Can you experience ultimate happiness over a filthy toilet? Yes, you can. The pee gutter in the shadowy basement of The Gray Space gallery in The Hague is less than a meter and a half wide and doesn’t necessarily smell like toilet duck. Everything moves there. The doors, lamps and sinks vibrate and tremble with pounding bass tones.
So that’s how it felt, you realize as you button up your fly. We had to miss this for a year and a half… and now we can do it again.
Two doors back, the Arnhem foursome Paracetamøl blows the concrete out of the ceiling with grim garage punk in which cutting guitar violence is mixed with echoing barking. The swirling mass that jumps up and down in the low cellar just barely touches the roof. At the back of the room a barmaid is sitting on top of an empty barrel, tapping beer with legs apart. With every drink she hands out, she grins: “How nice, isn’t it?”
In addition to the two thousand visitors, this sigh was also heard from the seventy bands that performed on Friday and Saturday at the sold-out Sniester festival. For two days, pop stage Het Paard and the cafes around De Grote Markt were overrun by avid headbangers with an insatiable hunger for skin. In addition to obscure underground gems, they were able to enjoy the big names from the Low Countries: the wonderfully delighted spring pop of Pip Blom, Foo Fighteresque stadium rock in the making by Paceshifters, the crackling, bassless swamp blues of Black Box Revelation and dark gothic rock of Dool.
Raven van Dorst was the best way to express the relief of the finally fulfilled desire. With a raised fist that let a jet-black bat cape flutter menacingly, the singer-guitarist shouted: “Goddamn, what a fucking long time it has been!” Then Dool submerged the large hall of the Horse in a dark bath of occult death march songs, and Van Dorst noted dryly: “There goes the atmosphere.”
In the cafes Rootz and De Zwarte Ruiter, a vortex of sweating and beer-throwing pogoers circled continuously, on which not only crowd surfers floated but also stage divers (and balcony jumpers) constantly landed. Garage rockers The Afterpartees, Bongloard and Wodan Boys take regular breaks for a round of ‘Found Objects’, from glasses to watches.
“Is this 75 percent of the total capacity?” asked singer Abel van Gijlswijk, looking out over the crammed crowd that was eager before his Dutch-speaking punk band Hang Youth had even played a single note. After he kicked off with a shriek: “I KNOW IT EXISTS BUT IT’S JUST CANCER CURRENT: TAX OFFICE!” De Zwarte Ruiter exploded…and the fuse box. Because halfway through the set list – of which the ultra-short songs only just fit on four A4 pages – the power went out.
No problem, because the Hang Youth hit ‘Joe Rogan is a cock’ also performed well a capella, as did Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and Harry Jekkers’ ‘Oh Oh Den Haag’. Even without electricity, Sniester was a party with sparks flying.