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If there are still any regular visitors of this neglected bit of interweb left (hi and thank you!), they will have noticed a severe lack of content over the last months. Rather than apologising I shall point the finger of blame shamelessly at the blog, where I have been contributing my two cents on everything and anything to do with the Lowlands festival. Which has been rather wonderful.

But seen as Lowlands took place last weekend (I have just barely been able to scrape the mud and dust off my aching body), it is high time to inject brokenbranches with some reviews! Here’s a day by day roundup.


To kick off Lowlands 2011 I went to see the wonderfully sultry Anna Calvi, who delivered her seductive roars while cradling her guitar close to her chest. It was all a bit too spacious and spun out to really captivate me musically (more suited to a Tarantino soundtrack as a friend of mine noted), but miss Calvi is a sight to be seen all the same and a few songs really did hit the mark.

In the new festival lay out I walked the longest stretch of terrain all the way from India to Charlie stage to catch the indie pop creations of Wolf Gang. Although the set definitely leant heavily on the few singles, the supremely catchy Lions In Cages in particular, it was an enjoyable show overall with plenty of light-hearted pop goodness. The gold earring sporting guitarist seemed to be having the time of his life at least, singer McElligott was a bit harder to gage.

Next up were the prodigal sons of Dutch hiphop, De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig, who were finally allowed to take seat in the throne of Lowlands: the Alpha stage. They pimped up their act with ballerinas and a horn section, but in all honesty those weren’t necessary to have the entire tent jumping up and down and singing along to every word for an entire hour. Each member was allowed their moment to shine in the second half of the set, but it never dragged on too long before Bas Bron threw on the next beat to keep the crowd entertained. It was a seemingly effortless homerun of a show. The next two days the line ‘Waar is het feestje? Hier is het feestje!’ (Where is the party? Here is the party!) was heard throughout the festival.

Not as cheeky but definitely as danceable were the synth dripping songs that Friendly Fires served up in the newly positioned Bravo tent. These boys definitely know how to pull the stops out in a live show and the new songs fitted right in. Although I was standing at the back all around me were happy faced girls shaking their hips, their male companions awkwardly attempting some form of appropriate movement. The Pala visuals on the screens were beautiful too, but I would say Friendly Fires are best enjoyed in a small sweaty venue.

Speaking of sweaty venues, my Lowlands theory is that you should see at least one act in the boiling X-Ray cauldron a day, as it is usually filled with pleasant surprises. I wanted to see Japanese act Trippple Nippples from an arthouse freakshow perspective, wondering if it really was as bizarre as I thought. The answer is yes, it was as bizarre and then some, with the singers prancing around in diapers, white duct tape boobcoverage and glowing wings, but combined with the thrashing electro screamfest they produced it actually worked really well.

I wandered over to Noah and the Whale for a little while but I couldn’t really get into the music. A guy behind me said “there’s a lot of suppressed tension but it’s not coming out” which seems a good analysis. The understated Lou Reed style singing of Charlie Fink became monotonous after a while and failed to hold my attention. Many young girls wearing jeans hotpants and Ray Bans were having the time of their lives though. I decided to try The Naked And Famous in stead, but the tent was so packed I couldn’t get in, same story for Beardyman. Seems you really have to get to the smaller tents like India and X-Ray well on time these days.

Luckily there was still loads of space in the Grolsch at the start of Fleet Foxes, but they managed to fill it up in no time with their warm folky glow of goodness. I was worried if their sometimes delicate sound would hold up in the big tent, but the band were on a roll and played a great festival set. Sometimes they would churn out a few songs back to back, one flowing into the other, really keeping the energy high. Pecknold was giving it his all, with his eyes closed and tilted head almost hanging from the microphone stand. This was definitely the highlight of festival Friday for me.

Time to close the festival day with all my friends gathered round, no better place to be than at the laid back Lima stage with Edward Sharpe and his Magnetic Zeros. It was chaotic on stage with 10 people joining in, making for a bit of a messy performance that dragged on somewhat here and there, not helped by Sharpe’s vocals being hardly audible for most of the gig. There were a few songs that stood out but it was plain to see that everyone was there for the flower power finale Home. Everyone joined in from opening line Alabama, Arkansas and made the most of it, but it could have been so much more.


