Existing at the very end of the festival schedule, it’s tempting to look at Le Guess Who? as the year’s last big hurrah. A musical denouement before the end of year lists start arriving. Le Guess Who? is best described as a festival that truly celebrates music. Curation goes a long way to establishing this. Unlike a lot other festivals, it boasts a genuinely eclectic lineup with acts chosen not just by the festival organisers (and therefore reflecting their tastes and influences) but also a select group of artist curators. This helps to ensure that no two years feel the same, whilst simultaneously ensuring that visitors will be treated to some of the most surprising and spectacular performances of the year.

Jerusalem In My Heart (who I first caught live at last year’s festival) opens Thursday night by packing out Pandora and delivering a blistering set of middle-eastern inspired drone. This is accompanied by film projections that become scratched and distorted along with the music to create an audio-visual experience that feels very tactile and personal. Even Radwan Moumneh adds to this sense twisting his body as he plays and sings.

I ordinarily view festivals as a chance to witness new things and avoid viewing acts seen before, but Le Guess Who? always seems to bring out the best in an artist. Part of that is clearly due to the lineup being curated and therefore representing some of the most exciting live acts around, but I also feel that the layout of the festival’s venues helps with this. Much of Le Guess Who? is centred on TivoliVredenburg - Utrecht’s labyrinthine venue complex - with five stages in that one building alone. Other venues, such as Ekko, Domkerk, Jacobikerk and Theater Kikker are just a short walk from the main venues. Only De Helling, LE:EN and Pastoefabriek require more of a commitment to get to - though renting a bike also makes it much easier to zip between them and TivoliVredenburg.

This means that it’s incredibly easy to move between venues, catching a little bit of each act and simply soaking up the atmosphere on the streets or in the bustling open spaces of TivoliVredenburg where you’ll find screen printed posters, DJ sets, bars and street food. That’s how I came to discover the Ex-Easter Island Head, whose set I wander into late on Saturday night. They’re playing Hertz, a concert hall that’s one of a few purely seated venues. While I could easily imagine a standing audience really engaging with the motorik rhythms and cyclical guitars, encouraging the attendees to sit and watch allows them to really appreciate the uniqueness of the band’s performance. The trio makes use of four prepared guitars that are “played” using drumsticks to create percussive grooves that sound like no noise a guitar has ever made before.

With a variety of venues available, it’s also possible for the festival organisers to create the perfect environment in which to see particular artists. Grouper’s blissful, personal take on ambient music is a perfect fit for the lofty walls of Domkerk on Thursday night, a cathedral in the centre of Utrecht. Accompanied by projections from Paul Clipson, it’s a spellbinding performance where old meets new, and the natural world meets urban life, as sound fills the space, reverberating over and into itself. Whilst a Friday night slot at LE:EN (a restaurant and events space to the south of Utrecht) provides an ideal venue for guitar virtuoso Marisa Anderson. The audience sit cross-legged on the floor and between the songs, as Marisa explains the story behind each one, you can hear the clatter of cutlery and clink of glasses from the nearby room. When Marisa plays though, you are transported away from modernity and back through the centuries to the origin of the folklorish tales she reinterprets with just a single electric guitar.

At the far end of the spectrum is Keiji Haino, who plays two sets at two different venues. The first, a collaborative set with Dutch jazz drummer Han Bennink is in Hertz. This playful, collaborative set draws more from jazz and blues styles - though with the added weirdness of Haino at one point playing his guitar with a basketball and hammer - which seems to better suit a seated audience. The following evening at De Helling, a gig venue where you’d normally expect to see riotous, sweaty punk, Haino is a completely different beast, emitting guttural growls over deep sub bass and oppressive noise.

Le Guess Who? isn’t without fault though. This year saw a number of venues reaching capacity, whilst others were only half full, and it can never be easy for festival organisers to deal with these situations. Some of this likely stems from the curated nature of the festival. Shabazz Palaces were one of the most notable acts to hit capacity over the weekend, but are also one of the first big hip-hop acts to grace the festival over the last few years. With no precedent to go on, the ended up playing Pandora (a mid sized venue in Tivoli) whilst Maâlem Houssam Guinia & Band played to a half-full Ronda.

But for the most part Le Guess Who? is a festival that through it’s curation and it’s organisation seems purpose built to create moments that will have attendees talking for years to come. For some it would have been Mount Eerie’s special, intimate performance at Jacobikerk, or Ben Frost’s pulverising set at Ronda. For me it was Pharoah Sanders’ performance on Saturday night. A joyous, reverent performance it was impossible not to be swept up in Sanders’ music. Despite being in his late-70s when he was playing saxophone he was transformed into a man 50 years his junior. The passion Sanders expressed for music, and the admiration and adulation the audience heaped on Sanders whenever he finished a solo, was like a microcosm of what Le Guess Who? is all about. Music, in its various forms and guises, is celebrated here.