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Rock Werchter 2009, Belgium

Rock Werchter 2009, Belgium

Reviewed by Andrea Price
29th March 2010

If there is one thing Europe has over New Zealand, it is ridiculous summer festival line ups. Rock Werchter is a music festival in Belguim 30km away from Brussels where 70, 000 people camp out for four days while another 10, 000 arrive daily.

The line up this year included; Fleet Foxes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lily Allen, Oasis, Coldplay, The Killers, Lady Gaga, M. Ward, The Mars Volta, Metallica, M. Ward - but to name a few. Full line up here.

The first day was sweltering hot and thousands of us packed into buses loaded with tents and sweated our arse off. The camp sites were a couple of kilometres from the drop off point so the Havianas were well worn in before we did some wheeling and dealing for tickets to the camp site that we wanted. We then incurred our first of many painful lines, as the barcoding system was screwed and the organisers resorted to a large clear file with printed barcodes in it to look up tickets that wouldn’t scan.

Much to their ingenuousness, the other kiwis I was camping with had brought gazebos so we had a few beers in the shade and headed down to the festival only to be stopped by a wall of people 200 metres wide and long of other people to get in. It was so hot, people were fainting and a man stood on the top of fire truck and hosed the crowd down. It took so long we missed Lily Allen and most of us walked in and lay there with ice creams contemplating why the hell we were putting ourselves through this. Then came the next debacle where you had to line up for different tokens depending on what you wanted, or alternatively an hour and a half for the ATM. But at least now the music could begin.

Fleet Foxes played on the smaller stage and were fricken brilliant. You have to take your hat off to a band that sounds even better live, especially when their album was bloody good in the first place. We then milled around ready for Oasis on the main stage and having had my brother play their albums non-stop since I was 14, I was pretty excited. Honestly though, they looked passed their prime, how a band doesn’t even get mildy excited when they have 20 000 people screaming at them is beyond me. Liam looked mildy psychotic as he stared of into space and mumbled out his songs while Noel did the best to try and hold the fort with his back-up singing. I bailed on Prodigy but my friends said it was a jolly good set.

Day two started with Henry Rollins (the guy from Black Flag) speaking for an hour about the role of young people and the need to question the system and avoid ignorance by getting to know as many people from around the world as possible. He was compelling and it was nice to hear an intelligent conversation amongst the festival anarchy. We then caught M. Ward who played an awesome set, although seemed a little removed from the audience, which is how he had been the time before I had seen him as well. Afterward we were up off to Bloc Party and The Killers. The crowd was abuzz, the sun was shining and every bit of line and sweat seemed worth it. It would seem as though the night couldn’t get better but then Coldplay came along and put on one of the most amazing shows and experiences I have ever seen. From the moment Chris Martin got in stage he was a dynamo, sweat dripping everywhere, dive rolling and changing the lyrics of his songs to let the crowd know he loved them and was really enjoying himself. He did a great rendition of Billie Jean as a Micheal Jackson tribute. We stood next to a group of passionate Spaniards who at moments were so moved, they had their head in their hands trying to hold in the emotion – truly epic. At the end of the set, the Coldplay haters all unanimously agreed that Coldplay was going to be the act to beat.

Day three’s line up was epic. I missed Regina Spektor, opting to give the swollen feet some rest but made it in time for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which were a personal festival highlight. Karen O was wearing an awesome head piece and played a good range from all her albums much to my delight. We then waited around for Mogwai, who put a hypnotic trance on the crowd with their ambient rock. I stayed around to check out Katy Perry who played the bubblegum pop-star to perfection, complete with blow up strawberries on stage. Then we watched Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on the main stage, which was good but I think I like would to hear him in a smaller space to get the true feel of his musical genius. We then got a taste of Kings of Leon who, much to my delight, played a lot of their earlier work. So nice to be reminded of all the great work they did before they became the mega band they are today. Then came ou2manydjs and the Belgian’s went nuts. The entire crowd, right to the back of the arena was dancing like there was no tomorrow for the hour and a half they played. Even after the concert they danced their way out, pounding the scaffolding and the floorboards.

By day four the body was aching, there were blisters, sleep deprivation and the camping ground closely resembled a garbage tip. The smell of over used portaloos was everywhere and vanity had gone right out the window. Seasick Steve was the first act I saw after hanging out at the Police Station to report that my passport, cash, camera and ipod had been stolen (lucky me). He’s like this 60 year old hickville folk American singer on his four string guitar about wanting to shoot his father in the head. Odd but fun to dance to. It was the hottest day we had and as we scrambled for shade I made the foolish mistake of begging for rain. And so it started bucketing down in the middle of The Mars Volta set and the crowd piled under cover underneath whatever object they could find. I ended up in the middle of a tarpaulin with a bunch of Belgians who were having a joint and quite enjoyed myself. The Mars Volta, on the other hand, bitched that the crowd was lacking enthusiasm and took the piss out of the audience for only being there to see the likes of Black Eyed Peas. I don’t think they made a lot of fans that day. Eventually though the rain cleared up and despite having previously expressed my desire to stab both Fergie in the face (not a fan) I found myself dancing away to ‘Retarded’ or ‘Get it Started – whatever they renamed it. By the time The Kaiser Chiefs and Metallica played I have to honest, I was tired and scared my feet may give out before I made it to the camp site so I bailed early but by the sounds of things the metal heads were happy.

We packed up the tents and made like leeming for the buses and trains going to Brussels. Unpacking and seeing my filthy clothes, sleeping bag and my body aching, I vowed that this was my last camping festival experience ever but having slept, the good memories are flowing in and I’m already making plans for Pukkelpop. Read the line-up and weep www.pukkelpop.be/en/.



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