First band of the day for me was Young The Giant, with a performance like the one they gave a few months ago at the Walk The Line festival in The Hague: solid, energetic, polished and ready for the rock arenas of Europe. Nothing wrong with that, sometimes you don’t want wholesome leafy greens for dinner, you just fancy a juicy fast food burger and chips that will hit the spot. And what better festival anthem than My Body?

My expectations were high for Bombay Bicycle Club, but I left the India stage feeling distinctly underwhelmed. The performance lacked energy and drive, was a bit all over the place and the indie magic I was hoping for was nowhere to be found. I would definitely give them another chance in a club show though, there’s plenty of gems on those records.

After I was lucky enough to get a back stage tour of the festival (Guy Garvey waved at me! *swoon*), I felt a craving for some Syrian house beats and so I headed over to the X-Ray sauna for Omar Souleyman. Strange how an act with zero stage presence (a bored looking synth player and Souleyman himself, aloof with his mirrored sunglasses and the occasional hand gesture) and lyrics hardly anyone can make out can cause such a frenzy in its onlookers. There were quite a few people who donned tea towel head dresses for the occasion and there was a lot of yelping and shaking going on, the nervy thumping Arabian sounds worked like a dance virus and infected all present. Jalla jalla!

After the disappointment of BBC earlier in the day I was a bit hesitant what Cloud Control would deliver on the same spot, but the complete opposite happened. Here’s a band that I only know two songs of, but captivated me the entire set. None of this quietly cool indie jingle jangle, this band is came in for the win, guitars amped up and ready to go. The perfect soundtrack to the end of a sunny Saturday afternoon. Also quite funny to hear loads of people singing they want to buy a gold canary.

We stayed at the India stage lounging around in the grass outside during Cage The Elephant. Obviously not the best way to enjoy their music, which you should probably consume while moshing fiercely or crowdsurfing, but I enjoyed it all the same. You could feel the manic energy well outside the tent, with a roaring crowd to boot. I was attempting to save some energy for the next stop, must be getting old…

Making sure to get to the majestic Alpha stage in plenty of time to get in the front section, it was time to get ready for the last band of the day: Elbow. I had been hyping up this show to my friends for ages, promising a lovefest of epic proportions, a joining together of hands and voices of all present. Big promises to make, but somehow I was completely sure it would turn out this way, and I am glad to report that it did.

Guy Garvey has the magic ability to have a multitude of thousands eating out of his hand from the moment he sets foot on stage. Guys want to join him in the pub for a pint, girls want to crawl into his arms and be safe and loved by this smooth voiced teddy bear. I myself have only been converted to the church of Elbow recently and stood in awe at the ease and confidence with which the band slowly builds a set that ends in a euphoric climax of togetherness. I see how a non believer (as I was until last year) might vomit in their face a bit reading all this luvvy duvvy goo goo talk, but it is the best way I can describe it.

When Garvey asks if everyone is alright, when he gets the people inside and outside of the tent to great each other, when he says that we’re going to do festival things together and gets everyone to raise their hands and wiggle their fingers, he is walking the thin line of cheesiness. But he gets away with it easily because he, and the entire band, are so goddamn down to earth and likable. When the obvious closing song One Day Like This sets in and we all sing ‘One day like this a year would see me right‘, I look around to see little pools of water brimming in the eyes of most of the people standing there. Elbow understands the need for uplifting pop songs in times of chainsaw dubstep noise and I welcome it.


Sunday was a horribly humid, sticky day and I think it did De Staat no favours. They were the second band on the bill in the massive Alpha tent, which had a fair amount of people in but very spaced out. There were loads of people hanging around on the grass outside like zombies, probably exhausted from 2 previous days partying and the heat. However, you wouldn’t be able to tell from the performance of the band who rocked it regardless, frontman Torre strutting his rock moves and belting out their hits. The set took a bit of a nosedive towards the end, but the short cover of Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot going into the majestic Sweat Shop was a high light for me.

