The days have been rounded up, the pictures have been edited and 40,000 hangovers have been nursed, which means that it’s time to present you our 20 best performances from Lowlands Festival!
Dutch psychedelic rockers Pauw took their sun-dressed hypnotism to the X Ray for an early afternoon set in the X Ray on Sunday. With debut album Macrocosm Microcosm set to be released in October, there’s a lot worth getting excited about when it comes to Brian Pots and co. During their 45-minute long set (which drew a full crowd), the band demonstrated a wide variety of styles by means of their riff-laden psychedelic revelry. Popular single Shambhala stood out the most, with Pots’ eerie melodies and twisted vocal line bearing resemblance to the likes of Temples and fellow Dutchman Jacco Gardner. Although they still have a hell of a long way to go, Pauw are currently careering head-on into the saturated psychedelic market with everything they’ve got.
19. HOT CHIP
Legendary indietronica group Hot Chip had the honour of headlining the Heineken tent on Saturday, the second day of the festival. New album Why Make Sense? received rave reviews earlier this year, and live the record is even more impressive. Set opener Huarache Lights’ electronic grooves and Over and Over’s monumental melodies saw the whole tent dancing from back to forth as live drummer Sarah Jones and bassist Owen Clarke’s rhythm combo held the group together. Co-frontmen Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard’s vocals intertwined nicely, yet as the set progressed it became clear that people started filing out to go see The Chemical Brothers. This meant that Hot Chip’s set ended with a crowd half the size of the one they started with, which put a small damper on an otherwise tight and impressive set.
18. FATHER JOHN MISTY
Father John Misty, former Fleet Foxes drummer-cum-Jesus in disguise, took to the India just before Hot Chip’s Heineken set. Opening his set with the anthemic and all-round beautiful I Love You, Honeybear, it was very clear that Misty’s set only set out to do one thing – encapsulate the audience completely. And that’s exactly what he did for the duration of his laid-back hour onstage at Lowlands. His newest record (also titled I Love You, Honeybear) has received great reactions from critics and fans alike, and it translated very well into a live band setting. Misty isn’t the first name on everyone’s minds at the moment, although the way the crowd reacted to him on Saturday made him out to be a cult hero in the making. Just like Jesus Christ himself…
Paul Banks and his sharply dressed Interpol buddies took to a busy Heineken tent whilst the Sunday evening was still young, with the band still touring on the back of 2014’s El Pintor. Although some elements of their hour-long Lowlands set did seem ‘off’ and out of place, the show on the whole was a tight performance which utilized all the best aspects of Interpol’s musicianship and musical intricacy. Set opener Say Hello to the Angels introduced dark riffs and Banks’ moody vocals, whereas El Pintor cuts Anywhere and Everything Is Wrong (just two of a mere three songs played from the record) both demonstrated a more polished, ethereal side to the band. If it wasn’t for the slowly emptying tent (Kendrick Lamar was up in the Alpha tent next), Interpol could’ve connected more with the audience and translated it into a set even more majestic than it already was.
16. LIMP BIZKIT
Is it just plain nostalgia, or a genuinely serious booking? Let’s be honest, Limp Bizkit are well past their sell by date, and their current summer stint seems to be Fred Durst and co. doing the usual festival run whilst their wallets fill up. However, none of this stopped the Alpha tent from filling up completely on Friday evening, with Durst, guitarist Wes Borland and the remaining band members (who?) tearing through a hit-packed sit which screamed two words: YOUTH SENTIMENT. Opening with hit single Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle), it was very clear from the off that the Bizkit had just one aim, and only aim only – to get the crowd going absolutely apeshit. And by the looks of it, that’s exactly what they did. Wes Borland strutted around stage dressed like the love child between an erotic gardener and a French mime artist, whilst Durst jumped around stage and interacted with the crowd like his life depended on it. Let’s face it, Limp Bizkit aren’t exactly relevant anymore, but they definitely still put on one hell of a fun show.
