"What can you say about Toon, except that it's the best festival in Holland? A hidden gem amongst all the media hype and mutual backslapping that is the curse of most festivals nowadays. "
Toon Festival Patronaat/Lichtfabriek, Haarlem – 7/04/06
What can you say about Toon, except that it's the best festival in Holland? A hidden gem amongst all the media hype and mutual backslapping that is the curse of most festivals nowadays. Nope, by contrast to all around, Toon is for that increasingly rare animal, the genuine music lover. The festival is also renowned for re-aquainting old collaborators with each other. Two years ago we were entertained with possibly the greatest musical fusion seen in Holland these past thirty years when Toon somehow managed to get Michael Rother, Moebius and Rodelius and Jaki Leibezeit to play on the same bill, sometimes some of them at the same time. This year Tony Conrad shared the bill with his old muckers Faust. Sadly there was no attempt to re-create their 1972 collaboration, the Outside the Dream Academy LP, but it didn't matter. Conrad was up first, backlit behind a sodding great curtain, his droning, spacey violin soloing presented an incredibly powerful statement of artistic intent.
The elemental, unchanging music of Tony Conrad forces you to accept what is presented to you sonically; suddenly space and time as presented through sound become the only factors worthy of your immediate consideration. There are none of the mental (or social) hangs ups or safety nets you can usually call upon when at a gig, you just have to accept the atmosphere that is created, and this can be a truly liberating experience. God, it makes you think; if this was "happening" and popular in the late 60s early seventies, just what commodity have concert going audiences lost over these last thirty or so years? Patience? Tolerance? Brains? I just don't know. Still; just count yourselves lucky you can still see stuff like this.
Conrad went off to warm and heartfelt applause, and on came Faust to great expectation. Last time I'd seen them they had covered an audience in paint, and lo! it was not good. This time however, they stuck to what they do best, which ISN'T experimentation for experimentation's sake actually. Oh no. What Faust do best is out and out dumb-ass, rip-off, Velvets-influenced, space-rock. And that's a fact.
Actually as an aside pre-review, may I say that I'm actually quite sick of people saying "yeah Faust, pure experimentation... that's what they are about". No Faust are ROCK AND ROLL. Get that into your heads right now. Faust, like all true groups, appreciate that rock and roll is a righteous marriage of hips heart and head. Not the victory of one of these commodities over the other two. It's just that Faust have a very oddball take on that idea. Okay, got that? On to the review then.
Out they came, and played their space rock, ever changing, incredibly loud spacey mantras utilising all sorts of technical nonsense (it did look like the guitar was plugged into a Moog, but I could be making that up) and what looked like a monkey's climbing frame at the front of the stage, which, when used, revealed itself to be an ingenious multiple hanging structure for percussion instruments. This was banged a lot by the one youthful member of the band. The older heads contented themselves with making a hell of a racket. And I tell you this for nothing. This music is still about as out there as any band dares to go before it gets either ridiculous, pompous or just plain unlistenable as a concept. They really push things do Faust. But it is still unmistakably rock and roll underneath it all. As usual I couldn't make out any of the songs, though I did hear maybe two tracks from You Know and maybe a snip or two from Faust 5 though I could be wrong. And I don't care. Frankly they could have played all night, they were epic. There was even the well-worn bit in their repertoire using a power drill, yes it's cheesy but it always seems to keep sending sparks flying in both the literal and metaphorical sense. And, (while we are about it), who the bloody hell was the slightly deranged guy walking round with the raincoat and plastic library bag? Who cares? What a brilliant gig.
The truly saddening thing was that this was the only night I could attend Toon, as work commitments had scuppered my chance to see the previous evening's bill at the Lichtfabriek and Aux 88, Magnetophone and Sonic Boom the following night. Still, hunt down information on this festival for next year as it's the best in Holland be a mile.
Words: Richard Foster
Pictures: Mariska van den Hoven