I decided to skip the frenetic stylings of Crystal Fighters to check out Other Lives at the Charlie stage and was not disappointed. Wonderfully mellow dreamy pop songs drifted across the stretch of water to the bridge where I sat listening, completely contented. This is a band I would love to see in a small venue, hopefully they will head this way again soon. Across the way The Roots started up, their soulful funky hiphop sound a welcome change from most of the Lowlands lineup. Sadly I had to leave early and missed my old-time favourite You Got Me, but they tore up the stage from the opening minutes so I’m guessing it was a stomper of a set.

Still in a hiphop mood I headed over to Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All a bit later, anxious to see if they would bring down the Bravo tent, get taken off stage for indecent behaviour or encouraging kids to crowdsurf or anything else remotely dangerous. None of that happened, it was a surprisingly polite affair with Tyler The Creator even thanking the Dutch audience for being so great and hugging every single security guy at the end of the show.  This is not to say the gig was boring, the energy on stage was incredible. Tyler himself hardly held back by the fact his leg was in a cast, jumping and cycling (!) all over the place ignoring his specially placed bar stool most of the time. Not everyone in the extensive OFWGKTA crew managed to wow the crowd and the gig was a bit messy at times, but nobody in the front seemed to care. One guy whose face was bleeding after a mosh pit encounter came right back after being patched up to mosh on some more, that’s dedication.

After the manic mayhem of the Odd Future gang I was in need of some soothing sounds, and who better to dish them up than the ethereal ladies of Warpaint? Stretched out in the grass, the waves of dark psychedelic harmonies and spaced out guitars made for a pleasant drug free trip in the late afternoon. So much so I almost drifted off to sleep, though festival fatigue was probably to blame for that.

Right, back on my feet for some dancing moves I was off to see Lykke Li, whose second album I have played many a time over the last few months. I was all set to go, but found the first twenty minutes very bland and stand offish. Lykke seemed a million miles away in her own artistic black bubble, mumbling through her songs. I was almost about to leave when all of a sudden there was a major turnaround in energy. Two big drums featured centre stage and woke everyone up with some thundering percussion and from then on Lykke got her groove and so did the audience. We were treated to crowd pleaser I Follow Rivers, a version of Youth Knows No Pain with a sample from Kanye Wests’s Power, a bit of The Knife’s Silent Shout, and of course Get Some to top it all of.

There was some more drama to be enjoyed over at the Charlie stage with Wild Beasts, where singer Hayden Thorpe expressed his gratitude to the people there for choosing them over the likes of Aphex Twin (“we’ll show those electro people how it’s done!”). Wild Beasts seem out of place at the Charlie stage with a few albums already under their belt, so it’s a nice privilege to see them up close and personal. Their music can come off a bit cool and posh sometimes, but their set remained interesting in large part thanks to the variation in vocals between Thorpe’s lofty voice and guitarist Tom Fleming’s unexpected husky warm sound. Definitely another band I would be interested to see more of.

The final bands of the final festival night jostled for position, but I wasn’t in any mood for the dated punk pop greatest hits of The Offspring or the dark and uncomfortable beats of legendary Aphex Twin. In stead we opted for an plain and simple party to end this wonderful weekend, and that’s exactly what CQMD (Ceux Qui Marchent Debout) were dishing out at the Lima stage. This happy bunch from Paris brought lots of horn, lots of funk and plenty oom-pah-pah that had everybody shaking their groove thang (or dancing like your embarrassing uncle). They even took the entire band off stage to play a few songs in the middle of the audience. Lima is the place to be at the end of the festival as far as I’m concerned!


This was the seventh Lowlands festival I attended and it won’t go down in the books as most memorable or most impressive edition by a long shot. Aside from Elbow and perhaps Fleet Foxes there were no extreme highlights, astounding surprises or overwhelming discoveries to be made. Overall it was a mellow, relaxed weekend for me. Not to say it was a bad edition at all, I wasn’t bored for a moment and there was plenty of great music to be enjoyed. Hopefully next year the organisation will have a few more gems touring Europe at the end of August to choose from, to add that extra bit of sheen to an already wonderful festival.

