Last weekend, the town of Landgraaf turned pink when Pinkpop, the oldest music festival of the Netherlands, took place. Tens of thousands of hipsters, friends, music fanatics, families, Pinkpop fanatics and Germans gathered to see artists like Paul McCartney, Rammstein and Red Hot Chili Peppers perform. For me, Pinkpop has always been a family tradition and we would always go for the entire weekend. But this year, I visited the final day of Pinkpop with my friends!
We start our day together with the rest of Pinkpop when Jungle By Night, a Dutch group of artists, climb the 3FM stage, performing everything from folk to reggae and jazz to afrobeat. The result is the perfect way to start our day at the festival, sitting on the sunny field in front of the 3FM stage and moving to the tropical beat of Jungle By Night. In-between tracks, which are filled with catchy beats and trumpets, the band takes their time to address the audience, thanking them for coming out to see them. They seem to be surprised of the fact that they’re performing at Pinkpop, but the audience definitely aren’t, as they dance and clap along with the music.
Immediately after Jungle By Night, the Main Stage is officially opened by Douwe Bob. He begins his set with Sweet Sunshine, serenading the weather gods. Unfortunately, they do not seem to hear it, as after a couple of songs, dark grey clouds start to make its way to the festival terrain. But nothing gets Douwe Bob down, as he carries on with his set full of energy and enthusiasm, performing his hit singles You Don’t Have To Stay and The News, but also his Eurovision Songfestival track: Slow Down. Pouring rain or not: Douwe Bob is here to perform and so he does; he gives it his all, wearing the same jacket he wore during his very first Pinkpop set and shouting to the audience “I wanna see those bras!” during Take It Off. You sneaky bastard, Douwe Bob.
Near the end of Douwe Bob’s set, we leave the vast field in front of the Main Stage to find shelter for the impending rainfall. Together with many, many others we stand beneath the food tents to save ourselves from getting completely soaked, pressed between picnic benches and fellow festival visitors. To keep up the good spirits, someone starts singing Hey Jude and soon enough everyone joins in. And right then and there, in the sea of colorful ponchos, beer and fries, you feel the essence of Pinkpop: it’s about bringing people together. People with such different interests, backgrounds and ponchos being together and celebrating together and, occasionally, sheltering from rain together.
When the sky cleared up again, we walk back to the Main Stage, where John Newman is about to begin. To my surprise, the field is quite full and so many people have fought the heavy rain to see the young Brit perform. But as soon as John Newman starts to perform, it becomes crystal clear why: he is good. Really good. Known for his hit singles Love Me Again and Come And Get It, John Newman delivers one of the most entertaining, fun and complete performances of the day. He is such a presence upon the stage, catching the attention of the festival field with his amazing vocals, great chemistry with his band members and aim to dance the bad weather away.
After a quick festival snack (traditional Pinkpop fries for 1 coin, how I have missed you), it is time for Kygo on the Main Stage. I don’t know what to expect, as it is a DJ set and I’m not sure how that plays out at a festival like Pinkpop. But Kygo turns out to be a success, as he plays Stay, Stole The Show and Firestone and invites Tom Odell to join him on stage during Fiction, which is pleasant, pleasant surprise.
Unfortunately, we can’t see Tom Odell perform at the Brand Bier Stage, simply because it is too crowded in and around the tent. Nearly a decade of going to festivals have thought me: no matter how badly you want to see an artist, don’t risk the safety of you and your friends. If something happens, no matter how small, you simply cannot get out of a crowd as tight as that fast enough. And in the case of Tom Odell, it is just been unsafe to stand in a crowd like that, especially with the weather being as ever-changing as it is today.
But we aren’t disappointed for long, as Lionel Richie turns out to be the surprise of the day. Up until the moment he walks onto the Main Stage, I believe Lionel Richie wouldn’t have made it to sub-headliner without the help from Adele’s single “Hello”, but as soon as he climbs the stage, shouts a “Hello!” at the audience and begins his first song, I realize I was wrong. Lionel Richie’s performance was one of my favorites of the day, because he was so full of energy and enthusiasm, giving his soaked audience just what they need: an hour full of dancing, clapping and singing. He plays all his hit singles with the greatest joy and energy, from All Night Long to Say You, Say Me, plus the song he wrote with Michael Jackson, We Are The World. And, of course, during Hello, the entire audience joins in and sings along with the surprise of the day: Lionel Richie.
And when the sun starts to disappear behind the night sky, it is time for the man of the day: Paul McCartney. The former Beatle could be found all around the festival terrain the entire day, in the shape of T-shirts and songs sung in rainy crowds, and when the first tunes of his set echo over the field, everyone has gathered to see him perform. And he definitely doesn’t disappoint: he plays classic Beatle songs, which are joyfully sang by the audience, but also tracks from his latest album, “New”. It is clear he brought his best musicians, his best songs and his best Dutch (“Dit is van mijn nieuwe album”), which result in a great performance. The music is great and the visuals on the screen behind the artists is spectacularly beautiful, as the visuals match the music seamlessly. Even though I don’t know all of the songs (shame on me!), I still really enjoy Sir Paul McCartney’s performance and I finally understand what all the fuss was about: right there upon that stage is a piece of musical history, an icon and a legend. And with his performance at Pinkpop, Paul McCartney proves once more that he still is.
A little before he plays his final tunes of the evening, we start to walk away from the festival terrain, in an attempt to beat the crowds. As I’m walking the stairs towards the exit, I look back one more time, like I do every year, and think: “Until next time, Pinkpop, until next time.”