Published Dec 03, 2008While the Netherlands - tucked in between no-nonsense Germany and punky Belgium, just a North Sea dive away from the influential UK - is a musical hub for European bands, guess what? Some Can-con nerds over there devote their time and work in order to infuse Holland with Canadian music.
Located in Utrecht, the two-year-old festival Le Guess Who? brought Black Mountain, Miracle Fortress, MSTRKRFT and Duchess Says onto Dutch soil last year, and repeated the experience with the likes of Melissa Auf der Maur, Land of Talk, Pas Chic Chic, Torngat, Think About Life, the Stills and Shalabi Effect this year.
The opening night at Tivoli saw Auf der Maur surrounded by her new band, former members of Denver sextet VAUX. The two effortlessly precise guitarists and a down-pat drummer were dressed as priests, whom Melissa insists she met ''out West chasing bears." By way of introduction, the bassist previewed the Out of Our Minds movie set to come out this spring, a contemplative fantasy forest tale that beautifully eluded the metaphorical pitfalls of the genre. Poignantly dreamy, but not to be watched if you dislike the sight of blood.
The next night shook the timid but curious Dutch crowd even more so, delving its line-up in Baltimore and Brooklyn as well as in Montreal. Jana Hunter and Beach House delivered their psych folk and melancholic pop musings with cool exactitude, while French psych poppers Pas Chic Chic, donning a first European gig (members had previously toured overseas with defunct acts Fly Pan Am, Godspeed and others), sought to unsettle themselves as well as the audience - which they did right before they unabashedly charmed with the help of a sonic build-up of mellotron, farfisa and relentless, tactful drumming. Uneasy but rewarding, kind of like an awkward conversation with a crush.
Dragons of Zynth (pictured), the new TV On the Radio protégés, then flamboyantly took over the stage with an oddly cohesive set of heavy, sinful grooves, evoking a revved-up Prince with a soft spot for metal. Hipster darlings-to-be Telepathe had some good songs; think Gang Gang Dance meet Crystal Castles... with a soul. But if practice makes perfect, humanity makes imperfect, and so the girly duo might need another year's worth of live shows before their songs fill the space they deserve.
Before closing up with an intimate Sunday night show (where Elizabeth Anka Vajagic, Shalabi Effect and Hrsta played before a totally engrossed crowd of about 80), Le Guess Who? filled up the bigger Tivoli venue on Saturday with another surprisingly receptive audience, which particularly reacted to the cutthroat, urgent art rock of Clues (ex-multi instrumentalists for the Unicorns, Arcade Fire and Les Angles Morts), the unassuming yet graceful folk of Elfin Saddle, and the usual sock-knocking Think About Life lo-fi frenzy.