Before a festival begins, there are things to do. Pack your bags, say farewell to loved ones, work out how to get there. It’s a journey, and a journey that’s up against the clock. The first acts at Best Kept Secret begin at 14:00. This is not possible, it’s too ambitious, there’s no chance – only a fool would dare. It’s not disinterest in the acts, it’s just that there’s only so far that optimism can get you. Even after you’ve left your house you’ve got to get the train to Tilburg(!), then the bus, then walk to the gates, then get through security, then walk to the campsite, then set up your tent, then walk to the stage gate, and only then do you find the stages. Beekse Bergen is big, bigger than you think. Don’t let that lake deceive you, you may be able to see the main stage from your tent, and it might even look close, but it’s not. A series of quadrilateral urinals stand between you and the music. You see, for the rest of the year, this is a safari park. Animals love shit like long distances. Humans have things to do, OV Chipkaarts, places to be. We also had things to do, and places to be. And sometimes the result of these things and places cannot be explained better than with a list. Because who doesn’t love a list? Here at All Things Loud we live for the self-validation which putting together a list gives us. To round off our coverage of another fantastic Best Kept Secret, we’ve painstakingly analysed all of our notes in order to present you with the 25 best performances which graced Hilvarenbeek’s seven stages this weekend. It wasn’t easy (it was mainly just bloody hot), but we managed. Each selection features an excerpt from writers Steven Morgan and Jack Parker’s own notes, taken throughout the weekend.

25 TORO Y MOI

The energy during Toro Y Moi’s set was astounding, the contrast to Kraftwerk which proceeded it being the perfect wake up call and reminder that the night was not yet over. Stage FIVE felt too small for his supersized songs, the memory of chill-wave long gone from his sound. By the time he gets to the inevitable Rose Quartz, it feels like the perfect climax to a glorious set. SM

24 KURT VILE & THE VIOLATORS

Are there any better partnerships than Kurt Vile and a setting sun? Not an awful lot, probably because they were made for one another. Together with his band The Violators, Vile ensured that a pretty packed Stage ONE crowd had the perfect soundtrack to another beer, centring the show equally between new record Bottle It In and the popular Wakin On A Pretty Daze. The hazy title track of the latter album stood out far and wide above the rest of the 9-song set, sending Hilvarenbeek into a psychedelic dreamland. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

23 BCUC

Sometimes, all you need is a little dose of sonic energy to get you through the night. For those in need, the frenetic BCUC served the perfect medicine for a long night, treating Stage FIVE to a relentlessly catchy mix of indigenous South African folk music and rabid afrofunk. The result is nothing short of enthralling, and it got the packed tent up on their feet from beginning to end. Not that this should be a surprise though, because BCUC were the perfect start for what transpired to be a long, long Friday night. JP

BESTKpt-11-2

22 CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG

It took Charlotte Gainsbourg to take things up a notch on the Friday, sat at her piano, reminding people of how rounded a talent she is. She may not have released an album since 2017’s Rest, but she’s built up a back catalogue strong enough at this point to justify her late-night placing. Her kudos as a musician has met the talent of her profile elsewhere. SM

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

21 SNAIL MAIL

At just 19 years of age, there’s something special about Snail Mail, or Lindsey Jordan’s, music. Her take on gentle indie rock doesn’t look to change the world, but her debut album Lush is full of moments that you just want to listen to again and again. Alas, the sound suffered slightly from those festival hiccups, but the good feelings carried through with the sunny weather making good moods inevitable. SM
Snail Mail at an earlier performance. (c) Josanne van der Heijden

