The first day of Lowlands Festival was met with heavy bouts of evening rain as the likes of Tom Odell, Die Antwoord, Biffy Clyro and Muse stood out far and wide above the rest. Although having just not sold out, it didn’t deter Lowlands from building up an abundance of hype which lasted all throughout the weekender’s opening day.
Singer songwriter Tom Odell took new album Wrong Crowd to the Alpha stage just after lunchtime, positioning himself behind his grand piano for a slew of heartfelt power ballads which were backed by his talented live band. Odell himself, as expected, was the star of the show, with new single Magnetised and classic hit Another Love both making for raucous set highlights. Electropop outfit AlunaGeorge followed over on the Bravo stage, having expanded their live show recently to include a percussionist alongside Aluna and George. It didn’t help all too much though, with their recycled RnB-pop infused tracks not making it further in terms of exuberance than breakthrough single (and set opener) Attracting Flies. Singer-songwriter Jake Bugg followed back on the Alpha stage, having managed to overcome any suspected career suicide moves with new record On My One, an album which centres on topics of love, loneliness and desperation. Older track Two Fingers opened the set, proving that his old classics managed to get the Alpha singing along at the top of their voices better so than newer tracks Trouble Town and new single Love, Hope & Misery. As ever, Bugg looks equal parts comfortable and uncomfortable in his position onstage, but it definitely doesn’t take away from his recognizable voice and (finally) exciting live show.
Back on the Heineken stage, which has received some sort of visual makeover, Swedish trio Miike Snow attempted to save themselves from what was ultimately a set which slid down a slippery slope at rapid pace. Having arrived onsite 20 minutes before set time due to a missed flight, the real star of the show was Paul Kalkbrenner’s private jet, helping the band fly to a nearby airport just before they were due to start. A whole host of Eurodance, funk and groove elements made their way in and out of the set, but there just wasn’t enough interest from both sides of the barrier to help the set gain some sort of momentum. Speaking of momentum, the Alpha stage soon played host to what was undoubtedly the most unbelievably weird set of the day (and likely weekend) so far – Die Antwoord. The South African outfit, fronted by Ninja and Yo-Landi, have a knack for the surreal and shocking, proving so with their hardcore electro-meets-rap missives. Their backdrop featured a huge video screen behind which DJ Hi-Tek was positioned, with Ninja and Yo-Landi often launching themselves about the stage, and even into the crowd at one point too. New single Banana Brain is just as weird as you’d expect from the group, proving once and for all that music doesn’t have to make sense for it to be a good laugh. Flying the flag for hip-hop over on the Heineken stage was New York trio Flatbush Zombies, a collective who do and say exactly what’s on the tin. That was until the set came to an end, though, with the threesome finishing their set on a cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. The crowd went wild, and quite rightly so because Flatbush Zombies are the saviours of rap that the world didn’t know it needed.
Lowlands isn’t just a festival for established acts like Tom Odell, Jake Bugg or Die Antwoord, though; rather, it can even be the place where you discover most of your favourite acts. Swedish producer and vocalist Elias performed a short-but-sharp set on the Charlie stage in the early evening, laying claim to all the hype that surrounded him when he signed to behemoth label Warner. Backed by a band and two cloak-clad backing singers, Elias’ electronica-infused soul pop took the tent by storm and ensured that not a single crowd member lost their focus. Standout track Down N Out was just as powerful onstage as it is on record, and it’s set to become his defining track if he keeps going in his current direction – onwards and upwards. Nu-metallers Hollywood Undead performed on the Heineken stage just after, still riding the train of nostalgia which left once early track Undead sent them in the right direction. Sure, they aren’t the most innovative or relevant band around today, but they sure still know how to pull a full tent without much difficulty. One moment in the set saw the band pull a young boy up onstage, before asking him for his favourite song. He didn’t know what to say, so the band told him what to say before further telling him that 13 will be a good age to start drinking alcohol. They might be called Hollywood Undead, but is their legacy even alive? Who knows.
Cali quartet Warpaint previewed new album Heads Up in front of a half-full India stage, with the four girls all dancing and grooving away to their own infectious and catchy beats and rhythms. Drummer Stella Mozgawa is brilliant at what she does, forming a perfect rhythm section with Jenny Lee Lindberg for the likes of funk-laden singles New Song and Disco//Very. New album Heads Up is set to send the band in a new direction, one which they were certainly not afraid of showing off at Lowlands. Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro took new album Ellipsis to the neighbouring Bravo tent not too long after, with Simon Neil and co. opening their set on the ever-massive single Wolves of Winter amidst a sea of strobe lights and visible lack of clothing. Early cut Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies stood out, partly thanks to Neil’s manic stares and memorable onstage antics. Brotherly duo James (bass) and Ben Johnston (drums) formed the band’s formidable rhythm section, one which formed the backbone of riff-heavy anthem Black Chandelier and catchy new single Howl. Biffy Clyro are festival headliners of the future, and this was just the beginning. Teignmouth trio Muse closed out the first day in front of some 30,000 festivalgoers, performing a majestic set which drew from across the band’s vast back catalogue. Set opener Psycho brought with itself bouts of anarchy as Matt Bellamy’s virtuous guitar skills stood out. Early hit Plug in Baby made an appearance as the whole tent sung along loudly, something which they also did for the likes of Absolution cuts Hysteria and Time is Running Out, as well as later cut Uprising and show closer Knights of Cydonia. It was a short set for Muse’s standards, but that didn’t make it any less powerful or memorable than it always is. Whereas most bands in Muse’s position tend to hit a glass ceiling at this point in their career, Muse are only just surpassing it.
Lowlands Festival continues today with sets from Sigur Ros, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Sum 41 and Sleeping With Sirens.