wings – at the cosy Ekko venue – dreamy lo-fi was ideal for those who wanted some intimacy and calm.

 

FRIDAY, 30TH NOVEMBER

Lumerians

Lumerians

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

Again at the Tivoli Oudegracht, California’s Lumerians debuted in Europe and their updated psych-rock with dense organs and synthesizers, their shifting melodies and their pulsating bass and guitars were a pleasant surprise.  45 minutes is not a lot of time, but they gave us enough reasons to follow their trace.

Clinic

Clinic

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz Clinic

Clinic was one of the highlights of this Le Guess Who?.  The veteran English combo were the unlucky ones this time, as tech issues delayed their gig, so they only played for just under 30 minutes, but in any case, that was enough to prove their mettle.  Mixing electronic pop songs with urgent numbers, the musicians dressed in scrubs (like a good quality The Residents – QRO live review) showed that a band can evolve, change musical direction and still sound solid and interesting.

Deerhoof

Deerhoof

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

The night went on with one of the bands recommended by Spanish outsider and troubadour Jose Domingo – more about him in forthcoming weeks – Deerhoof.  Nothing we’ll say here will be unknown to you, dear readers, but their unpredictability, sheer electricity, changes of intensity and bursts of Deerhoofmelody and trash are simply magnificent live.  And the funny and cute issue to them is their singer, Satomi Matsuzaki, with her fragile voice, her choreographies and her energy.  Simply unique.

Fuck Buttons

Fuck Buttons

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

And the last band to perform at the Oudegracht on Friday was Bristolians Fuck ButtonsFuck ButtonsCompleting a night of sheer eclecticism, the British chaps offered a wall of sound very difficult to escape from, mixing techno, drones and unstoppable beats.

Dam Mantle

Dam Mantle

Click image for full gallery – Tim van Veen

At the Tivoli De Helling, they put the “COMPLETE” sign for Suuns and that meant the U.S. band didn’t have to go flat-out to win the audience over.  But they did, anyway.  Their reverberating sound and the energy shown made them one of the highlights of the whole festival.  And at the Ekko, a great night with Koreless and their very clever dubstep melodies, Dam Mantle with his post-dubstep and minimalist tunes and U.S.’s WHY? with a special skill to produce polyphonic and strong melodies completed a line-up for those who wanted something more subtle but powerful anyway.

Suuns

Suuns

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

WHY?

WHY?

Click image for full gallery – Jan Rijk

 

SATURDAY, 1ST DECEMBER

This time, the music started at the Jaap Gallery where Canadian Erin Lang offered a taste of her latest record, Between You and the Sea.  At very low light, the sensations brought yours truly back in time.  The lasting impression Lang’s gig left was that of an Audrey Hepburn-like figure that left the city to live in a remote house in the middle of the country and, instead of writing classic singer-songwriter tunes, she simply confronted loneliness and the elements resolutely and with courage.  Beautiful tunes like “Carried Away”, “Falling” or “Anchor” give just a mere idea of how far she could really go.  And Spain’s Lucrecia Dalt continued on a similar vein, with a dark, and atmospheric pop set making good the plea of the organizers not to miss her.

Old Apparatus

Old Apparatus

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

From the centre of Utrecht to the Tivoli de Helling for a night of ambient and psychedelia.  The ambient one was offered by London collective Old Apparatus with a magnificent set that barely lost any intensity for the 45-50 minutes they played.  Also worth mentioning their projections, that included several fragments of films.

BEAK>

BEAK>

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

And for psychedelica, BEAK>.  Portishead’s Geoff Barrow side project, which is not about him (contrary to what one reads in the press) were introducing their latest work Beak>>.  This second record by the British group keeps focused on the ethereal psychedelic side of their first album but with a twist towards moodier tunes, something that’s evident in the fantastic and catchy “Wulfstan II”.  Helped by a miniature of the Catalan black virgin, “La Moreneta”, over bassist Billy Fueller’s amp, the trio offered another highlight of the festival with their flickering, zigzagging, clever and no-nonsense psych-pop.

Adrian Sherwood

Adrian Sherwood

Click image for full gallery – Jan Rijk

The de Helling night was completed with reggae guru Adrian Sherwood who played a classy set of the aforementioned, dub and reggaeton.  Ideal for chilling after BEAK>.

