Le Guess Who? Utrecht

Where can we start?

There is so much going on at the Festival.

How do you choose who to see?

So much talent.

So many genres.

So many greats.

So many new kids on the block.

At the beginning I suppose.

Ben Houdijk.

It looks like the first performance on Thursday 8 November will be at the Domkerk with The ‘Orchestre de Nouvelles Créations, Expérimentations et Improvisations Musicales’ (ONCEIM) who are an orchestra of 34 musicians dedicated to the art of creation and experimentation; often in the form of long-stretched, complex pieces. ‘Occam Océan’ is the result of a two-year collaboration with Éliane Radigue, a leading figure in French contemporary music; a daring piece situated at the crossroads of the minimalist, electronic and spectral music worlds.

Fridays highlight is at the Tivoli where The Breeders, who were originally formed by Pixies’ Kim Deal and Throwing Muses’ Tanya Donelly, will be performing. The Breeders are back in rumbling, restless style. Gaining worldwide recognition with their smashing, gummy hit single ‘Cannonball’, the band was a leading figure in the 90s grunge scene, becoming one of the most playful and wayward acts to emerge from it. With the iconic ‘Last Splash’ line-up brought back together, new album ‘All Nerve’ is once again filled with that distinctive and delicious The Breeders-magic.

Saturday at Tivoli will see Neneh Cherry who has over the decades traversed and transcended every known faction of the music world; from bona fide pop stardom to the peripheries of punk rock, club music and jazz. Even more recently, Cherry’s work seems to diversify and cover new ground, with collaborators ranging from The Thing, Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden to fellow Swedish pop icon Robyn. It all dovetails into her headstrong viewpoints on ancestry, sex, politics and social change, a sensibility that laid the foundation for pop music in today’s malignant political climate.

Finally Sundays stand out show appears to be from Swamp Dogg at Tivoli. In 1970, soul artist Jerry Williams, Jr. radically reinvented himself as Swamp Dogg: an anti-hero who smashes the conventions of commercial R&B music, and whose subversive lyrics earned him a spot on Richard Nixon’s infamous enemies list. Consequently, Swamp Dogg became one of the quintessential outsider figures in American music. In 2018, the 76-year old Southern soul maverick did it again. On his latest album ‘Love, Loss, and Auto-tune’, produced by Poliça’s Ryan Olson and Justin Vernon, Swamp Dogg transforms himself into a master of auto-tune, leaving the music business topsy-turvy. On an album filled with songs about being lonely, Swamp Dogg enriches his soulful sonic palette with inventive, crying synth tones and drum machines.

Le Guess Who? is a city-wide celebration of global sounds and musical boundary-crossing. The 12th edition of the festival takes place 8-11 November.

During four days, Le Guess Who? takes over the city centre of Utrecht with over 150 performances set to electrify pop venues, theaters, churches, galleries and warehouses.

Satellite events with music, film, visual art, photography and markets appear at cafés, hotels, restaurants, wharf cellars, de Neude square and the hidden corners of the city.

Check out their website for full listings.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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