Various venues, Utrecht
With its 15th edition, staged in venues across the vibrant Dutch city of Utrecht, Le Guess Who? continued its run as one of the best festivals that Europe has to offer.
Taking place across a mid-November weekend at various Utrecht venues – as well as at the festival’s central hub, TivoliVredenburg, which is home to six individual spaces varying from a dizzyingly large Grote Zaal to the much tighter, more colourful Pandora Foyer – the festival brought together artists from varying locales and at different points in their careers and granted them space for performance and experimentation. From Abdullah Ibrahim to Dry Cleaning, or Nia Archives to Animal Collective via Moor Mother, established names and rising stars were greeted by receptive crowds eager to embrace and respect all that was on offer, making this year’s chapter a distinctly enriching affair.
Here, we highlight a handful of standout shows from the recent edition. Scroll down to learn more about some of our favourite live performances from Le Guess Who? 2022.
Slauson Malone 1
Slauson Malone 1 – a performance project helmed by multidisciplinary artist Jasper Marsalis, accompanied by cellist Nicky Wetherell – took listeners on a journey through the murky, experimental soundscapes at TivoliVredenburg’s Hertz on the Saturday night. Through their quieter offerings, the two had the audience transfixed, committed to deciphering the language hidden within Marsalis’ sparse guitar plucks and Wetherell’s gorgeous rising and falling tones. The duo quickly unseated this gentle contemplation, setting it alight. Marsalis screamed and flailed on the ground, accompanied by frantic stings from Wetherell, who banged his cello and stomped his bare feet on the ground, filling the venue with percussive echoes.
There’s something special about the Slauson Malone 1 project, its juxtaposition of conventional songwriting structure with melody that throws theory to the wind, and sound design that ties these juxtapositions together somehow. The live translation of this music is no different.
Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul
Off the back of their riotous debut – Topical Dancer, which landed earlier this year – Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul delivered a fizzing live set that saw Adigéry hold the festival crowd in her palm. Backed by thrumming bass, bouncy house drums and, at one point, a chopped sample of Adigéry’s laughter, the pair treated the audience to an invigorating, energetic live performance. Haha was a particular highlight, with Adigéry playfully urging an audience member to laugh into the mic before landing her refrain, “Guess you had to be there!’” The lighter moments were not without the piercing social commentary the duo have become known for. Setlist highlight Blenda, for instance, sees the duo weave the typically bigoted phrase “Go back to your country where you belong!” into a futuristic, drum machine-driven gem.
Cate Le Bon
Kicking off with a formidable rendition of Miami, Cate Le Bon’s Grote Zaal performance was a highly enjoyable affair. The Welsh musician’s careful meld of indie-pop and echoey synthesis, backed by a band rippling with musicality, is even more gorgeous in a live setting. In front of a packed hall, Le Bon placed herself in the far corner of the stage and surrounded herself with her bandmates’ crunchy drums, percussion and glittery synth lines and delivered a special vocal performance that captured the crowd from the first note of each track. Cate Le Bon is an artist that continues to evolve and develop her sounds, with a live show that leans more on her newer, more synth-backed sounds than the guitar-driven swoon of her previous work.
Speakers Corner Quartet
Speakers Corner Quartet, made up of musicians Biscuit, Kwake Bass, Peter Bennie and Raven Bush, drowned TivoliVrendenburg’s Cloud 9 in darkness before immersing their crowd in blue lights on a chilly Saturday night. The quartet was formed over 15 years ago as the house band of Brixton Jamm, before releasing the Further Back than the Beginning EP in 2009. Their first show in the Netherlands treated listeners to a woozy combination of jazz and electronica as washed-out ambience shared the stage with locked-in drum grooves and irresistible charisma. The band also invited experimental wizards Coby Sey and TONE on stage for a roaming, ambient exploration backed by Sey’s hypnotic vocal performance.
Liv.e’s earthy fusion of jazz and R&B has captured fans since the release of her 2020 debut, Couldn’t Wait to Tell You, which provided wonderfully grainy glimpses into her rich musical world. Her live performance at Le Guess Who?, backed by a three-piece band, was a demonstration of just how powerful and authoritative the LA-based singer’s voice and lyricism really is. Lush chords and swelling synths danced around Liv.e’s characteristically granular vocal performance, with a gentle stage presence that rose and fell at the whim of each track. Liv.e meditates on life and love with her music, exploring each side of herself with a self-omniscience beyond her years; her lyrics pour out of her as if she were in a trance. A great live translation of her ethereal creations.