Under blue skies, and the permanently smoking chimneys towering over Lowlands’ entrance, Nao kicks off action for this weekend in the Netherlands. All beams and joyous dance routines (a highlight coming in the shape of a super-dramatic spin mid-way through closer, the Mura Masa collab ‘Firefly’) she brings debut album ‘For All We Know’ to life in effortless style. Clad in a tinfoil dress across the site, a mallet-wielding Isabel Munoz-Newsome whacks the hell out of her poor guitar, leading Pumarosa headlong into a dizzying sprawl of industrially-tinged sort-of rock, kind-of-but-not-quite dance music that refuses to be pigeon-holed. ‘Priestess’ – the band’s monstrously brilliant trance-like marathon – predictably stands up as a highlight. Airings of brand new, little heard songs are equally exciting, though, and not even an accidental flinging-away of the tambourine can dampen Pumarosa’s as-of-yet untitled closer.
The Kills – back tearing up stages across Europe after far too long away – bring a taste of snarling, fuzzed-up chaos to the India stage, older favourites ‘No Wow’ and ‘U.R.A Fever’ sitting neatly alongside Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart’s bold, sharp-edged new album ‘Ash & Ice’. After a lighters-aloft sing-along to ‘Baby Says,’ and debut throwback ‘Monkey 23’, the stage is later handed over to Warpaint. Previously, they’re a band who’ve struggled with festivals; their hazy, humid jams not connecting with open space, getting lost, like psychedelia without Citymapper. That’s not the case today. Kicking off with restrained, pounding debut EP cut ‘Elephant,’ and pressing fast-forward – with a pit-stop at ‘Undertow’ en route – theirs is a bold, punchy set complete with glimpses of album number three. ‘New Song’ and ‘Whiteout’ see them pogoing across the stage, drenched in purple light, and in their strongest form yet. Also on top form, Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry is a force of nature, whirlwinding her way around the stage, ducking and diving under giant, earth-shuddering synth lines. After several years honing ‘The Bones of What You Believe’ and aiming ever-higher with ‘Every Open Eye,’ Chvrches may be heading up second stage tonight, but they’re zooming towards headliner status at light-speed.
Providing Saturday's wake-up call, Whitney's set is privy to plenty of mucking about between songs, an on-stage make-out, and liberal swigging of Jack Daniel’s. One minute, they're sincerely singing about heartbreak, and blending jazz club-type improvisation with classic, smoky Americana tropes. The next, they're banging on about the “molly-drugs”, indulging in sheer silliness. With an overspilling bucket of early hype to contend with, Whitney's easy musicianship, and slightly disconcerting presence answers the buzz.
These days Sigur Rós look a little like they've rolled around in super glue and run full-pelt through a chandelier shop; they've upped their live game – and their electricity bill – tenfold. It's a move that works brilliantly with their intricate musical constructions and closely woven arrangements; tonight, the Icelandic band are flawless. Fulfilling the weekend's pop banger contingent in one fell swoop, meanwhile, are Disclosure, accompanied by a fuck-off-pair of DJ booths, and possibly the loudest, rowdiest crowd of the weekend. Howard and Guy are barely audible above the manic foot-stamps; luckily enough they're armed with blooping giants 'When A Fire Starts to Burn' and 'Latch' to do the talking instead.
For whatever bizarre reason (perhaps it's a Dutch tradition?) punters spend much of Sunday busying themselves gathering various bits of plant-matter to wave with increasing gusto as the day progresses. A few lone palm leaves rise bright and early, ducking among the tent poles for a bewitching Aurora, whose flawless vocals cut straight through the humid air. Across the site, meanwhile, the crowds for Dua Lipa overflow out of a sardine-packed tent, and her star potential shines brightest for the peppy hand-claps of 'Be The One'. Anderson .Paak – carving out his own path after feature spot step-ups with Dr. Dre and ScHoolboy Q also glimmers bright, his soul-nodding, all-live stage show pointing a compass firmly in the direction of bigger things.
Meanwhile, James Blake – typically not one for the stage patter- is all smiles and sincere gratitude on Sunday evening, calling Lowlands one of his best crowds of the summer. Skewed heavily toward new record 'The Colour in Anything,' it's a beautiful set. The tent stays hushed for the skittering static of 'Radio Silence,' and later, festival-goers whip out some very impressive wolf-howls for 'Retrograde'. Minimal, understated, and propelled by complex technical wizardry that's barely noticeable, Jamesy B absolutely nails it.
By the time Sunday headliners LCD Soundsystem come around– complete with giant disco ball, and a welly-packing catalogue of limb-jerking, all-the-feels, electro-post-punk – bamboo collection reaches fever-pitch, and the whole Alpha tent resembles a single, manically bobbing jungle. Among a scattered, ramshackle assembly of dancing bandmates, James Murphy, Pat Mahoney and Nancy Whang command every last funk bass-line, the former yelling into a tiny walkie talkie microphone, whooping, and whipping out the agogô for an unstoppable 'Daft Punk is Playing at My House'. It's during closer, 'All My Friends' (complete with plenty of crowd shots on the big screens) where LCD cement this so-called comeback. Not so much resurrected as completely re-energised, there's nothing half-baked about their reunion.
Photos: Andrew Benge
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