2015 will surely go down as the Year of the Festivals. The Dutch live music scene has seen a large explosion in festivals over the last few months, with at least two decently sized festivals occurring each weekend. Holland has a lot to offer when it comes to festivals, just look at the successive June weekends which saw Pinkpop, Best Kept Secret and Down the Rabbit Hole all attract more people than ever before! July went a bit quieter, with a heavier shift towards alternative festivals, yet August will see the Dutch festival season peak (and subsequently climax) once more with the 23rd edition of Lowlands Festival. It’s one of the highlights of the festival season, and this year looks to be no different. All Things Loud has taken a look at the complete line-up, and we’ve dissected it after the jump. Read on for more.
A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise, commonly referred to as Lowlands, likes to set its sights on the youth of Holland. Taking place on the grounds of the Walibi World theme park (the backstage area actually allows artists to ride on rollercoasters), it’s a weekend full of fun, hedonism and new discoveries. Whereas Pinkpop sets out to capture the biggest mainstream names in music, Lowlands (which is the second biggest festival in the country) looks for the biggest alternative names, new discoveries and even the best that art, culture and dance have to offer. It’s therefore no surprise that the festival went from an ordinary weekender to hype #1 in the space of a few years. Last year, the likes of Disclosure, Queens of the Stone Age and the National all appeared high up on the bill, with Bring Me the Horizon, Royal Blood and Temples all forming part of the day programming. This year, the festival has aimed just as high and captured the likes of Bastille, Kendrick Lamar, Ben Howard and Tame Impala as some of its big shots. However, as you’ll find out later on, Lowlands isn’t all about the popularity of a particular artist, it’s about the whole experience.
Lowlands 2014 (c) Jack Parker, All Things Loud
The festival has once again been divided into seven stages (all tents), each one named after a different letter of the NATO alphabet. Alpha, the main stage, easily fits 30,000 people and will see the biggest names of the weekend do their thing. The Grolsch stage follows a similar format, yet at a smaller capacity of circa 10,000. The other five stages, India, X-Ray, Charlie, Bravo and Lima, all feature a variety of genres and artists who are either there to please existing fans or introduce themselves to baying audiences. Alongside the music, there’s also a Lowlands University (in the Echo tent), a theatre tent named Julia, a comedy bar called Romeo and hedonistic stop-out, the Titty Twister. It might seem like too much, but everything is divided nicely so that you barely miss a thing. What about the actual music, though? And what’s actually worth checking out? Well, let’s have a look at each section of the line-up poster (below), and pick out a few highlights.
All Time Low at the TivoliVredenburg in March
THE BIG NAMES
Lowlands has big names in abundance. One of these is the Kevin Parker-fronted psych project Tame Impala, whose new album Currents has just hit the #1 spot in Holland. It’s not hard to see why, with the Australian band perfectly combining elements of psychedelic rock, electronica and dreamy vocals on the new record. Lead single Let it Happen, which clocks in at just under eight minutes, is a cacophony of noise nothing short of pure bliss. Although Currents sees Tame Impala put down the guitars and replace them with synthesizers, it also sees frontman Parker adopt a newfound sense of self-realization, something which helps him ooze with confidence throughout the record. Expect their Lowlands set to be a legendary hour, especially if they decide to pull some of their older, more psychedelic bangers out of the bag. Franz Ferdinand and Sparks collaboration FFS are also appearing high up, with their recent self-titled debut encompassing the best aspects of both groups. Franz Ferdinand’s anthemic art rock and Sparks’ theatricality are the perfect combination, both on paper and through the PA. Standout track Johnny Delusional absolutely tore the roof off at Glastonbury last month, yet you can expect that it’ll be both groups’ back catalogues which do the trick in Biddinghuizen. Newfound rap god Kendrick Lamar will also be there this year, and his performance may well be the highlight of the weekend. Rap has always done well at Lowlands, and Kendrick Lamar has subsequently done very well in Holland. Recent album To Pimp a Butterfly has been critically acclaimed the world over, with Lamar’s ability to combine exquisite storytelling and funk-laden instrumentals particularly notable. Biddinghuizen will unarguably go wild for Lamar, and that’s a fact. Elsewhere atop the line-up you’ll find four massive dance names: Mark Ronson, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers and Major Lazer. Dutch people love radio-ready dance, and these four names will likely pull large crowds. Dutch people also love a good mosh, something which Limp Bizkit will be largely responsible for. Although their nu-metal is well past its sell by date, you can guarantee that Fred Durst and co. will go down like a storm in a teacup come the end of August. Alternative dance pioneer Caribou and alt rockers Interpol will also appear, with the latter’s new album El Pintor one of the best records of 2014. Interpol are festival headliners of the future, and their Lowlands set will most likely demonstrate exactly why we should believe in them. Some of the big names may not be everyone’s cup of tea (hi, Passenger), but they’ll definitely make for massive moments.
