Le Guess Who? Days one and two


My ignorance had me disappointed that Le Guess Who?, a psychedelic rock festival, was based in the sleepy university town of Utrecht rather than its gaudy, neon littered close neighbour – Amsterdam. However, after four days in this city, the ‘fourth largest in The Netherlands’, now with the flu and both feet injured as a result of excessive late night #yolo, I know that Utrecht certainly has more to offer than its gentle lapping canals and expensive chocolate covered waffles.

The festival was spread throughout the quaint city at various venues ranging from churches and galleries to sticky dives; catering to all sorts of vibes. For most, the journeys from venue to venue were covered easily by bike, this being probably quite enjoyable due to the wide streets and lack of cars, but I am not like most and really struggle in the saddle. So, at a slow meander I strolled the distance beside the Oudegracht canal from EKKO to Tivoli de Helling repeatedly, admiring the incredible architecture and trendy shopping districts nestled side-by-side the watery inserts of the small city.

The first evening of Le Guess Who? had me at Tivoli Oudegracht, a canal-side venue, in the company of Dirty Beaches. The noisy art-rock band was too aggressive for an early set and the lead singer is not the sort of person I’d like in close confines at any sort of concert, with his furious fist-pumping and body hurling. King Khan & The Shrines was perky and fun in comparison. King took to the stage typically dressed in sparkly embroidered underpants, a glittered cape and afro wig with nothing else left to the imagination. It was quite intimidating stage-side with his naked gut in my face as he hollered and danced with his clownish backing band tooting along on woodwind. He dedicated a new song to “all the girls of Holland, with their strong butts”, and powered through favourites including I Wanna Be A Girl to an excited crowd.

DSCN4185I missed Neko Case for The Fall, along with the majority of the festival punters it seemed. Tivoli was rammed. Looking quite past his prime, Mark E. Smith, dressed in a tweed suit with leather elbow patches performed several songs without breaking, hands firmly in pockets at all times as if he were merely going through the motions. Becoming frustrated with the sound levels during the set and began haphazardly pulling out wires and tweaking nobs, the result had him without a working mic with wires scattered everywhere in his wake. The 56 year old remained seated behind a speaker side-of-stage for the end of his performance. He crouched over a set of lyric sheets while belting out his wonderyear punk numbers with reading glasses and a glass of water nearby. The set peaked musically when his keyboard player took over, spinning bratty rap vocals around heavy guitar riffs, while Smith had retired to his chair, looking bored, sans mic.

DSCN4251After a few hours of shut eye I rose to another day in beautiful Utrecht. I wandered the sites and it was soon time for more Le Guess Who? First I would find myself in the crowd for Connan Mockasin. Early on he explained that he was “feeling a little emotional” and mid-set threatened to end the gig when he became agitated with the noise of people chatting – I think he’s used to having an entire audience silent at his musical peril. After gaining confidence, he played It’s Choade my Dear and managed to lure King Khan to stage (a fully clothed punter) to perform an extended rendition of Forever Dolphin Love.

I legged it to the outskirts of town to Tivoli number two (de Helling), to catch Ty Segall followed by White Fence with high hopes that they would spend an hour-and-a-half playing tracks from their collaborative record, Hair. They didn’t…

Performing his latest record, Sleeper, the surfy Californian, Ty Segall (who had curated the lineup at the venue for the evening) packed the room to capacity. White Fence followed with a lengthy set of hazy psychedelia. Where Ty Segall had variance of sounds in his set and heavy focus on his rugged vocals, his comrade played a disappointingly tiresome 40 minute jam session.

I left and hastily made it to ACU, a very pleasant mint green venue back in the town centre, just in time for No Joy, the band however, was a no show, due to some kind of transportation fail. Disappointed, quite soggy and it being now well past midnight, I packed in day two of Le Guess Who? for the evening, with two days left of garage rock and or roll merriment to follow.


Words by Carol Bowditch. See heaps of photos from the festival on Facebook.