15. WHILE SHE SLEEPS
Sheffield-based metalcore quintet While She Sleeps’ Charlie set on Saturday turned out to be nothing short of brutal, regardless of where you stood in the tent. From the back to the front, crowdsurfers emerged and subsequently evaporated back into the crowd, with all eyes on demonic frontman Loz Taylor. His ferocious screams and growls did nothing but what they set out to do, and that was to provide a brutal reckoning force of hardcore metal. It was enough to set off pit after pit in the tiny Charlie tent, which was actually too small for the band. While She Sleeps aren’t the biggest name in metalcore right now, but it’s not going to be too much of a surprise if they eventually spring up out of nowhere and take over the metal world.
14. JAMES BAY
By now, it already seems as though James Bay has been around forever following the release of successful debut album Chaos and the Calm. Hit single Hold Back the River has been inseparable from radio stations the world over, and following single Let it Go is swiftly following in its steps. That’s why it came as no surprise that his set in the Heineken on Friday pulled a crowd so large it spilled out of the actual tent. Early highlight Craving portrayed Bay
and his hat in a rockier light, whereas the aforementioned singles both shone so bright that all you could do was shut your eyes and get lost in the music. Underneath the guise of monstrous mainstream success and pop sheen lies an artist far more talented and intricate than you’d ever imagine, and it’s a side of James Bay which we’ll hopefully see more of as he gets bigger and bigger.
13. CURTIS HARDING
Opening a festival is never an easy task, particularly if it’s when you’ve been moved to 12:30 on the smallest stage. Unfortunately for Michigan’s Curtis Harding, this was the case on Friday lunchtime in the Charlie tent. It didn’t deter him from giving Lowlands the best opening it could have possibly wished for, though. Not only did Harding give a slick performance full of blues-y prowess, but he also gave people the chance to see him play a slot which is well past his worth and musical abilities. The only reason he was on so early was due to production reasons, because otherwise he’d be playing to even more people in a bigger tent. Harding is the next big rock star, and he certainly has the back catalogue and live credibility to justify it.
12. TWENTY ONE PILOTS
If you’ve seen Twenty One Pilots live before, chances are you’ll pretty much know the drill and prepare for any oncoming chaos. If you haven’t seen the American alt pop duo before, chances are you’ll leave the tent with your jaw firmly dropped. During Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun’s chaotic Heineken set on Sunday, Dun’s drums were raised atop the baying crowd as the sticksman proceeded to finish new track Ride in the crowd. Vocalist Tyler Joseph also had his fair share of crowd interaction, spending Holding On to You holding onto the crowd whilst he rapped at an instantaneous pace. New album Blurryface is an amalgamation of everything fine and nice about music today, sans notable guitars. Not that the lack of guitars (the lone ukulele on We Don’t Believe What’s On TV doesn’t count) mattered, though, as Joseph and Dun do more than fine with some drums, piano and a slew of backing tracks. Live, Twenty One Pilots are a formidable force to be reckoned with, and their show in front of a full Heineken crowd definitely laid claim to that.
11. JACCO GARDNER
Appearing on the Heineken stage early in the day on Saturday was the Dutch psychedelic musician Jacco Gardner, whose sophomore studio album Hypnophobia came out earlier this year. Backed by a live band which included Silhouettes guitarist Ben Rider and US-based keyboardist Frank Maston, Gardner and his band sped through an excitingly hypnotic sets of cuts from Hypnophobia and debut album Cabinet of Curiosities. Breakthrough track Clear the Air stood out early on, having been given more depth and prowess this tour. Hypnophobia lead single Find Yourself’s eerie melody and Another You’s catchy guitars both made for set highlights as it became clear that Gardner is getting bigger in the US for a good reason. His Lowlands set might’ve been early in the day, but it still pulled a crowd big enough to appreciate his music, and small enough to withhold the intimate atmosphere Gardner’s music demands.
