BY JESSY de COOKER
Sipping a good glass of beer or wine and listening to music … you cannot make a human being any happier than that. So it’s no wonder Dutch music festivals are the ideal way of having an enjoyable day – or days – out. And there are plenty to enjoy! But forget Holland’s main festivals of Pinkpop and the Amsterdam Dance Event, the Big Two of the Dutch festival world.
Here are some hidden gems that will really blow your mind.
There is so much to enjoy in the Dutch world of music festivals. It doesn’t matter if you are an old – and I say this with tons of respect – hippie, a fan of DJ’s such as Hardwell or a hard rocker. Each and every weekend in the summertime will provide you the opportunity to see your favourite acts/bands live anywhere in the Netherlands.
According to the latest research by the Dutch Festival Monitor, there are about 800 festivals in this small country. A remarkable 22.7 million people gather at our Dutch festivals. That’s more than the total Dutch population!
You could go to the Amsterdam Dance Event (350,000 visitors), Pinkpop (194,000 visitors) or the Zwarte Cross Festival (197,450 visitors). But when you look beyond those mega-festivals you’ll find the best of the bunch; this list of amazing music festivals will help you choose where to go this summer AND next!
• LOWLANDS (coming up 19 August through 21 August 2016)
Just behind the big guns of Pinkpop there is the Lowlands Festival, organized in Flevoland near the small town of Biddinghuizen. It was originally called A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise and since its first edition in 1993, Lowlands organizers have been able to attract some of the scene’s big names to their stage. It started as a pendant of Pinkpop initially but nowadays attracts its own vast audience. In 2013 it was sold out within two hours even though there weren’t any bands announced yet for that year’s the line-up!
This year (19 August through 21 August ) Lowlands’ twelve stages will host Muse, Noel Gallager’s High Flying Birds, Disclosure, Biffy Clyro, James Blake and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros along with more than 200 other bands and acts.
• DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE (the weekend of 23 June 2017)
Then there’s the Down The Rabbit Hole Festival in Nijmegen, which is dubbed “Lowlands’ smaller brother” as it is organized by the same group of people – with festival director Eric van Eerdenburg as spearhead. It isn’t one of your typical music festivals; you are really Alice ready to jump into the rabbit hole.
The three stages are being named after rabbit breeds and the line-up is as uncompromising. Not that the festival-goers mind. DTRH was sold out for the first time this year after the inaugural event in 2014. The line-up included such stars of the alternative music as The National and Courtney Barnett and surprises as Parquet Courts and Douglas Firs. Next year’s festival will take place the weekend of the 23th of June.
Tickets are 125 euros for the weekend.
• INTO THE GREAT WIDE OPEN FESTIVAL (coming up 1 Sept. through 4 Sept. 2016)
For the Into The Great Wide Open Festival you got to travel to Waddeneiland of Vlieland. If you don’t like crush barriers and large crowds, this atmospheric festival in one of Hollands fanciest nature reserves is one for you. And even better: you can only reach the Into The Great Wide Open festival by boat during a trip that takes 90 minutes. The festival, which will take place during the first four days of September attracts hordes of unknown pearls as I Am Oak, Klangstof and Zimmerman to the island. But there will also be better known acts as Eefje de Visser, Douwe Bob (the Netherlands’s entry for Eurovision) and the Belgian superband Balthazar.
The bad news is that for 2016, Into The Great Wide Open Festival is uitverkocht (sold out).
• LE GUESS WHO? (coming up 10 November through 14 of November.)
Now for something completely different … The Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht is organized in November! Luckily, it is organized in the many music venues of the city, so don’t pack any Bermudas and sunglasses. Another special feature of Le Guess Who? is the fact the organization doesn’t fill in the line-up. They appoint bands to do it for them! This year – the 10th edition of the festival – Suuns, Wilco, Savages and Julia Holter have curated the performing bands. Le Guess Who? is one for those really mad for the acts not that well known by the general public. Cult bands Swans, Dinosaur Jr., Preoccupations and Raime are on the bill between the 10th and 13th of November.