Snail Mail at an earlier performance. (c) Josanne van der Heijden

20 INTERPOL

Disco balls aren’t usually associated with post-punk, but then again the name Interpol usually isn’t associated with music. Paul Banks and co. have been frontrunners in the respective worlds of post-punk and 2000s nostalgia since, well, the early 2000s, and so it should come as no surprise that they have Stage TWO packed on Sunday night. New album Marauder may not be their most acclaimed album to date, but their live show is as powerful as ever. The set is heavy on seminal collection Turn Out the Bright Lights, which celebrated a milestone anniversary last year. Five songs feature, with just three from Marauder and one from the brilliant El Pintor (All The Rage Back Home) passing by. Interpol never cease to be a sleek live band, and at Best Kept Secret they proved this once and for all. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

19 CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS

Having graced the festival just three years prior in a non-headlining slot, there was something heart-warming about Chris(tine & the Queens) returning to close out the festival. Those who had criticised Bon Iver and Kraftwerk for being too downbeat for festival headliners had no words they could say against this closing act whose dancer-infused live show is a massive celebration of the music Chris makes. After the rain which preceded it, and the end-of-festival blues looming, the fireworks and stage show were enough to get the audience to give everything they had left. Amongst some of her biggest hits like Tilted and Girlfriend, the audience were treated to a cover of David Bowie’s Heroes in the second half of the set too. There was a real feeling of euphoria through the whole show, yet a few tender moments reminded you why Chris is such a unique artist in so many ways. It was the perfect end to the festival. SM
(c) JOKKO

(c) JOKKO

18 STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS

Stephen Malkmus is not a person who likes looking into the past. On the same day as his solo show on Stage TWO, it was announced that Pavement were reuniting once again. The difference in attitude between solo Malkmus live and Malkmus in Pavement at a reunion show is like night and day: one is happy to be doing what he’s doing, and the other is playing covers of songs incredibly reluctantly. This distancing from the past doesn’t just apply to Pavement, but to his own solo material too. Not a single song from his debut solo album got an airing at Best Kept Secret, with the majority of his set focusing on his most recent album with The Jicks, Sparkle Hard. It’s a set which leans more heavily into his jammier side with lengthy solos taking precedence over his more playful side. Despite this, his new material is strong enough to make this jaunt an enjoyable one too, with lighter numbers like Lairat feeling particularly enjoyable as a contrast. SM
(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

17 KRAFTWERK

Kraftwerk may not have released any new material in decades, yet still the masses are captivated by their recreations of revolutionary electronic music. The idea of a 3D concert at an outdoor festival is an ambitious one, but sure enough over 20,000 3D glasses were disseminated among the crowd to allow the quartet to enjoy a video backdrop that served as a time capsule to years gone by. The band members each stood at their workstations, functionally playing their parts with little to no crowd interaction, though Ralf Hütter’s voice still sounded great on songs like The Model. It’s out-of-placeness at a festival that mostly focuses on the current was a welcomed contrast to the acts around it, and even those in the audience who may not be familiar with a single Kraftwerk track were captivated by these songs which have stood the test of time. SM
(c) Ben Houdijk

(c) Ben Houdijk

16 JULIA HOLTER

When we first took a glimpse at the timetable for Best Kept Secret’s final day, one particular scheduling decision really baffled us: Julia Holter, on at the god awful early hour of 12:30. “Why?”, we asked ourselves in confusion. Well, “why not?” it transpired, because there was no better way to wake up than with Holter’s serene voice and absolutely stunning music. Taking to the stage dressed all in white – a bit like an angel, ha – she treated the slowly growing Stage TWO crowd to a set largely centred on last year’s acclaimed Aviary. Opening on a solo rendition of In Gardens’ Muteness, Holter held the awestruck crowd in the palms of her hands for the best part of an hour. The set peaked on a blissful I Shall Love 2, before finding peace and solace in a closing Betsy on the Roof. Beautiful stuff. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

15 MAC DEMARCO

You know you’re somewhat of a risk taker when you decide to play one of your biggest hits near the very start of your show. That’s exactly what Mac DeMarco did – and always does with Salad Days – as the sun slowly set on Stage ONE, in one of Saturday’s most enticing shows. Opening on new track Nobody (from Here Comes the Cowboy), Mac pounced about the stage like a tiger on the hunt for his prey, cigarette and beer in hand. Because what would a Mac DeMarco show be without cigarettes and alcohol, right? Well, probably still as good as it was on Saturday night, but just without that Mac-gic touch. Ba dum. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

