Le Mini Who? 2014, Utrecht, 22/11/14

Good People; who on this planet has the heart to tell Harry Merry to stop?

Good People; who on this planet has the heart to tell Harry Merry to stop?



I love the Le Mini Who? festival. It gives me the feeling of wanting to stick a carnation in my buttonhole and Trip The Light Fantastic down the increasingly gentrified Voorstraat. When I first came to the Netherlands back in 1999-2000, this thoroughfare was a heavy, seedy street with some shady characters setting the tone. Now we get lots of groovy hangs, with tote bags or ironically non-working juke boxes in windows, and people dressing up like they’re in a Joe Orton play. Fine, each to their own, and somehow the place retains a threadbare Boho charm. Feeling in need of a pre-festy pick up, we find this Good Taste – Bad Taste Persian coffee joint which serves coffee that keeps me shaking for about an hour. It’s needed.

Collecting a set of British-Irish groovers, we go to the art/tote bag/bookstore/coffee joint, Kapitaal; where Samling Record’s Keimpe Koldijk has been (with his Subbacultcha hat on) sorting out a pretty cool programme for LMW?. Nancy Acid, Mountain States and the band we are here to see, Yuko Yuko are the day’s attractions. Given their mind-expanding show in Haarlem recently, I’m petrified that the Yuko Yuko show is going to be average (they can’t be shit, that’s like saying the earth is flat) but I’m petrified they’ll be just OK. Well, more fool me. As a live act, this band are (outside of the OTHER band some of this lot are involved in, The Homesick, and Rats on Rafts) the best, most arresting young pop thing around in NL. What their homemade CD releases can’t capture is (aside from the thump and depth and danger of their live sound) the mad range of personalities on offer; watching Yuko Yuko is like studying a Pop Rogues’ Gallery. For one, the rhythm section lock into their own private party; smiling and laughing, trying to out Gonzo/Bonzo each other. They really are the Muppets’ band rhythm section given this cool punk/’Mondays twist. The two lads delight in the racket the other makes; it’s like watching some teen love affair. Maybe they should just get  a room and play Scrabble or PS4 and eat crisps.

For their part, the front three rock this ‘street corner kids on bikes’ thing; all the while building up a wall of sound that sparkles and cuts through the crap in equal measure.
But BEST OF ALL; this band have such great songs; even at their most diffident (Kein Gesicht for example) they manage to rumble along in this dolorous, sleepy puppy way. And they have three or four pop gems up their sleeve; Young and Wild, Desire Song, Borderline and new song When I Cry I’ll Smile; all  built round on these sparkling, ridiculously catchy hooks. Singer Elias plays the doe-eyed, David Cassidy role, employing a whole load of eye rolling and gyrating; whilst guitarist Jaap lays down sharp guitar meshes and pretends to be the hard one.  It’s such a laugh it really is; in a totally uncomplicated, non-nobberish, non-Randstad way. It makes me want to get drunk off Schutters and eat Febo all day. Oh, and the bit when the Marrit runs into the audience to dance with her mates who have travelled from Dokkum – all the while singing Bordeline – or when she starts laughing at some inane crowd jinks, is  fucking Toppermost of the Poppermost. Everything ends in a wall of feedback and provincial dicking about. You can’t manufacture this.

Then it’s off to the Village Garage to take in The Kliko’s, who are part of the Geertruida showcase. The Kliko’s rock this fab, C21st upgrade of Nederbeat; and right now we need some Nederbeat to straighten out after all that teenage pop. Obviously, being a Nederbeat band, The Kliko’s rehash the past – there are straight forward, ‘does what it says on the tin’ nods in some refrains and guitar runs to what has gone before. One track nearly mutates into Peter J Muller’s Links de Kinks, and at times the singer comes on like an in-tune and up-for-it Ronnie Schutte; but that’s totally, utterly fine, because they lay down a blazing racket. There are plenty of asides about not eating meat, and a song dedicated to veggie weed smokers (is that a real kinda movement or thing with its own etiquette? Wowzers…) and having philosphical moments in the shower. How very Clichee-mannetjes. Yer singer man is into bonding with his audience, looking to eyeball, or chat to the crowd at every opportunity. He also wages a constant battle with the lad looking after the sound; and for once I feel for the sound lad as the Garage really IS a garage (full of all the detritis garages contain)and as such any incremental increase in the noise makes a very noticeable difference, but man, the singer wants us to cum on and feel the noize. He gets it by the end, with a blazing take on The Troggs’ I Want You; which he dedicates to the late, great Da Capo record shop.  He gets some bemused young ladies to play his guitar at the end too. Great gig. Then we take in Boring Pop in the Village Cafe,which is nice enough but not as good as it could be because the sound in the shop is, frankly, weak, wet and muffled piss. Something that doesn’t help Arie’s sardonic, slightly shambling pop songs. Some official nonsense at the Floris Bates show means we don’t get to see much of him, which is a shame because we think he’s really great.

Back then to the Village Coffee shop, which is rammed for The Homesick. The smell of coffeee and cakes is very powerful indeed and somehow fits the sticky fingered, cheeky, Sound of Young Holland vibe that the Homesick (and their label Subroutine) have. The Homesick do their fabulously loose, scuzzy pop thing; Jaap leading the charge with a range of barking and yelping noises. It’s a spit and a stride away from Josef K, the sound building slowly up round Erik’s laconic drumming and Elias’s wiry guitar patterns. Bassist Jaap (who really does rock this Edwyn Collins on the razz attitude) tells us all about the Hummer he wants to buy. The noise gets louder and more hare-brained, the feedback more corrosive and the basslines more thudding and monolithic. Things like Breakfast, The Desire Song and All the Girls are Grey are such obvious stuff; but then that’s what they are very good at, making obvious, tough pop records with a metalic, jagged edge. Their stand out track on the day, Cut Your Hair, is as loose as can be and predictably (but enjoyably) the whole gig ends up in a tidalwave of Gonzo feedback. Fantastic!

We run to catch Harry Merry in De Bastaard. The place is rammed; Harry’s going for it in a way I haven’t seen for a long time, and the audience whoop  and cheer him on. It’s beyond demented. He’s got a whole load of new material which feels like it’s been bursting to get out; some of it pretty straight edged. In a Harry Merry way that is. Things still sound like you are listening into another world; one where Aldous Huxley has teamed up with the Daleks, just so they can show The Beatles where they went wrong on Sgt Peppers. In fact this show is as determined as I’ve ever seen him, and the gig goes on for a lot longer than it is scheduled for but, Good People; who on this planet has the heart to tell Harry Merry to stop? I buy his new CD, the Harry Merry Opera. I’ll wait a few weeks before giving it a spin; as this gig is going to take some time to fade away.

Then it’s off to O Learys for a swallow in preparation for Le Guess Who Saturday programme. Amazing stuff, Le Mini Who, just keep on trucking.