10. THE DISTRICTS
Philly folk rock quartet The Districts might just be another folk group a la Mumford & Sons (sans banjo) on paper, but onstage they’re far from it. Giving the Charlie a firm wake-up call on Sunday, Rob Grote and his band leant heavily on new album A Flourish and a Spoil. The tent may not have been jam packed, but it was certainly busy enough to see people glaring in from the sides. The emotively dense Funeral Beds made for the set highpoint, rollicking along in a powerful wave of folk and noise rock. Frontman Grote was on energetic for, switching between manic guitar jumps and crazy microphone howls as he put his all into the music on his birthday. As with many smaller artists on this list, The Districts are one to watch for the future and definitely a band that you’ll undoubtedly be hearing more of sooner or later.
Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff’s side project Bleachers is currently kicking up much more of a storm than Fun. will likely ever create anymore, with Antonoff’s former flagship group well and truly done and dusted. Bleachers, who took to the Charlie on Friday, are far more explosive and well suited to Antonoff’s bubbly personality, with the frontman spending the majority of the set bounding around stage euphorically and covered in sweat. Bleachers’ 80s-flecked power rock provided constant energy from Antonoff and his whole band, in particular their gear-hopping, speaker climbing keyboardist. Jack Antonoff is like a reincarnated 1980s hero who has been sent down from space by the gods to preach 80s rock, throwing in an older cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way along the way. A live saxophonist featured as well, before the breakthrough single I Wanna Get Better saw the set climax in a slew of euphoria. Bleachers’ Lowlands set was nothing short of a spectacle, something which Antonoff will always pull of regardless of how small the stage or crowd is.
It’s almost as if all the best Lowlands shows this year took place in the Charlie tent, because here’s another one! Kent duo Slaves like to keep things simple and stripped back in all departments but the actual music. Onstage, the Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent duo stick to two upright drums and some cymbals, plus one guitar. Musically, though, it’s almost as if a whole live band have come along for the ride; a ride so rough and nasty that it’s like travelling through Brixton on an eerie Saturday night out. Walking onstage to the strummed acoustics of Are You Satisfied?, Slaves drew solely from their debut album of the same name. Pits erupted from the word go, with the best moments coming towards the end during rambunctious renditions of Hey and The Hunter. Slaves are the best thing to come out of Kent in a long time, and their onstage banter and sarcasm would alone be enough to carry the whole show.
7. FFS (FRANZ FERDINAND + SPARKS)
“Collaborations don’t work”. That’s what FFS co-frontman and Franz Ferdinand lothario Alex Kapranos ironically sings on FFS’ song of the same name, a six minute theatrical epic. However, despite Kapranos’ musings, it seems to be the case that collaborations actually do work. Earlier this year, Franz Ferdinand joined forces with LA cult heroes Sparks to form FFS, a supergroup who achieved the rare accolade of releasing an album which wasn’t terrible! This year the group, pretty much a match made in heaven, are busy touring their self-titled debut album across the world. The record is filled with acerbic lyrics, theatrical absurdity and the most iconic hallmarks of both groups. On Saturday, the collective took to the Alpha tent and put on a stellar show in front of a full crowd. Opening with debut single Johnny Delusional, the hour-long set took in highlights from FFS (Police Encounters, Piss Off), Franz Ferdinand (Do You Want To, Take Me Out) and Sparks (This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us, When Do I Get to Sing “My Way”). The best reception of the set was ultimately reserved for Franz’s very own Take Me Out, a true behemoth of a festival anthem in its own right. Although FFS is just a side project, it’s definitely one credible enough to continue as a full-on band. “Collaborations do work”.
