Who’d have thought that you could top the incredibly successful second festival day which Best Kept Secret put on this year? Not only was it a day which culminated in a heartwrenching performance from The National, but it was also a day which displayed an array of performances so varied that you didn’t know where to look without being greeted by something of note. The final day of Holland’s most exciting festival was just as varied and bustling, featuring new music which will undoubtedly scale the great heights of festival hierarchy in years to come, and climaxing with one of the strongest headline set in Best Kept Secret history. Jack Parker and Steven Morgan were in Hilvarenbeek once more, bringing you the best of what Hilvarenbeek had to offer aside from its happy hours and impressive food.
New York City’s latest hip kid, Gus Dapperton, kicked off proceedings on Stage THREE with an impressive strand of sickly sweet indie pop laced with jangly guitars. Dapperton – real name Brendan Rice – is a quirky character, something his personality emphasises had is image not already done that for you. Together with his live band (which features his sister on keys – “woo hoo“, as Rice adds), Dapperton treated THREE to a promising set which had all the hallmarks of a big name in the making: catchy melodies, smooth vocals and an overarching sense of unbridled joy which not many acts bring to the game these days. Kicking things off on Stage FIVE were Moaning and their own ferocious take on post-punk. As expected for the first band on the stage, it took a few songs before the sound problems were sorted out. Whether it was this or just how they are, the band looked like they really didn’t want to be there, and as the set progressed this feeling became mutual. Admittedly first thing on a Sunday is not the best time of day for their style of music, but on the strength of that performance, their name seemed very apt. Both visually and musically, Khruangbin don’t come across as the kind of band who you’d associate with the state of Texas. Surprisingly enough, though, that’s where the funky trio hail from. The band have slowly but surely crept up from within the undergrowth (in part thanks to Bonobo’s Late Night Tales), becoming a ferocious live force to be reckoned with in the process. This is something which is largely down to their enchanting live performances, which include shredding solos, synchronised dance moves and a setlist packed with noteworthy moments. Infectious Thai funk and surf rock are the main attractions here, although it was a medley of pop culture hits which really struck a chord with the crowd. Towards the end of their set, the trio mashed together some of the 20th century’s most recognisable melodies, including Warren G’s Regulate, Dr. Dre’s The Next Episode and Kool & the Gang’s Summer Madness. It was a moment which solidified Khruangbin’s status as spectacular live band, something which they only further hammered home on memorable curtain call People Everywhere (Still Alive). Don’t sleep on this band. JP & SM
There’s no-one out there quite like Let’s Eat Grandma. The teenage duo create a multi-layered brand of art pop that’s both unapologetically positive and refreshingly original. After a drum-led intro, the pair took to the stage to launch straight into their incredible new track Hot Pink. With SOPHIE on production duties, there’s a lot of buzz around the second album due from this pair, with their styles so complimentary. Live, the new tracks sound massive, and the pair know how to put on a great show. Switching instruments with ease and interjecting the music with moments of mutual handclaps, choreographed moves, or Jenny Hollingworth running through the audience for a dance. There’s a barely contained excitement in everything they do that’s contagious when you watch them on stage. This is music without pretence, and with their full control over the entire instrumentation of their output, they have created a distinct sound which became clear on their 2016 debut I, Gemini. On the strength of this performance, don’t be surprised if their follow-up is the one that breaks them through. One band who don’t need to worry all too much about breaking through are the Australians in Gang of Youths. You may be unaware of their presence, but back home they’re the kind of band who sell out larger than life venues and headline festivals in front of packed fields of baying fans. Their set on Stage ONE incidentally served as their second ever show on Dutch soil, and it would have been one to remember if the crowd had engaged as much as Gang of Youths are used to. Set opener Fear and Trembling instantly set the tone with its brash and bombastic stadium rock undertones, and it fast proved that this is the kind of band who – from a performance perspective – tick all the right boxes. It’s a real shame that the crowd were nowhere near as invested as they should have been, because a Gang of Youths live show is one which requires equal measures of emotional intensity from each side of the barrier. SM & JP
