An hour’s drive from Amsterdam is the idyllic village of Biddinghuizen. Normally home to just over 6000 residents, every August it opens its gates to 60,000 punters for one of the Netherlands biggest music festival, Lowlands. On one of the most beautiful festival sites around (there’s a lake plonked around the corner from the main stage), some of the biggest artists in the world play to thousands of revellers, with 2018’s line-up featuring headliners Gorillaz, N*E*R*D* and Kendrick Lamar plus Dua Lipa, Brockhampton, Stormzy and countless more.
But Lowlands is about far more than killer music, priding itself on the friendly atmosphere and alternative activities. The Thursday night saw organisers hand out 20,000 pairs of headphones for a site wide silent disco; in the wee hours of Sunday morning we settled down in the Juliet theatre to watch experimental ballet, and over in Sexyland (a pop up version of the legendary Amsterdam club) there was the chance to take part in a Stars In Their Eyes-style talent show.
Here’s what happened at 2018’s edition of the festival:
"This was by far the biggest crowd we've played to in the Netherlands, and maybe one the biggest crowds we've played to!" Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever's Fran Keaney told us after the band's show, "it was a shock to us, as we didn't know what to expect, and we were like "Fuck!" it was good!" The Aussie rockers blitzed through a set of tunes from their two albums, with the crowd roaring back the words to total earworm 'Mainland'.
The crowd at Lowlands were in for a special show from Yonaka, who had dropped their megalithic new EP 'Teach Me To Fight' the same day. Fearlessly running through the new tunes, alongside old favourites, the crowd at the X-Ray stage ate up their early evening set.
As soon as the self-proclaimed "best boyband since One Direction" burst onto the Bravo stage they were greeted by deafening screams and swarming pits. Blistering through their 15-song set, their flawless live show was a festival moment to remember.
"It's so good to be back and see all your faces!" Mahalia told army of revellers halfway through her set on the Lima stage. Running through a string of her silky tunes, members of the audience were climbing up the outside of the tent to try and catch a glimpse. Latest bop 'I Wish I Missed My Ex' sounded glorious accompanied by the baking sun, and a cover of Rihanna's 'Work' delighted the crowds.
Mahalia joined us back stage for a quick chat and a snap after her stellar performance. "What the hell just happened?! It was amazing!" she told NME, when asked about her huge show.
Bouncing onstage to 'Swing', Sofi Tukker's set was a choreographed delight. Their effervescent electro-pop is transformed in a live setting, completed by the duo's impressive musicianship (both Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern play countless instruments each) and their giddy onstage interaction.
Delighting the audience in the football pitch-sized Alpha stage whilst the sunset was The War On Drugs. Opening with 'Nothing to Find', the band captivated the audience with their slick set.
Closing the mainstage on Friday were Gorillaz, who brought in the biggest crowd of the entire weekend. A festival highlight came in the form of a moving tribute to Aretha Franklin, performing a snippet of '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman', before launching into 'Andromeda'.
The crowds at the Alpha stage were treated to guest appearances from several of the band's longtime collaborators. De La Soul appeared for 'Superfast Jellyfish', and then again later for 'Feel Good Inc.', Little Simz was brought on for a blistering rendition of 'Garage Palace', and Peven Everett and Bootie Brown also hopping onstage during the 22-song set.
"Hello, my name is Jacob Banks and I sing songs!" the vocalist told the thousands of revellers spilling out of the Bravo stage as he kicked off Saturday's music. His slick soul was the antidote woozy punters needed for Friday evening's hangovers.
The singer was genuinely humbled by the roaring reception he received, telling the crowds "this is a moment I'll never forget!"
Running through his biggest tunes accompanied by stunning visuals, Stormzy took Lowlands festival by storm.
"We've been doing a lot of festivals, and this festival is the most lit of the year!" Pharrell told the crowds at Lowlands festival, who cheered in appreciation. The legendary hip-hop band offered a hit filled set, not only playing the band's biggest tunes, but also several Neptunes (band members Pharrell and Chad Hugo's production duo) megamixes, which saw Migos' 'Narcos' and Gwen Stefani's 'Hollaback Girl' being blasted across the stadium. Finishing with the gigantic 'Lapdance' and an encore of 'Lemon' (played twice, because it's that good), it was a fearlessly fun headline slot.