This year, Dutch weekender Best Kept Secret will celebrate its fifth anniversary. The Hilvarenbeek weekender has spent a few years building up a solid reputation for itself, with the Friendly Fire-helmed bash this year hosting a bill which features huge names such as absolute legends Radiohead and indie rock superstars Arcade Fire. The first day of the festival, though, was all about the smaller and more aspiring names. Amongst the vast array of subtle discoveries were Norwegian quartet Slotface, singer-songwriter Leif Vollebekk and Australian psych-lords King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.
The aforementioned Leif Vollebekk had the absolute honour of opening the whole festival with his serene singer-songwriter musings, most of which bordered along the soulful and bluesy. The Canadian musician took to Stage FIVE at the start of the afternoon, pulling a decently sized crowd as he performed tracks from across his back catalogue, including brand new third release Twin Solitude, which further cemented his status as one of the weekend’s literal best kept secrets. That’s exactly what is so great about this festival, because every stone left unturned is a decision ultimately regretted. Norwegian pop-punkers Sløtface injected a solid dose of energy into their high-octane set, one which incorporated tracks from upcoming debut album Try Not to Freak Out (due in September). Frontwoman Haley Shea commands the stage and crowd with absolute prowess as the band around her intertwine with one another on the likes of the anthemic Empire Records, empowering Magazine and dance-y Take Me Dancing. Sløtface are definitely a band to look out for within the next coming months, because one day soon you won’t stop hearing about them. Fellow Scandinavian musician Agnes Obel took to Stage ONE not too long after, however her set wasn’t exactly worth writing home about if you compare it with Vollebekk’s pure emotion and Slotface’s relentless energy.
One set definitely worth making a mental note of, though, was that of Belgian act Millionaire, who made their grand return earlier this year following ten years of inactivity. Multi-instrumentalist Tim Vanhamel helmed the whole affair, commandeering the crowd into an absolute frenzy as he careered across stage with menace in his eyes. Comeback single I’m Not Who You Think You Are stood out early on, proving exactly why the Benelux needed a Millionaire comeback. British quartet Metronomy followed over on Stage ONE with a set which was nothing short of funk and excitement, with the Joe Mount-fronted outfit kicking off proceedings with the 70s disco-ready Back Together. The track is just one of many which showcase Metronomy’s ability to start a party, one which goes in the complete opposite direction of Australian septet King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s absolute whirlwind of a set. The Stu Mackenzie-fronted band don’t tend to stop for more than one minute at a time, as they’re currently gearing up to release the second of 2017’s five studio albums next week. Murder of the Universe is just the latest in a string of chaotic experiments which Mackenzie and co. have carried out, with their set on Stage TWO ending on a raucous rendition of jazzy banger The River. There’s no stopping King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard; but then again, it doesn’t look like they want to stop.
Rap duo Run the Jewels had the honour of topping the bill on the opening day, entering the stage at a considerably more punctual time than when they showed up 45 minutes late during this year’s Melkweg show. Killer Mike and El-P’s conjoined flows are absolutely unstoppable, especially when they pull the bangers out of the bag in front of a packed Stage ONE crowd which you could estimate held some 9,000 people. Early highlight Legend Has It eventually ended up carrying the whole set, one which was nothing short of excitement. They might have been the ‘small’ headliner this year, however their set was all but that. British singer-songwriter The Japanese House, who’s signed to the same label as The 1975, closed out proceedings on Stage THREE with a set which bordered along the serene and utterly beautiful. It was a calm and collected end to a day which ended up being full of surprises, and it’s only the beginning of what looks to be another fruitful edition of Best Kept Secret.
The festival continues today with sets by Arcade Fire, Cigarettes After Sex and Cloud Nothings.