There sure was a cold wind blowing though Dusseldorf last night, and with it came buckets of snow, and massive anticipation for the Arcade Fire concert in the Philipshalle. The initial disappointment their tour didn’t stop in Holland made way for a nice little city trip to the Christmas markets of Dusseldorf, where I stood drinking glühwein in the snow, playing Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) in my mind on repeat: “And if the snow buries my, my neighborhood..”

When the time came and the small community that is Arcade Fire took to the stage to loud cheers, they opened with the Suburbs tune that was made for the part: Ready To Start. The simple drum beat and driving guitar were the perfect match to the crowd’s excitement, the mood was set for the night. They held on to the electric vibe with a solid 4-piece opening combo, threading together Keep The Car Running, Neighborhood #2 (Laika) and No Cars Go. “Women and children, let’s go!!”.

Then some time to calm down a bit with the ever charming Regine taking central stage for Haiti and Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). She seemed in very good spirits, doing her characteristic little rhythmic moves and even picking up some colourful ribbons for her dance routine. It’s during these songs, when I’m not bouncing around as much, that I notice how incredibly talented and multi-instrumental all the band members are.

Next up, the one song from The Suburbs I was most anxious to see: the ambitious Rococo. This song is the ideal setting for Win’s dark doomsday approach, “they build it up just to burn it back down”, perfectly accompanied by the eerie violin sounds and hushed “rococo-rococo-rococo” background vocals of the band members. What a pleasure to hear it played live! Win has really come into his own as a lead singer, carrying it off with great confidence. Here is a little youtube snippet.

Then a complete surprise, as mentioned in the opening sentence of this post: Cold Wind. This song won me over when I first heard it on the soundtrack of arguably the best tv series ever made, Six Feet Under, but I never heard it live before. Win mentioned they hadn’t played it for quite some time. Sadly I have to say it didn’t really live up to its haunting potential with a few hiccups during the song, but still a welcome surprise.

After a sizeable Suburbs middle section with Deep Blue, the uplifting romp along of The Suburbs with The Suburbs (continued) as outro and the frenetic rock out of Month Of May they carefully crafted another 4-part section to leave every single audience member begging for more.

Personal favourite and Funeral classic Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) kicked it off, moving on to We Used To Wait which had Win jumping up on the monitors belting out “Hear my voice screaming sing the chorus again!”. Next up was Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), where Win left out a complete section of the song to thank a guy who stood up way in the back seats. He must have been delighted with himself. Power Out finally merged directly into to crowd favourite Rebellion (Lies), “Everytime you close your eyes, lies lies!”, a great set closer.

I was really hoping that some of the gems of Neon Bible would feature in the encore, but only Intervention was played, followed by the ultimate Arcade Fire live anthem Wake Up. O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied? Where was Black Wave/ Bad Vibrations? Where was (Antichrist Television Blues)? Where was Black Mirror? Oh well, I guess it would take playing all three albums entirely for me to be fully satisfied.

I think it’s fair to say Arcade Fire  is a band that has grown and matured over the last few years. The show might be less explosive than it used to be with band members constantly running around the stage banging drums, but that has made space for beautifully crafted songs, a confident band with mesmerising stage presence and a catalogue of songs that would each do well on stage. Their shows are an absolute treat, and if you haven’t seen them live yet I would urge you to do so!


01 Ready to Start
02 Keep the Car Running
03 Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
04 No Cars Go
05 Haiti
06 Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
07 Rococo
08 Cold Wind
09 Deep Blue
10 The Suburbs
11 The Suburbs (continued)
12 Month of May
13 Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
14 We Used to Wait
15 Neighborhood #3 (Power out) [extended version merging into 16]
16 Rebellion (Lies)

17 Intervention
18 Wake Up

“I know there’s no such thing as ghosts but I have seen the demon host” sang Timber Timbre‘s Taylor Kirk, but it sure felt a bit spooky with his eerie voice in the almost unlit church venue. A very atmospheric start to Crossing Border‘s second full on festival night.

