The European festival market has become more and more saturated as the years go by, making it increasingly harder for festivals to not only put a strong line-up together, but also for them to provide a unique experience for visitors. Not many festivals are able to combine a strong line-up with a unique experience, yet Best Kept Secret is one of them. The Hilvarenbeek-based festival is, as the name suggests, one of the best kept secrets on the festival scene. Now in its third year, the festival has attracted the likes of modern legends Arctic Monkeys alongside old classics such as Ride and The Jesus and Mary Chain. This year’s line-up is no different, with the opening day of the festival being headlined by returning legends The Libertines. Read on for a round-up of day one.
Approximately 15,000 people descended upon Hilvarenbeek for the first day of the festival, many of them descending upon Stage ONE for main stage openers Drenge. Having just released their sophomore album Undertow, the Loveless-brothers now have an extra live reinforcement in bassist Rob Graham. The trio’s raw garage rock effortlessly spewed out of the PA’s on Friday afternoon, with set highlights coming in the shape of Undertow’s lead single We Can Do What We Want, and older track Bloodsports. Both tracks perfectly help demonstrate the leap Drenge have made from gritty, youthful garage rock to a more mature and refined sound. They still have a long way to go, but Eoin and Rory Loveless definitely have plenty of potential. Whereas Drenge portray a more serious and refined sound within the confines of their garage rock, LA punk quartet FIDLAR have made a name for themselves by starting notorious parties during their live shows. With song titles like Cheap Beer and Bad Medicine it’s not very hard to see why. Best Kept Secret was no different, with their show on Stage TWO sparking all kinds of crazy crowd moments. The first crowdsurfers of the weekend descended over the barrier as frontman Max Kuehn made himself known to the sparse audience. The set was raw, energetic and full of chaos as the band proved themselves to be one of the rowdiest bands of the day. FIDLAR have been a huge prospect for a long time, and it’s only a matter of time before some kind of breakthrough becomes fully realized.
Back on Stage ONE, Timothy Showalter-helmed folk rock project Strand of Oaks made for an early highlight of the weekend. Although rather unexpected, Showalter and his band ended up receiving rave reviews from many people across countdown lists at the end of the weekend. These things don’t tend to go without good reason, and Strand of Oaks had pretty good reason. The seven-song set drew heavily on 2014’s HEAL, six songs from that critically acclaimed release appearing. Set closer JM was by far and wide the highlight of the set, making way for masses of applause from the (unsurprisingly) polite audience. Best Kept Secret may take place in Holland, but the Dutch people are still the most underrepresented nationality there. According to organizer Rob Swart, one-third of visitors crossed the border from either Belgium or Germany. The English didn’t fall too far behind either, with more Brits than ever making the journey to Hilvarenbeek. Once Strand of Oaks’ set came to a close, it was up to rapper Earl Sweatshirt to set TWO alight. Rap at Best Kept Secret has always been a matter of taste, especially considering the limited amount of it present in the Beekse Bergen. Sweatshirt’s set was extremely energetic, drawing heavily on most recent album Best Version. Did Earl’s BKS set show that rap and hip hop have a place on the line-up at Best Kept Secret, though? Both yes and no. Yes, because the festival prides itself on genre diversity, but no because the amount of rap present will always still be minimal. Either the festival pays more attention to rap and hip hop, or they don’t do anything at all. This sentiment was also echoed among the various festivalgoers that we spoke to across the weekend. Australian trip hop artist Chet Faker followed Earl on Stage TWO, playing a variety of tracks from his critically acclaimed 2014 album Built on Glass. As with the majority of his preceding live shows, Faker’s (real name Nicholas Murphy) set was extremely well received as he packed the tent out to the rafters. Standout track Talk is Cheap garnered the best reception, paving the way for Murphy’s future status as mega star.
Whilst Danish musician The Tallest Man on Earth performed to a pack field on Stage ONE, the crowd within the confines of Stage TWO slowly filled up for shoegaze behemoths The Jesus and Mary Chain. The East Kilbride quintet are currently spending the summer playing seminal record Psychocandy in full, an announcement which was met with cries of happiness from fans the world over. As the Jim Reid-fronted group took to the stage they were met with raucous cheers, kicking straight into Psychocandy opener Just Like Honey. Its psychedelic drones rang through the whole set, proving exactly why The Jesus and Mary Chain are one of the most recognized bands in their genre. Once the band finished off Psychocandy, on It’s So Hard, they made time for a brief encore which culminated in the fantastic Reverance. Whether or not we’ll ever hear new music from The Jesus and Mary Chain remains to be seen, but right now the band are in their prime. Jim Reid and co. are at the top of their game and will likely stay that way for a long time to come. Once their show came to a euphoric end, the packed crowd made their way across to ONE for a headline set from returning heroes The Libertines. There’s a new album on the way, and the inter-band relationships are seemingly stronger than ever before. Once Pete, Carl, Gary and John took to the stage, any rumours of ‘getting together of the money’ seemed to be completely quashed. Opening salvo of The Delaney and Vertigo slowly got the show off to a powerful start, with the show only truly peaking when they pulled Don’t Look Back Into the Sun out of the bag. This is undoubtedly the quartet’s biggest anthem, and the crowd certainly didn’t disappoint when responding to it. The beachside stage was absolutely packed to the rafters, with an abundance of crowdsurfers, pits and flares on display. The Libertines may not be as much of a household name in Holland as they are back home, yet the Best Kept Secret crowd made the band feel like they’ve never been gone. New song Gunga Gin showed that the band have still got plenty of life in them, recently declaring that the untitled record will be rather synth heavy, but that the band know what they’re doing. We don’t have a release date for the record (which was recorded in Thailand) yet, but once it comes out it’ll prove everyone wrong and show the world that The Libertines are right at the top of their game.
After The Libertines left the stage, the vast crowd dispersed into many different directions as the nightlife programme kicked off. Pissed Jeans and Vessels made for a raucous evening on Stage FIVE, whereas Cashmere Cat brought his infectious electro to TWO. The second day of Best Kept Secret continues with performances from Temples, The Vaccines and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.