MAASTRICHT. You know it’s Stukafest (the student room festival held last Thursday, 9 February) when you’re in a quiet residential street and suddenly a group of Germans on bikes comes to a screeching halt in front of a student building. “What are you going to see?” “Who knows, we just signed up for something, so I guess we’re about to find out.”
In the opening at Alley Cat Bikes & Coffee (Hoenderstraat 15-17), the original act has been replaced by two singers. They do their thing against the backdrop of a bicycle repair station, before the audience heads off to subsequent performances as far apart as the Statenkwartier and the Rechtstraat.
Somewhere on the Rechtstraat, Byron Bay, a self-professed writer of “sad songs”, grins out sheepishly at the 15 or so people perched on squishy pillows or the luxuriously patterned Persian rug. The attic room is all artsy angles and unexpected corners, reached by climbing three and a half flights of stairs, past a pair of black lace panties hanging from some loose electrical wiring. The lights dim for the music, bubblegummy heartbreak-themed pop accompanied alternately by keyboard and guitar. “I just noticed how pretty it is!” exclaims a British student in an audible whisper.
At the next venue in the Maastrichter Brugstraat, ominous music and fairy lights set the tone as you climb to the top floor (again), this time passing not panties but two seemingly unconscious women. At the beginning of Ayisha & Nathalie – Wat heb jij met bananen? the two are carried in by a shirtless aide and commence to break down the conflicts of modern womanhood. “How can you fantasise about being beaten? What kind of fairytale is that?!” How did they come up with the idea for this piece? “By just being a woman,” says Ayisha afterwards, “and being frustrated by what that means today.”
Entering the last venue, on the Pastoor Habetstraat, feels like stumbling into a house party: Pink Floyd on an unseen stereo, people lounging around on mattresses and blankets, and beers, candles and empty bottles already taking up most surfaces. Cloud Cukkoo begins to play music that sounds like deep thoughts late at night and slowly winds itself through the crowd (quite substantial in the biggest room of the evening). Every time a song ends to applause the lead singer, red-haired with hands hovering over her keyboard, looks up surprised as if she’d momentarily forgotten where she was. By the end of their set they’ve got the whole room humming along and swaying gently.