Moonface. Photo: Elizabeth Radzikowska.
On Monday I came back from a long lovely trip with two of the world’s best festivals ringing in my ears. All Tomorrow’s Parties hosted two last weekends of their marvelous concept where they let one band chose what other bands should play. This next to last weekend however was curated by themselves and their friends at the Primavera Sound festival (the very last the weekend after was curated by Loop). I had been to one ATP before, when Slint reunited, back in 2005. Now I made my way to Camber Sands yet again. Camber Sands is a beach resort for the English working-class but during the winter it occasionally transforms into a music nerd Mekka. I booked my ticket on a whim when I heard that they were about to sell out and I so very badly wanted to see Television perform their masterpiece Marqueen Moon in its entirety. One of the reasons I haven’t made it back to ATP since 2005 is the sleeping situation. You normally have to buy a whole room, a chalet. This time however, you could share a 4-berth room so I bought a ”half-chalet” and hoped someone would come to their senses this time and join me. It’s gotten a lot easier finding peeps to tag along to these fests with because of twitter and the lovely little Primavera Sound Crew group on Facebook, a group for people who are nerdy enough to go to festivals in other countries on their own and there meet up with kindred folk. A Swedish guy, Mattias, whom I had just spoken to once in person, took the chance to join me. We arrived with a crowd-funded bus (We can go dutch, I love y’all for that!) with a few of the others from the PS group. An hour later our new flat mates, Charlie and Ollie, two young brits, showed up. Naturally they would have to cuddle up on the sofa bed. Me and Mattias had gotten their first and in true viking manner just taken the two single beds.
I’m not gonna go into detail about all the bands, you can check out tiny little ”reviews” on every one of them at instagram.com/llamalloyd if there’s something special you would like my take on. The Thursday started with me trying to figure out if it really was Scout Niblett in a wig behind the drums at Magik Markers. Of course it wasn’t, she was upstairs and when I got up there she and her guitar gave me goosebumps, the very best thing that a band can give you. Icarus Line blew me away while Low made me so sleepy I literally went to bed, even before they had finished. I felt incredibly old.
On Saturday me and Mattias took a stroll along the beautiful beach and it was all sublime. We left for Eraas, which I just found out is the new duo behind postrock band Apse. I was happily surprised and then blown away by the marvelous instrumentalists Tortoise. The other band to give me goosebumps was of course the old men in Television during the title track of Marquee Moon. Brilliant stuff, still. Then laying down in the back listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor was just blissful and someone brought a pet dino to Feel the pain with Dinosaur Jr.
Sunday’s lineup felt a little weak, but if you look at it in a positive way, then it felt like these were the band that were the future, instead of old-timers like Dinosaur Jr and Television (except for Los Planetas, enough with them already, Primavera!). These were the new noise-makers; Haxan Cloak and Pharmakon being the two who made the most, and most fucked-up noise. I liked Forest Swords, who had realized it’s much more fun to watch a guy with a bass instead of just having a bass track on his computer. Hebronix had really beautiful passages and stood for the best party trick at the entire festival when he came in to one of the chalet parties that played pretty awful music and asked to plug in his toaster. When he finally found an outlet the thing short circuited the stereo and everything went quiet and black. Brilliant!
Leaving the fest, hung over as the queen in Maida Vale fellow PS Crewers Joao, Blanca and me endured the bus ride and chilled a few hours at a Syrian restaurant. Our minds were pretty empty and it was lovely to just stare into the air for a while. I took a more comfortable than I had thought bus to Amsterdam (£1.60!) over night and continued chilling with the obvious visit to Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank house and a visit to the Documentary film festival and the lovely film Everyday Rebellion before it was time for the next festival.
On Thursday morning I got an email from the ceo of Spinlister, a site where you can rent locals’ bikes that my rental in Utrecht would be the first bike rented in ”Amsterdam”. I wonder what the good folks in Utrecht would say about that! Utrecht is a lovely university city about the size of Gothenburg half an hour away from Amsterdam. Here the festival Le Guess Who? takes place every year at different venues throughout the city, you could say it’s like Way Out West’s club programme Stay Out West but without all the massive queues you get with 25000 people. The biggest venue is about the size of Pustervik (appx 1000 people). I heard that the festival started as a birthday party and that it celebrated Canadian bands (hence Le Guess Who?) the first year and the next year they cheated with Beach House and Jana Hunter (both American). There’s still a lot of Canadian bands on the lineup and a lot of garage rock. My friend Ola was there last year and I agreed that they had a remarkable sense of what was ”up and coming” so I bought an Early Bird ticket for this year’s fest. I felt that they would give what I wanted and yes, the lineup made me smile.
