An inspired line up, somewhat let down by production...

What’s in a name? On our way back from a wet and windy weekend in the Netherlands we reflected on what Best Kept Secret is all about and its place in Holland’s growing list of major international festivals. So with that in mind we thought we’d give you a day-by- day run down of just what we got up to.

Arriving on site we see Best Kept Secret fits the template that so many festivals adhere to these days with its dense forest and surrounding lake. The one big difference though? It’s flanked by a safari park. How many festivals can say they’ve got lions and elephants listening in on the festivities? It’s not like Longleat is going to be hosting the likes of Roman Flügel anytime soon so it’s a good start.

Having said that, it’s tipping it down (apparently we should have expected this, being the Netherlands and all), so we make a quick escape to catch Peckham based three-piece Beaty Heart under the shelter over on stage three (more on inspiring stage names later). The Londoners’ have honed their neo-psych electro sound (under the added guidance of Jungle), but live they sounded raw, honest and utterly brilliant.

Getting into the festival spirit we braved the rain to catch Christine and the Queens’ Héloïse Létissier strut her stuff with her adopted Queens. Their perfectly choreographed electro-pop got everyone dancing in the rain, as we released our inner Beyoncé, cropping muddy shapes in the ground. We didn’t even know we had an inner Beyoncé, so big up Christine for helping to unleash it.

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Wanting to escape the ever-deepening mud bath we headed over to see Beach House doing their dreamy, hypnotic thing. By this point we were under the cover of darkness and, unlike the weather, the Baltimore duo didn’t disappoint. In fact, they surprised us all. Theirs was a charged, almost aggressive statement of a show. The delicate warmth we’re all accustomed to was replaced with booming bass and soaring vocals.

Day One had many good things, but we’ve also got some early problems with Best Kept Secret, mainly that there is no free water at any of the bars. Forgive us for being sticklers, but in the age of health and safety, free water at the bars is surely a must. Not only did we have to pay for water; it came in one of those cups you pay a deposit for, rather than a bottle. So they’re successfully ticking the eco box, but when you see people being carried into the medical tent suffering from dehydration you do have to ask certain questions…

Anyway, with the dawn of Day Two came yet more wind and rain and the temptation to stay in bed was strong. With Jedi powers of resistance we thought ‘fuck it - it’s time go into town and buy wellies: today’s line up is too strong to be missed’.

Before seeing any music we hit up the Leeds based ‘Mac Shac’ boys for a taste of their highly recommended mac n’ cheese. We can safely say their four-cheese béchamel sauce is top-notch stuff. Topped with mushrooms and onions it becomes a killer festival meal and hangover cure. Fingers crossed we’ll be seeing you guys at another festival soon!

Our bellies filled, we headed over to see Glass Animals kick things off on the main stage. Much braver than us, lead man Dave Bayley headed into the crowd in just a pair of socks for a good 15 minutes. It ain’t exactly rock n’ roll, but risking minor trench foot is more than most are willing to do. More importantly, they gave the crowd a sneak-peak at some new tracks from their highly anticipated sophomore album ‘How To Be A Human Being’. Take our word for it when we say it’s their best stuff to date – keep an eye out for them at other festivals this summer.

Bloc Party followed up and (being the eternal optimists), we hoped the reformed group could make a Lazarus-esque return to the heady heights of the mid to late naughties. Alas, try as they might hitches with the sound (they lost entire backing tracks on certain songs while Kele’s vocals were non-existent at times), dampened the whole set. Even Kele gave the crowd a resigned smile at one point. Sadly, this would become a recurring theme over the next couple of days. However, spirits were still high in the knowledge that Dan Snaith was about to enter the fray.

First playing as Daphni, then later headlining stage 2 live as Caribou, we had the utmost faith in the Canadian wizard’s magic hands. Needless to say, Snaith seamlessly moved between the dancey romance of ‘our love’ and the epic ‘sun’ and everything in between. Later on in the night and technical hitches returned - this time Spaniard Pional was the victim and his set was disappointingly quiet and lacking in clarity.

Finally the sun came out on Sunday and we thought it’d be a good idea to kick off a warm afternoon with psychedelic genre sliders Yeasayer. We’re massive fans of the 3 piece and their set was brimming with energy, positivity and sunny vibes.

Belgian born rapper Woodie Smalls has, in some corners, earned comparisons to the Odd Future crew of old and his performance only enhanced that reputation with an in your face, sweaty mess of a set (in a good way). Surrounded by a heavy entourage, he had a rammed stage 3 crowd at his mercy. Given that Beck and Editors had headlined the previous two nights, Jamie XX seemed like an odd choice to finish the festival. Nonetheless, he spun through crowd-pleasing classics like ‘Blue Monday’ alongside the crunching ‘Gosh’ before bringing the festival to a close with a jungle inspired version of ‘Loud Places’.

So there’s no question that Best Kept Secret boasts a decent line up, but what about the rest of it? We’ve mentioned the poor sound systems and lack of water but sadly there’s more. The stages are numbered 1 to 5. It’s depressingly short of imagination and makes you wonder how much creativity has gone into production and design. It smacks of British Summer Time with added camping. Walking from the ‘secret’ garden to the artisan market, to the pricey, up market food village it all feels a little bit like walking over a property developer’s blue print.

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Words: Milo Wasserman
Photo Credit: Danny Payne

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