With Le Guess Who? 2017 less than a month away it’s easy to just focus on the big international names that make up the festival’s lineup. Of course those acts are the big draw here, but there is also a lot more to the festival and the city of Utrecht to experience over the weekend. Le Mini Who? is an offshoot event that aims to highlight not just artists from the Dutch underground, but also the independent shops and spaces that make up Utrecht.

Last year’s Le Mini Who? was one of our highlights of the festival, with some of the most memorable performances taking place as part of it. With this year’s lineup now announced we caught up with Jacob Hagelaars, one of the event’s organisers alongside Rinke Vreeke, to talk about the origins of the festival and their plans for 2017.

Le Mini Who debuted as part of the festival in 2011, what was the reason behind starting this event?

Back in 2011, Le Guess Who? wasn’t as voluminous and recognised as it is today. All shows were behind ‘closed doors’, as the festival is indoors and visitors have to have a ticket to attend it. The idea of Le Mini Who? started with the question of how to open these doors for a wider audience, but also was the result of a desire to ‘make noise in the streets of Utrecht’. Using the city as a festival playground implies more than just involving the regular music venues that Utrecht contains, it requires involvement from the city on multiple levels. Le Mini Who? proved to be a successful tool to help Le Guess Who? evolve into a more accessible event and, at the same time, establishes enduring relationships with the local entrepreneurs of Utrecht.

How has the event changed over the last few years?

The first edition counted 5 locations and 10 bands. Last year we managed to book around 60 acts in about 25 locations, taking over the streets in and around the Voorstraat (still one of the most vibrant streets of Utrecht). During these past years we’ve encountered so many great people, varying from independent labels, shop owners, sound engineers and small booking agencies who were all dying to help co-organise, promote and improve this celebration of underrepresented and promising artists. Nowadays it’s also way easier to gather all these organising partners, since Le Mini Who? isn’t that mini and anonymous anymore. At least not in this particular corner of the Dutch music industry.

How do you go about putting together the programme of events each year?

Simple. Make a list of all the local bands you still remember seeing that year (those are usually the good ones) and ask everyone in your big list of past collaborators for input. Stay informed about urban developments and decide which entrepreneurs to ask for involvement. After the owners of all locations have suggested the amount of shows they prefer in their store, the puzzling starts. Some shops can’t allow loud or amplified music (because of neighbours) or simply don’t have space enough for a band that includes a drumkit. It’s actually fun to play with all these restrictions and still make sure everyone’s satisfied.

What can visitors to Utrecht expect from this year’s Le Mini Who?

This year it will still have that familiar feeling of missing out more shows than you will be able to see, window-shopping every store that is packed and simultaneously exploring the city centre in daylight. Around 8 locations will be hosted by underground music labels and local initiatives, including the premiere of a spoken word event called Aphra’s Poetry Club. In addition, Kapitaal (one of the main locations of past years) moved to another address and will officially re-open on the day of Le Mini Who?, with an exhibition, very special acts and lots of good vibes.

Many of the venues and spaces used for Le Mini Who? are independent coffee shops, record stores and more. Do you see Le Mini Who? as being more about celebrating the Dutch underground, or Utrecht’s creative community?

It celebrates both, really. It is actually inseparable in a way, since Utrecht’s creative community resides within Le Mini Who? for a big part. Not merely on musical level, but also in the artwork, hosting partners, venues and local visitors. The majority of the line-up celebrates the Dutch underground, but we’ve always booked international acts too. Nonetheless, our main focus is to offer a counterbalance with regard to the mainly international artists on the bill of Le Guess Who? and display the as yet unexplored Dutch acts.

Last year was my first year at Le Guess Who? and I noticed that not only were there live acts as part of Le Mini Who? but also creative events, and people opening up their homes to guests. Has this always been a part of Le Mini Who?

The event you’re describing is called Le Feast, which we started just 2 years ago. After breaking into all the coffee shops, record stores and galleries of Utrecht, we thought we could try and break into people’s homes! I mean, isn’t it just perfect to discuss all the bands you’ve seen and places you’ve been to with complete strangers but like-minded visitors of the festival while eating a cheap home-made three-course dinner in someone’s living room? This year we’ll experiment with a variation of this concept, with hosting lunches instead of dinners. This way there’s more time to enjoy your food without checking your watch all the time, because you want to see so many shows.

And this November you're in for another treat, as we’re feeding you with an additional event in Lombok, the most vivid and diverse district of Utrecht. Lombok Festival will take place on Friday 10th of November, before the Le Guess Who? shows start in the evening and entrance is for free. Expect lots of local and non-western music and food, mirroring the many cultures of the district's population.

Le Mini Who? takes place across Utrecht on Saturday 11th November.