What a fantastic idea: a midwinter kick off mini festival to get the Lowlands juices flowing! That’s exactly what LLaunch was all about last night at Paard, a prelude to Lowlands 2010. Kudos to the organisation for creating that Lowlands feel, from the banner and greeting committee outside to the artwork and props inside. Oh and my ultimate geek moment: we got a llaunch bracelet! True to the usual Lowlands routine I’d lost half my friends after 15 minutes, who all spread out to check different things and texted me all night for directions. Some things never change.

The evening started off with the delightful Selah Sue, a young Belgian girl with candyfloss blond hair who manages to belt out some impressive heartfelt Jamaican jams on her acoustic guitar. Just a shame the newly arrived llaunchers were so excited they chatted straight through her set. If you’ve never heard of her be sure to, a sight (sound) to behold. Fyah Fyah!

Then we peeked in at Holland’s latest rising star in the singer songwriter department, the boy you could have sat next to in maths for years without noticing, Tim Knol. I couldn’t find anything to fault him or his solid band, and if Dutch grown rootsy Americana is your cup of tea you’ll be more than satisfied by what he delivers. I guess I was just getting too excited for Blood Red Shoes to really take it in myself.

Apparently Blood Red Shoes called the organisers beforehand to check if thy realised their music was rather loud and if that would be ok, what a charming notion. Although there were definitely some who might have been unpleasantly surprised by the sheer blast force of the band, namely the first 4 lines of small young girly girls already firmly positioned for Florence + The Machine, next on the line up, as Laura-Mary herself also comically remarked.

Their set was a mix of new material from the upcoming album Fire Like This and the tried and tested songs from their first album. Most of their new material seems to depend on the same successful formula of kinetic drums and guitar, alternating vocals and short punctuated verses well fit suited for anthem like yell-alongs. This is what attracted me to the band in the first place, but I’ll be interested to hear if there is some more variation on the new album. There was definitely one track taking a different, more subtle and mood building approach with Laura-Mary on vocals,  sadly I didn’t get the title.

After everyone wiped the blood red sweat from their brow and enjoyed a beer or two it was time for the band that completely bowled me over at Lowlands last year: Florence + The Machine. When Florence herself came on stage, sadly dressed a bit less vampy than usual, hordes of little florences in front of me squeezed each other’s hands and giggled with excitement, “there she is!!”. She had them at hello.

Having seen her two times before I would say it took her and the band a bit more time to get into the swing of things, but later she explained that it was only the first date of this tour. She played quite a similar set to Melkweg a few months ago, but you can tell they have really worked out the preferred way to play the songs. My Boy Builds Coffins is the best example and now easily outdoes the album version as far as I’m concerned. Towards the end the band seemed to be feeding off the energy and warm response from the room and the encore was the the icing on a great gig and a wonderful evening.

Our lowlands-posse spent the rest of the night dancing their butts off to the great tunes courtesy of the Lowlands dj’s, with every track they put on I wished it was August already! Just waiting for that paycheck to come in and that Lowlands 2010 ticket is mine.