There are masses of options to satisfy your festival cravings in the Netherlands, whatever your musical and cultural tastes. Peter Leggett has put together a list of 12 of the best to help the less-seasoned festival-goers out there pinpoint where to start.
London Calling – April 24-25
London Calling is held twice a year in Amsterdam’s Paradiso, and focuses largely on the up and coming bands. Since the festival began back in 1992 it has been a showcase for British bands seeking to break through. Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Supergrass, Blur, Suede and The Klaxons are among those who played the festival before their breakthrough. The festival often sells out and tickets are available for each day, or a weekend pass partout, for a reasonable price. Acts worth looking out for this year: The Districts, Staves, Drenge and Broncho.
Rewire – May 1-2
This is definitely a festival worth checking out with a thoughtful and deceptively broad programme. Much of the focus is on contemporary electronic music, neo-classical, experimental pop, new jazz, sound art and multidisciplinary collaborations. Spread over several central locations in The Hague, including the Grote Kerk, De Paard and the old electricity factory, this year’s performers include Neneh Cherry, Thomas Ankersmit, The Bug, Shit & Shine, Cloudface and Alessandro Cortini.
Here Comes The Summer – May 1-3
Some siblings become more alike as they grow and mature, some develop their own unique qualities, and others just stand out in any crowd. Here Comes The Summer is a festival for all the family which takes place on the Wadden Sea island of Vlieland. Highlight this year could well be ‘an intimate programme’ from Spinvis with Saartje van Kamp. The special programme for the kids this year includes an event named the Singing Potatoes.
Sniester – May 29-31
2014 was Sniester’s inaugural entrance to the festival scene, and it has more than suitably filled the void vacated by the deeply missed Walk The Line. The event is not just about the live music; it is also about food, art, film and live performances. Situated in the centre of the city, the live venues are all within a brisk walk of each other, and you are never far away from a friendly smile and a beer.
PinkPop – June 11-13
PinkPop is one of the oldest and longest running dedicated rock/pop festival on the planet, and first took place in 1970. Traditionally it is held on the Pentecost weekend (Pinksteren in Dutch, hence the name). This year’s line-up features acts such as Muse, Eagles of Death Metal, Foo Fighters, Elbow and the Counting Crows. It often sells out well in advance, so get your tickets quickly.
Oerol – June 12-21
If you have not yet been to the Wadden Islands, or you need some motivation to go back, then there is no better excuse than Oerol Festival, which literally takes over the entire island of Terschelling. The focus is on theatre, musical performances and street acts. Barns, sheds and even hollows in the dunes become stages to cram in the many acts and performers over the 10-day period. It is not just a festival to go and see. You can be part of it, join in, learn to hone your creative side and discover new talents.
Best Kept Secret – June 19-21
One of this year’s best festival line-ups can be seen if you visit the Best Kept Secret programme page on their website. Amongst the big names – Noel Gallagher’s The High Flying Birds, Royal Blood and First Aid Kit – you will find some newer discoveries from the worlds of indie, folk, rock, electronica and hip-hop, such as Cairo Liberation Front, Sue the Night and Wolf Alices. The site itself is located near to a holiday park and campsite, and features some pristine forests, a beach and an excellent selection of food and beverages.
Down the Rabbit Hole – June 26-28
As a close family member to Family Lowlands, Down The Rabbit Hole is all about ‘adventure, confusion, surrealism and psychedelics’, and is fast developing a strong reputation as one of the Netherlands’ greener and less crowded festivals. The programme this summer includes some great musical talent: Iggy Pop, War on Drugs, Alabama Shakes, Damian Rice, Blaudzun and Ghostpoet.
Zwarte Cross – July 24-26
Zwarte Cross is a fun-fuelled music and motorcross festival, where you can listen to some unique acts, performances and ‘countless kick-ass stunts’ (so their website claims). This year it is being held in the last weekend of July, mid-summer festival season. The line-up includes 150 bands from home and abroad, performing on 24 stages. Music styles include pop, blues, dance, reggae, hard rock, disco and, wait for it, German schlager.
Lowlands – August 21-23
With roughly 200 acts, spread over three days and around 10 stages, this festival offers much more than just music – be it dance, hip hop, rock, pop and alternative. The organisers are geared towards the experience, which is why you will come across street theatre, stand-up comedy, literature and cabaret as well. Acts to note this year: Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Caribou, Jose Gonzalez, SBTRKT, and Courtney Barnett.
Crossing Border – various dates
Crossing Border focuses on the combination of literature, performance and music and organises several events and festivals throughout the year. The main event takes place in The Hague from November 12-15. Check out the website for dates and performers – not yet updated for 2015.
Le Guess Who? – November 19-22
Le Guess Who? is a four-day independent music festival which has been held in Utrecht since 2007. The festival takes place in a variety of locations throughout the city and combines an eclectic collection of today’s burgeoning talent with one-of-a-kind acts. Generally the festival is host to more than 60 acts, some new faces, some often performing their first show in the Netherlands. On May 23, Le Guess Who? will present their new music event titled ‘One Night in Pandora’, featuring hyperactive psych/garage band Thee Oh Sees, doom metal powerhouses Pallbearer, psychedelic wunderkind Morgan Delt and Noura Mint Seymali.
If you are looking for dance music, the Iamsterdam website has a list of big events in and around the Dutch capital. Big dance festivals include Mysteryland, Dance Valley, the Sensation franchise and the massive Amsterdam Dance Event.