I got more into the festive swing of things with Belgian band Marble Sounds, who I had shamefully never heard of until last week. Time I check out their debut ‘Nice is good’, because their melodic and slightly melancholy sound deserves further exploration. Maybe ditch the girl singer, but that might just be a matter of taste.

I finally got to see Tokyo Police Club next, and though they were a lot better live than I expected, there was only one conclusion for me. It’s music much better suited to the two fifteen year old semi-emo girls standing next to me, bursting at the seems with excitement.

Sadly I wasn’t able to get in to the Spoon gig because the venue was supposedly full (twitterbugs claimed otherwise, but oh well). To pass the time I took a stroll back to the church where the bewitching Smoke Fairies were playing. I was surprised to find myself quite mesmerised with the beautiful combinations of husky yet angelic vocals and country twang guitar.

With a line around the block for people wanting to see The National, I was happy to go the other way and get right up close to Local Natives. They cleverly opened with World News, which is such a stomper that after barely two minutes one guy jumped out of his seat and a wave of people all the way to the back of the posh theatre room followed. Who can sit still for this? The band member smiled and seemed to turn it up a notch. “This one is for the people who stood up, during our very first song. The pressure is on.”

No pressure at all, an effortless win for this charming and multi talented band from Los Angeles. With great songs like Shape Shifter, Wide Eyes, Talking Heads cover Warning Sign, the beautiful Airplanes and explosive set closer Sun Hands all the ingredients were there from the start. And they still only have one album to play from! I for one am really interested to see what this band does next.

Lima area

When you wake up on day three there is always a slight feeling of panic. Surely this cannot be what my face looks like? Why am I not able to stand up straight any more? Where did I leave my voice? Three nights with at most 4 hours sleep, lying on a wafer thin ‘self inflatable’ mattress really take their toll. But there’s still so much to see, no rest for the wicked.


I decided to start my day off with a touch of hippy and headed straight for Yeasayer. I didn’t really know what to expect live as some of their songs are better suited to a state of mantra meditation, but I was pleasantly surprised. Their set was really diverse with more hits than I realised and the band sounded great, with both singers pitch perfect.  Even though their music can be a bit complicated for such a big stage there were plenty of anchors to hang on to: Sunrise, Ambling Alp, ONE and 2080. A wonderfully melodic and smooth start to the day.

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

Even though The National is not necessarily my cup of tea I decided it would be worthwhile to have a peek and indeed it was. I was treated to a beautiful rendition of Bloodbuzz Ohio and heard a well oiled band playing intense songs with understated emotion, but it still didn’t grab me. A friend of mine said that if I love Radiohead I should love The National as well, but I’m going to have to let him down.

And now for something completely different: Die Antwoord, completely off kilter rap techno hip hop Zef  beat threesome from Cape Town. I had high expectations for this act, bringing something completely new to the festival lineup. It turned out to be a very entertaining show with special mention for the tiny and talented Yo-Landi Vi$$er, but it didn’t blow me away. The beats were there, the X-rated lyrics were all over the place (Jou ma se poes in a fishpaste jar!), the hits were there (Enter The Ninja, Beat Boy, Wat Pomp), but somehow it didn’t reach the next level. A lot of the material was still rough around the edges and friend & fellow Zef man Jack Parow did a much better job of connecting with the audience. And where was Parow during the hilarious closer Doos Dronk?

Die Antwoord at Lowlands 2010 (photo Jelmer de Haas via 3VOOR12)

On to Manchester new rave alumni Delphic, who delivered exactly what you would expect: a whirlwind show of synthesizers, beats, strobe lights and aspirational lyrics (Give me something I can believe in), brought with a lot of energy and conviction. The crowd enjoyed it and so did I, but somewhere in the ‘rave’ part of their music I lose interest. Maybe it’s the Manchester thing, never really got any of the bands with that sound, bands like Foals speak to me a lot more.