14 INDIAN ASKIN

For a Dutch festival to be so representative of local music obviously isn’t strange, but for one like Best Kept Secret to really know their stuff and only represent the best of the best is something else. Indian Askin are up there with some of the best Dutch music around right now (think Pip Blom and The Vices), taking their colourful and punchy live show to Stage ONE in the midst of the Sunday heat. New album Another Round is Chino Ayala and co.’s most polished and fully realised collection to date, truly coming to life on the biggest stages. The quartet battled some backdrop-misplacing wind gusts throughout, but it did nothing to dampen the mood or kill the sound. And the best moment? Groove-laden hit On & On, without a doubt. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

13 CRACK CLOUD

We leave Bon Iver before the rush to catch Crack Cloud on Stage FIVE. Though I’d heard that there were nine people responsible for the sounds on their album, it seemed hard to believe for a recording of such pure post-punk. This was exacerbated when the band began playing and it became clear that the vocals come from the drummer. Live, there’s a certain magic to a band whose member numbers rival the audience, and though this isn’t the case on this particular night, you get the impression that this is a band who’ve had to work hard to get to the position they’re currently in. The chemistry and excitement was clear despite the low lighting on the band themselves. Most of the people may not know the songs, but the familiarity with post punk is enough to get them going from the start. The songs may have changed, but the formula was written long ago. SM

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

12 BON IVER

As headliner, Bon Iver was always going to have a tough time. His music thrives on intimacy, its delicacies always best rewarded through close attention. Headlining the Friday night is most suited to a more upbeat artists to meet the crowd’s excitement. As amazing as the sound is, better than any previous years on the main stage, the general chatter drowns out the subtleties. The average attendee here wants something they can shout along to, but Bon Iver is not that man. It’s a shame, as his performance is pristine. Despite the tight production of 22, A Million, these songs sound more vital and powerful on stage than ever before. Vernon gives it his all, but it only reaches the ears of the faithful. SM

(c) Ben Houdijk

(c) Ben Houdijk

11 SHHT

You have to set yourself a target, or you’ll never get there. For us it was SHHT. The Belgian weirdo art-rockers have a reputation for unhinged, intense and wild live shows. Just one of those words was enough to pique our interest. Knowing they were taking stage 7 at 16:15 was the goal, a target to give everything else context. You work backward from there. Estimate the time each and every thing will take to calculate the perfect moment to leave your house. Pick your perfect train to get you there, calculate the amount of time security will spend fiddling with your bag. Though most of the time keeping was out of our control, you couldn’t help feel the nervous energy of trying to make it. Calculating your odds based on the chain of events ahead of you. It was tight, we knew it would be. Pump up the airbed? No time. Pitch in the guide ropes? No time. Unpack our bags? No time. We had things to do. As we made our way towards the stage ten minutes after the band had begun, we saw the reality. The tin-can stage 7 spilled over with people revelling in the music of the Belgian oddballs. We had failed. There was no space for us. Despite that, though, what we did see was more than enough to warrant a glowing review. SM & JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

10 WALLOWS

Picture the scene: it’s nearing an absolutely searing thirty degrees at the height of Saturday afternoon, and an upbeat indie rock act take to the main stage. What do you do? Seek shelter and find replenishment, or bare all in the sun and go mad? As it turns out, Best Kept Secret’s crowd aren’t too afraid of heatstroke, with the gathered revellers for Wallows‘ boiling show slowly increasing over the course of the hour. Frontman Dylan Minnette – yes, “the 13 Reasons Why guy” – managed to keep the field on its toes as he and his band pulled cuts from new album Nothing Happens out of the bag. The highlight being Scrawny, an upbeat indie rock nugget which appears early on. Wallows have a long road ahead of them, but if they play their cards right it’ll be an even bigger Dutch crowd in front of them next time. Watch this space for an interview with the band, coming this week to All Things Loud. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

