Le Guess Who? Day Two: Wampire, Connan Mockasin, BRAIDS, and Forest Swords | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Wampire, Braids, Connan Mockasin, Forest Swords, Le Guess Who 2013: Day Two, Le Guess Who? 2013

Le Guess Who? Day Two: Wampire, Connan Mockasin, BRAIDS, and Forest Swords, November 29th, 2013

Dec 02, 2013 Photography by Laura Studarus Braids
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Let’s start with some SAT vocabulary: juxtaposition. The art of positioning two things together to create a strong contrast. See: Le Guess Who? festival. Every November/December 2007, friends and founders Bob van Heur and Johan Gijsen have transformed Utrecht, Netherlands into a music lover’s paradise. The setting? A stunning Dutch town that is celebrating its 2000th birthday. (Congratulations, you don’t look a day over 1500.) The music? A forward thinking blend of rock, pop, and electronic (which this year includes the likes of Yo La Tengo, DIANA, Neko Case, and Thao and the Get Down Stay Down). Fans of music and travel, we have planned your next winter vacation. (You’re welcome.)

While Under the Radar wasn’t able to attend the first day of events due to logistical conflicts, we dove headfirst into the second day (jetlag be damned) and saw impressive sets from Wampire, Connan Mockasin, BRAIDS, and Forest Swords.

Wampire opened up the evening at Tivoli, one of the city’s biggest venues. The final set of their European tour started out a big shaky, but as the band gradually found their footing, the songs of their dance/surf-pop debut Curiosity slowly begun to win over the amassing crowd. It is important to note: while fashion has never been my thing, the bassist’s amazing fringe jacket deserves a special mention.

Connan Mockasin took the stage next. It’s difficult to say if the New Zealander is either unaware of his awkward charm, or playing up his shy side for the benefit of the audience.

“We’re going to play a song and just see how it goes,” he told the audience. “If it’s too bad, we can let the next band go on.”

It was a much better set than Mockasin might have anticipated. (Obviously.) The majority of the set, culled from Mockasin’s freshly released sophomore album, Caramel, relied on the art of the understatement. Mockasin came off like a spacey version of prince. (The result, he admitted, of smoking pot after an extended hiatus.) Despite a few awkward moments (at one point, in attempts to start a sing along to “I’m the Man, that Will Find You” he shouted “Show me what you’ve got Amsterdam!” much to the shock of audience and bandmates alike), his innate charm was evident in every note. Before the last song (a truncated version of “Forever Dolphin Love”) Mockasin spotted an old friend in the crowd, and pulled him on stage to join the band. Judging by the audience’s response at the gesture, Mockasin is well on his way to making a few more Dutch pals.

It was a stroll from Tivoli to Ekko, another of the festival’s main venues. But the trip (about fifteen minutes by foot) was part of the evening’s charms. Walk the same distance at SXSW, and you’re likely to be accosted by all manor of assorted riff raff. In Utrecht, as long as you’re okay with dodging the bicycles (The Dutch love their cycles. Picking out your ride from an overstuffed rack must be akin to finding a needle in a haystack), it’s a stunning walk, Think: the sound of the wind in the trees and moonlight reflecting off the canals. It isn’t just a music festival—it’s freaking poetry.

At Ekko, BRAIDS were just taking the stage. The Canadian band—lead by vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston—dabbled in levity with their debut album Native Speaker. But their set at Le Guess Who? was all about their significantly darker follow-up, Flourish//Perish. The beauty of Standell-Preston’s fairytale-like soprano was underscored by the dense layers of electronic beats, which at times recalled both BRAIDS side project Blue Hawaii, and Portishead.

Bringing the evening (at least my evening) to close was Forest Swords. The British duo played a heavy bass and laptop set, lit by a swirling pattern of lights. It was a haunting dance/drone mix—but alas, not one strong enough to overcoming mounting jetlag. And so, I called it a night on a day marked by an impressive number of high notes.

Check out a gallery of day two photos here.







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