On Friday night, the Bravo tent had the honour of receiving Canadian indie dance pioneers Caribou in front of a full crowd. Last year, the Dan Snaith-helmed project released the acclaimed Our Love, which featured unorthodox summer anthem Can’t Do Without You. Its slow, progressive build-up and demure emotional intensity combined to create a unique track perfect for festivals the world over. As its final tones died down, it became very clear that Caribou’s set (which was complete with live band and intricate lighting) was only going to go in one direction – upwards. And that’s exactly what it did, with earlier track Odessa absolutely tearing the tent up majestically. Bodies flew across the Bravo’s wooden surface in groove-laden bliss whilst Snaith and his band went from strength to strength. It’s therefore no surprise that Caribou are being hailed as the best performance from the weekend by many, because it was all there on Friday night. You didn’t even have to look hard for it.
With fellow Australian behemoths Tame Impala set to headline the Heineken on Sunday, it was up to Perth’s Pond to prepare psych-loving fans for Kevin Parker and co. earlier in the day over in the Charlie. The band, who share members and crew with Impala, took to a packed tent in the early afternoon as they presented elements of new album Man, It Feels Like Space Again. The record consist of nine spaced out tracks laced with reverb, hypnotic vocals and grisly grooves. Taking to the stage bang on time (just like almost every performance of the weekend), the Nick Allbrook-fronted group opened with Waiting Around for Grace, a glam rock stomper in its own right. The likes of prog banger You Broke My Cool, psych-rockabilly track Elvis’ Flaming Star and the epic Man, It Feels Like Space Again all appeared throughout and cemented the exact reasons why Pond are so good live. Nick Allbrook’s unbridled onstage energy and skilful guitar playing was extremely exciting to watch, as were the rest of his band (whose guitarist/Tame Impala visualist Jay Watson was celebrating his birthday). They might forever remain in Tame Impala’s shadow, but it doesn’t seem to be a shadow that they exactly mind standing in.
4. DJANGO DJANGO
Closing out the Bravo for the weekend were London-based art rockers Django Django. Although based in London, their members hail from across the United Kingdom. New album Born Under Saturn came out earlier this year, and it’s an extremely eclectic mixture of danceable indie rock (Shake & Tremble), electro (First Light) and occasional dub grooves (Shot Down). Live, however, the record receives a huge transformation which turns it into a club-ready stomper of a record. Opening on older track Hail Bop, the quartet tore through an hour’s worth of non-stop vibrant movement and euphoric energy. Set highlight Default featured later on, with the likes of saxophone-led Reflections and the trippy 4000 Years also both standing out. The tent may have only been half filled (Django Django also suffered from the curse of clashing with Major Lazer), but it didn’t stop the people there from going crazy as if their lives depended on it. Frontman Vincent Neff was celebrating his birthday, which meant that he was in a great mood and on absolutely top form. Django Django may not have been the biggest name to headline the Bravo in recent years, but what they lacked in audience they definitely made up for in energy.
3. NOTHING BUT THIEVES
Have you ever seen a band live and immediately thought to yourself, “This band are going to be huge?” Well, that’s exactly what everybody thought once London quintet Nothing But Thieves rounded up their Charlie set on Saturday night. The Conor Mason-fronted five-piece have yet to release a debut album (it’s coming out later this year), but it hasn’t stopped the hype from developing at an exponential rate. The Charlie tent was already almost full half an hour before the show was set to start, with lots of fangirls clogging up the barrier. Once the show kicked off, people had to be stopped from entering the vicinity of the tent due to overcrowding, meaning that set opener Itch received the best possible reception. The band, whose guitarist Dom was celebrating his birthday, seemed more than happy to be there as they recounted all the times that Holland truly welcomed them with open arms. “We love coming to your country, and we love your booze and weed” proclaimed Mason excitedly as the band kicked into new single Trip Switch, its huge chorus already being sung back by fans. Set closer Ban All the Music received an extra heavy layer of guitars as it ripped through the Charlie, with the band being cheered on for at least five minutes once the show came to a close. They’re back in Holland this November, but it already seems as though the venues in question (Rotterdam’s Rotown and Amsterdam’s Bitterzoet) are going to be too small to contain the madness Nothing But Thieves create.
