Last weekend, it is once again time for Best Kept Secret 2016. The alternative music festival celebrates its fourth anniversary in the fairytale terrain of the Beekse Bergen in Hilvarenbeek, the Netherlands. The entire weekend is filled with great music, delicious food and rainy walks along a lake, Christmas lights and pop-up markets in the woods. Best Kept Secret is an example of the music festivals that want to be more than just a music festival, by providing a huge offer of strange, creative and mostly biological food. The result is a full experience, a hideaway in the rainy forest of Hilvarenbeek, dancing to the best music as the sun goes down over the lake.
Join me as a look back on Best Kept Secret 2016!
// Friday June 17, 2016
We start our first day at the festival with I Am Oak on Stage Three, a young singer-songwriter from Utrecht. A couple of months ago, Boyfriend and I went to see him perform in EKKO (you can read my review of that concert right here) and I really enjoyed the combination between folk and indie. At Best Kept Secret, the artist seems to be in the exact right place, with his dreamy sound and nature-inspired lyrics.
After a short dinner break (freshly prepared tortillas with tequila chicken), I join Boyfriend and his family at Stage Two, where Minor Victories is about to perform. Although I had never heard of the band itself, I did hear of the individual artists, who are from bands such as Slowdive, Mogwai and Editors. As I like all of these bands, I thought it would be worth a shot. I enjoy the performance, although I do think there is a lot of repetition in-between tracks and not a lot of alternation, after a while the songs start to sound the same to me.
From that moment onwards, Best Kept Secret is drowning in rainfall and the sky alternates between heavy showers and miserable drizzle. It starts to get cold and dark on the festival grounds and I don’t really feel like standing outside to look at bands. So instead, my family and I seek shelter in the Volkskrant Secret Garden, where you can drink sweet tea with honey and read magazines. I want to see Beach House perform on Stage Two, but so does the rest of the festival visitors and as a result, the tent is way too crowded to actually enjoy the music.
So no Beach House, but we do watch Beck perform as the first headliner of Best Kept Secret 2016. From the Toms coffee bar, you have the perfect view of the main stage, where Beck performs everything from rock to folk and from jazz to indie. Despite the rain and the cold, Beck gets the field in front of the main stage to dance to tracks like Loser, Dreams and Wow. And thanks to the beautiful visuals appearing behind Beck and his band, it’s also a very enjoyable show to watch from the comfortable pillows in the coffee bar.
// Saturday June 18, 2016
It’s a new day at Best Kept Secret and the sky looks grey and daunting above the campsite. People check the weather forecast on their phones, shake their heads in disappointment and pack their ponchos to bring to the festival terrain. I put on my sweater and my rain-boots, ready to brave the muddy beach and woods. We start our day slowly with some tea in the Secret Garden and Blossoms‘ performance on Stage Two. This young band from Manchester, UK reminds me of a young Arctic Monkeys, with moody organ sounds and peppy guitar tunes. During their hit single Charlemagne the entire tent sings and dances along.
One thing that really bothers me on Saturday, is the very apparent crowdedness. It is way busier than on Friday and last year’s edition, which results in super long lines for the food trucks and the toilets (which is really inconvenient if you really need to pee). One of the main selling points of a festival like Best Kept Secret is that it’s smaller and different from other, bigger festivals. I go to a smaller and more alternative festival like Best Kept Secret just because I don’t want to drown in the crowd or stand in line for an hour to be able to pee. In my opinion, the organization of the festival could have avoided this crowdedness and the irritation that comes with it by keeping the maximum visitation numbers at a level that it remains enjoyable for everyone, plus relocating the toilets, because it isn’t very logical to put the main toiletry location on the exact same place the main walking route is supposed to be.
