The final day of Best Kept Secret‘s mammoth fifth edition came to a magnificent ending last night by means of Radiohead‘s most intimate festival performance in years. The iconic Thom Yorke-fronted collective carried a somewhat uninspiring final day line-up, one which unfortunately posed one question: did Radiohead’s booking end up compromising the rest of the final day’s billing? For some acts this definitely seemed the case, amongst them the dreary Strand of Oaks and misplaced Marlon Williams. Other acts, however, managed to pull of displays of brilliance which not only lived up to individual expectations, but also those of the festival as a whole.
The aforementioned New Zealand native Marlon Williams took to Stage ONE in the blistering heat, performing his serene alt-folk in what can honestly be described as the wrong place and wrong time. Williams’ absolutely soaring voice may have torn through the Hilvarenbeek air, but it definitely would have come across much better in an indoor setting such as the sonically satisfying Stage TWO. Said stage is where Scandinavian vocalist Aurora appeared next, putting her strong voice to the test in front of a decently sized crowd. Aurora has been somewhat of a success story in the last year or so, with her twinkling vocals accompanied generally by booming percussive tendencies and hypnotic rhythms, both of which intertwine to give Aurora a perfect basis for her vocals. It may be becoming a case of seen it all before, but it’s still very exciting to watch such a sublime vocalist at work.
A majority of the day’s most intersting work took place across the festival’s three smaller stages, with Japanese psychedelic outfit Kikagaku Moyo and Dutch bands Iguana Death Cult and The Homesick both receiving critical acclaim from fans throughout the day, though. Despite this, however, it seemed as though many had their sights set on Radiohead and ensuring they remained within the proximity of Stage ONE to secure a good spot come 10pm. Icelandic group Kaleo, who have just cancelled all of their July shows, performed a fledgling set on Stage ONE in heat even more blistering than what Marlon Williams had to deal with. The band’s easily reproducible soft indie rock (with an acoustic edge, mind) climaxed on the predictable Way Down We Go, with frontman JJ Julius Son bearing as much charisma as a Hunkemoller model, V-neck t-shirt and all. Thankfully, Scottish boozers Arab Strap made for a far more exciting time for the duration of their Stage TWO set. Having marked their return recently following a ten year absence, Aidan Moffat and co. ensured Hilvarenbeek that it was almost as though they’d never left.
Indiana project Strand of Oaks gave Stage ONE something to cheer about when the Timothy Showalter-helmed project pulled off a solid hour of borderline dad rock, seemingly warming up Radiohead’s biggest fans on a day which couldn’t have gotten any warmer had the weather gods tried. The party didn’t start until just after Strand of Oaks’ set, though, when the Pakistani world music collective Junun (together with Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Express) appeared on Stage TWO together with Radiohead’s very own Johnny Greenwood. The hour-long musical spectacle started in the midst of the tent’s near-packed crowd as the group’s musicians worked their way towards the stage, setting the tone for what was to be a fun-filled double header on the festival’s second largest stage. Belgian brothers Soulwax topped its bill following a lacklustre James Blake set, utilizing a spectacular production to bring new album From Deewee to life. Fan favourite Do You Want to Get Into Trouble? instantly made for chaos down the front, with this intense crowd interaction worming its way throughout the whole tent until not one person stood still. It was quite a sight to behold, especially if you contrast it with the utter beauty of Best Kept Secret’s dream headliner, Radiohead.
Thom Yorke and co. closed out the festival’s fifth edition with a 24-song set on Stage ONE which drew from across the band’s entire catalogue. Opening on the haunting Daydreaming, it slowly but surely became clear that Yorke and his men were opting for a more introverted approach to their music which slotted in well with Best Kept Secret’s lowkey vibe. Sparse, energetic moments were few and far between, with Yorke going mental on the scuzzy Myxomatosis, utilizing his much famed dance moves for a brief outlet of cathartic energy. The set drew predominantly from last year’s studio album A Moon Shaped Pool, as well as the stellar 2007 release In Rainbows, one of the band’s best. The haunting Exit Music (For a Film) made for absolute silence across the whole field, so much so that you could hear a pin drop as Yorke delicately strummed his acoustic guitar. It was a climactic point in a set which at times depicted the band as tired and uninterested, having been criticized by fans for ending the show on the rather calm There, There some twenty minutes ahead of time. Previous shows have featured breakthrough hit Creep and fan-favourite Karma Police, however neither of these made an appearance in Hilvarenbeek as the Oxford outfit opted for a more introverted set which leant more towards the band’s calmer songs. Criticism aside, though, Radiohead’s set was one which will undoubtedly go down in festival history. Not only did the relatively new festival snag a dream headliner, but they also gave them a stage which suited their music so well that it couldn’t have ever been anywhere else.
The festival may have encountered a Sunday which lacked in quality, but it was definitely made up for by Radiohead’s breathtaking Stage ONE spectacle. Best Kept Secret will return next summer from 8-10 June, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how organizers Friendly Fire will potentially top this year’s big name billing. Knowing them, though, it’ll undoubtedly be another exciting weekend.