2. TAME IMPALA
Aforementioned psych behemoths Tame Impala closed the Heineken stage on Sunday in synthesizer-bathed style, just on the back of new record Currents being released and subsequently hitting #1 on Dutch shores. Frontman and founder Kevin Parker and his live band took to a visual-heavy stage setting as they kicked into an untitled, drawn-out intro. Comeback track Let It Happen followed swiftly, its manic melodies and euphoric vocals sprawling in and out of consciousness throughout the packed tent. Opening on an eight minute long disco psych banger is a bold move for a band like Tame Impala to make, but it was definitely the right thing to do as it perfectly set the scene for the rest of the set. Five tracks from Currents featured, most notably new single The Less I Know the Better and the groove-laden ‘Cause I’m a Man, which received a massive reaction from the 10,000-strong crowd. Preceding album Lonerism also featured heavily, climaxing in a crazy rendition of hit single Elephant. Closing on a melancholically euphoric Apocalypse Dreams, it became very clear that Tame Impala are no longer that “small psych band from down under”. Rather, Tame Impala are currently one of the biggest bands in the world, showing no sign of stopping whatsoever.
1. ENTER SHIKARI
Topping our Top 20 this year is St Albans’ very own Enter Shikari, who proved all doubters wrong on Sunday and absolutely destroyed the Heineken tent. New album The Mindsweep came out back in January, featuring heavily during their hour-long, energy filled set. What many people didn’t know, though, was that the band only arrived onsite half an hour before they were due to take to the stage. Thanks to much assistance from local crew and their own ‘Shikari Crew’, the band managed to take to the stage right on time and tear into Mindsweep opener The Appeal & the Mindsweep I. Its subdued electronic bleeps and trance synths made way for a hard and heavy section of destructive guitars, fierce screams and Rob Rolfe’s fast-paced drumming, all of which combined to form a wall of anthemia. Destabilise’s pounding hardcore electronica and Radiate’s fierce riffs both followed, making for an extremely strong start to the mid-afternoon set. The crowd were absolutely hectic from the word go, with pits erupting the moment the first guitars started tearing through the PA. A new Drum and Bass into for The Last Garrison preceded The Mindsweep’s lead single, with roadie Steve Muncaster filling in each verse to come and scream some war cries. Once the song came to an end, the band powered straight into a brutal Juggernauts, which saw the first crowdsurfers start to emerge. Breakthrough track Sorry You’re Not a Winner also featured, receiving an unsurprisingly wild reaction from the crowd. Its signature handclaps and riff were met by the crowd like an old friend, satisfying everyone in the first half of the tent more than any other song in the set could. Newer single The Paddington Frisk saw frontman Rou Reynolds jump into the crowd and incite a circle pit around his microphone stand, whereas There’s a Price On Your Head saw the him climb scaffolding and do his best Batman impression. The set eventually came to an end on Gandhi Mate, Gandhi, which came complete with an interspersed Elton John mid section and Flintstones references. “Yabba dabba doo one son, we don’t want your rules” shouted Reynolds as the song brought Enter Shikari’s show to a predictably chaotic close. Bassist Chris Batten ended up on top of Reynolds’ electronic equipment as he and guitarist Rory Clewlow smashed the keyboard set-up apart, whilst Reynolds himself was in the process of destroying Rob Rolfe’s drums. Although this was a normal day at the office for Reynolds and co. (save for the late arrival and rushed load-on), it was still a set which showed Lowlands exactly how you’re to put on a show. Enter Shikari didn’t just put on the best performance of Lowlands this year, but potentially even the best performance of 2015 in general. Jack Parker (All
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Lowlands 2016 will take place from 19-21 August at Evenemententerrein Walibi World in Biddinghuizen, Holland. Click here for more pictures from Lowlands 2015.