This year’s edition of Le Guess Who? heralded eclectic music with excellent programming by the festival themselves and those of the aptly selected curators Moor Mother, Devendra Banhart and Shabaka Hutchings.
Where does one begin? The most instantly commercial names on the bill were Banhart himself, his fellow American rockers The Breeders and Neneh Cherry. A Pan spirit like Banhart with his impish grin and a well-groomed suit entertained the crowd with latin-infused Americana.
Another virtuoso performance came from the sisters Deal of The Breeders reprising old classic Cannonball, Driving all Night and finishing with Gigantic. Always at complete ease with each other, they were a delight to the audience, which was a joy to watch; they’ve lost none of their ebullient selves and magic.
Neneh Cherry showcased her new album Broken Politics, made with Kieran “Four Tet” Hebden. Backed by her partner Cameron McKey and an energetic band, Cherry put on a robust performance with her signature vibe, energy and shimmying-stomp dance. She wrapped it all up with the all-powerful Manchild.
Cosmic space maverick Paddy Steer delighted the crowd with his infectious beats and engaged in witty banter with his mad costume. He had the whole place dancing.
A riotous stage show was given by Baltimore political rapper Barrington DeVaughn aka JPEGMAFIA whose writhing around the floor shouting down Trump-era America, nailed the floor and its crowd. Finishing off Friday night, we had London-based Japanese noise merchants Bo Ningen who rocked the main stage Ronda at TivoliVredenburg.
Saturday began with a special treat from renowned sitar player Anoushka Shankar presented by Manu Delago with a 27-member string section of the Metropole Orkest. A delightful Shankar performed beautiful sounds blending Indian classical notes alongside an infusion of middle-eastern percussion. Later on came Japanese band Kikagaku Moyo whose geometric patterns forged a great psychedelic boogie, which was exemplified in their tune Dripping Sun.
On that same evening I also witnessed two completely different performances. Firstly Japanese artist, percussionist and composer Midori Takada, who showcased her first album in 20 years performed some amazing sounds with her lingering stage presence. Following Takada, a collaboration between vocalist-composer Ian William Craig and electronic composer Daniel Lentz was a unique experience. Craig’s classically trained falsetto singing was accompanied by ambient electronic sounds and classical piano.
Another noteworthy collaboration was Cass McCombs and Tim Koh’s Sunday afternoon session. Following their solo sets in the previous days, their Sunday performance was stoked with Californian sounds and it was a delight to groove along. Also great to hear the bass lines played by Tim Koh who is currently recovering from a recent life threatening injury.
Mudhoney, the Seattle grunge band, brought their zest and loudness in their Sunday performance. Led by Mark Arm, they roused the crowd with their Touch Me I’m Sick in the hangar of a venue called Was Grote Zaal. This marked the only disappointing part of the festival: getting back from this venue to where the majority of the acts were playing in the elegant city of Utrecht, was a bit of a mission. But an interesting adventure, regardless of the long wonderings back to festival’s base at TivoliVredenburg.
Closing the festival on Sunday night with 76-year-old Jerry Williams Jr aka Swamp Dogg, would make anyone feel young again. An American soul and R&B singer reaching soaring heights with his powerful voice, he was a great way to wrap-up a truly fine festival.