Lowlands Festival, Day 2 – 22.8.15 – The Full Verdict

Following an exhilarating first day of music, culture, dance and theatre, Lowlands Festival
opened its doors once more for a second, more excitable day. Temperatures for the second day of the festival neared 30 degrees Celsius, making it the warmest day Holland has seen in a while. Although The Chemical Brothers ultimately headed up the bill today, it was on the smaller stages where everything came to life and shone brightly.

The day kicked off with a hypnotic performance from Jacco Gardner. The Dutch psychedelic musician, whose backing band features members from the US and UK, has just released second studio album Hypnophobia to critical acclaim. The record was heavily represented during his set on the Heineken Stage at 1pm, with lead single Find Yourself and recent release Another You both standing out. However, it was still evident that work from his debut album, 2013s Cabinet of Curiosities, proved most popular with the relatively full tent. Breakthrough track Clear the Air sounded fresher than ever before, whereas The Ballad of Little Jane still trudges back and forth like a little girl called Jane riding a swing. Gardner may only be one of many psychedelic-flecked artists performing this week, but he’s definitely the frontrunner thus far. His set was followed over in the Charlie tent by Sheffield-based metalcore quintet While She Sleeps. The band, fronted by long-haired vocalist Loz Taylor, have just released new album Brainwashed, a metalcore-at-its-heaviest opus of power. The tent, which was too small for the band, reacted enthusiastically to the likes of Four Walls and Seven Hills, both of them sparking massive pits as Taylor jumped in and out of the crowd. When it comes to metalcore, While She Sleeps are definitely not the first name on your mind. They are, however, one that will be on your mind sooner rather than later. Back on the Heineken Stage, sibling quartet Echosmith drew heavily from debut album Talking Dreams to create an extremely poppy and upbeat combination of indie pop. Frontwoman Sydney Sierota, aged just 18, bounded about the stage with plenty of energy as she interacted with the full tent. The highlight undoubtedly came in the form of Cool Kids, which is the song that sparked Echosmith’s boundless success in the first place. Despite being extremely energetic onstage and bonding well with the crowd, Echosmith have unfortunately fallen for the “simple pop music” curse, something which makes their music bereft of much anticipation and excitement. There’s still a long way to go, though, that’s for sure.

Once Echosmith’s set ended, the day slowly but surely careered towards the busy late afternoon, headed up by FFS (Franz Ferdinand + Sparks) on the Alpha Stage. The collaboration between these two groups may seem quite drastic on paper, yet live it completely comes to life and does justice everything which has been said about it. This year they released a debut collaborative self-titled effort, spawning lead single Johnny Delusional and the dramatic contradiction of Collaboration’s Don’t Work. Although the songs from that particular album were received very well (in particular Police Encounters & Call Girl), it was Franz Ferdinand’s own Take Me Out which set the Alpha well and truly on fire. Once its opening strummed chord echoed through the Alpha, feet left the ground and throats were torn apart by loud, raucous singing. It’s the one song which is able to destroy every single festival tent, and Lowlands was no different. FFS may only be a short collaboration, yet it’s unlikely that anybody would flinch at further projects from the two groups. Joint frontmen Alex Kapranos and Ron Mael gel well with one another, so much so that you would think FFS formed some 20 years ago. Later on in the day, the Charlie tent played host to Lowlands’ biggest mystery – Barns Courtney. Who is he? Is it a wordplay on Courtney Barnett? Why is there no music online? Unfortunately, only one of those questions was answered, and that’s the first one. Although it’s claimed that Courtney comes from Ipswich, he commands the stage with a thick LA accent and quiff. His one-man band show, consisting of him and his faux-singer songwriter tracks, drew some 75 people – not that it fazed him, though. Will we hear more from Barns Courtney in the future? Maybe. Do we need someone like him? Probably.

Somebody that we do need in music for a long time is former Fleet Foxes member Father John Misty, who took to the India Stage not too long after. Dressed fully suited up and complete with sunglasses and big beard, Misty and his band tore straight into popular track I Love You, Honeybear. It’s an emotional tearjearker to the max, and this was reflected by all the crooning coming from both sides of the barrier. Misty has an exceptional live voice, and his Lowlands set did every little bit of it full justice. During breaks, a group of drunken Englishmen persistently bothered Misty with chanting, to which he compared them with Twin Peaks’ Bob. It received huge cheers from the crowd, yet it didn’t faze the Brits from continuing. Why Misty isn’t bigger than he is now remains a mystery, but it surely won’t be soon before we get to see much more of him. Back on the Alpha Stage, alt pop collective Bastille drew a near full tent for their huge set. Despite still having not followed up their fantastic debut album Bad Blood, the band are still touring massive amounts and reaping the benefits. Set opener Things We Lost in the Fire instantly got the crowd singing along loudly, whereas hit track Laura Palmer saw frontman Dan Smith bound around stage energetically. Bastille might have now become the face of watered down British music, but it doesn’t make their music any less fun. One band who thrive on fun followed Bastille over on the Heineken Stage – Hot Chip. The electro rock collective pulled a huge crowd as they tore through cuts from new album Why Make Sense? Opener Huarache Lights was cataclysmic and energetic all the way through, yet the real highlight of the set came in the shape of Over and Over, a born and bred festival anthem. Hot Chip definitely pulled every trick in the book out of their huge hat, including interesting onstage attire and boundless energy which didn’t show much sign of stopping for the duration of their 70-minute long set.

Following the end of Hot Chip’s successful set, it was time for history to be made at Lowlands. London quintet Nothing But Thieves took the Charlie Stage just before 10pm, pulling in a crowd so large that parts of the tent had to be enclosed for safety reasons. This isn’t without reason though, as Nothing But Thieves will undoubtedly be selling out stadiums in five years’ time. Their debut self-titled comes out later this year, yet it’s been preceded by a slew of fantastic tracks worthy of festival headline slots. The band, fronted by pint sized vocalist Conor Mason, draw heavily on the influences of Muse, early Radiohead and Led Zeppelin, with the latter band even being covered during the set. Opening on Itch, huge choruses flew around instantly and kept the energy going at a non-stop pace. New single Trip Switch received an early outing, garnering a positive reaction from the packed tent. One thing which deserves a special mention is Mason’s vocal range, as it’s one which you could compare to a cross-hybrid of Matt Bellamy and Thom Yorke. Never has a band sounded so refreshing and laid back than today, with the band extremely grateful to everyone who came out. “We love Holland!” exclaimed Mason, adding, “We enjoy your booze and your weed”. Intoxication wasn’t on the menu tonight, though, having firmly been replaced by relentless energy and sophisticated choruses. Set closer Ban All the Music was a legendary moment, with the band unable to leave the stage due to so much cheering. Guitarist Dom also had his birthday the same day, making it even more worth the celebrations. Nothing But Thieves well and truly left jaws dropping today, satisfying both old fans and the new ones they made on the spot. Watch out, world, because Nothing But Thieves are going to take it over very soon.

The day ended with a varied selection of nightlife from the likes of De Sluwe Vos and Palmbomen II, who both performed alongside a plethora of club night-type evenings and surprise pop up shows from the likes of Gallowstreet, who showed up early in the night to perform new songs in front of the Concerto Record Store. The third and final day of Lowlands will continue with what is unarguably the best line-up, including Heineken sets from Enter Shikari, Tame Impala and Interpol. Jack Parker