Walibi Holland, Biddinghuizen, Netherlands
The Dutch seem to have an insatiable appetite for festivals. New ones crop up constantly around Amsterdam and beyond.
As the phenomena grows, we’ve seen increasingly niche offerings ranging from big-budget techno events to experimental underground parties, festivals focused exclusively on hip-hop or live bands; not to mention art, theatre, food and the rest. However, before this overwhelming platter or parties, The Netherlands had Lowlands. The iconic Dutch music festival offers all of the above under a series of weather-proof roofs and has been doing so for over 25 years.
This year saw a particularly strong showing of hip-hop and rap, from the frantic energy of Flohio at the X Ray stage to a surprise appearance by Chicago’s Saba in an unbilled area built of shipping containers. One of the most impressive performances had to be Anderson .Paak at the Alpha stage, a vast arch-roofed construction the size of a football field. Paak’s show was one of a few that brought out the sunshine and his flawless delivery on the mic and drum-kit had a huge crowd entirely captivated.
Earlier that day Billie Eilish drew the largest daytime crowd but her performance turned out somewhat lacklustre and anticlimactic. Fresh out of Swedish prison, A$AP Rocky looked understandably excited but didn’t deliver much either beyond jumping around and initiating some huge mosh pits. In fact, his most enjoyable moment came later that night when he joined Tame Impala on stage to perform L$D and Sundress. The Australian’s band’s entire set was a deliciously trippy experience backed by hazy visuals and an arsenal of lasers. By comparison, James Blake’s performance on Sunday afternoon at the Bravo stage was impressively understated, moving delicately through sombre moments and waves of intense energy.
The late-night program saw sets from local DJs like Carista, DJ Marcelle and a firey back to back from Mairo Nawaz and Moody Mehran. Most DJs seemed to be going for the high octane approach in their respective styles with Helena Hauff’s dark rippling electro another standout and Honey Dijon turning up the playful pumping house. The quality of stage production throughout Lowlands was instantly apparent but as the night drew in and live stages transformed seamlessly into dark pumping dancefloors, it became even more impressive.
Perhaps Lowlands’ biggest strength is that it really has something for everyone. Walking around the site you see a full spectrum of ages and a wide range of different types of music fan, something usually reserved for much larger productions like Glastonbury or Coachella. You could quite easily spend the whole weekend focused on any one of the styles on offer but the real magic comes when you flit between them all, passing art installations, theatre performances and tons of other strange goings on along the way. In a part of the world flooded with specific niche festivals, Lowlands’ enduring selling point is its incredible variety and quality. It’s hard to think of another event of its size anywhere in the world that squeezes so much into three days. Long may it reign as the Netherlands most intricate offering.