We arrived in The Netherlands and headed to our hostel nearby the train station. Once we dropped off our bags we headed out to explore the small town of Tilburg and collect last minute supplies. On our way to the grocery store we stopped to rent a bike (the city seemed to be littered with them) and we were denied being told “we are not renting bikes right now”. After leaving the bike shop in disappointment, we realized that our slightly disheveled appearance combined with the shop owners prejudices of festivalgoers were likely the reasons we would be walking around town.
The next morning we arrived at the train station and found a long line of twenty-something festivalgoers anxiously awaiting the shuttle bus. After a ten-minute bus ride we arrived at the festival grounds, which was usually a family park with an exotic Zoo. We pitched our tent at the Pink Flamingo campsite and quickly made friends with our neighbor, Renee. It turns out having beers at 11:00am at a music festival feels just the same in The Netherlands as it does at Bonnaroo in Tennessee, amazing.
The music festival was an incredible three days; we will just give some highlights.
The Festival Scene
One of the best visual experiences was when we first saw the actual festival grounds. It was a short 10-minute walk from our tent to the festival on a beautiful wooded trail. When we first walked in to the festival, we were greeted by a huge sculpture donning the name, “Best Kept Secret”, with a beautiful lake in the background. A lake on one side and a wooded forest on the other surrounded the whole area. In between stages people relaxed on wooden swings and hammocks spread out amongst the trees while waiting for the next band.
The festival was more laid back than many of the other festivals we have attended in the US. We did not see anyone flailing around on the ground, throwing up in the crowd or yelling obscenities. Everyone was there to enjoy the music and fully prepared to return to their jobs on Monday.
In the middle of the festival was a lane filled with mouthwatering smells and visually appealing food stands. Each time we ate we sat and daydreamed about what our next meal would include, scoping out every option available and often getting two dishes per meal.
One of our favorite dishes was kapsalon. While we were lounging around the food area, staring at everyone’s food, we were approached by one very adamant festivalgoer. We were trapped for about ten minutes while he clumsily and enthusiastically explained what kapsalon was. The dish was apparently invented by a hairdresser in Rotterdam and has spread throughout The Netherlands. Kapsalon means ‘hairdressing salon’ in Dutch. His story must have been convincing because we purchased a kapsalon right away and were pleased. The dish included fries topped with döner meat, garlic sauce, gouda cheese, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Other foods we enjoyed throughout the weekend included Dutch fries, a pulled pork cheeseburger and American-style BBQ ribs.
We saw a lot of great music, some of which we knew previously and some bands pleasantly surprised us. Here were some of our favorites:
We happened on Daniel’s set in one of the smaller tents and were immediately drawn in. The music was a mix of folk, honky-tonk and alt-country. Each song was different than the last and we had a great time watching the Canadian Bob Dylan look-a-like.
We were both previous fans of the folk group, First Aid Kit, and made sure to get a spot where Jess could see. (She can only see in the front row.) These two Swedish sisters blew us away; their voices melt together to deliver a moving sound.
Dan was a fan of St. Paul and the Broken Bones and insisted on seeing them. This seven-piece soul band did not disappoint and brought us closer to home with many shout outs to their home state, Alabama. Jessie was almost brought to tears by the singer’s powerful voice and the great support of the booming brass.
Dan had listened to The Vaccines a few times in anticipation for the festival and was warming up to them. We showed up about halfway through their set and were amazed at what we saw. It had to have been about 20,000 people dancing and losing their minds to the English indie rock band. The music was energetic and poppy and was perfect to get the festival crowd on their feet.
Some other notable performances included:
We may have been the only Americans at the festival, but we discovered some new music and tried some local festival food. Overall, it was a great weekend of camping and enjoying awesome music with the company of some cool Dutch people.
What are some of your favorite festivals? Let us know in the comments below.