I took my lone wolfness to the extreme.
It’s funny that I have more guts to go and do solo travelling around the world than to go to a gig by myself. In the last few years after being inspired by a close friends’ independence on going out there and seizing live music on her lonesome, I decided that ‘Hey, if I want to go to a gig or do something, I’ll just go out there and do it.’ Gone are the days where I would ask around wanting someone to join me and be in need of company. I still invite here and there, but when it comes to music, I do not mind riding solo (Thanks for the inspiration Jason De Rulo). A few reasons for this is a) I don’t have to hold someone’s hand or wait for them in the toilet queue or at the bar or wherever they may be and b) I can listen to the music that I came to see. Moreso, if I want to do some crazy dancing (this girl can sure bust a shape or two), I’ll just go for it.
My ultimate care factor has reduced down to an almost zero since I have grown older. That is why when I saw the line up at Lowlands festival in The Netherlands recently, I was sold on it and wanted to go. It was an epic line up and after hitting up some European festivals in the last few years and knowing how much fun they are combined with the fact they are completely different from back home in Australia terms of people, vibes and overall experience, I was going to go regardless.
Point of difference is that, yes I have been to gigs by myself, even festivals (granted I knew people working at them) however this time around it was a three-day event. I was going to go camping, by myself at a three-day music festival. Usually, this type of thing is something that would be pure bliss with the right mix of friends all down with having a great time dancing and rocking out to good music. Since I have got to be so used to do doing things by myself, I didn’t hesitate to book it. I knew once I purchased this ticket it would be interesting and a whole new experience. I felt that this was the moment where I stepped up my whole ‘strong independent woman’ thing going on to the max.
Am I brave? Am I just this loner? Do I even have friends? Am I just so comfortable in my own company?
Those questions come to mind here and there but I am sure of myself and those answers. Brave? I could be. A loner? I am now really comfortable in my own skin. Friends? Of course I do but sometimes you just need to do what you got to do and if you want it so much, go for it!
To prepare for this festival, I had purchased a cheap tent from one of those stores selling miscellaneous crap. Bedding wise, I skipped out on buying a sleeping bag and used bed sheets instead. As I have travelled extensively and been caught in all sorts of situations, I know that I can go a few days without the creature comforts and live with the basics or bare minimum. Sure it isn’t comfortable but I know its short term and I know I will survive.
Due to my mismanagement of time (hey this girl has to freelance work also) and catching up with a friend in the Amsterdam city centre, I eventually got to the festival at around 5pm. Unfortunately I did miss a few acts I would have liked to have seen (Miike Snow, Alunageorge and Die Antwoord) but it wasn’t going to be the end of the world. Plenty of good tunes were going to be had over the course of the weekend.
Thank God after I found my small patch of grass in the second last camping ground, my pop up tent literally popped out of its bag and was set up in an instant (pop up tents = one of the best inventions ever). I do have to admit, sometimes I can be a sucker for being completely incompetent of setting up stuff but I was so happy that it just worked out! Once I set up my makeshift bed and organized my stuff, I was festival ready. With beer in hand, I was off!
It took roughly 15 minutes to walk through the other campsites to the entrance of the festival, passing by pop up festival bars, camping shops, juice houses, a string of food stalls and tabak stands (tobacco). There was even a stand where they offered free plastic cups to pour your opened drinks into the festival as you were not allowed to bring your own unopened drinks. Marvellous idea! Once I had purchased my food and drink tokens, I was ready to enter my Dutchie music paradise for the next three days.
The entrance to the festival was commanding. With its towering five red and white pillars atop, I went past the checkpoint and into the festival. I was like a kid in candy land; Another realm. I feel like festivals in Europe are filled with so much character and quirks. Their stage setups, markets, chilled zones, food vendors all looking promising for a good time. Europeans think of everything in and outside the box! The festival was seemingly well equipped with all stages under circus like tents, basic toilets for all (and not that disgusting either), free water, mini supermarket (at the camping site) and enough areas to sit and chill. The festival even had a yoga and sauna area located near the lake nearby!
