The first day of Best Kept Secret was met with a constant stream of torrential downpours, all of which put a damper on what was set to be a stunning open day. Although vast segments of the day were met with sun, it was ultimately wet weather and a near-storm which ensured that 15,000 revellers all left the festival site drenched in mud and wet sand. Having said that, though, the day still featured a whole host of stellar performances from some of the world’s best new discoveries. From afrofunk all the way through to witty noise rock, Best Kept Secret’s first day had it all.
London outfit Kid Wave had the honour of opening the whole weekend, presenting themselves to the world inside a brand new Stage Five. The tent has been moved to the other side of the festival site now, having also been increased in size. Kid Wave had no trouble filling the tent at an early hour, performing tracks from last year’s Wonderlust LP. Formidable frontwoman Lea Emmery is a force to be reckoned with, her voice soaring through the relatively full tent at lightning speed as the quartet fully proved their potential. Rob Goodwin-fronted The Slow Show opened Stage Two not too long after, bringing with them some soft, subtle vibes to Hilvarenbeek’s illustrious surroundings. With the rain pouring heavily outside, it made for a perfect indoor atmosphere which Goodwin and his band totally relished. “Every time we play a show it rains outside, it’s like fate” declared the frontman, with standout tracks Dresden and Bloodline seeing the tent fall so silent that a pin could drop. Goodwin knows how to captivate a crowd with his voice and eerie stage presence, and it’s something which he’ll probably be able to pull off for quite some time.
Back on Stage Five, Pennsylvanian punk outfit Beach Slang performed the first raucous set of the weekend. Despite fitting better onstage at the Vans Warped Tour, frontman James Alex and his band still pulled a full tent which was packed with dedicated fans before the show even started. The band specializes in the type of punk rock which pulls at your heartstrings so much that you’d feel inclined to start crying after the first chord. “This is our last show of the tour, so thank you for rocking out with us” declared Alex early on, with standout track Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas making for the most exhilarating moment in the show. This definitely isn’t the last you’ve heard of Beach Slang, that’s for sure. Over on Stage Three, London electro-pop outfit Beaty Heart took to a full tent as they performed tracks from upcoming studio album Till the Tomb. The trio, all of whom were bathed in dense purple lights, were vocally on-point and musically tight to the point that everything could have even been pre-planned (it wasn’t, but the band are so on form together that it could be). Set closer Flora swathed the crowd in electronic vibes, with the percussion skipping beats and the chorus soaring far and wide over the enthusiastic crowd. It’s taken some time, but it finally looks like Beaty Heart are getting somewhere after so much hard graft.
Dream pop outfit DIIV took to Stage One not too long after, making up for their cancelled April tour with a dreamy psych explosion. Opening on (Druun Pt. II), Cole Smith and co. drew heavily from stunning new album Is The Is Are, with standout track Under the Sun making for an extremely dreamy moment in the show. The band are no longer as intense as they used to be in a live setting; rather, the focus has shifted to a dreamy blend of psychedelia and pop which leans more towards Beach House than it does Beach Slang. Over on Stage Three, Danish synth-pop collective Liss performed their first major show on Dutch soil as they proved that all the hype surrounding them was well worth the anticipation. French electro-pop artist Christine & the Queens subsequently showed Stage One how to put on a proper pop show, utilizing synchronized dancers and her sickly sweet voice to achieve a magnificent finale. Hit single Christine received the biggest crowd reaction, ultimately proving that Christine & the Queens are more than just a little gimmick from France.
Beach House took to Stage Two just before headliner Beck, performing a selection of tracks from last year’s albums Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars. Opening on the drone-laden Levitation, frontwoman Victoria Legrand did her best in holding back from interacting too much with the crowd. The show was ultimately a well-rounded exercise in focus and precision, something which Beach House achieved effortlessly. Cult legend Beck headlined Stage One, taking to the stage fifteen minutes later than planned and kicking straight into a visually thrilling Devil’s Haircut. The 18-track set saw Beck perform tracks from throughout his expansive career, with breakthrough hit Loser appearing early on as the half-full field sang along in sync. Was Beck a worthy headliner, though? On paper, yes; onstage, not really. He fell just short of the mark, with his deadpan stage presence having been made up for by the spectacular visuals and tight live band. One band who didn’t rely on any gimmicks to achieve a fantastic finale was Preoccupations, formerly (and controversially) known as Viet Cong. “We’re Preoccupations, let’s see how long that lasts” declared frontman Matthew Flegel early on, with set opener Continental Shelf instantly providing a full Stage Five with intense post-punk vibes. They may have changed their name and seen themselves receive a dip in recognition, but the live show was still tighter than ever. African dance/music collective Nozinja ended the day in truly wacky style, proving that there really is something for everyone in Hilvarenbeek.
Best Kept Secret continues today with performances from Glass Animals, Bloc Party and Editors.