DEATH GRIPS

Long gone are the days when Death Grips would announce a show only for them to never show up. Those days where the intensity of the live show outshone the music, days where no one really knew what the fuck to expect from them. That’s all changed, now, though. Well, almost; the shows are still intense as ever, but something feels more streamlined about the Death Grips experience anno 2019. Last year’s Year of the Snitch is the trio’s most ‘normal’ release to date, only really elevated to cult status when performed live. And yet still, the true highlights of the night came on their three standout tracks: the brazen Guillotine, violent No Love and fuck-me-up I’ve Seen Footage. If you know, you know. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

BIG THIEF

Starting a gig with the band members hugging each other is a beautiful touch that shows a group of people not just bound by music, but by something more than that. They position themselves on stage in a manner so as to see each other as much as the audience in front of them can; the chemistry clear right from opener Real Love. With U.F.O.F. seeing Big Thief receive lashings of critical acclaim, there’s a lot of interest in this show of theirs on the Stage TWO. Adrienne Lenker’s voice sounds gorgeous amongst the folk tinged melodies, with closing number Mary soaring to another level in its tender intimacy. SM
(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

SHAME

I decided to head back to stage five to catch the end of Shame, who bookmarked the Friday evening in a perfect way. With such an attentive and up-for-it crowd, it couldn’t be a more perfect setting for the British quintet, whose frontman Charlie Steen (not Sheen, ok!) dazzled more than usual in the festival environs. Their wild intensity and hook-laden songs were the perfect conclusion to the night, and with a 1am start time, there was no train that could stand in the way of their success. Just that difficult second album, which is due later this year. Although, to be very honest, with new music as promising as the stuff they hurled at Hilvarenbeek on Friday, there shouldn’t be too much trouble along the way. SM & JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

CARLY RAE JEPSEN

Hey, isn’t that the girl who sings Call Me Maybe?” You’d be forgiven for asking your friends this question once you saw Carly Rae Jepsen‘s name poking out of the festival poster earlier this year. And that’s probably with good reason, because ever since pop singer Jepsen burst out onto the scene she’s been marred by the overpowering success of that one song. Despite this, though, she’s managed to cultivate a greater following on the back of the iconic E MO TION and this year’s Dedicated, both of which formed out a large part of her spellbinding set on Stage ONE. She was absolutely full of energy, bounding about the stage with reckless abandon as she pulled off some pretty solid vocals. Backed by a non-existent backdrop and simple live set-up, Jepsen went on to prove that when it comes to pop music, simplicity is sometimes all you need. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

VIAGRA BOYS

Some nights you need a viagra to get hard, but on other nights all you need is a hefty dose of Viagra Boys. The Swedish post-punk maniacs aroused a full Stage FIVE crowd on Saturday night, tearing the house down with cuts from last year’s brilliantly mad Street Worms. Nearly the entire set leans on this record, save for opening track Research Chemicals. It’s already at this point when frontman Sebastian Murphy removes his top, allowing beer to drip out of his mouth and down onto his tattooed torso. He’s clearly out of his mind, but it generally goes unnoticed as the show is all the more weird and wonderful for it. Highlights Sports and Down in the Basement are absurdly magistral exercises in post-punk excellence, with a fifteen minute version of set closer Shrimp Stack serving as the absolute pinnacle of a Viagra Boys live experience. That’s right, not a live show, but a full-on experience. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

