Don’t we all just love lists? Here at All Things Loud we’re back at it again with the self-validating countdowns which make us all feel a little bit better about our personal opinions. To mark the end of Down the Rabbit Hole‘s fifth anniversary, we’ve managed to compile a list of the 15 best performances which graced Beuningen’s stages the last three days.
15 ANDERSON .PAAK & THE FREE NATIONALS
There’s a lot to be said about Anderson .Paak‘s ability to put on a memorable live show when all the expectations are against him. Many thought that a massive open air main stage would be a few steps too far for someone who hadn’t ever headlined a festival before, and Paak himself acknowledged this. “This is the biggest show we’ve ever played” he declared giddily in front of a relatively full Hotot crowd, one who had to make do with music from Paak’s acclaimed debut record Malibu. From the moment second track Come Down kicked into motion, any and all concerns about Paak’s ability to deliver a headline-worthy set were as good as blown out of the water. Sure, his back catalogue might not be expansive enough just yet (at least in comparison to fellow bill toppers Queens of the Stone Age and Nick Cave), but what Paak lacked in hits he made up for in energy and perseverance.
Sampha‘s curiously slick blend of RnB and soul is the kind of music which lends itself incredibly well to a sunny Saturday afternoon, which is probably why his set in Beuningen went down a treat for the critically lauded producer. Despite this, though, opinions on Sampha’s impact remain divisive due to the oft-overused one hit wonder excuse. Yes, the London producer might still be riding the waves of success presented to him on the back of (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano, but live he’s also proven to possess a back catalogue filled with equally beautiful compositions. Some may argue that a late afternoon Hotot was too big for Sampha, but any and all concerns were swiftly removed once set opener Under made itself known to the Dutch crowd.
13 QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
And there you have it: the biggest headliner in Down the Rabbit Hole’s short but sweet five year history, Queens of the Stone Age. Josh Homme and co. are a defining group of incredibly skilled musicians, and on new album Villains we find the Americans exploring the same sonic playground which made 2013’s Like Clockwork… the critical success that it remains half a decade later. Despite this, though, Homme and his men only treated the weekend’s busiest crowd to a mere two songs from said album: the groove-laden If I Had a Tail and gritty My God is the Sun. Both tracks formed out a pivotal part of the band’s headline set, one which kicked off on a trio of golden oldies (A Song For the Deaf, Go With the Flow and Sick, Sick, Sick) before taking the crowd on a journey through QOTSA history. Homme expressed his appreciation for the Dutch crowd plenty of times, repeatedly insisting that they were “the best” as they took on the hard task of capturing their attention for ninety minutes. It was a tough feat to maintain, especially when you take Holland’s knack for incessant talking into account. Homme and co. eventually got through to them, with the set hitting its full potential on a grisly No One Knows and the wistful one-two finale of Little Sister and A Song For the Dead. Perhaps you’d find this set higher up the list if the crowd had learnt to pay more attention to the show at hand, but alas.
12 RIVAL SONS
Rival Sons aren’t the first band who come to mind when you think of suitable bookings for Down the Rabbit Hole, but the Californians still found themselves shaking Beuningen to its core thanks to a package deal with the aforementioned Queens of the Stone Age. The Long Beach outfit are exactly the kind of band a festival like Down the Rabbit Hole needs before its visitors lose track of proceedings, rocking the fuck out from the word go and never letting go. Set opener Electric Man had the crowd entranced from the word go, allowing frontman Jay Buchanan to control them like a deranged puppeteer. The near-full Teddy Widder tent obliged, ensuring that Rival Sons succeeded in their attempts to leave a lasting impression on a hard to please audience by the time finale Open My Eyes faded out.
11 PORTUGAL. THE MAN
Portugal. The Man are the kind of band who clearly revel in parody. The Alaskan outfit stumbled across a smash chart hit last year when they shared the bouncy Feel it Still with the world, and ahead of their Teddy Widder set it was this song which found itself as the butt of all jokes as a Beavis and Butthead-starring intro tape played out on the big screens. The video described the band as “better than The Rolling Stones, better than The Beatles and even better than Silverchair. But not as good as Pantera“, instantly implying that the band have formed a rather tongue-in-cheek opinion on their newfound success. Set opener Purple Yellow Red and Blue found itself fused with a visceral rendition of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, handing the show a suitably explosive start. The band had thus set the bar high, and they maintained this high level of impact all the way through to Feel it Still’s jangly bass lines and catchy vocals. They might not come across as the most exciting bunch of guys, but what they lack in personality they most definitely make up for sonically.