Jacco Gardner, up in smoke at Life I Live 2015 (c) Jack Parker, All Things Loud
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Alongside the bill-topping names you’ll find a massive selection of medium-to-large sized bands, some worthy of topping the poster in future years. One of these bands is Enter Shikari, whose ‘genreless’ mixture of hardcore punk, trance and political presence is a definite force to be reckoned with. It’s no surprise that they’ve been hailed one of the best live bands in the world, because that’s exactly what they are. Anybody who hasn’t seen the band live before will definitely be in for a treat when the St Albans quartet take to the stage in Biddinghuizen. If you’ve lost your shit (and shoes) during Enter Shikari’s set, then the only way onwards is to wind down and relax. That’s what Jacco Gardner and his psychedelic baroque pop was made for. New album Hypnophobia carries that vintage sheen which made psychedelic music popular in the first place, so it’s no surprise that the young Dutch musician has made waves on both sides of the Atlantic. Find Yourself’s eerie melody is best experienced whilst spacing out, and where better to experience this than at Lowlands? Psychedelic music goes hand in hand with Lowlands’ youthful, effervescent ethos, yet you could honestly say that for every genre. It’s a festival which caters for all, even your average ‘scene’-fangirl. Last year saw Bring Me the Horizon and Neck Deep pull large crowds, something which both All Time Low and Twenty One Pilots will undoubtedly do well at this year. The latter duo are currently promoting third studio album Blurryface, an eclectic mix of dance, RnB, hip hop and everything in-between. Their live shows are renowned to be absolutely mental, something which your typical Lowlands crowd absolutely loves. Expect Twenty One Pilots to climb scaffolding, play on top of the crowd and tear Lowlands a brand new one. Elsewhere on the line-up you’ll find art rockers Django Django, dance rockers Hot Chip and Aussie slacker Courtney Barnett, all three of whom are flying the flag for independent music. The great thing about Lowlands is that, wherever you go, there will always be something which takes your fancy. It might essentially be a drawback too, but on the whole it makes for an extremely exciting weekend.
Enter Shikari at Rock am Ring (top; Natasja de Vries) and in Amsterdam (bottom; Jack Parker)
THE BEST OF THE REST
As a wise Dutch man once said, “een festival is niets zonder een sterk randprogamma”. Lowlands may even have the best day programming of the whole summer, because it’s the only festival where you can skip an hour with The Districts to check out some science lectures, or get lost in the Titty Twister at 2am with someone you just met in the pit during Slaves. If you’re not into that, you can also spend your time eating on a floating Italian restaurant (recommended), spacing out to Pond (equally recommended) or trying to figure out which vintage vinyl records you want to buy in the festival market area (only do this if you are really, really bored). It’s all there at Lowlands, yet sometimes you really do have to go looking for it. As for the rest? Well, just wait and see until you get there, because some things really aren’t worth all the hype until you’re standing there, at 3am, sweating whilst you try and get your shit together during Palmbomen. If you go to Lowlands and don’t enjoy yourself in one way or another, then you’re clearly doing something wrong. Ideally, one should leave Biddinghuizen with one of the following: 1) a whole new group of friends, 2) aching legs from excessive walking, or 3) a newfound love for The Maccabees. Have fun.
Lowlands takes place from 21-23 August at Evenemententerrein Walibi World. Tickets are still available from www.lowlands.nl. If the above preview isn’t enough for you, then check out our previous recommendations here and here. You can also click here and here for our coverage of Lowlands 2014, which includes this interview with Neck Deep.
Listen to the official Lowlands playlist here.
All pictures belong to and are completely owned by All Things Loud unless stated otherwise.