 

SUNDAY, 2ND DECEMBER

Adrian Crowley

Adrian Crowley

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

The last day of the 2012 Le Guess Who? Festival of Utrecht started in a peculiar venue: A church.  The Wvredenburg Leeuwenberg (don’t try to pronounce it) is, again, a church that was transformed into a venue for classical music.  There the music started with Galway’s Adrian Crowley.  The Irish singer-songwriter, winner of the prize for the best record of 2009 in his land with Season of the Sparks played a set of beautiful songs that were not your average songwriter tunes, as Crowley is not afraid of changing intensity and adding effects for greater intensity.  Helped by a violin and a viola, a small simple of this was his last song “Leaving the Party” finished in a beautiful crescendo.  Worth seeing him live.

Hayden

Hayden

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

Paul Hayden Desser, i.e. Hayden, is finally back after a hiatus of four years.  The Canadian was testing new songs that were more electrical than in previous works and neither the youth of them nor some tech problems with an amplifier dampened the good-humoured yet somehow shy stage presence of the guitarist.  The new songs sounded fresh and combined with old tunes like “Where and When?” or “Home by Saturday” made for a good compact unit of alt-country.

The Revival Hour

The Revival Hour

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

And the last band at the Wvredenburg Leeuwenberg was The Revival Hour.  A friend and band partner of Micah P. Hinson at The Late Chord, DM Stith with friend John-Mark Laphman have created a band that, yes, reminds of past acts like Dusty Springfield, Robert Wyatt, the early Portishead or even PJ Harvey (QRO album review), but they have enough skill to let their perfectionist personality to come through it.  Incredibly subtle, amazingly intense, surprisingly surprising, this is the band to follow.  Period.

The Luyas

The Luyas

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

From the beautiful church that started the music day, weThe Luyas moved to the Tivoli de Helling to firstly see The Luyas.  Sometimes it’s hard to know where a tune is going to end after listening to the beginning and though their imagination is undeniable, the final result is inconsistent at times, so the best thing would be to wait for further songs of the quintet.

Sharon van Etten

Sharon van Etten

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

Sharon van Etten was another of the highlights of the Le Guess Who? 2012.  Immerse in the tour of her last work, Tramp (QRO review), most of the eleven song set she and her band played were based on this last effort but she left space for old tracks like “Serpents” or “Don’t Do It”.  Uncomplicated, fun, charming van Etten played a straightforward set without unnecessary effects or fancy lights and the noisy applause of the audience at the end was the best proof to her success.

Destroyer

Destroyer

Click image for full gallery – Abel Cruz

They have been described as one of the most interesting band of the last years, always with a hint of mystery due to the tendency of its leader, Dan Bejar, to be elusive to the media and even fans alike.  Even, Destroyer has been at the top of the list of different and important media around the world.  But what they offered at the LGW started like it was played by an indie Kenny G with a singer (Bejar himself) dressed like he seemed he was a rejected member of The Polyphonic Spree (QRO photos).  Maybe the benchmark was too high after The Revival Hour or Sharon van Etten, but Destroyer looked like that kind of hype you cannot trust.  Or maybe it is that they don’t work live.

Ty Segall

Ty Segall

Click image for full gallery – Tim van Veen

And back to where it started, at the Tivoli Oudegracht to a fun ending with some of the best garage rock.  Paul Collins Beat, Night Beats and Ty Segall were some of the stars of the Fuzzbox, a festival inside the festival for Paul Collins Beatsweaty, vigorous and urgent combos.  The aforementioned three, each in their own niche (more classy, more noisy and more grown-up, respectively) gave a hard time for the audience to choose going to another venue or just to go to the Oudegracht and just enjoy the fun.  And we’re only citing three bands but the rest (Trauma Hellacopters, White Fence and the rest of the Fuzzbox) were also good fun.   So all in all, a very good festival, very well organized and with very nice and helpful people behind it (and this is for real) in nice small venues and in a very beautiful cosmopolitan city.

-words: Sarah Storhaye
-photos: Abel Cruz, Jan Rijk, and Tim van Veen

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