It is that time of the year again. It is getting colder with that miserable rainy weather outside. The weekend is approaching and the prospect of stepping out and getting that slap from the fierce wind at the end of a busy working week needs a good reason. Crossing Border, the annual festival blending literature with music is there to save us.
Major underground car parking works make the usual venues of the festival inaccessible. Festival punters have to pick up their wristbands at a tent in Grote Markt.
Emiliana Torrini & The Colourist
As soon as I realise that Emiliana Torrini & The Colourist will play right at the start I rush from work to the Paard van Troje venue. I remember the Icelandic singer from so many years back when I was living in London so I immediately get enthousiastic about finally seeing her live. I am not disappointed.
She addresses the audience in a sweet way, feeling quite nervous, she mentions an uncomfortable bra, but in any case, delivers a stunning performance. The beautiful lights and the sheer numbers of musicians on stage make it such an enjoyment for the eyes and the ears of the pleased crowd.
This is one of my favourite songs because its lyrics stay in my head: “Life is just a flicker in the universe Ooh under the stars, we’re indestructible.”
The Hollow of the Hand by PJ Harvey and Seamus Murphy
The next day there is more stuff to see, and again the weather is miserable, but the excitement to go back and see so many artists beats the rain.
The headliner of the festival was PJ Harvey, not as a concert, but as a poetry reading. The location, a Lutheran church, is certainly fit for the purpose. Finding a place to sit at the last minute is impossible so I just get as close to the stage as I can. She walks in with her theatrical presence and leather trousers and starts telling about her travels to places she really wanted to see from a different perspective than the one offered by the media. She went there with a photographer.
His photos are quite special. First of all the subjects are by-products of travels of discovery, where composition seems to be carefully crafted and portraits are really poignant. Her poems are not as good as her songs but I was glad to see the good old Polly and get to know about her travel experience.
You can get a good glimpse of what the photos are like from this link from The Guardian
Later on, in the same church, I go back to listen to the stunning voice of an American singer-songwriter. I don’t know much about him so I let his song speak for itself. I really enjoyed it. It is a pity I only heard a handful of songs and not the full concert.
Rodrigo Amarante, a Brazilian singer-songwriter, intrigued me for his way of facing the audience. His gaze was scanning the crowd and his eyes were telling that those songs were really important and wanted full attention, which he easily got. He sang in various languages and he sounded different in Portuguese, English or French. He is part of the band Los Hermanos and wrote and performed the theme song from the Netflix series Narcos.
Crossing Border is also about writers and one to watch was Michel Faber. He was born in The Hague but moved to Australia at a young age and now lives in Scotland. In 2014 his wife died of cancer and in 2016 he published a book of poems called Undying expressing his pain about this terrible event. He was there to read some of those poems, I was in the front row and I really felt how devastating the loss was. His poems really nail that feeling of losing a loved one.
The weekend of music and literature wrapped up really quickly and I did not get a chance to see everything I wanted to. One of the last performances I saw was by C Duncan. The young Scottish composer and musician revealed at the concert that he will be coming to study at The Hague conservatory.
Other bands that played were Michael Franti, Palace, Lisa Hannigan, and so many more.
Crossing Border, like a good Bokbier, is a reason to look forward to November, so save the date for next year.
Crossing Border 2-5 November 2017
Photo: Wouter Wellekoop
Live videos: Beppe Simone except John Moreland