Lowlands 2009: Rated!
Biddinghuizen, Netherlands - 21-23 August
Jonathan Rainbird - 03 September 2009
The festival is set in a picturesque location in the heart of the Dutch lowlands, next to an amusement park, Walibi World,
and flanked by woodland and on the banks of a gorgeous lake.
With 55,000 partygoers experiencing over 200 acts with an eclectic mix of music, stand up comedy, poetry, politics pit and a cinema spread over ten different stages; as well as mime artists, and even a tattoo parlour hosted by Henk Schiffmacher Holland's most famous tattoo artist. To put it bluntly, Lowlands has everything.
Overall – 8/10
Lowlands is a complete smorgasbord, or, more appropriately, cheese board of artists, catering to everyone's tastes. One can indulge him- or herself in listening and gasping at big names or enjoy discovering yet unknown, about to have a breakthrough, bands and artists. A combination of both is of course preferable, but then you do have to polish up your logistic skills and keep a close eye on your watch, the schedule and the penance for a fast stroll.
Either way, you can feed all your cultural cravings: see a good movie, discuss politics, have a laugh with the stand-up comedians or follow a course in how to be a comedian, listen to some industrial poetry and in between listen to soak up some really good music. And when you find the time to queue up for that well deserved beer, you can feast your eyes on the decoration of the festival area and variations of street parades that show up every now and then. Or, you can get Bambi tattooed on your arse.
Getting there and back – 9/10
Considering there are 55,000 people converging on the site near a small village in the heart of Flevopolder, an hour east of Amsterdam, the fact you can be parked up with less than hours delay is amazing. Coaches also provide regular shuttle services to the local train stations. Excellent.
The Site – 6/10
The T-shaped layout has the three main stages at each extremity, with smaller stages along the route. This is great when the crowd is spread out around the festival grounds but an absolute nightmare when everyone is going to or from the same stage. Be prepared to miss some acts because at times you can't get from stage to stage quickly enough. All the biggest names are scheduled on the Alpha stage with dunes to the left and right, so if you don't fit in the tent, you can relax and listen, while watching the big screens - getting to see the crowd pullers means that you and many thousands of partygoers have to try to squeeze themselves through the bottleneck all at once.
Atmosphere – 8/10
A bit more adult oriented than some other festivals with only three-day tickets available, but it is fun and energetic. At the same time it is also relaxed and laidback: the Dutch really know how to throw a great party.
Music – 8/10
A really good mixture with a bit of something for everyone, Lowlands has everything from folk and pop to hardcore and death metal.
The Prodigy - 9/10
They are incredible. After headlining across Europe all summer they deliver another set full of passion and energy which has an enormous Lowlands crowd, squeezed all around the Alpha stage, rocking inside the tent and out. This corner of the festival grounds is absolutely jumping and the sight of Maxim and Keith with huge grins on their faces just makes the experience even better.
Them Crooked Vultures - 8/10
If you haven't heard all about them already then you're in for a treat. Them Crooked Vultures is a hard rock supergroup in the purest sense of the words, comprising Josh Homme (QOTSA) as lead singer and guitarist, Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) on drums, and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) playing bass guitar and keyboards. Homme's vocals make it impossible not to draw significant comparisons with Queens of the Stone Age, but this is a richer, slightly more upbeat and more reflective post-grunge rock mixed with a hint of funk. They are fabulous.
De Staat 8/10
The three months of Dutch festival experience they've gained this summer, has seen them grow and mature significantly as a band. Their mix of post-punk and rock, combined with lead singer Torre Florin's deep baritone vocals give a dark, confident energy that belies there status as newcomers. If any comparison is needed, think Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, but with more spirit and energy, and a hint of funk. Expect to see De Staat touring internationally next summer, they're easily ready.
Snoop Dogg - 8/10
What a Sunday afternoon! England fighting for the Ashes, Spurs top of the league and a huge dose of gangster rap, Doggy style. Perfect. Alpha stage was absolutely swamped with numbers only seen elsewhere with The Prodigy and the crowd was absolutely buzzing with excitement. Snoop worked his audience masterfully, the whole of this corner of the festival grounds was pumping, bumping and jumping to the sounds.
Eagles Of Death Metal - 9/10
Josh Homme was no where to be seen after Saturdays exertions with Them Crooked Vultures, but this didn't stop Jesse Hughes and gang, from delivering a top performance of hard rock with a smile. Jesse plays the Southern redneck clown perfectly, his quips in his Carolina drawl keeping the crowd in stitches, and the lyrics don't take life or death at all seriously, but the music is a classic example of hard rock at its finest. It’s Queens of the Stone Age meets My Name is Earl, and the crowd can't get enough. Neither can Jesse.
Faith No More – 3/10
Lead singer Mike Patton is undoubtedly talented and versatile, perfectly displayed by his ability as a crooner with the covers of Peaches & Herb's ‘Reunited’ and The Commodore's ‘Easy’. But if he was a little less arrogant and self-absorbed, and a little more connected with his audience, then this performance would have been a bit more entertaining. Even the most die-hard fans found it hard to accept him embracing the Lowlands crowd with “Hi Pukkelpop” (a rival Belgian festival the same weekend).
Grace Jones – 3/10
Grace Jones has long legs, that's the good news. Her diva act, at the age of 61, is frankly ridiculous. Make-up artists are good but not that good. She turned up over 20 minutes late, with the crowd frustrated and starting to leave. Costume changes after every track left gaps in the music, and could do nothing to hide the fact her back catalogue is weak to say the least, resulting in her being forced to sing several Roxy Music covers to pad out her set.
Enter Shikari – 4/10
Spotty teenagers love it, but this post-hardcore quartet from Hertfordshire, prance and leap about as if they are practising in their dad's garage, they have absolutely no stage presence. The music throbs to the heavy bass but still sounds largely mundane and unimaginative, hopefully it will mature a lot faster than their fans.
Beirut – 4/10
Their last album did draw a bit of a crowd, but live they just don't meet expectations. Nice folky songs, but nothing new that makes the heart skip a beat. Nice doesn't really cut it.
Best of Rock DJ's – 4/10
They make you wonder what the definition of rock is: folk and pop are called that for a reason, aren't they? Although headbanging is promised, no hairdo stands a chance of being messed up.
Dutch band Moke's lead singer, Felix Maginn, saying, “Its good to be back home” in English. The Dutch find this pretentious and are not impressed.
Lily Allen handing out 'Fuck You' condoms to help promote her upcoming gig at Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam
Before entering the festival grounds the Lowlands crew hand out pint size plastic cups, so you can pour in the drink you brought and take that inside. A free first drink, typically Dutch.