Where Gang of Youths had slight difficulty in fully entrancing the crowd, it seemed like Spanish quartet Hinds had absolutely no trouble at all. Taking to the stage enthusiastically dancing to The Prodigy’s Stand Up, Carlotta Cosials and co. managed to express pure and boundless joy for the duration of their set, one which relied heavily on new album I Don’t Run. It’s their second exercise in slick garage pop, with set opener Chili Town raising the bar for what followed: an hour of exciting, raw and imperfectly perfect slacker rock. Michigan singer-songwriter Rodriguez followed on Stage ONE, serving as the most charming and nostalgic set of the weekend. At 75 years of age, Sixto Rodriguez is still going strong despite slowly but surely going blind due to his glaucoma. Taking to the stage with a handler and three Panama hats, Rodriguez took his seat and started tuning his guitar. “It’s gotta be in tune, y’all” he murmured towards to the patient crowd, with one voice loudly responding: “we’ll wait!” to much applause. Once Rodriguez kicked off his set on a solo acoustic cover of Elton John’s Your Song, it became clear pretty quick that the following hour would be an exercise in folk-laden nostalgia. Six covers appeared during the famous Sugarman’s performance, including a full-band take on The Doors’ Light My Fire and Bob Luman’s Let’s Think About Livin’. Both formed out an important part of a show which, if anything, proved that age really is just a number. Legends with the same career trajectory as Rodriguez don’t come around very often, making it all the more special when they get up to something. Over on Stage FIVE, Katie Crutchfield stood alone with an acoustic guitar for the opening of her Waxahatchee set. She showed off her beautiful voice on the ethereal Recite Remorse, turning heads to see who was responsible for it. As most of the crowd stood in silent awe, one guy started a slow golf clap which came across as patronising. You could see Crutchfield look over at its origin, clearly as confused by the reaction as everyone else. The clapper looked around the audience, trying to make eye contact with others as if trying to find other people thinking the same thing, but no-one seemed to have any idea what that thing was. It wasn’t until the rest of the band came out for Silver that the guy started gesticulating wildly, his arms in the air. Turns out he wasn’t upset; he was just so ridiculously excited that he couldn’t contain himself. Festivals, huh? JP & SM
When you think of the word festival, there tends to be one prolific musician whose name pops up on posters aplenty, always in a different way, shape or form. That man is Ty Segall, and for his latest live project he’s joined forces with his very own Freedom Band, whom with he recorded the gritty Freedom’s Goblin with last year. It’s an album filled with pompous garage rock, one which sounds even stronger on the big stage. Five songs from the record featured during Segall’s TWO set, including the Todd Rundgren-on-acid Fanny Dog, groovy Despoiler of Cadaver and the subtle My Lady’s on Fire. They featured alongside some of his more prolific older work, including the batshit crazy Candy Sam and frenetic finale Sleeper. Whatever Ty Segall does next remains to be seen (that’s excluding his current White Fence collaboration), but it’ll undoubtedly be something equal parts unexpected and refreshing. Some bands are so effortlessly cool that it makes you take a look at yourself and wonder why you can’t be that way. Spoon are one of them. As the afternoon sun lit up the Stage ONE, Britt Daniel et al brought the Texan chic to Best Kept Secret. It’s telling for a band that have been around for so long that they can play a setlist which draws mostly from their latest two albums and still have the crowd eating from the palms of their hands. This is not a band looking into the past, as they’re still putting out material strong enough to match it. Tracks like Inside Out sounded as though they’d been specifically written for that moment, with the big grin across Jim Eno’s face feeling rightly deserved. Since shifting towards more electronic elements, it’s freed Daniel up to take more of a presence as the true frontman. Whether he’s lying across the stage, or playfully dancing down front, he looks comfortable in this role, and nothing phases him. When a confetti bomb went off down the front early on, he gave a shout out to the little boy who fired it. Only The Underdog and Way We Get By received a play from their earlier material, with slight adjustments made to to fit into their new sound. Spoon’s show was was one of those sets which you’d never have wanted to end. JP & SM
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson is a man of many talents, and on his project’s new album Sex & Food he takes a bigger step into the world of fuzzy funk than ever before. Whether it be on the luminous Hunnybee on smooth Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays, Nielson never fails to impress. He kicked off his band’s plant-shrouded set by taking an extended walk through the crowd during the ethereal Ffunny Friends, only returning once he’d explored every single inch of the packed Stage TWO. It was from this point onwards that the set really came to life, slowly but surely picking up in pace and intensity after what felt like a lethargic start. Finale Can’t Keep Checking My Phone served as the highlight, something which isn’t too surprising when you consider exactly how fantastic that song just is. It may not have been the band’s best performance in recent memory, but it packed just enough punch to leave an imprint on your mind. Over on Stage ONE, folk troubadour Father John Misty made his fifth appearance on Dutch soil since May 2016 (there are two more shows due in November), and it’s this relentless touring schedule which has ensured that Josh Tillman will never become a forgotten figure. He’s never shied away from being a divisive figure, but it’s on new record God’s Favourite