angelic Lowlands visitor

After a semi-relaxed schedule on Friday the tables turned on Saturday and the running-around-like-a-blue-arsed-fly-phase announced itself. I even missed out on a couple of promising acts, but one must make tough choices in these harsh circumstances…

SATURDAY 21-8

Starting your Lowlands day at 1 PM pretty much feels like 5 AM on an average week day, but it was worth it for the silliness that was “Lowlands Sings“. The biggest festival tent was completely packed with people excited to start their day with the ultimate in cheesy communal karaoke. On stage: a few comedians presenting and about 30 people handpicked to be the choir, in fetching outfits. We sang classics the likes of Killing In The Name Of, Rammstein’s Die Sonne (choir dressed in lederhosen) and Hey Jude. The crowd was not having any R&B though, Alicia Keyes’ New York tune was relentlessly whistled to a halt. Guitars please!

Foals showed they can whip up a storm in any setting with their sublime brand of funky eighties electronic indie. I went to see them a while ago in Tivoli (much smaller venue), but they still managed to create the same atmosphere in the big Bravo tent. With a pang of pain I left before the end of the set in order to go and see Jack Parow and his Zef tunes. He was playing in the X-Ray and before he even started there was such a crowd they could have put a Y-Ray beside it. The tube-style venue was wafting fumes of body odour and stale beer in the heat, but people were sticking it out all the same. No wonder, Parow gave a very entertaining performance with massive beats, cool artwork and most improtantly, his trademark witty lyrics.

guy with Parow-style cap

As I walked across the festival terrain I decided to buy those protective ear plugs I used to snigger at (I’m getting on a bit) and it proved to be not a day to soon: the Blood Red Shoes gig was set to volume level ‘destruction’ I reckon. I’ve seen them a few times so it didn’t come as a surprise that they’re loud, but many of the people around me were covering their ears for fear of brain melt it seemed. The band was in good form, energetic and smiling at each other, giving it all despite the intense heat. Still I couldn’t help the sneaky feeling that their songs are starting to sound a bit ‘samey’, both musically and in the often repetitive lyrics.

Blood Red Shoes at Lowlands 2010 (photo Jelmer de Haas via 3VOOR12)

Time for some peace and quiet, some poetry, some contemplation: Villagers. Their debut album has steadily been growing on me over the last weeks and I was excited to see them. The setting was perfect, the sun just dipping behind the Charlie open air marquee, and Conor O’Brien taking the stage without band to do a ballsy acoustic performance of Twenty Seven Strangers. He had me at hello. I was struck by the heart felt and decisive delivery of O’Brien’s lyrics, for instance in I Saw The Dead and the sublime Becoming A Jackal. But the band is also well able to pick up the pace, with some of the songs ending in a howling O’Brien and band members frantically flailing arms at instruments. Part Elliott Smith, part Bright Eyes and a dose of Patrick Watson, sheer beauty.

Villagers

Hanging onto my mellow folky mood I was in luck: Local Natives were up next. I was amazed at how wonderful their harmonies were live, such a warm sound that reaches out to you. I can’t say anything to fault this show, they were just spot on. Warning Sign sounded like a classic seventies folk song in their rendition, with a taste of west coast peers Fleet Foxes. There was an absolute goosebump moment with the beautiful Airplanes. Can’t wait to see there guys in a full concert.

Local Natives live at Lowlands 2010 (photo Nick Helderman via 3VOOR12)

Here comes a little brokenbranches confession. Despite strict military planning I wasn’t able to go and see the LCD Soundsystem set in the tent due to the inability to stand for another minute. Running across the festivalgrounds takes its toll even on me, and so it happened that I was singing along to Drunk Girls whilst munching on a curry in the neighbouring food area. Slightly annoyed with myself, but what can you do.

I managed to recharge my batteries just about enough to go and see Beach House for a wonderfully dreamy end of the evening. The band took their time to get going, but at some point you could see they had the audience won over and I saw several lovey dovey couples canoodling during gems like Heart Of Chambers and Norway. One thing that’s even more astounding live: how did Victoria Legrand get her voice to be so husky?

Beach House

Collateral damage of the day: I wussed out at LCD, I missed the apparently great gig by La Pegatina and the Bloody Beetroots’ grimey beats. You can’t win’em all. This is also true for the Lowlands organisers who had a slight blemish on their otherwise immaculate festival: playing a late night film (The Expendables) in a tent with 8 massive pillars obstructing the view from about 75% of the possible seats in the tent. Fail.

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