Every now and then, a band comes along who end up blowing all prior expectations out of the water. This weekend, the Aussies in Parcels were that band, the band whose performance will most definitely be talked about for days on end. The quintet oozed class from the moment they took to the stage, leaving a lasting impression on the crowd with their punchy neo-funk and soul. The atmosphere emanating from inside the packed Fuzzy Lop was so electric that you couldn’t help but find yourself dancing along from start to end. Early highlight Tieduprightnow injected a tranquil dose of yacht rock-meets-funk into the mix, and it was from this point onwards that the crowd realised that nothing would sound more enjoyable than Parcels sounded at that very moment.
9 NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
There’s a lot to be said about Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds‘ cultural impact anno 2018. The Australian cult legend is Down the Rabbit Hole’s dream headliner, making unbelievably memorable use of his ninety minutes onstage as he held the crowd in the palm of his hands. Show opener Jesus Alone saw cave instantly make his way onto his own little platform in front of the barrier, spending most of the show on it as he made sure to engage in as much crowd interaction as was humanly possible. Over the course of thirteen songs, Cave managed to show Down the Rabbit Hole that he always has been – and still is – an incendiary force to be reckoned with who never fails to stun and captivate. It wasn’t until pensive finale Push the Sky Away hit its peak that the emotional impact of Cave’s set hit home for many, and once it did it became clear that a Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds show is more than just a bunch of people standing in a field; on the contrary – it’s a gathering, a collective moment one shan’t ever forget.
Jungle‘s rise to notoriety has long been one which is shrouded in as much mystery as a good whodunnit. At least, that’s how it was back in 2014 when the London-based funk and soul collective first emerged under the guise of anonymity. Now, all has changed and the septet have managed to become one of the genre’s most exciting modern day bands, hitting commercial acclaim on their majestic self-titled debut, one which will be accompanied by a sophomore album later this year. We don’t know an awful lot about Jungle’s second offering, but if their set at Down the Rabbit Hole is anything to go by then you can rest assured that Jungle will once again deliver the sickly sweet goods. New single Happy Man is a mid-pace burst of sunshine, with the disco-flecked Beat 54 and Casio‘s yacht rock undertones both serving as early fan favourites. It wasn’t until breakthrough single Busy Earnin‘ and set closer Time that the crowd fully resonated with the show, even if the rest of the set went on to prove that there aren’t many bands out there right now who do it quite like Jungle do.
7 ST VINCENT
Everything Annie Clark touches turns to gold, which is why last year’s MASSEDUCTION proved to be such a career-defining collection for musical chameleon St. Vincent. It’s an album loaded with rusty synths, warped vocals and infectious beats, all three of which combine to form an irresistibly unique blend of power pop. During her set in a packed Teddy Widder tent, Clark took to the stage dressed as a faux-futuristic superhero backed by bassist Toko Yasuda and androgynous and masked musicians on synths and percussion. Together, they formed out an incredibly impressive whole which centred on Clark’s ability to captivate the crowd at the click of a finger. The bulk of the show focussed on MASSEDUCTION’s airtight synth pop, although it was Clark’s earlier material which saw the crowd really come alive. This was particularly evident on show highlight Digital Witness, which went on to demonstrate Clark’s incendiary performance nature.
“Whale City is the musical journey you never knew you needed“. That’s what we said about Warmdüscher‘s frankly absurd sophomore studio album earlier this month. It’s a record packed to the rafters with incredibly visceral and destructive garage rock, serving as one of the year’s boldest and weirdest mission statements from a band of unlikely mates who all made their names in other bands (among them Childhood and the insane Fat White Family). Their set on the Fuzzy Lop stage saw frontman Clams Baker Jr. incite carnage from the word go as he made sure that not a single person present remained stagnant. He largely succeeded in causing the aforementioned carnage, in particular on the brutal I Got Friends (which saw the crowd on their knees) and momentous Big Wilma, both of which served as set highlights. There isn’t much stopping Warmdüscher from becoming one of the best live bands around right now, and with a little more musical precision they might just become everyone’s bucket list band in no time.
5 OH SEES
Oh Sees‘ appearance at Down the Rabbit Hole served as one of the weekend’s most anticipated sets well in advance, and judging by the turn out at the tiny Fuzzy Lop stage this hype was most definitely real. John Dwyer is one of garage rock’s most renowned figures, churning out solid record upon solid record on a near-annual basis. New album Smote Reverser isn’t due until August, but it’s already packing one hell of a punch as fans scratch their heads in bewilderment at Dwyer’s ability to continuously reinvent himself and his music. Accompanied by two drummers and a bassist, Oh Sees tore the Teddy Widder to absolute shreds from the word go, peaking early on a frantic rendition of The Dream and eventually bringing the crowd to their metaphorical knees on an eardrum shattering Contraption/Soul Desert. It was the manic finale which their set needed, and they pulled it off with intense precision in a way only Dwyer and co. know how.
