Le Guess Who? 2016 – Day Three

Feature by Will Fitzpatrick | 13 Nov 2016
  • Julia Holter

Heavy heads greet the third day of Le Guess Who, but with the programme stretched out tonight over an impressively vast ten hours (not to mention a spin-off festival that kicks off during the early afternoon) there's no time to gather your thoughs. Best instead to plough into the treasures that can be found around Voorstraat at Le Mini Who?, such as the ethereal loveliness of Deutsche Asram, the racous, cafe-destroying garage slop of the very literally-named Charlie & The Lesbians and (best of all) the herky-jerky rush of post-punk trio Kanipchen-Fit.

After this breathless run of brilliance, we're in need of something a little more relaxed, and Ryley Walker's skillful cribbing from the great American songbook is just the tonic. He's also a great palette cleanser ahead of the stoner psych-pop of Black Mountain, whose pop instincts can't hide the primal urge to riff heroically thatlurks beneath. In truth it's an odd set with the band looking somewhat ill at ease on TivoliVredenburg's huge Ronda stage, but you'd never know it from the audience's ecstatic cheers.

So over we go for today's headliner: the mighty Julia Holter. One of the festival's stars last year, turning in a stunning set at the Janskerk, she's been invited back this year to co-curate, and accordingly lives up to her own high standards. There's a slightly awkward start as she shuffles through the papers stacked atop her keyboard, hilariously apologising for having to explain herself, but the music that follows is sublime. The audience reaction is curiously muted, even when harpsichord-led wonders such as Feel You and Silhouette are pulled out like aces from a sleeve – perhaps the packed Grote Zaal theatre is simply too caught up in adoration to produce anything other than awestruck silence.

That's the exact opposite of what we'd expect from Dinosaur Jr, of course. A series of tehnical hitches threaten to derail proceedings, with a run through Watch the Corners swiftly abandoned when J Mascis' guitar cuts out completely. Still, once that's ironed out and the momentum builds up, they're on formidable form. Feel the Pain, Start Choppin', Freak Scene... they're all here, along with plenty of natty cuts from new record Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not and molten solos a-plenty. 

So how do you follow that? Well, you could always check out Brazilian samba legend Elza Soares, who sits regally at the top of a huge throne while her band pile into a brain-busting modern version of the genre. Fractured and dissonant, yet always irresistable, they vividly bring to life the astonishing sounds of her recent comeback album The Woman at the End of the World, and the room just doesn't stop moving. Make no mistake, this is the best show we've seen all festival. Whaddya mean it has to end?!?

After that there's time to check in on Israeli polymath Maya Dunietz, playing through the piano pieces of Ethiopian composer Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou. Dunietz is clearly irritated by the comings and goings of restless festival-goers wandering through the room, but despite her frustration, however, the music is beautiful; light and spacious, positing questions while alternating between playful and mournful. 

There's a sense of overdue appreciation for The Ex next; much like Dinosaur Jr and the American alt rockers of the 80s/90s, they're revelling in an extended period of latent appreciation, and their performance tonight is a celebration of that fact. Post-punk in the UK was many things, but it never felt like much of a party; the Dutch heroes' great triumph is that their rhythmic explorations amount to precisely that, and as they gradually fill the stage with guest performers of all genres and discplines, you wonder why they've not been more revered before now. Long may it continue.

There's just enough time to head across town for some paint-peelingly loud black metal from Oathbreaker, whose fragile post-metal soundscapes explode into blastbeats and sandpaper screams with such ferocity that people are literally thrown across the room: marvellous stuff. Then we're back at TivoliVredenburg for some cerebrally spectacular techno from Laurel Halo, pulsating drone-boogie from Wooden Shjips and, finally, a burst of sax-tronic splendour from A Comet is Coming. It's been yet another action-packed day, and frankly we're in need of that lie-down we mentioned earlier. Best not get too comfy though, there's still another day to go...