Rock Werchter 2009: Rated!

Werchter, Belgium - 2-5 July

Rock Werchter 2009: Rated!

14 July 2009

Overall - 7/10

For the 34th year in succession, a sleepy little commuter village to the north east of Brussels erupts with the arrival of 56 different acts and around 113,000 festival-goers over four days. Rock Werchter has plenty of history and credibility, having evolved from a tiny rock and blues festival in the mid-seventies to an internationally renowned festival having hosted the world’s greatest talents of rock, dance and metal over the last four decades. For an event with such pedigree, a truly excellent line-up and gorgeous weather, with the potential to be the champion of European festivals this summer, it is such a travesty that it's let down by inadequate planning and a lack of common sense. It seems the budget was blown completely on paying for the artists, leaving just a few cents to hire some beer-swilling, waffle-munching moron to handle logistics.

Getting there and back - 4/10

Werchter recommend taking public transport and its easy to see why: the queues of cars started 15km before the festival grounds. If you take a car, take a map or program your sat nav to go via Tremelo, which avoids most of the queues, but even so, a two and a half hour took over five hours.

The Site - 4/10


It’s bureaucracy gone mad. You need drink tickets, food tickets and camping tickets (to buy stuff only at your site) and can only pay for them by cash or prepaid vouchers on the Internet. The festival site only has two cash machines, which constantly have enormous queues, and it can easily take a couple of hours to get some money. Hungover, queuing in the midday sun is not fun, but then neither is bankrolling a festival. You pay for the campsite when you buy your festival tickets and then find you have to pay €3 every time you use the showers too. At times it feels like a rip off.


Atmosphere - 8/10


Werchter has established a great reputation for its music and the crowd is filled with seasoned visitors. There is a fun, relaxed but energetic atmosphere, with people confident in the quality of music that Rock Werchter will deliver.

Music - 8/10


With so many quality acts on the programme, the few disappointments that there are on the day don’t come close to spoiling the party. This is quite simply one of the best line-ups in Europe this summer.

Uppers

Pendulum - 9/10
Working the crowd beautifully, Pendulum keep the Marquee permanently rocking. A sublime combination of electronic rock and drum and bass, any band with the confidence and ability to play great tributes to both The Prodigy and Metallica are special. Those leaving early to go and see Oasis are either crazy or just completely exhausted. If you haven't seen them live, then do - very few bands can offer a better time than this.

The Prodigy - 10/10
Except, perhaps, The Prodigy. They are that band to show Pendulum who's the boss. Liam Howlett, Keith Flint and Maxim may not always be best of friends but when they play together they are incredible. Their set flies by; an hour and 20 minutes is no where near long enough, not even at 2am after a long, hot, beer fuelled day, with theblisters erupting on your feet. This is one party that does not want to stop.

Kings Of Leon - 9/10
The band start their 4 July celebrations a little early with Caleb admitting that they are getting a bit drunk on stage, but this doesn't affect their performance in the slightest, they are simply superb. This is they're third appearance at Werchter and each time the crowd is bigger and their performance better. This love affair will just keep on growing.

Limp Bizkit - 8/10

Wes Borland is back and so iare Limp Bizkit. They're still angry, still powerful and still amazing, but this time they have sincerity in their gratitude that really connects them to the crowd. Durst climbs down into the crowd to sing a track just to confirm this and anger has never seemed so warm - superb.

Metallica - 9/10
Metallica are the uncrowned kings of Werchter. Making their 6th appearance at the event, no other band in the history of the festival has attracted more people to the festival ground and it’s easy to see why. Their return to form with the release of ‘Death Magnetic’ seems to have revitalised both fans and the band alike, this is what rock festivals are all about.

There are also honourable mentions for Seasick Steve, Elbow, Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Chiefs.

Downers

2 Many DJs - 4/10
Their name sums them up completely. The basic requirement for even a pub dj is to blend tracks in to one another to keep people dancing. Bizarrely they do everything but that, giving a set that's disjointed and fragmented. Considering that the Dewaele brothers have appeared at Werchter 11 times in different incantations, it seems completely inconceivable that Boys Noize shows them how it’s done.

The Killers - 6/10
After walking out on stage with a couple of dead parrots as epaulettes and making comments such as "although this is a rock festival, we still think it’s okay to dance," this seems to signal that the demise of a once great indie rock band is complete and the Vegas foursome has now emerged as the favourite to be crowned champions of Europop, although Coldplay seem to be doing their damnedest to run them close. Sad, very sad.

Black Eyed Peas - 5/10
Flashing lights and heavy bass can only go so far, this is dull and unimaginative and Fergie’s costume changes can only provide a limited amount entertainment.

The Mars Volta - 3/10
The Mars Volta don't seem to make any attempt to hide their Led Zeppelin influences. The singer squeals in his best Plant-esque imitation, but it is a long way from convincing. One of the greatest strengths of Led Zep was the ability of Bonham and Jones to keep Plant and Page on course, Mars Volta don't have anything close to the talents of any of these four and so the performance is indulgent and out of step. Thankfully the heavens open and distract the crowd from too much aural abuse.

Amy McDonald - 4/10
Amy hasn't decided yet who she's going to be a tribute act for, instead keeping her options open covering Springsteen, Snow Patrol, The Kooks and more. Yawn.

Random events
Limp Bizkit doing a cover of George Michael's ‘Faith’ – surreal. Elbow's Guy Garvey nearly cracks up mid-track when he sees a sign in the crowd saying "I would be gay for you."

by Jonathan Rainbird

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