Lets’ focus on the food too – there was so much on offer! From traditional Dutch meals and snacks (waffles, pancakes, croquette rolls and of course frites) to Suriname, Vietnamese and Indonesian cuisines, there was a world of selection. Blimey, there was even an ‘Australian Pie’ stand – a damn good tasting one at that!
Back on the music train and after soaking up some of the festival festivities, I went straight to see the British band Roosevelt perform. I had previously seen them at an intimate gig in London last year so it was great to see that within less than a year, they had exploded. They were performing on a much onto a bigger stage and the crowd was packed. Here with no shame, I started bopping away, dancing and singing to myself. It was a great set but that wasn’t what I was at the festival for. The first night was all about seeing the headline act, my beloved Muse.
After seeing head banging sets from Hollywood Dead (who I thought reminded me of Linkin Park) and Biffy Clyro, I went running straight to Muse. Unfortunately, I did not get a great spot but to be fair, I was going to be in my zone and dancing my way through the set so it didn’t matter that much. And of course, I did without fail. I met some lovely Dutchies in the crowd that I sang along with and after, went to a tent that would play music from the naughties for four hours straight. I was in my element. Music from 50 cent to Britney to Gaga, I was burning calories like no tomorrow. After the set finished at 3am, I proceeded to dance to house music in another tent that appeared to be an urban oasis with its palm trees and platforms until 4.30am.
Day two was a big one. After seeing the massive queue for the showers, I decided to have my wet wipe shower. After all, it was going to be not the cleanest of all weekends. Also I was being skint as you have to pay for them! After my DIY cleanse, I had a picnic with a nearby group of Dutch girls with me munching on my peanut butter and banana whole bread sandwiches (I tried to be remotely healthy for an otherwise very unhealthy weekend). After the stomach was full, it was time to burn it all off again.
After catching fellow Aussie Matt Corby’s set, I went to the Suriname food stand as I had Dutchie friends working there the whole weekend. It was nice to see them and kudos to them for both giving me free food for three days! Score! I also was introduced to two chilled Dutch guys at the stand who I ended up hanging out and drinking with for the next few hours. Overall, it was pretty easy to meet people and engage in conversation. I find the crowds over in Europe are less pretentious and ridiculously friendly to all than what they are back in Australia. People look out for one another over here and are much more responsible I feel in terms of engaging in party culture than back home. When I told people I came by myself, some gave me praise for it. It isn’t a thing I even blink an eye at anymore and I don’t see it as this brave thing after all, I am here just doing my thing.
Saturday night was going to be big. After meeting and hooking up with a British girl and her Dutchie friends, I was going to be in it for the long haul as I ended up dancing in the techno tent until close at 4.30am. The tent was packed. I was in my zone and so was everyone else.
Sunday morning; It started out so sullen. The rain came hard and that is when I noticed that my tent had started to leak. With the rain and my leaking tent, I was trapped. I could not pinpoint from where exactly it came from but I had to make a makeshift barricade with my food bags, rubbish bag and any plastic I could find. I knew the tent was a shitty cheap thing but not that unreliable! I thought I had barricaded the leakage to some degree. After my handy lady episode, I decided to ‘treat myself’ to a shower. I paid my token and got naked in front of all other female party goes for a shower that turned out to be lukewarm. Still, I felt so much more human than the previous two days.
With feeling that ever bit cleaner, I was festival ready. Bring on day three. I knew it was going to be more of a chilled affair with the temperamental weather shifting from hot to cold to wet consistently throughout the time I woke up to the time I had left the camping grounds.