On the other side of the dance spectrum we find the straight laced but seductive London synth sound of Hot Chip. I’ve seen them a few times now and enjoy them more each time, they understand perfectly how to build a festival set and have the crowd jumping around in no time. With a hit packed catalogue of material to choose from it’s almost too easy: Over And Over, One Life Stand, Ready For The Floor, One Pure Thought, Hold On... Shame that Joe Goddard wasn’t with the band this time, although they used video images to produce his essential warm vocals.

Hot Chip

After the steaming Hot Chip crowd flowed out of the sauna of the Bravo tent I wandered over to the India stage for a spot of Two Door Cinema Club and was amazed to see a huge crowd stretching far beyond the tent joyfully dancing and singing along to every song. How did that happen? Did Something Good Can Happen get so much airplay that everyone bought the album? The Northern Irish boys are still a bit shaky in parts but are playing with loads of gusto and the crowd is clearly loving it. It’s cheerful and cleverly made pop music at it’s best, perfect little festival band but I’m curious to see if they have anything else up their sleeve.

At this stage of the day, hitting 9 PM and the festival slowly coming to an end, I find myself calculating the chance I will be able to make it through the next gig standing up. And so I decide to enjoy Massive Attack from the sidelines with some much needed refreshment. Not a decision I would usually make, as this is the kind of band you need to experience from within the dark brooding belly of the beast, way up front in the tent, where Martina Topley Bird’s bewitching vocals surround you. Sadly I was surrounded by kids in their late teens – early twenties who hadn’t the slightest idea what Massive attack have contributed to music.

Fool's Gold

Then comes the crucial moment: deciding which act will be your last one of the festival. Go the obvious route and head for Queens of the Stone Age at main stage Alpha? No, seen them before and not enough of a fan to brave the masses. Go out with the festive gypsy sounds of Shantel? No, not in the mood for Balkan beats. We happily ended up at the intimate Lima open air stage where Fool’s Gold gave the perfect end of festival performance. The musicians seemed to be having the time of their lives, the music was appropriately sunny and upbeat with a lot world music influences (African, Israeli and hometown Brooklyn to boot). I enjoyed it immensely and so did everyone else considering we were all still singing the last song for ten minutes after the band left the stage. They even came back for an extra bow and to take pictures of these crazy Dutch people who didn’t know when to stop.

Our little gang ended the night with the completely mental party cooked up by legendary Dutch DJ Kees van Hondt with his special brew of insane German and tiroler folk beats (where does he find this stuff??) and all the partygoers bringing attributes to the tent (mainly broken branches, inflatable animals and any unsecured piece of festival furniture). Then back to the camp sight to spend roughly three hours dreaming of what a wonderful edition 2010 was. Let’s do it all again next year.

Lowlands at night

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…


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.


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.

Lowlands chewed me up and spat me out four days later with a voice like a sorority girl after spring break and in a general state of physical decay, but what a glorious experience it was! Before I fall into a complete coma it is time to line the festival highlights up for inspection: who did I see and were they everything I ever dreamed of?


I was determined to kick off Lowland 2010 with Triggerfinger, but right off the bat I was distracted by Cymbals Eat Guitars playing the Lima stage on the way there. I was lucky enough to stumble right into Wind Phoenix, perfect sunny song of distorted genius to start the weekend! But the pull of the massive Alpha stage was strong and on I went to the rock raunchiness served up by Belgium’s finest Triggerfinger. Who can resist the loin-stirring voice of singer Ruben Block and those primordial guitar licks? Alpha responded from the gut, screaming along Aaaaaa-aaahhhhhh in Deep Purple style. Great choice for opening headliner on Friday, including the nice touch to bring Selah Sue on stage for their revved up cover of Duffy’s Mercy.

Triggerfinger at Lowlands 2010 (photo Tim van Veen via 3VOOR12)

Sticking around main stage Alpha what followed was a hero’s welcome for the cream of the crop of Dutch hip hop label Top Notch: The Opposites, Dio accompanied by indierockers Go Back To The Zoo and Flinke Namen. I figured it would be a good show, but I couldn’t have predicted the massive mayhem that followed, the crowd was lapping up every song, encouraged by increasingly stomping beats. Can you get a few thousand people to crouch down on the floor and then start jumping? Can you get them to scream out that they’re hookers (D’r zijn hoeren in de tent dus we gaan nog niet naar huis)? Yes you can, if you perform with the raw energy and enthusiasm these boys brought. Great show, I was already flogged at 4 PM on day 1.