Customer where we really come to understand the toll that the last decade has taken on Tillman’s (formerly eroding) mental state. He seems to be on the up now, and during his set at Best Kept Secret we saw a man refreshed and back at the top of his game (last year’s set at Down the Rabbit Hole was average at best). Early double-whammy Total Entertainment Forever and Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All showcased Tillman’s incredibly powerful vocal range, taking a dig at Taylor Swift on the former just before the latter injected some beautiful grandiosity into the set. His show peaked on the brilliant Pure Comedy, before The Ideal Husband brought everything to a clattering end. Tillman’s had his ups and downs, but it looks like those days are well and truly over as he powers on forward with an incredibly strong new album to boot. JP
We all love a good hype band, right? This year, London-via-the-world’s Superorganism are truly the heirs to this throne as they treat packed crowds across the globe to their infectious indie pop. There are plenty of superlatives which you could use to describe the septet’s feel-good neon-infused live show, but in short it’s just a whole lot of intricately co-ordinated fun. Set opener It’s All Good introduced the band in the best way possible, utilising pompous vocals from the group’s trio of quirky backing singers. Together with some bleeps, bloops and the unenthusiastic-yet-captivating frontwoman Orono, Superorganism were able to prove that the word hype is far more than just a few streaming hits and a short shelf-life. Superorganism are the kind of band who will be here for years to come, taking on popular culture and fusing it with their already-infectious music. Set closer Something For Your M.I.N.D. was the undoubted highlight of the show, but then again it is an absolute banger after all. If you haven’t taken notice of Superorganism yet, then now is the time to change that. The one thing you can rely on with a Mogwai set is that it will be loud. The post-rock pioneers should come with a warning that earplugs aren’t an option for their live shows: they’re necessary. At the point where opening track Mogwai Fear Satan kicks back in, I felt the moisture on my eyeballs instantly evaporate, the wall of guitars physically rattling my skeleton in an immensely pleasurable way. The lighting was low as the band played a selection of tracks from their ever expanding back catalogue. Towards the back a couple of guys started a loud conversation with each other, and this distraction annoyed another audience member so much that he stormed off to stand elsewhere. It made me realise that there’s a reason they need to be so loud after all. JP & SM
There are some bands who are just made to headline festivals, even if it took a brief sabbatical for most people to realise that. We’re obviously talking about LCD Soundsystem, the New York project which oozes so much class and grandeur that every move James Murphy makes seems like an act of god. It thus shouldn’t come as a surprise that the band are a perfect fit for Best Kept Secret’s Sunday night headline slot, because if there’s anyone who should bring this festival to an end then it’s them. Taking to a glitterball-clad stage-cum-recording studio, the Brooklyn octet instantly lapped up the crowd’s neverending applause by kicking straight in to the memorable You Wanted a Hit. It was the first indicator of LCD Soundsystem’s ability to keep the crowd in the palm of their hands, something which they did for the duration of their two hours on Best Kept Secret’s Stage ONE. New album american dream featured heavily, with its standouts call the police, tonite and how do you sleep? serving as three of the sets most exciting moments, even if it did turn out to be the old hits which everyone had been eagerly awaiting. Daft Punk Is Playing At My House made for an early burst of thrilling energy, with the pulsating Someone Great and a cover of Chic’s I Want Your Love also standing out. A four-song found itself divided into two coherent halves, the first featuring new tracks – the brooding oh baby and brash emotional haircut – and the latter closing the night out on two all-round classics: Dance Yrself Clean and All My Friends. As All My Friends’ punchy emotional intensity reached its peak, you could feel a palpable sense of euphoric energy emit from the 20,000 strong crowd, and at that moment in time there was little else which felt anything near as stunning all weekend. LCD Soundsystem headline festivals in ways which other bands can only dream of, because their live shows are more than just an energetic representation of the music: they’re a collective gathering of like-minded individuals all celebrating the power of music to the soundtrack of a band who know nothing else but to be powerful from start to finish. Not even the absence of New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down could put a dampener on the show, as it was perfect in every sense of the word. “Where are your friends tonight?” asks Murphy on All My Friends. Well, James, they’re all around you, me and everyone else. And that’s all because of LCD Soundsystem’s unifying music. The picturesque surroundings of Stage ONE couldn’t have been more fitting to end the festival at, once again solidifying the fact that Best Kept Secret is the best festival Holland has to offer. JP
Best Kept Secret will return from 7 to 9 June 2019. Early bird tickets go on sale tomorrow (12 June) at 12pm, and you can get yours here.