Lowlands 2016: The Top 15 Best Performances

Yesterday, some 50,000 revellers departed Biddinghuizen’s wet and muddy camping grounds as the 24th edition of Lowlands Festival came to a successful end. The weekender saw stellar sets by the likes of established behemoths Foals, Muse and Biffy Clyro, as well as up-and-coming outfits Whitney and Elias. Check out the festival’s Top 15 performances now.

15 Sleeping With Sirens
What we said: “Emo revivalists Sleeping With Sirens subsequently took the Bravo stage by storm not too long after, having spent a solid year transforming plain studio album Madness into a live beast which holds a candle up to its predecessors (in particular 2013’s anthemic Feel). The Kellin Quinn-fronted band may still have a home in the ‘scene’, something which the first six rows of their crowd proved, but they’re all the more determined to step outside of that box and become something bigger than what they’re perceived to be – poppy rock for teenage girls. And they overcame that presumption well, with set opener We Like it Loud seeing Quinn and co. bound themselves energetically about the stage. Fellow Madness cut Kick Me sparked similar riffage, with bassist Justin Hills the star of the show thanks to his creative facial expressions and knack for running around the stage. The newer cuts may sound relatively different, but they still live and breathe the same air of energy that Sleeping With Sirens have possessed since the start.”

sleepingwith sirens

14 Sum 41
What we said: “Once Sum 41 took to the stage, it looked like they’d pulled a crowd double that of what Sleeping With Sirens managed all set. Frontman Deryck Whibley is back from having never been gone, with fellow band members Brownsound and Cone ever-present as per usual. New album 13 Voices is due soon, although the band’s hour-long set seemed more like it relied on greatest hits than new material to keep the set flowing. New single Fake My Own Death did feature, and it carried all the hallmarks of a great Sum 41 track – riffs, a catchy chorus and brilliant closing section. Before the track, Whibley pulled four fans out of the crowd to watch the show from stageside, letting them sing along to classics like Fat Lip and In Too Deep, both of which unsurprisingly stood out. Sum 41 are back, and they aren’t afraid to conquer the world once more.”

SUM 41


13 Wolfmother
What we said: “Australian rockers Wolfmother followed on the Alpha stage, bringing new album Victorious to Biddinghuizen’s baying rock fans. Burning incense onstage as they played, Andrew Stockdale and co. hit the crowd with a barrage of anthems before set highlight White Unicorn presented fans with a new hit in the making. The set may have relied heavily on old classics, yet it was the new cuts which breathed a new sense of life and energy into a band who had worryingly descended into a near-tame existence. Wolfmother are back, and they’re ready to shout it from the top of every mountain.”


12 Elias
What we said: “Swedish producer and vocalist Elias performed a short-but-sharp set on the Charlie stage in the early evening, laying claim to all the hype that surrounded him when he signed to behemoth label Warner. Backed by a band and two cloak-clad backing singers, Elias’ electronica-infused soul pop took the tent by storm and ensured that not a single crowd member lost their focus. Standout track Down N Out was just as powerful onstage as it is on record, and it’s set to become his defining track if he keeps going in his current direction – onwards and upwards.”


What we said: “Scandinavian vocalist Aurora kicked off proceedings on the India stage early on in the day, presenting the audience with her serene voice as she drew heavily from debut album All My Demons Greeting Me As a Friend. Although quite shy, Aurora has a vocal tone to be reckoned with; it starts off sounding quite frail and distant, yet it grows into an absolutely spectacular concoction of dreamy melodies and silky smooth harmonies. She’s already been making waves on Dutch shores for a good year now, but it’s finally looking as though Holland’s festival crowds are falling at Aurora’s feet.”


10 The Rumjacks
What we said: “With the Heineken in absolute awe of a future household name, it was up to The Rumjacks to appeal to a totally different audience on the Lima stage. The Irish/Australian outfit hit the full tent with an absolute barrage of alcohol-infused pub rock which blends elements of bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s. The Rumjacks are essentially a party band with a knack for causing absolute crowd carnage wherever they go, with the amount of crowdsurfers and pits in the Lima tent proving that it was no different this time round. Standout track An Irish Pub Song was the kick in the teeth which Biddinghuizen needed, sending many a festivalgoer away happy as can be.”


Sigr Ros
What we said: “Over on the Alpha stage, some 15,000 revellers witnessed what seemed to be an absolute spectacle – Sigur Ros’ return to Biddinghuizen. A new album is currently in the works for the Icelandic trio, with their Lowlands set mainly comprising of older cuts save for set opener Oveour. The band were positioned behind a video screen for the first two tracks, with projections of astral patterns and beautiful soundscapes accompanying them. Standout track Hoppipolla may not have featured, but it didn’t take away from the group’s ability to put on absolutely mesmerising show which drew the crowd in for the duration of its 75 minutes. Once the trio put out a new record, there won’t be much stopping them as they project themselves further towards attaining cult hero status.”


8 M83
What we said: “French electro pioneers M83 closed out the Heineken stage afterwards, presenting the crowd with new album Junk alongside a barrage of strobe lighting and boundless energy. Project leader Anthony Gonzalez has a great live vocal range, something which he presented on Do It, Try It and classic track Midnight City. Guest vocalist MAI LAN joined the band onstage during new single Go!, which is one of the best tracks released so far this year. They may have slightly slipped under the radar this time round, but M83 look like they’re definitely here to stay.”


Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals
What we said: “Over on the Bravo stage, the multi-talented Anderson .Paak and his band The Free Nationals proved exactly why they’re 2016’s absolute festival must-see. New record Malibu offers up a pristine summer soundtrack which capitalizes on Paak’s many musical abilities, whether it be sun-kissed neo-funk (Am I Wrong) or catchy hip hop (Luh You). He might be a jack of many trades, but it’s very much evident that he excels in each one equally as opposed to just trying out as many things as possible. Away from the music, Paak is also a born frontman, interacting with the Lowlands crowd from the word go. “Damn, that’s so many white people!” he jokingly declared early on, before receiving loud cheers upon asking “all the white people in the room to make some noise”. He embraces the fact that his music has become a hit with people from all walks of life with open arms, and it’s this crossover appeal which makes Anderson. Paak & the Free Nationals such a spectacle to witness onstage.”


The Last Shadow Puppets
What we said: “One set which did meet expectations, though, was The Last Shadow Puppets’ triumphant show on the Alpha stage. New album Everything You’ve Come to Expect sees Alex Turner and Miles Kane head down an orchestral path, having subsequently introduced a four-piece string section to their captivating live show. New tracks Bad Habits and Aviation made for early highlights, both of which were preceded by a handful of older tracks (Calm Like You, Separate and Ever Deadly & The Age of the Understatement). Alex Turner has finally found his place as an all-conquering rock legend, with his stage presence unbeatable and second to none. Compatriot Miles Kane may take more of a vocal backseat for the duration of the show, but it’s undeniable that his guitar-centric additions are nothing less than sublime. The Last Shadow Puppets may be a side-project, but it’s certainly one of the most successful supergroups to hit the charts in recent years.”


5 King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
What we said: “One band who have already inducted themselves into the cult heroes Hall of Fame is Aussie outfit King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, whose new album Nonagon Infinity is one hell of a journey from start to finish (and from finish to start). The record comprises of nine interconnected tracks, all of which they played in Biddinghuizen. Performing an album as visceral and chaotic as Nonagon Infinity is no mean feat, with its manically repeated riffs (Robot Stop, Big Fat Wasp, Gamma Knife), slow jam moments (Mr Beat, Wah Wah) and closing freak-outs (Evil Death Roll & Robot Stop) all intertwining to form one massive melting pot of hysteria which lasted for nearly an hour. It was essentially one long song. Bands like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard don’t come round often, but when they do it’s guaranteed to be nothing short of a spectacle.”


What we said: “Indie outfit Whitney opened the day’s proceedings on the Charlie stage, bringing their free love for all vibe to a packed crowd which witnessed drummer/vocalist Julian Ehrlich make out with his band’s bassist following early track Light Upon the Lake. What’s great about Whitney (on record formed by Ehrlich and guitarist Max Kacakek) is their ability to bring swift and smooth indie pop which carries with itself bouts of soul and pure vigour. They combine crowd interaction with inter band interaction as bottles of Jack Daniels and French wine get swigged by the songs, all of which are pulled off masterfully. Early highlight Golden Days saw the whole crowd silent in awe until its jubilant closing section, before show closer No Woman received a justifiably big reaction from the tent. Whitney are a band who we ought to cherish for the future, because bands of this calibre are a dying breed.”


Biffy Clyro
What we said: “Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro took new album Ellipsis to the neighbouring Bravo tent not too long after, with Simon Neil and co. opening their set on the ever-massive single Wolves of Winter amidst a sea of strobe lights and visible lack of clothing. Early cut Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies stood out, partly thanks to Neil’s manic stares and memorable onstage antics. Brotherly duo James (bass) and Ben Johnston (drums) formed the band’s formidable rhythm section, one which formed the backbone of riff-heavy anthem Black Chandelier and catchy new single Howl. Biffy Clyro are festival headliners of the future, and this was just the beginning.”


What we said: “Teignmouth trio Muse closed out the first day in front of some 30,000 festivalgoers, performing a majestic set which drew from across the band’s vast back catalogue. Set opener Psychobrought with itself bouts of anarchy as Matt Bellamy’s virtuous guitar skills stood out. Early hit Plug in Baby made an appearance as the whole tent sung along loudly, something which they also did for the likes of Absolution cutsHysteria and Time is Running Out, as well as later cut Uprising and show closer Knights of Cydonia. It was a short set for Muse’s standards, but that didn’t make it any less powerful or memorable than it always is. Whereas most bands in Muse’s position tend to hit a glass ceiling at this point in their career, Muse are only just surpassing it.”


What we said: “Oxford quintet Foals had the tough task of headlining the Bravo stage, managing to pack out the whole tent for the duration of their 75-minute long set. New album What Went Down featured predominantly alongside its predecessor, Holy Fire, with the funk-infused My Number and manic Snake Oil featuring early on amidst a mixture of hectic strobe lights and various attempts by frontman Yannis Philippakis to get on personal terms with the crowd. Philippakis is a born and bred frontman, mastering the art so well that he descends into the crowd at various points throughout the show, most notably during What Went Down’s menacing title track. Next week, Foals will close Reading Festival in what is set to be the biggest set of their careers. Lowlands was just a warm up for the quintet, and boy what a stunning one it was.”


Lowlands will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.