With the end of August finally here, it means that the time has finally come for Lowlands Festival to open its doors for a 23rd time. Although having not sold out for the first time in ten years, the festival still boasts a line-up as strong as ever, with the likes of Tame Impala, Interpol and Twenty One Pilots all billed (and that’s just on one day). Today, Ben Howard closed the main stage in rousing fashion as Limp Bizkit, All Time Low, Bleachers and many more tore up tents across Biddinghuizen. Read on for our Friday verdict.
The day kicked off at 12:30 sharp with a performance from American blues rocker Curtis Harding, whose smooth music (which is filled with RnB and soul undertones) started the day nicely. Although the show took place early on in the day, it still attracted a packed out crowd which stretched all the way outside and around the tiny Charlie tent. That a man like Harding can pull a crowd this big at such an early hour is definitely testament to his class ability and intricate guitar skills. Opening the set with an extended blues-laden intro, Harding and his band followed it up with a back-to-back power formula of Soul Power and Next Time, both of which were sprawling blues rockers fit for stadiums. Harding may have quite a way to go if he hopes to be higher up the bill next time, but he’s certainly careering into the right direction. Following Harding over on the Heineken stage (Lowlands second biggest) were BBC Sound of 2015 champions Years & Years, who pulled a massive crowd at the ‘early’ hour of 1:30pm. Frontman Olly Alexander and his band (a collective of musicians relatively out of the vocalist’s bright spotlight) tore through an hour-long set which drew heavily from debut album Communions, a #1 record in Holland. Hit single Desire jumped in early on, before smash hit King made for the climax in a laboured set that did little to invigorate and inspire the crowd. The first few rows, mainly consisting of hardcore fans, tore the roof down quite figuratively, yet it was up to the rest of the tent to find their own entertainment. Years & Years may be a worthy sensation set to fill big venues, but for as long as the spotlight is shifted away from the people who make it happen (the band), it’s going to be a real shame.
Back in the Charlie tent, (soon to be former) Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff and his new project Bleachers drew another large crowd. Their “straight-outta-NYC” classic rock and power pop impressed so much that people just kept coming and coming and coming. And that wasn’t without a good reason, because Antonoff is one of the most versatile and impressive guitarists of our generation. A cover of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Go Your Own Way featured, sounding equal parts detached from the original as it was identical. The set highlight, though, came at the end when fan favourite I Wanna Get Better exploded across the stage. Antonoff can’t do it alone, though. Instead, he has a fantastic live band who back him with so much energy that it’s hard to fixate your eyes on one band member at a time. Bleachers have only played in Holland twice now, but it looks like they’ll probably be coming back more often after today’s fantastic set. Once Bleachers rounded up, the attention was shifted firmly back on the Heineken and James Bay’s singer-songwriter musings. Debut album The Chaos and The Calm has done very well in Holland, in particular the hit singles Hold Back the River and Let It Go. Bay, complete with classic trilby, took to the stage with his band following a busy day of travel delays. He broke straight into the set at full force, with an early highlight coming in the form of Craving’s powerful riffs. Hold Back the River inevitably stole the show, making sure that the whole tent sang at the top of their lungs. Raw Kent duo Slaves contrasted Bay’s calm tunes back in the Charlie, taking a new approach to the term ‘stripped back’. In Slaves’ case, stripped back means: one bass drum, one snare drum and a guitar – and a whole load of absolutely mental chaos. Slaves’ set was one of Friday’s best, seeing the whole Charlie erupt into massive pits that stretched from end to end. A closing salvo of The Hunter and Hey just about did it for the rowdy crowd, with the rest of Slaves’ debut album, Are You Satisfied?, also featuring heavily. The duo’s sarcastic remarks and fun crowd interaction added a friendly element to the show, all in all proving that Slaves are definitely ones to watch.
By the time Slaves ended their set, it was time for folk rockers Kodaline and The Staves to go head to head before classic nu-metallers Limp Bizkit made their Lowlands return. Once the Fred Durst-fronted group took to the stage, the whole tent was packed from back to front with around 15,000 crazy revellers. Opening hit Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle) set the scene for the rest of the show, with Durst and co. (including the oddball Wes Borland) running around sage manically in and amongst a pastiche of nu-metal, hard rock and hints of trap music. Although they’re definitely more of a ‘has been’ band, Limp Bizkit still know how to work a crowd more than anyone else. Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit popped along for the ride, although it was very clear that everybody here was there for one thing – the hits. And Limp Bizkit definitely had them. Back in the Heineken, pop-punkers All Time Low had a similar salvo of hits which catered for their young, teenage fanbase. New album Future Hearts may be quite disappointing, yet live it truly comes to life. Lead single Something’s Gotta Give and the anthemic Kids in the Dark both stoof out, yet the older tracks still received the best reception. Frontman Alex Gaskarth’s vocals were out of tune more often than not, but their onstage charm and energy more than definitely made up for this. They might not be just ready to headline massive festivals, but the potential has been there for a long time and it’s only a matter of years before the right decisions are made.
As the evening approached, music got more dense and clashes got more intense. The word clash of the evening, between Paolo Nutini, La Roux and the DMAs, saw each artist pull decent (yet not full) crowds, with the real action happening later on. Folk rock troubadour Ben Howard closed the Alpha tent, his set leaning heavily towards new album I Forget Where We Were. Classic track Keep Your Head Up for once did feature, something which Howard hasn’t done too much on this current promotional tour. What also featured was a cacophony of guitar-led, moody rock and intimate moments emotional enough to make even the driest eye water. Over in the Bravo tent, electronic dance rocker Caribou took his ecstatic live show to Biddinghuizen in a set which was nothing short of spectacular. Everything was exactly how it should have been, from the lights to the powerful basslines and everything between. Special mention goes out to the crowd, who kept up their game despite being active for a whole day (and with a whole evening of revelry still set to commence). Caribou’s set more or less signalled the end of the live music, with only DJs and dance music following. The highlight here came from electro producer Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet. His tight set drew from various genres and did its best to break boundaries in front of a huge crowd.
Once Hebden’s set came to a close, various other DJ sets across the site signalled the end of Friday. Saturday continues with a headline set from The Chemical Brothers, as well as shows from Jacco Gardner, FFS (Franz Ferdinand + Sparks) and While She Sleeps. Jack Parker (All pictures are owned by and belong to All Things Loud & Jack Parker)