“This one’s an oldie,” says Justin Young of The Vaccines as he introduces ‘Melody Calling’ during their slot of Best Kept Secret. “All the way back from 2013, when this festival was just born…”
Dutch festival Best Kept Secret is only a ripe age of two, but it is a testament to the festival to be able to boast such a consistently impressive line-up of star-studded acts since its inception. Graced in the past by Arctic Monkeys, Interpol, and Franz Ferdinand as headliners, this year’s 2015 edition showcases a stellar headline selection of The Libertines, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and alt-J, alongside the guitar rock-based likes of Circa Waves, Wolf Alice, Alvvays, Of Monsters and Men, First Aid Kit, Hinds, Gengahr, FIDLAR, and more. Located in the picturesque Safari Park of Beekse Bergen in Holland, Best Kept Secret is a music festival hidden away entirely in leafy woodland realms, with a solid focus on a very British-dominant array of indie and alternative acts.
Circa Waves’ debut album might have only been released at the end of March, but these Liverpool indie-rockers are ready to take festival season by storm. Playing the main stage on the first day, the youthful four-piece begin their set with a roaring rendition of ‘Young Chasers’ before powering through hits from their debut record. Their sprightly, energetic, guitar-heavy, Strokes-esque sound is perfect for a summer soundtrack, with frontman Kieran Shudall enjoying every moment as much as the crowd. The feel-good choruses of their songs are a brilliant way to kick-start day one of Best Kept Secret, with harmonies that could have been found in the recording sessions for Is This It. Their final song, ‘T-Shirt Weather’, is a rousing crowd chorus that is sung just as a few drops of rain begin to fall, but it is no matter; the sun is sure to follow Circa Waves wherever they go this summer.
London dream-pop band Gengahr serenade festival goers during the week of their first album release, A Dream Outside, to a packed Stage Five. Felix Bushe’s light falsetto vocals are reminiscent of Joe Newman’s from alt-J, but their delicate, ethereal, floaty guitar-based sound is more similar to that of Superfood. Single ‘Heroine’ is as catchy as can be, and Gengahr’s performance is a blissfully transcendent experience. Gengahr aren’t the only band on album release week. On the eve of their album release day, London lo-fi grunge-rock outfit Wolf Alice take to Stage Two adrenaline-ready and fired up. A glint of fang from the group is seen amidst lead singer Ellie Rowsell’s soft, dreamy vocals in ‘Your Loves Whore’ and ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’, and the band go absolutely primal during epic feral thriller ‘Giant Peach’. Wolf Alice manage to intertwine elements of mystic indie-pop and eighties grunge post-punk in a dulcet blend, and it is the perfect performance to welcome their eagerly anticipated debut record.
Fresh from their British Summer Time co-headline slot at Hyde Park supporting The Strokes, Spain’s most endearing all-female garage punk band Hinds bless Best Kept Secret with their infectious charm and gritty melodies. “We are so happy to be here!” guitarist Carlotta Cosials chirps happily to an eagerly awaiting crowd. The Madrid group have been causing up a stir all over Europe; their intimate but energetic live shows almost always ending in a stage invasion, a stint at this year’s SXSW doing nothing to hinder the Hinds hurricane. The band dive into the tender choruses of ‘Between Two Cans’, a song originally mixed by Arni Hjovar (The Vaccines), and polished versions of their Bandcamp demos ‘Trippy Gum’ and ‘Castigadas en el Granero’. The shoegaze influenced, bass-heavy ‘Bamboo’ is worthy to become a future lead single for the band, co-singers Ana and Carlotta spitting lyrics with an affectionate ferocity. The band close with an entrancing cover of The Headcoats’ ‘Davey Crockett’, further enchanting the crowd with effortless charisma and allure, looking as if they are having the time of their lives.
Ahead of a busy summer, festival veterans The Vaccines treat the crowd of Stage One to the electrifying, delightful, catchy, indie rock melodies they are so loved for. With a setlist curated around their latest album, English Graffiti, the Londoners also make sure to pay tribute to their older, iconic songs, with ‘Wetsuit’, ‘If You Wanna’, and ‘Teenage Icon’ proving to be crowd favourites, each tune inviting an enormous sing-a-long. Opening their set with ‘Handsome’, it is an hour-long tribute to the band’s pulsating and catchy choruses, with Ade Martin of Hinds spotted dancing along in the crowd. The band go on to perform ‘Minimal Affection’, ’20/20′, and ‘Give Me a Sign’ from their latest record, Freddie Cowan shredding the infectious riffs on lead guitar and frontman Justin Young never standing still, a victim of the crowd’s energy. Whether he is lying on the stage floor during ‘Wetsuit’ or dashing around the stage like a madman during closing song ‘Norgaard’, what more could we have expected from The Vaccines? They are everyone’s favourite indie band, and it isn’t at all hard to see why.