When I got to Utrecht I walked to a part of town with schools and little family houses everywhere. I rang the door bell of one, where Wouter, the manufacturer of the interesting bike I had rented answered and led me out the back where he had these new chainless bikes he had designed and made. I rode with a backpack on my back and a smaller one on my tummy until I made my way to my Couchsurfing host, Eduard. Le Guess Who? has realized that the amount of hotel and hostel rooms in Utrecht is limited but they have an almost unlimited amount of students so you can actually ask for a couch directly on their site! Love that! Anyways I met three little Poles that were also couchsurfing at the same place and we got along very well, one of them, Szymon, runs a music blog called Kilof. A fun bunch. We all stayed in the attic of this kid Eduard who wasn’t really going to the festival until we were… Not the best situation, but yeah yeah. Wednesday started with the brilliance that is King Khan and then a little older brilliance by The Fall and after a little bike-ride to a smaller venue where there was a, mostly Norwegian, line, we saw Night Beats who performed last year as well. I can really see why they let them come back again. It’s always a good bet to go see a band that gets booked two years in a row. Biking around in the darkness a little drunk is fun and frankly, that’s exactly what I did at Stay Out West this year too. And you do manage to get into more than one club that way. In Utrecht everybody bikes. It’s the way to go.
Friday started with a few so-so bands before the marvellous Braids filled my heart with soul and my body with goosebumps. Sheer brilliance. I stuck around for The Black Angels instead of going directly to the Ty Segall curated night and they’re always a treat but in hindsight I feel that maybe I should’ve checked out Magnetix because if they were anything like the band Ty chose after them, J.C. Satán, I would’ve loved them too. J.C. were amazing, one of the best garage acts I’ve ever seen. Brilliant guitarist and it never got boring which garage can get sometimes if it’s too repetitive. None of that. Good shit!
On Saturday there was something called Le Mini Who? which meant free gigs at little art clubs and cafés throughout the city. Me and my new couchsurfing host Dominique (I couch-jumped – didn’t stay the whole time at one person’s home) went to see ZZZ’s but they had swapped times with Pins who were awesome, really good stuff. They had been on my ”first band of the itinerary” but this way it was ok that we had so much Mexican food that we didn’t get there in time for their ”proper” gig. Unfortunately the upstairs was full, too bad, I really would’ve wanted to see Thao & The Get Down Stay Down but the goosebumps from Scout Niblett once again was more than enough downstairs. The only Swedish band on the lineup were The Thing, the jazz trio Neneh Cherry made a brilliant album with recently. On their own they play so incredibly loud and fast you almost get sweaty just watching them. Fire! in a condensed form. Happy to be a Swede. After them even Metz sounded kinda lame. A bike ride over to ZZZ’s and a little queueing before I managed to hear the last two songs these Japanese noise women performed. Great stuff.
The Sunday was suitably timed a lot earlier with Matt Elliott, Moonface and Destroyer as my opening trio in a modern church. The Moonface album Julia with Blue Jeans On that landed about a month ago took my friend Madeleine by storm and I remember thinking ”What the hell” when she gave it 9/10 a few hours after it had been made available. It took me a little longer to come to realize she was completely right and when Spencer Krug performed these piano pieces I was in a trance and was very close to crying. Between these remarkably beautiful pieces he seemed to be another man, though, joking about getting shat on in Lissabon and whatnot. I got to think it through, but that might very well have been the concert of the year. The fact that I’m thinking about going to London just to catch see him again should tell me ”yes, it was”…
I sat through most of Destroyer but mostly it felt like just watching a drunk getting more drunk. It wasn’t getting better with Spencer Krug refilling his whiskey. Speaking of sad, the next act was Damien Jurado, whose songs might be the saddest of the bunch. The man himself, though, was very jetlagged and had been up 24 hours. In spite of that he was a lot of fun joking around and speaking about his artwork for the Le Guess Who? totebag that was inspired by ads of companies doing their ”final” sale. In between that he sang his songs while the entire Tivoli fell quiet. I realized I haven’t listened to him in years and that it was time to correct my mistake.
Maybe the biggest name on the bill was Yo La Tengo, who I hadn’t seen for ten years. They played for an hour and a half and I especially enjoyed The Story of Yo La Tengo off my favorite record of 2006, I’m not afraid of you and I will beat your ass. Love it.
I had already returned the bike so I started walking back, the Poles taking the bus and on the way was the other Tivoli, where Wooden Shjips were playing their psychadelia. I couldn’t NOT swing by. It was as packed as ten sardines in a condom. I went for the bar, that’s a good excuse to get into a crowd like that with your coat still on and that Beck’s beer might very well have been the best beer on-site during this, my new favorite festival, Le Guess Who?
PS. The best lager all-in-all was the Hertog Jan! I heard the festival was still doing minus on their account. This should be their beer sponsor!