Tickets are 40 euros per day, or 125 euros for the weekend. You can get them here.
• SOLAR FESTIVAL, (scheduled for the first weekend in August, 2017)
Let’s get back to the warmth of summer quickly. For the Solar Festival we’re off to Limburg, and the city of Roermond in particular. Solar has been around since 2005, spread across four days and best described as a crossover between dance and pop music. But it is safe to say that the pendulum is swinging to the electro music during this year’s edition with acts as Mr. Polska, Caïro Liberation Front and FeestDJ Ruud as the main acts. Sounds good to you? Then head for Remunj, as the locals call it, during the first weekend of August.
• SCHOLLENPOP (scheduled for the first weekend in August, 2017)
Then off to a little gem on the beach of Scheveningen in Den Haag: Schollenpop. This intimate beach festival is well known by locals in and around The Hague and loved for the – when the weather is good – possibility to take a dive into the North Sea and enjoy music. Schollenpop attracts a great variety of local favorites and nationally known artists. The twentieth festive edition of Schollenpop even has the Canadian rock band Danko Jones as headliner and – even better – it’s free of charge. Schollenpop takes place the first week in August.
If you aren’t tired – if that is even possible – of these great festivals; you can plan for these great fests next summer:
• ZWARTE CROSS FESTIVAL (scheduled for 13, 14, 15 & 16 June, 2017)
With 197,450 visitors last year, Zwarte Cross Festival is one of Holland’s largest music festivals. But it isn’t based JUST around DJ’s and rappers. No, Zwarte Cross is a Festival for fans of loud rock’n’roll, theater, motocross bike stunts and, of course, stunts with fireworks. We’re not making this up. The festival in Lichtenvoorde, near the German border, has also been named as the ‘most beautiful festival of 2015’ by music site Festileaks. You will find your portion of guitars at the Zwarte Cross with Drive Like Maria, Airbourne, De Staat regularly stopping by. Hope they’ll be there again next summer between the 13th and 16th of July.
• VESTROCK (scheduled for 3 and 4 June, 2017)
Enjoy great tunes at the Vestrock Festival at the old city gate (the “vest” in Vestrock) of Hulst in the southern region of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. During the last six editions of Vestrock it has established itself as the pearl of the small music festivals. It has been named by the European Festival Awards as one of the top small music festivals since its start in 2010.
Each year Vestrock seems to attract bigger names to the only Dutch region that isn’t really even attached to Holland by land … surrounded by inlets of the North Sea. And come on, how massive is it to see international acts as The Boxer Rebellion, Limp Bizkit and White Lies with only 8,000 others fans. See you next year on the 3rd and 4th of June.
• BEST KEPT SECRET FESTIVAL (scheduled for 16, 17 & 18 June, 2017)
The Best Kept Secret Festival in Hilvarenbeek, just south of Tilburg, is one of the fastest growing music festivals in all the Netherlands. Both in quality as quantity. With 25,000 people on the grounds of the Beekse Bergen Safari Park, this year’s Saturday of the festival during the penultimate weekend of June was sold out for the first time. You could discover the weirdest new acts as Ho99o9 and enjoy great lakeside shows of Beck, Editors and Band of Horses. The festival will take place from 16 through the 19th of June. With tickets priced from 125 euros, it is great value for money as well.
• WOO HAH! (scheduled for 30 June & 1 July, 2017)
Tilburg is also represented on this list with the Woo Hah! Festival. For fans of Hiphop music, a trip to this city in the south of The Netherlands is a must-see. The festival in the picturesque Spoorzone – an old train construction area – will be spread out over two days next summer. That is not a weird decision when you saw the scenes during the second edition of Woo Hah! July the 2nd. An array of American top acts such as Tyler the Creator, Action Bronson mixed up very well with the local class of Opgezwolle and Woodie Smalls. Your appointment with Woo Hah! is set for the last weekend of June next year.
About the author: Jessy de Cooker is a journalist based in Tilburg, Netherlands who covers music and politics.