Swim Deep play a surprise set at Stage Three, replacing badbadnotgood who were forced to withdraw earlier in the week. The Birmingham five-piece deliver drifting, melodic indie pop harmonies to a packed tent that includes bassist Theo Ellis of Wolf Alice, moshing in the pit during ‘One Great Song and I Can Change the World’, taken from their forthcoming album. Ahead of a headline slot at London’s Roundhouse in October, Swim Deep play an extremely energetic 45-minute slot, watched from backstage by members of Temples, their setlist a mixture of upcoming releases and songs from their debut album, with lead singer Austin Williams bouncing around every corner of the stage before ultimately diving (and crashing) into Zachary Robinson’s drum set at the end of their final song.
What can’t Noel Gallagher do? Back from a stateside tour after headlining the O2 Arena in March, Noel Gallagher tops the bill of day two of Best Kept Secret with a chilled charm, coolly giving the fervent crowd a thumbs up as he launches into a blistering ‘Everybody’s On the Run’. It is a vocal masterclass from the ex-Oasis guitarist, the Mancunian music icon’s flawless vocals tinted with a sense of age that can only be grown into after decades and decades of experience. Noel Gallagher tears into songs from his first two records, ‘You Know We Can’t Go Back’, ‘Lock All the Doors’, and ‘AKA… What a Life’ sounding better than ever. He makes sure to quench the crowd’s thirst with Oasis classics, of course, first with timeless classics ‘Fade Away’ and ‘Digsy’s Dinner’, before two heroic performances of ‘Champagne Supernova’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ that has the crowd singing so loudly, they’re nearly drowning Noel’s vocals. It is a triumphant headline slot for the singer-songwriter, a carefully selected mix of old favourites played alongide fresher, newer songs, proving that there is, always indeed, life after Oasis – one that might be even better.
It is The Libertines, however, who ultimately steal the whole festival. The boys in the band take to the stage after a massive flag depicting the artwork from their first album is unfurled against the backdrop of Stage One for their headline slot, to the screams of the Libertine faithful. It is an emotional reunion for the band and fans alike, their first show of 2015, after years away from the scene amidst troubles revolving around the personal lives of the two frontmen, Pete Doherty and Carl Barat. Nonetheless, they have returned tonight with a blistering set and a promise of more to come. The Libertines launch into pulsating riffs of opener ‘The Delaney’, followed by classic favourites from their back catalogue. The crowd don’t stop moving for a second, each lyric of each song shouted out and sung with such passion and intensity. Even after years apart from each other, the chemistry between Doherty and Barat is as strong as ever, as if they had never taken a hiatus; their trademark mic-sharing during ‘What Katie Did’ and ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ sends the crowd further into a frenzy, the Lennon/McCartney partnership found in the back alleyways of Albion. ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’ is a live masterpiece; Doherty’s tender cooing of the poetic verses blending melodiously with Barat’s raw harmonies. Doherty and Barat toy and banter with each other throughout their set, which is essentially a straight dive into the entire Libertines discography, with Barat putting on a red beret thrown to him by a crowd member to match Doherty’s grey one. Their set is raging and electrifying, a celebration of their abrasive, post-punk sound, but it is not long before cries of ‘NEW SONGS!!!!’ is heard and carried over to the stage. It is not until after they play ‘What a Waster’ that Doherty and Barat finally acknowledge the crowd’s pleas.
“I’ve said we should play some new songs but they said we shouldn’t play any until our album comes out,” Doherty teases the crowd, with Barat reiterating that he wants to play new material, but Doherty not letting him. After more banter from the two, however, Doherty finally states, “We’re going to give you one but it’s got to be a secret. Put your phones off and we’ll see how it turns out…” but just before the band dive into the song, Barat yells jokingly, “She’ll die, she ain’t ready!”
The new track is ‘Gunga Gin’, played live for the first ever time, pulled from their forthcoming album said to be released later this year. It is a track heavily reliant on John Hassall’s bassline and coated with a ska-influenced tone, accompanied by a signature punky guitar riff from Carl Barat. It is only a mere glimpse into the new sound of The Libertines, and though it is still rough and coarse, it represents a rebirth of the band. It is a momentary glance into the future of the group that has been plagued with the effects of drugs, depression, substance abuse, and heartache, but is now also tinged with ideas of a fresh revival, a pure comeback. It is an emotional set, not just for the crowd, but for the band, as well, but The Libertines play with a sense of duty, adamant to show the world just what will become of the likely lads.
Words by Cady Siregar