Rock Werchter 2011 review

Linkin Park, Iron Maiden, Kings of Leon and Coldplay play

Rock Werchter 2011 review

Photographer: Shirlaine Forrest04 July 2011

Belgium's Rock Werchter has gained huge popularity among rock and alternative fans throughout Europe in recent years, boasting lineups packed with high-profile acts. This year's festival is no different, with Linkin Park, Iron Maiden, Kings Of Leon and Coldplay topping the bill.

Although the weather swings unpredictably between sun and showers, the atmosphere across the campsites and arena is laid back and generally positive. Bringing together festival-goers with a variety of different main languages, the weekend genuinely feels like a gathering of like-minded people relaxing and watching good music.

Fans here are treated to longer-than-usual festival sets. With two stages, efficient changeovers and only 16 acts per day, most bands play for at least an hour, time enough to make each one feel like a proper headline set.

The main stage is constructed at the top of a large field with room for thousands, while the 'Pyramid' is a smaller capacity, covered stage. The sound on both stages is excellent by festival standards, but during quieter moments on the Pyramid stage noise from the main stage leaks far too audibly. In keeping with the growing trend of venues and events encouraging people to look after their ears, the merchandise stands have a free set of earplugs for everyone.

Camping is made more comfortable for many by the welcome presence of an 'on tour' supermarket offering essentials and the only reasonably priced food in the festival. Elsewhere, eating and drinking within the festival arena is only for the rich, drunk, or desperate. With all stalls operating a token system and the vouchers starting at 2.50 Euros, it's easy to rack up a bill of 5 Euros for a beer or over 7.50 Euros for a snack.

On to the ingredient that keeps us all going - the music. One of the most hotly anticipated bands of the weekend, Queens Of The Stone Age (8/10) take to the main stage as the sun starts its downward climb on Thursday afternoon. Queens' thunder through a suitably liquor-fuelled set of their desert-influenced brand of hard rock and provide the first proper mosh pits of the weekend.

Drawing the night to a close with a 1am set on the Pyramid stage is Hurts (9/10), whose synth-led pop and a performance reminiscent of eighties boybands draw an enthusiastic crowd.

Backed by two ageing rockers, one of whom happens to be Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Seasick Steve (9/10) provides one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend. Playing a different guitar for every song, from his Diddley Bo' to the resonator built from Jack White's hub caps, the self-described walkin' man has the crowd eating out of his hand with every word of his songs and stories.

2:30pm is perhaps a little early for a band like My Chemical Romance (6/10), and this shows in the slighly underwhelmed crowd and a performance that lacks the punch fans are used to. While they sound tight musically and play a set of popular songs from the last two albums, something about the pauses between songs (accompanied by film-like strings) and angsty, dramatic songs in broad daylight doesn't quite do the trick.

Overall it's a good weekend, and while there's room for improvement in a few areas the organisers are clearly doing something right, with many people coming back year after year - something you can tell from the number of people with wristbands halfway up their arms.

- By Luke Roberts

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