The Opposites at Lowlands 2010 (photo Tim van Veen via 3VOOR12)

Already a broken woman, I stumbled across the way to the Charlie stage to see Frightened Rabbit. Although everything seemed in order and I like their brand of indie, I couldn’t get into the gig. Maybe my brain was still set to hip hop mode, but it lacked a bit of magic for me. I decided to soak up some sun whilst listening to Broken Bells. Why they were programmed in the Alpha tent is beyond me with such a mellow sound and a new project too, the tent was only half filled as was to be expected. But it was perfect lounge music for lying in the sun. I enjoyed the beautiful alt country nostalgia of Band of Horses a lot more, “No one’s gonna love you more than I do”. Although in fairness, both bands don’t offer much in the way of stage antics, best consumed with eyes closed perhaps.

Enough of this main stage fodder! Off to the dark depths of the sliced-in-half-tin-can that is the X-Ray stage. Canadian electronic beatguru Caribou was cooking up a slow intoxicating mixture of psychedelic soundscapes. Just when I was feeling a bit hypnotised by the video graphics he shook it up with the amazing Odessa and after that there was a kind of extended foreplay that erupted in the irresistible pulsating seduction of Sun. The man knows how to build a set. If I was a smoker I would have lit up after that one.

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

Walking past Air I did a double take but really couldn’t find the oomph to worm my way into the tent just to see two guys on synthesizers play Kelly Watch The Stars again, I pass. I did arrange to meet up with friends for a reliable boogie with Groove Armada, but we were disappointed. A routine uninspired set with choppy starts and stops to songs and random shouts to ‘hype the crowd’. Even dance floor favourite Get Down sounded lackluster, shame. All the more because I missed Tame Impala to be there!

We ended the night in good spirits though, joining the masses for the Zer00’s Heroes party: enough of the Doctor Alban and Haddaway ninieties crap, in with the naughties: Gaga, Britney, White Stripes and De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig!

[scroll down for complete setlist]

Finally the wait was over, Flight of the Conchords made it to Amsterdam!! Positively giddy with excitement myself and my motherflippin FotC partner in crime entered Melkweg only to find a room ful of chairs!! Oh no! We had wanted to be within sweat-spray distance of New Zealand’s finest gangsta folk duo, but we made do with seats on row ten in stead.

Jemaine and Bret opened the show with The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room) and the crowd gave a huge warm welcome. They make up a ludicrous story about the origins of the venue name ‘Melkweg’, claiming it pays tribute to the olden days when the people of Amsterdam used to don wigs made of old milk. “It was a bit smelly though. Yeah.. those were the days”. Milkwig laps it up.

The set continues with gems like Robots, Jenny and Think About It. After a while the boys admitted they hadn’t really played for a year and were a bit rusty, this then became the running gag of the evening. Before playing a new song about wooing ladies in the thirteenhundreds, they explicitly asked the crowd not to record and YouTube this delicate moment. They threatened to out Holland for being a filthy country due to the recent binman strike if we broke our promise, which went down with a big laugh.

Later on you could see they were struggling with the in between song banter, “this is the longest gig ever”, “we have now officially run out of things to say if you hadn’t noticed”, citing jetlag as the culprit. However, the moments when the boys address their mistakes or mux up the words and burst into laughs are actually the funniest. They play Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymnoceros at practically twice the normal speed, after Jemaine finally gets the hang of the guitar tabs, but it works out alright.

They play a few more songs than planned because “we’re staying until we get one right!” and end the main set with hilarious version of Mutha’uckas with Bret on a mini drumkit swallowing all the supposed swear words until there are hardly any lyrics left.

The encore, with Bret & Jemaine coming back on stage wearing flashing robo-boxes on their heads, is ironically plagued too when a piece of their equipment won’t work: “This is awkward. It was supposed to be our grand finale”. But it is soon fixed and Too Many Dicks (On The Dancefloor) is a worthy gig closer.

