Various venues, The Hague

Rewire Festival offers an impressive spectrum of experiences, particularly for an unassuming city like The Hague. It utilises 12 different spaces across the city, with the Paard venue serving as the central hub. As well as music, across the three days the festival facilitates art installations, talks, exhibitions and a general sense of occasion that resonates throughout the streets.

As a sprawling, experimental event, Rewire’s focus is tricky to define. One thing that is evident throughout the weekend is a desire to push boundaries and challenge preconceptions of what constitutes art and performance; something Rewire has been dedicated to for the last eight years. Increasingly Rewire has become a unique platform for diverse and underserved voices get the stage they deserve. This year a last minute cancellation from SOPHIE was a big disappointment for many, but SOPHIE was quickly replaced with a surprise show from Mykki Blanco (who had previously performed at Rewire back in 2016) backed by up-and-coming Amsterdam DJ, Lyzza. As last minute replacements go, Blanco’s performance was about as good as they come. The sheer amount of energy and conviction in Mykki’s performance was infectious, whether writhing around on stage and running around amongst the crowd or occasionally taking moments to address being misrepresented or ignored in the mainstream.

Fatima Al Qadiri’s performance, also in Paard’s main room, was far more confounding and subtle, with Al Qadiri spending the entirety sat on stage motionless with her back to the crowd whilst a smoke machine blasted across strobing visuals. Her performance certainly provided more questions than answers but was notable for its bold disregard for what a live show should be. In Paard’s second room the live set from Deena Abdelwahed was a particular highlight on the Friday, effortlessly recalibrating bold Middle Eastern vocals for a stark electronic sound pallet. Also presenting depth behind the music was Laurie Anderson, who gave a talk during the day at the Korzo Theatre ahead of her performance of All the Things I Lost In the Flood the following evening; a show built around her recent series of essays and short stories.

Rewire’s programme ran late into the night on the first two days – the Paard venue catered to international DJs while the nearby Het Magazijn showcased some more local talent. Unfortunately, the Paard stages were not ideally optimised for a club experience and suffered some sound issues, most notably during Floating Points live set on the Friday. In most cases though, the high standard of music triumphed – particularly with Volvox and UMFANG’s rippling techno on the Friday and a heated closer from Avalon Emerson the following night. Local producers Syncom Data were a highlight at Het Magazijn, a much smaller venue more suited to club-ready productions thanks to its bespoke sounds system and tight concrete architecture.

As spaces go, the Electriciteitsfabriek was by far the most spectacular. A short bike ride from the centre, the cavernous industrial building which is over 100 years old was the perfect setting for Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s performance of The Music From Stranger Things. An impressive arsenal of high-beam lights positioned up on the iron balconies captured the imagination and accentuated the epic scale of the room.

Since year one, Rewire has delivered a proudly modern outlook on music and with each year it continues to position itself right on the front line. Much like last time, we came away from this year’s festival having witnessed some very unusual performances. Some were instinctively enjoyable and others more challenging, but almost all delivered an element that sought to push things forward in culture. Whether challenging predetermined ideas of the people we should encounter on stage or how we should engage with the stage itself, Rewire nurtures a progressive school of thought.