Le Guessho it’s a festival unlike any other

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Towards the end of Abdullah Ibrahim’s concert two elderly gentlemen sitting next to me hold hands, a little moved. The 88-year-old South African pianist is playing the encore after receiving a standing ovation from the audience sitting in one of the concert halls of the TivoliVredenburg, an auditorium in the center of Utrecht, the Netherlands. There is a bit of comings and goings, because other viewers, who are all much younger than the gentlemen by my side, are coming out. Maybe they go to see another concert that is beginning, that of the duo formed by Panda Bear (voice of Animal Collective) and Sonic Boom (famous for founding the psychedelic rock band Spacemen 3 together with J Or maybe they go to listen to the ones that will start in half an hour: the Gnod, rock band from Manchester, or the Congolese pop musician Pierre K.

Le Guessho, which this year was held from 10 to 13 November, is exactly this: a festival that has few equals in the world, able to cross genres and ages, to put pop music in agreement with elettronica A vertical utopia well represented by the TivoliVredenburg, a space designed for music and designed by the architect Herman Hertzberger that develops around its stairs, mobile and not, and is surrounded by huge windows showing the palaces and canals of the city. The largest room is on the ground floor. The more you go up, the smaller the concert spaces become and it feels like being inside a club.

This is why it happens that a symbol of the South Africanazz zazz and the fight against apartheid like Ibrahim finds himself playing in front of boys who had barely heard of him so far: his solo piano concerto, which lasted just over an hour, was so intense that it stopped time. Also because, fortunately, there was a ban on using phones to take photos and videos. At the end, Ibrahim was greeted with long applause, like a rock star, and before stepping off the stage he sang two a cappella songs, in a trembling voice, before taking another ovation.

And yet, rewinding the tape, Le Guessho you could tell in a completely different way. Perhaps starting from the concert of Goat, a Swedish band that combines sixties rock-funk influences with a pagan aesthetic and hides behind tribal masks. He filled the Sala Ronda with a rousing performance, especially thanks to his rhythm section. In this case we could be safely at Primavera sound, or at any of the international summer rock festivals, with the audience flocking to approach the stage, jumping, dancing, sweating. Again changing the cards on the table, we could talk about the performance of the KOKOKO!, a project by a collective of Congolese musicians led by Makara Bianko together with the French electronic producer Debuit who deconstructs electronics and African music with an irresistible energy; or the sophisticated rock of Welsh Cate Le Bon, who arrived in excellent shape with her band; or the experimental pop of the Colombian transplanted to Berlin Lucrecia Dalt, who blends the musical tradition of her country with the suggestions of European electronics; or, again, the infectious rap of the American duo The h

The festival, by the way, certainly did not end at the TivoliVredenburg: in Le Guess W happened to listen to Lole Montoya, innovative flamenco in the seventies in the duo Lole y Manuel, in the late afternoon in the Jacobikerk, a protestant church in the centre of the city; or Dj Travella, nineteen-year-old brought here by the label of uganda’s Nyege Nyege, that at two in the morning he jumped like a grasshopper during a dj set by bpm highest in the Basis, a small nightclub with the low roof overlooking the canals of Utrecht.

Le Guessho it was born fifteen years ago thanks to two Dutch promoters, Bob van Heur and Gi At the first edition, in fact, there were only artists from that country, starting with Caribou. But slowly it changed and grew, taking advantage of the investments of the city of Utrecht (who wanted the construction of the TivoliVredenburg, without which the current festival would be unthinkable) and a courage and foresight in setting up a program that are hardly found in other European festivals. Le Guessho In addition, he took the baton of a festival that is no longer there, the All Tomorro s The first was Michael Gira of the Sw And this is one of the aspects that guarantee the diversity of the festival. This year the curators were the experimental rap group clipping., the London collective CURL(which includes Mica Levi, Brother Ma Se and Cob Se

By the way, defections are an inevitable theme of the 2022 edition. Le Guessho it showed in a clear way what it means to make a festival in the postpandemic world. Many artists, some very important, did not show up this year. If that of the Americans was unfortunately a separate case – the absence of the band was due to the recent death of drummer and singer Mimi Parker – all the other defections were due to logistical and economic reasons: if musicians like Animal Collective are forced to cancel their European tour it means that there is a big problem for the entire live music industry.


But the strength of the Dutch festival, as mentioned, was to go further: Le Guessho, for the precise will of the organizers, it has no headliner, as the leading artists are called in jargon, those written in larger characters in the billboard. As the organizers themselves told in a podcast about the history of the event, “Utrecht is our headliner”. The concept of the widespread festival, which contaminates the city for a few days, in a certain way brings to mind the American case of the South B South Southest And this is another winning aspect of the Dutch event. The atmosphere that you breathe at concerts-relaxed, with a polite and attentive, curious audience-you can breathe in a good part of the city, even when you simply take a tourist walk through the canals in the morning.

Le Guessho it is a stimulating and visionary festival, but also livable. Those who have been following him for years go there regardless, even before the program comes out, because they trust the organizers. Sometimes, after all, it is nice to go to a concert without having a precise idea of what will happen, almost relieved of the desire to listen to a certain group or repertoire. Don’t you go to Le Guessho to relive emotions, but to try new ones. Of course, it’s not always good, because sometimes it happens that you find yourself at a concert that you do not like. But in the end, back in Italy, you get the impression that you have learned so many things.

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