Saturday 15 November was quite a busy day in the Dutch city of Den Haag. It was the day which saw the seemingly innocent Sinterklaas tradition begin, with the Dutch incarnation of St. Nicholas arriving in Holland amidst a whole lot of controversy regarding his “racist” accomplices. Not too far from where a lot of celebrations (and protests) were taking place was the second day of Crossing Border Festival. Following a more subdued first day of the festival, which featured stellar performances from Courtney Barnett and The Felice Brothers, the second (and final) day of the festival featured many more fantastic moments. Read on for a full review.
Kicking off the festival at bang on 7pm were Portland seven-piece The Delines, whose retro-soul perfectly suited the surroundings of The Royal, which is the ‘main stage’ this weekend. The set didn’t necessarily have a peak or stand-out moment, rather remaining at the same pace throughout. The Oil Rigs at Night made for a nice, serene moment in the set but the rest of the set didn’t do all too much to impress. The whole band is good from a technical point of view, and frontwoman Amy Boone has a very nice voice, but it just didn’t match the high points of other sets this weekend. Over in The Raven, though, it was a whole different story as new soul sensation Kwabs took to the stage. Kwabs, real name Kwabena Adjepong, has been tipped by many as one to watch with his eclectic soul and RnB. His live show is by all means impressive, with the Seal-esque Pray for Love seeing him bound around stage and wave his arms manically like a frustrated bird. Kwabs has a massive voice live, being one of not many artists whose voice is almost note-perfect for the whole set. He certainly knows how to hold a long note whilst still dancing energetically across the stage. He has been hailed as a soul god of the future, which is something you definitely can’t deny after seeing him sing live with his fantastic five-piece backing band. Mirel Wagner followed in the Heartbeat Hotel, as many people were left disappointed due to big lines of people trying to (unsuccessfully) get into the tiny room.
Back downstairs in The Raven, the hotly anticipated London-quartet Dry the River took to the stage in what was by far the best set of the whole Crossing Border weekend. Fronted by falsetto vocalist/guitarist Peter Liddle, the band recently released their second studio album Alarms in the Heart to critical acclaim. Their hour-long set, which spanned both studio albums, peaked with the highly-emotional No Rest, which is a tear-inducing rock ballad. “I loved you in the best way possible” wailed Liddle as he and his band (which featured extra help on keys) stormed their way through a fantastic set. Newer cuts Gethsemane and Everlasting Light respectively brought hands-in-the-air anthems and powerful, rocky choruses as the near-full room enthusiastically sang, danced and cried along. Why Dry the River aren’t massive yet is still a mystery, but it seems like that will change very, very soon. Following Dry the River’s successful show was the former Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore. Seen by many as a cult legend, the floppy blonde haired frontman was accompanied by a backing band which included My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe. The set, his only Dutch show this year, got off to an awkward set as Moore walked on and off stage within seconds, unhappy with his lyric sheets not being onstage. As Moore shuffled around backstage to look for his lyric book (he always reads his lyrics off of a sheet), his backing band played a repetitive drone for around 10 minutes. Once he returned, he left yet again to ask his crew something, before finally coming back and going straight into the 11-minute long Forevermore. Centred around a repetitive grunge-y chord progression, Forevermore is taken from Moore’s new solo album The Best Day. Throughout the majority of his set, which saw no Sonic Youth songs played, Moore interacted little with the crowd as he moved around very minimally. The Best Day was the highlight in Moore’s 7-song set, which was short enough for the crowd to yearn for more. They didn’t get that though, with the show well and truly over.
Just before the festival officially ended, there was time for one more set in the outdoor La Gayola tent. Portland-trio Greylag, who are also tipped for future success, performed a short set inside a tent which was surrounded by mirrors. Featuring songs from their debut self-titled album, the likes of Another and Yours to Shake stood out the most as Andrew Stonestreet’s memorable voice echoed perfectly around the tent. 2015 will be the year of the Greylag, but in this case we’re not talking about the wild goose they’re named after.
With a second day of performances rounded up, the musical aspect of Crossing Border was officially over, as today (as well as opening day Thursday) sees a pure focus on literature. Crossing Border is a festival which you can’t get everywhere; it’s something which you can only experience in Den Haag. The picturesque surroundings of the Koninklijke Schouwburg and Nationale Toneel perfectly suited the music. The countdown to 2015 has already begun, with the festival hopefully expanding and getting even bigger.
Click here for high quality pictures from Crossing Border Festival.