Characterised by tight curation and excellent sound quality, the Netherlands really know how to put on city festivals. Rewire, 1st- 3rd April, epitomises this fact in a weekend held across venues in the Hague, pulling in impressive acts from all over the shop.
The whole weekend started a little sour, which what I can only presume was some kind of sick April fools joke. “Mica Levi & Stargaze present Under the Skin” was billed to kick off proceedings, but Mica Levi was categorically not there. Whether or not I solely insisted on trying for press passes precisely because I thought I’d be able to see my idol, it was surely something sorely missed by many other festival goers too; for the first five minutes people continued to crane their necks to try and glimpse the composer maybe cameo-ing as a violinist.
Absence aside, the setting of Grote Kerk (‘Big Church’, go figure) was suitably grandiose for the beautifully haunting, academy-nominated score. Disconcerting montages of film clips were projected on stage that tried to out ‘art’ the original – distractingly pretentious, next to the stand-alone score with its chillingly spikey cello refrain.
Moving to another religious building to catch the end of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and then Kara-Lis Coverdale we were treated to some ethereal soundscapes and some stunning light engineering. Coverdale even migrated at the end of the set to the huge organ in the cloisters. After some sustenance at a sit down kebab restaurant (?!) we settled down in Paard, the big club venue. Catching only half of footwork producer Jlin’s masterful set (the chips were not worth it), we chose to skip headliner James Holden to get front spots for Mykki Blanco. But, firstly, having not been familiar with the world of footwork music I cannot think of a better point of entry than Jlin, who performed with infectious energy, becoming her own hype-woman at each outrageously satisfying drum inversion; she was tenacious and refreshingly abrasive, her beats completely commanding the room. Check out her album of last year Dark Energy.
Proclaimed riot grrrl, Mykki Blanco (alias of Michael Quattbaum) is one of the very exciting things happening in rap right now. Her music is inspired by queercore and has punk inflections, it makes for a visceral viewing experience. Her agro-political lyricism infused with some Cally-teen sass which is completely unforgiving, insisting listeners keep pace (Mykki Blanco was born out of a Youtube character Quattlebaum created). She threw out a few new tracks in the middle of the crowd, which unfortunately I didn’t take note of because the performance was genuinely one of the most arresting I’ve ever experienced. It was commanding and fun and challenging. Beyond this though, advocating gender fluidity and HIV de-stigmatization Mykki Blanco is a force we cannot ignore in rupturing wide open a world that ostensibly hetero-masculine, historically homophobic.
Saturday promised freak pop-gods Animal Collective. Due to outrageously poor scheduling they clashed with Gazelle Twin and Vessel, and owing to the crush to get into AnCo. asap, it also meant missing Anna Meredith. Luckily they made up for those three missed. I went in relatively blind to Painting With, so apart from a few Centipede Hz tracks I was swaying in mass of aural newness and visual madness. The hour and a half long set came to an end too soon on a raucously silly rendition of Floridada, the leading track of Painting With and is still possibly stuck in my head/body.
Other mentions should go to Total Freedom (Friday 1st), completely reinvigorating club music (check his remix of Rihanna’s Work, and of multiple Kelela tracks). Battles (Saturday 2nd) also did some incredible loop pedal work, made more enjoyable by some outrageous hip action from Ian Williams on keys and guitar. Also, Rewire’s “discourse programme,” offered Q&A’s with artists around the theme “The Sound of the Story”. We got to hear about the deep-web research behind Gazelle Twin: Kingdom Come, an album/film premised on the violence of suburbia and consumerism (way less wanky and more home-truths than it sounds).
If you’re thinking of city festivals in Europe, add this to your list
Even though, at the stroke of 2 each night, things turned solely techno with a focus to be festival-come-club-night, Rewire put together an amazing line-up that offered an eclectic insight into some exciting names in their respective genres. It’s pretty decent re: pricing considering who they pull in, and only in the Hague it’s no wonder I heard a lot of English accents during the weekend. If you’re thinking of city festivals in Europe, add this to your list.