CAROLINE ROSE

And the award for happiest show of the weekend goes to: Caroline Rose! The Canadian indie pop artist never fails to hide a massive grin across her face when she performs, and Best Kept Secret was no different. Treating a full tent to cuts from the wonderful LONER, Rose and her engaging live band left no stone unturned in their mission to entertain. They had the killer songs (most notably Jeannie Becomes A Mom and Soul No. 5), the charisma and energy of a group on top form. And yet it was the extras which really made the show so wonderful. Did Caroline chug an entire beer can onstage? Yes, she did. Did she make her drummer parade his legs atop his kit? Yes, she did. And did she perform a full cover of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On on a kazoo? Yes, she absolutely did. The sight of 1,000 Dutch people shouting back the lyrics, “Near, far, wherever you are” is something which will stick with many for years to come. And rightly so, because it was one of many memorable moments in what turned out to be a surprisingly memorable show. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

3 FAT WHITE FAMILY

As-salāmu ʿalaykum, motherfuckers!” shouts Fat White Family‘s Nathan Saudi as he and his bandmates enter the stage on a sweaty Saturday afternoon. An appropriately contrasting term to bellow ahead of a show which was all but peaceful. That’s because you never know what you’re going to get with the Fat White Family. Will they be absolutely hammered and manic, or will they be polished, groovy and great? Their set on Stage TWO turned out to be a delicately balanced mix of both, something largely down to the smoother, more streamlined direction of new album Serf’s Up. Only a handful of songs from that album featured on the day, peaking on the disco grooves of lead single Feet and the sultry Tastes Good With the Money. The rest of the set, though, was a ragtag mix of everything the Fat White Family do so well. The hallucinatory Touch the Leather and I Am Mark E Smith provided freakishly spaced out moments, whereas Whitest Boy on the Beach injected (punintended) some woozy psychedelia into the mix. It wasn’t until the abrasive Is It Raining In Your Mouth? that everything was turned up that extra notch, and boy was it special. Later that night, select members of the band found themselves asking Viagra Boys’ barrier hugging crowd for ketamine, which is just peak Fat Whites. This was by far one of the best Fat White Family performances we’ve seen in a while, and so it can only get better from here. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

LIZZO

Repeat after me: Lizzo is the Queen of Hilvarenbeek. Now say it again, and repeat twice more. Because whatever you might say otherwise, no one can come close to the impact and hype of Lizzo and her growing string of hits. Despite being booked to appear on the tiny Stage FIVE – for which there were more people outside the tent than in it – she worked Best Kept Secret like no other. You often find that Sunday night sets empty out fast as people head home, but that wasn’t the case here. The crowd only got bigger, with people standing on tables and each other’s shoulders to catch a glimpse of the Queen of Hilvarenbeek. She played for an hour, but even that was nowhere enough to appease a crowd who kept wanting more. Show finale Juice – the undoubted song of the summer – turned Best Kept Secret into an absolutely unforgettable frenzy. You had to be there, though. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

SPORTS TEAM

Jesus H Christ, how bloody good was that?! Not only did Sports Team manage to pull off the absolute best performance of Best Kept Secret by a country mile, but they also made it one of the most exciting places to be all weekend. If you weren’t at this show, then you just could not have come up with a good enough reason to miss out. Sports Team’s Saturday lunchtime show on Stage TWO was nothing short of spectacular, with Alex Rice and co. setting the tone from the moment Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You blared out over the PA. Although still young, Rice is nothing short of a seasoned veteran when it comes to stage performance. We could sit here comparing him to whichever popular indie frontman the NME are into right now, but at the end of the day there isn’t anyone out there quite like Alex Rice. His commandeering of the stage is like no other, and so it came as no surprise that he used every given opportunity to parade around the stage like a maniac revelling in his newfound successes. Together with the rest of the band (all of whom are insanely tight performers), Sports Team gave Best Kept Secret an afternoon to remember. From anthemic opener Camel Crew and the youthful Beverly Rose through to new singles Get Along and M5, everything just made so much sense. Sports Team tick all the boxes, and there’s no way around it. Get ready world, because just like Manchester City, you’ll want to start supporting Sports Team before they become an unavoidable force to be reckoned with. JP

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker

(c) Jack Parker