The year is 2018. Liam and Noel Gallagher have stopped snorting cocaine and screaming at each other for five minutes to talk about where they will play the first show of the eagerly anticipated Oasis reunion tour.
“Manchester?” Noel asks.
“You’re outta your fucking mind!” Liam retorts.
“This is why I can’t stand you, Noel!”
“Alright, then, Utrecht?!”
Liam Gallagher smiles. “Now we are getting somewhere…”
Okay, okay- maybe a little unrealistic (Oasis are never getting back together). My point, though, is that for a little city, Utrecht packs a big punch in the live music stakes. I’ve been lucky enough to catch two amazing, memorable gigs in my short stay.
The first of these was Suede at the TivoliVredenburg. It was my third night in the Netherlands, and many consider Suede to be 0ne of the great lost guitar bands of the Britpop era- I couldn’t believe my luck. I had to go, regardless of my not knowing a soul in the city yet. So I marched myself off to the Tivoli, and found that not only was I the only person in the room who couldn’t speak Dutch, I was also the youngest there by about twenty years. No matter: Brett Anderson and his elastic hips rocked my to my core, and I left with a feeling of fulfilment.
The second gig, at ACU, was even more fantastical. ACU is, like most other places in Utrecht, a tiny venue! A friend and I (yes, I’d made friends by this stage) were seeing Marching Church, the experimental side project of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, the iconic front-man of Danish post-punks Iceage. There were about thirty punters in attendance, and the walls were sweating as Elias kinked and howled on the tiny stage, brandishing a replica trophy that he beat his chest with. During the fourth or fifth song, my mother attempted to FaceTime me. Mortified, I pulled my phone out of my pocket to tell her now wasn’t really a good time. Quick as a flash, Elias jumped off the stage and, using the trophy as a primitive sort of club, smashed the phone out of my hand, scraping my knuckle and sending the phone arcing across the space. I wanted to sink into a hole in the ground, but isn’t that the most raw punk moment you’ve ever heard?
If TivoliVredenburg is at one end of the venue continuum and ACU is at the other, then in the middle exists a delectable plethora of other venues to sink your teeth into. The charming Ekko, a five minute ride from the Oudegraad, hosts a wide array of up-and-coming bands and musicians. ‘t Oude Pothuys is a rustic cellar bar at the south end of Oudegracht Aan de Werf with a seven-day roster of live music. Student favourite Hofman Café hosts its Live series every Friday night. RASA Muziek & Dans is a must for anyone wanting a worldly flavour to their live music. Parnassos, Universiteit Utrecht’s cultural centre, hosts regular jazz nights on Wednesdays, as well as student concerts.
Utrecht’s music festivals tend to have a distinctively EDM/ techno flavour- but then again, that’s true of most of the Netherlands. Kingshouse Festival, at Jaarbeursplein, proves you don’t need to go to Amsterdam for King’s Day- why not stay local and party with Martin Solveig and Fedde Le Grand? Geheime Liefde, held on May 7 at Fort Vechten, jealously guards its line-up of techno/ house magicians until the day of the festival; this never deters anyone. Finally, World of Pleasure, held June 4, is now considered one of Europe’s best boutique festivals with its curated list of mind-melting EDM, house and urban music.
So maybe Utrecht won’t be the first stop on Oasis’ world reunion tour- but rest assured, it’ll be on the itinerary. Because this city is a playground for all types of live music. Keep your ears open.