The Saturday is the only day to sell out completely and it is clear why: Editors will take the main stage as Best Kept Secret’s second headliner. The entire day, the promise of Editors’ performance is in the air, through shirts on the festival ground, to the early soundcheck we could hear on the campsite, to the industrial setting that is built upon the main stage: the entire festival seems to evolve around Editors. And when the sun has already disappeared over the lake and the rain starts to pour down over the beach, it is finally time. To the daunting and dark tunes of No Harm, Tom Smith and his four consorts take the stage. It is the very first headlining show Editors has ever done in The Netherlands and the band takes the opportunity to show Best Kept Secret what they’re made of. Hit after hit they throw at the audience with a baffling energy, from The Racing Rats and Smokers Outside The Hospital Door to A Ton Of Love and the old-time festival favorite Papillon. The audience goes crazy when fireworks go off and does not seem to care about the rain at all. And understandably so, because Editors takes their breath away.
After one of the best performances of the festival, it’s time to trudge through the mud and rain back to the campsite, desperate to get warm. I’m freezing cold, but it was so worth it.
Sunday June 19, 2016
On the morning of the final day of Best Kept Secret, the campers are greeted by the sun, fighting against the dreary clouds in the sky. Today promises to be a good day and the spirits are high at the campsite, where the Belgians are still recovering from yesterday’s victory, the English behind us are still defrosting and we are enjoying our homemade breakfast of scrambled eggs with herbs and bacon on wraps.
Today is a busy day, as there are a lot of bands I want to see. So Boyfriend and I start our day at Stage Two, with a beautiful performance by Explosions In The Sky. The five-headed band from Texas, USA bewitches the audience with their epic and grand musical compositions, containing of melodic and intense guitars. Their set is perfectly whole, with an air-tight performance and beautiful, beautiful lighting. The combination of the epic music and colorful lights make the performance feel like actual musical explosions in a sky painted by the Northern lights.
From the beautiful, beautiful Explosions In The Sky, we sit down in the tranquil and sunny Secret Garden for some (really gross) iced tea and (super delicious) homemade chocolate chip cookies. After we have regained our energy, we walk through the woods towards Stage One, where we sit down on the beach for Half Moon Run. I first saw them perform live at Down The Rabbit Hole (for a review of last year’s edition, click here) two years ago and it is great to see how much the band has grown. They take the main stage with confidence, even though their equipment fails during the beginning of their set. Half Moon Run solves the problem perfectly, be performing an acoustic track with two guitars, one accordion and only one microphone. They are thanked by a roaring applause from the audience, which continues throughout their entire set, including She Wants To Know and Full Circle.
Yeasayer is performing at Stage Two and Boyfriend and I join an already excited crowd. It’s easy to understand why: the experimental and multi-genre band is here to party. They perform hit after hit, from O.N.E. to Silly Me, getting the entire tent to dance with their fun combination between rock, folk and pop.
Once we’re outside again, the sun is greeting us happily and lazily we make our way towards the field in front of Stage One, to catch a glimpse of Band of Horses. While enjoying our pulled pork cheeseburgers (the best burgers on the entire festival terrain, I swear) we listen to the indie-rock band. The audience has brought the five men on stage a present: a gigantic, plastic horse from the safari-park next door. The band loves it and so does the audience, but the security swiftly takes control and proceed to bring the horse back to where he came from. Gigantic plastic horse or not, the audience still really seems to enjoy Band of Horses’ performance, as they play old-time favorites Funeral and No One’s Gonna Love You.
Although the organization of the festival created a lot of fuss by programming Jamie XX as their final headliner, we decide to skip on the DJ’s set and enjoy Two Door Cinema Club as our final performance instead. And it is the perfect decision, as the Brits create the biggest party of Best Kept Secret. Dancing on the hot sand, the audience sings along to What You Know, Handshake and Something Good Can Work, but also to tracks from their upcoming album, such as Are We Ready? and Gameshow.
Two Door Cinema Club is the perfect final performance of our time at Best Kept Secret and after the Brits wave one last time at the audience, it’s time for us to go too. For the last time that weekend, we walk past the Christmas light, colorful food trucks and dancing ponchos towards our car. Best Kept Secret 2016 was a blast and it makes me even more excited for Lowlands, which will take place in just a couple of weeks. Be sure to keep an eye on Almost Famous Writer for more music festival posts and check my Instagram for more pictures of Best Kept Secret 2016!