Trying to bring together the community and the festival, Le Guess Who? has come up with Le Feast. Le Feast basically means that some people in the city are cooking meals, and you can sign up and you will randomly be assigned a place to call home and have dinner for one evening. So we decided to have a go, ending up at a lovely place with four other people. The dinner was awesome, the companionship interesting and fun, and we as musos heads were the first to go because, well, Destroyer was on the slate at 19:30 already.
Now, Dutch people are early eaters, so the big room in Tivoli Vredenburg was pretty packed to see what one could perhaps dub as the headliner of this year’s festival. Coming off a strong album with Poison Season (of which he plays a sizeable amount), Dan Bejar and band manage to rub shoulders with pop whilst being decidedly not a pop band. The jazz and experimental influences are still paramount, but the rhythm lines make almost all easy to listen to and follow and, yes, even do a little dance to on occasion. The drummer is certainly working hard for his money to have that part in A-Okay condition.
Dan Bejar is a frontman whose introverted presence actually makes the show. Uneasily he croons his heartfelt ruminations on life and the city, and when he isn’t singing he is kneeling down on the stage. When he is singing, he uses a half-sized mic standard to lean on as if the support is needed to keep him from fainting to the floor. In some songs his phrases run delightfully long, which highlights the way he times the words. A song like ‘Poor In Love’, which he plays midway through the set, is a nice example of why he is on top of his game here. At one point the kick drum comes in, Bejar starts a line as long as anything in Oscar Wilde, and the horns can be heard floating airily in the back to juxtapose the drums. Destroyer delivers quality, and shows what a band in strength can do.
After getting a few songs in of Magma and Ringo Deathstarr (which you can read about elsewhere), it is time to get experimental with Keiji Haino. The Japanese artist takes on drums, pots and pans, and after the concert the people next to me are saying how it was a beautiful mixture of contemporary classical music and percussion. Though I’d hesitate to call it beautiful, and I’d hesitate to advise it to anyone who is just in the market to hear some good music, I would say it is interesting to see Haino go at it. With cymbals and a table full of pots he is determined to control the soundwaves. And dear lord, he might just have managed that.
There’s an instrument in the band The Juan MacLean — and people have told me over and over the name but I keep forgetting — which he turns on, and if he puts his hand in front of it, it creates sounds. That always blows my mind, and this is what Haino’s performance reminds me of. Hit a thing, then move your hand over it, push the soundwaves away, to the side, or up, or whatever, and it alters the sound we, as the audience hear. Hit the cymbal, move the cymbal (in a sort of contemporary dance way), and we hear a different kind of sound than if you would’ve kept it stagnant. Beautiful, no, is it interesting if you find the question “how does sound work?” interesting, yes, quite, I reckon.
Shabazz Palaces are playing up, up and up in Cloud Nine, where they are showing off their hip-hop skills with some flair for show. Hand percussion, glitter and rapping all combine for a performance that manages to work. The great thing is that I see some people dancing on the quick hitting hip-hop sounds, but others on the lush, more soul-like sounds that run underneath it. The live percussion and the enthusiastic rapping give it an interesting live aspect as well, and the extremely diverse public out there all seem to be able to find something to enjoy that makes them stay until the end. Definitely worth checking out next time they’re in town.
Kamasi Washington is ready to take over as the night turns to midnight with his jazz & funk outfit. They get the old school going with the two drums, the upright bass, the keys, the horns (including, obviously, Kamasi himself), and the female vocalist who, when not singing, is being seemingly enthralled by what the rest are playing 24/7 and dancing and looking like those ladies did in those bands back then (as if on a high, musically, of course). So the band definitely has the looks spot on, just oozing out that they are going to funk the place up as soon as the green light says go and they can get it all going down.
And what ensues is just that. Tight, making sure they look the part, and they make sure the word of Jazz gets out there. It is like being transported to an old Jazz cafe way back when with some people who are there and just get up to have some fun. Apparently they have quite the live reputation, and certainly that is well deserved, giving everyone there (and the crowd did come in for this one) a good look at a more funk side of Jazz with loads of rhythm next to the experimental sounds and the expert saxophone playing of Kamasi himself. Certainly one heck of a way to close out the big room at Tivoli for the Saturday night.