After catching sets from Eagles of Death Metal, Damien Marley and joining a group of Dutchie guys to see Brian Fallon & the Crowes, I decided to break away from the music and hit up the Olympic tent. The fun set up of the Olympic tent was an ode to Eddie the Eagle and the Rio Olympic games. Stumbling upon this was one of the highlights of my weekend. Kids, the young and the old were dressed up in sports gear and were playing games and crazy dancing in the middle of a makeshift Olympic field. There was even a fake Olympic caldron! Balls and props were being chucked around the the DJ was spicing things up with a different array of tunes. I felt ever so comfortable just dancing to the beat of my own drum. I stayed for some time until I realised the main set of the night was about to start.
I manoeuvred my way to the complete opposite side of the festival to catch a glimpse of LCD Soundsystem. The song ‘Can change’ strikes a cord with me in particular as it reminds me of my time in Mexico with one of my dear friends. I guess you can say it is our song. And of course, when I had just arrived, they were playing exactly that! I ended up having a dance of with a Dutchie who I later had shared a small kiss due to being under a ‘festival mistletoe.’ All for fun!
I had noticed throughout the day that people were walking around with tree branches, thinking it was some kind of crazy Dutch thing to do at festivals. It is, but the anty was upped with the set from cheesy Dutch DJ Kees van Hondt. Apparently the usual thing to do during his set of happy go lucky, child-like tunes to be waving around tree branches, holding up inflatables or anything that you can possibly carry – including wheelie bins! I got caught up in the craziness of it all by being in the packed crowd. Once a tree branch was given to me, I really got into it. This whole set made me realise how crazy the Dutch are and how they just know how to have an amusing time!
I had decided that my final night was going to be an early one. Once I got back to my tent, I realised the rookie error in my previous decision for a solution to #watergate. Everything was wet! My bedding, my clothes from that damn leak! My makeshift barricade (of course) did not work. I tried to dry the tent as much as I could. I was feeling like I was having a Bear Grylls survival moment as my options were limited. I had by far missed the last buses and trains to Amsterdam, I was not prepared to go back in the festival and dance as I had lots to do the next day and I just wanted some sleep!
I had contacted a few people I had met earlier that day on Whatsapp to see if maybe I would be able to help me. In my ‘dire’ situation, I had decided to lift my self imposed social media ban over the weekend because in these cold, wet conditions, no way was I going to get any sleep! I chatted to a few people for a bit online before trying to zone out by listening to music with my headphones (Mystery Jet = perfect sleeping tunes). I had almost seven hours of being caught in this shitty situation until the first bus out of here. I ended up wrapping myself in my damp winter coat with three layers underneath. I opted not to wear pants as my jeans were damp also and thought that I would most likely get sick from wearing them. So here I was, in my tent, shivering in my damp winter coat and thong underwear on in a foetal position.
With the little sleep I did get, I ended up having such lucid dreams. I blame this on my borderline hypothermia experience. In these icky situations, I later choose to look back on them as a good story to tell but at the time, it could not have been more shit.
That morning, I literally jumped out of my tent. I thought about bringing it back to Amsterdam and taking it back to the store and attempting to have a ‘lost in translation’ argument for a refund. As I was feeling ever so drained and over it, I decided to throw the whole thing in the bin. I was done.
With missing one train by less than 10 seconds up the stairs of the station, I had to wait an extra half an hour for the next one. What was previously a one-hour journey to the festival from Amsterdam, it ended up taking me three hours to get back.
Despite the last night being a frozen popsicle shit show, it did not hinder my overall experience. Lowlands was an insanely fun festival to go to and I would highly recommend to check it out if you have the chance. Yes, I went to it all by myself but I was never alone. I met so many people, did my year worth of workouts in three days and just enjoyed the music and vibes from all corners of the festival grounds. Would I choose to go solo or with a group if I had to decide? I would probably go with group but if the situation arises again, I wouldn’t hesitate go solo either.
The wolf represents a pathfinder and I found my path on the dance floor; and boy did this girl did dance like no one was watching.
Start planning for your next European summer dance at Lowlands !
I usually do not record at events but I could not help myself at this one – I had to share the fun so please enjoy!
And then came the wheelie bin…
Have you had any crazy festival moments? Share here!