A wonderful evening with the New Zealand (“much funkier and more modern than your old Zeeland”) twosome. But where were the season 2 classics like Hurt Feelings and Sugalumps? Just as wel I’m going to see them again in London in two weeks!


01 The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)

02 Robots

03 Jenny

04 Think About It

05 [New song about wooing a lady]

06 Bus Driver’s Song

07 Foux du Fafa

08 Boom

09 I’m Not Crying

10 Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymnoceros

11 Bowie’s in space

12 I Told You I Was Freaky

13 Business Time

14 Ladies Of The World

15 Song For Epileptic Dogs

16 Mutha’uckas


17 Too Many Dicks (On The Dance Floor)

Saturday night Hot Chip played in Paradiso headlining the fourth night of the Five Days Off festival. I’ll keep my review short, because in all honesty I was too busy jumping around the place to pay serious editorial attention to detail.

What I can say is that it was short and sweet: they came saw and conquered Amsterdam in under 90 minutes. They seemed to have some technical glitches at the beginning (can’t be easy fine-tuning 7 synthesizers) and as for stage presence they’re definitely not in the top 10 most charismatic acts out there. But when you manage to get people all the way to the back of the room shaking their behinds, I would say “who cares?”.

They played a good mix of old & new, thankfully leaving out most of the more mellow songs from their latest release One Life Stand. From that album I really enjoyed We Have Love and I Feel Better, but Ready For The Floor, Hold On and of course One Pure Thought from Made In The Dark also got a great reception. The ultimate Hot Chip classic Over And Over caused a minor earthquake, and even included a crowdsurfer.

‘Tis a strange phenomenon, this Hot Chip. A peculiar combination of understated vocals, at times rather soppy lyrics and then these thumping beats that are so incredibly well made and seductive. I suppose it’s exactly this paradox that makes them quite special. Amsterdam loved it and judging by the band’s twitter so did they: “The crowd is always so nice there!”

A few days after LLaunch and we’re back in gig mode, this time headed to good old Paradiso to see The Swell Season and Josh Ritter. Ritter took the stage with a big smile beaming on his face, mentioning several times how glad he was to be “back in this wonderful place”. His songs can be a bit samey, particularly in just the man-and-his-guitar setup, but he makes up for it with such charm. And of course that killer song Kathleen, can’t beat it. It’s easy to see why bands like the Frames and Damien Rice in the past have enjoyed touring with him so much.

Apparently this gang are having a ball on the road together because The Swell Season were also oozing vim and vigor, stating how much they were enjoying the evening time and again. Their set was a well balanced mix of old and new Swell Season songs with Glen and Marketa alternating lead vocals and piano/ guitar playing. Marketa’s voice seems to have become a bit more mature and melancholy, almost hypnotic on songs like If You Want Me.

We also got the odd Frames song thrown in such as the beautiful Lay Me Down, though sadly not the one I was telepathically beaming at the stage all night (Fitzcarraldo). Later in the gig Glen did an amazing solo performance of the Van Morrison song Astral Weeks followed by a seemingly spontaneous decision to play Gold with the band, which is something out of the ordinary. Really nice to see how the boys all gathered close together on stage for this one, to keep an eye on each other and get it just right.

They closed the main set with When Your Mind’s Made Up and had everyone out of their seats clapping and yelling for more, a rather overwhelming response from the entire room. The encore delivered oscar winning Falling Slowly and a nice version of Ritter’s Come And Find Me performed together with Glen & Marketa.

Throughout the evening Glen had been all banter and in form as a choir teacher of sorts, supposedly getting us to sing at every opportunity because he was so impressed by the singing talent of the Paradiso crowd on a Luka Bloom live album. In style we finished the evening all singing and laughing along to Daniel Johnston’s Devil Town: “And all my friends were vampires, I didn’t know they were vampires, turns out I was a vampire myself, in this devil town”. What a heartwarming gig in this dismal and dreary February month.

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.

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