Bands as rowdy as IDLES don’t come along very often, which made their destructive set on the Fuzzy Lop stage all the more enthralling for all involved. Taking to the stage on Saturday evening, the Bristolians left no stone unturned as they kicked straight into the brutal Heel/Heal. It set the tone early on for the rest of the hour, allowing frontman Joe Talbot to commandeer the crowd with frivolous precision, inciting bucketloads of carnage as the songs flew by like a deadly missile. It’s something Talbot does so, so well; in fact, it’s almost like he was born to be an unnerving leader. New album Joy As An Act of Resistance is due soon, with the band treating Down the Rabbit Hole to four new songs, among them the spectacular and outspoken Danny Nedelko. It’s a prime example of IDLES’ progression as a band, moving on from ferocious grit and employing melodic elements as they power onwards and upwards.
Speaking of rowdy…try this band for size: Shame. The young Londoners have been making waves for little under two years now as they scale the heights of Planet Earth in support of stellar debut album Songs of Praise. It’s an album packed with dark and youthful enthusiasm, shining a light on the brilliant underground scene which is currently bubbling up in London. Take the grim Dust on Trial, for example. On record, its demonic guitar lines and frontman Charlie Steen’s haunting voice transport you to a different world. Live, though, it’s an entirely different story: Steen uses its qualities as bustling set opener to immerse himself in the crowd and end up above it without single hesitation. Despite his prowess and menace, Steen always sets out to involve the crowd in his pathway of destruction as much as is humanly possible. The band’s set at Down the Rabbit Hole excelled in this, with radio anthem One Rizla and the punchy Friction serving as initial highlights during a show full of memorable moments. Shame are made for the biggest stages, and one day soon they’ll conquer each and every one of them.
This is something nobody saw coming: Yungblud absolutely blowing the Fuzzy Lop stage up into the tiniest of enthusiastic smithereens. The frantic nineteen year old has already carved a cheeky lad niche out for himself, absolutely packing the tent out at the early hour of 1:30pm as he left no stones unturned. If you think that his music sounds unbearably chaotic on record, then live you have another thing coming. From the moment Yungblud – real name Dominic Harrison – takes to the stage, he sets out to destroy everything his path and ensure that the entire room is up on their feet losing their shit. Did he achieve this at Down the Rabbit Hole? You bet he did. There’s something about the way Harrison – who only has one EP to his name – can work the crowd up for 45 minutes without a single moment to hesitate. It’s special, much like Harrison himself. Set opener 21st Century Liability and a frenetic one-two of I Love You, Will You Marry Me‘s nu-ska and King Charles‘ laddish charm ensured that Harrison had the crowd on his level for the entire show, so much so that he had to stop and admire the tent’s sheer enthusiasm multiple times. Debut album 21st Century Liability is due later this week (6 July), and it’s set to be the first big step forward for a young lad with the world at his feet.
1 DAVID BYRNE
When it comes to reinventing the wheel and putting on a show which borders on the sublime and incredible, then there’s really only one man fit for the job: David Byrne. The Talking Heads frontman has a knack for putting himself out there and creating experiences which are unlike anything else, so once he took to an empty Hotot stage and perched himself behind a desk, brain in hand, you knew something special was about to happen. And my god, wasn’t it just incredible? Byrne has described the live show surrounding politically conscious new album American Utopia as his most ambitious production to date, but even that is an understatement when you witness the artistically cathartic show in full swing. Joining Byrne on his empty stage are twelve fully mobile musicians and backing dancers, all of whom interact with one another as they do their thing whilst partaking in intricately choreographed dance passages. It’s an absolutely incredible sight to behold, with Byrne and co. pulling cuts from American Utopia out of the bag alongside a whole host of reinterpreted Talking Heads classics. Early highlight Lazy serves as the full introduction to this spectacular live show, following on from the peculiar Here and Byrne’s introduction to different parts of the human brain. Over the course of 75 minutes, Byrne and his band oozed tons of class, grandeur and all-round fun, putting smiles on every single face within a mile radius of the Hotot. And quite rightly so, because when you have a live show as detailed and enjoyable as Byrne’s then you can’t help but stand and watch in awe. A total of eight Talking Heads classics appeared throughout, including the reinvented likes of This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)‘s interpretive dance, Burning Down the House‘s conga line and a memorable Once in a Lifetime. All three hits formed out incendiary parts of the entire live experience, one which came to an end on a spellbinding rendition of Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talmbout. Let’s be honest here: this isn’t just a show, this is a full-on immersive experience which invites the audience to dig deeper into Byrne’s mind and come away . from it with a completely new outlook on the capabilities behind performance. The way he and his band manage to express themselves with effortless ease is a true sight to behold, and one which will undoubtedly go down as the best set in Down the Rabbit Hole’s short history.
Down the Rabbit Hole will return next year on 5, 6 and 7 July 2019.