Rock Werchter 2010: Rated!
Werchter, Belgium - 1-4 July
Overall - 7/10
Rock Werchter is one of the five biggest annual festivals in Europe, attracting 113,000 individuals over the course of four days each July. The festival features the highest calibre of international superstars yet retains the feel of a much smaller event. Based next to a small town near to Brussels in Belgium, the 2010 incarnation continues the huge success of previous years, which have seen the festival awarded with the International Live Music Conference’s ‘Best Festival In The World’ Award for four years out of the previous seven.
Getting there and back - 8/10
There are a variety of ways of getting to Werchter, many of which involving travelling via Brussels. A short flight can be taken from most UK airports, whilst the Eurostar train remains a sophisticated (if expensive) option. It is also possible to take a ferry from Dover to France, with the drive taking approximately two hours from there. Buses and trains to Werchter can be caught from Brussels, and rather handily, your festival ticket will grant you a free journey on local transport.
Be warned if driving, the queue to get into the festival site itself can be several hours if you arrive at peak time. The Belgians also have a very unpredictable style of driving, with frequent lane changes at the slightest hint of a gap. Some motorists make like John McClane by following an ambulance through the rush hour traffic – stay on your toes!
The site - 4/10
The festival site itself consists of one large arena with the main stage at one end. There is a 6000 capacity tent adjacent and that is all the stages present. These are also placed very close together, so much so that it’s possible to hear the act on the main stage whilst watching a band inside the tent!
There are a variety of food outlets and several easy-to-access bars. These only accept tokens as payment which can be purchased from “banks” situated around the site. At €2.50 for a small cup of beer or an ice lolly, the prices are steep. There are no other attractions except for a free hair-colouring salon.
There are several campsites around the arena, which vary from 1km to 3km away. These are independently operated and cost an extra €25 on top of your ticket. There is also no entry to other campsites so arrange to meet your friends outside.
Whilst there are no disabled facilities, there is an area at the front of stage, which only allows access to a limited amount of people. This is surprisingly easy to get into and not as tightly packed as the main area, so comes highly recommended.
Rock Werchter is mainly attended by people from Belgium and the Netherlands, with Dutch being the main language spoken. There is quite a presence from France, Germany and the UK too. Almost everyone speaks English so communication is not a problem.
The crowd is fairly young (ages 15 to 20 mainly) and certainly enjoy a drink so the atmosphere is good throughout the day. Partially because of the amount imbibed, people will often barge past or into you, but there is never any harm intended.
There are no flags obscuring the view here, with the Belgians favouring signs scrawled in marker pen that can be fashioned at a special stand. 2010 saw the atmosphere enhanced by Holland and Germany’s exploits at the World Cup and intense sunshine throughout the entire event – happily, refreshing cold water is available in abundance.
Music - 8/10
The line-up for Rock Werchter 2010 is nothing short of spectacular, if somewhat limited with only 54 bands total over the course of four days. The big guns are firing on all cylinders, with Muse causing people’s minds to go into supernova on the first day before Faithless have them worshipping at the altar of dance. Friday night sees Green Day play a set that seems like one extended highlight from ‘Know Your Enemy’ to ‘Jesus of Suburbia’. Rammstein pound the audience into submission with their industrial metal and outrageous pyrotechnics before Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam bring the whole show crashing down, Dave Grohl abandoning his post manning the backstage BBQ to join them on drums whilst they play a thunderous cover of MC5’s ‘Kick Out The Jams’.
Spectacle of the weekend has to go to Pink however, whose Funhouse Tour rolls into town on Saturday night. Dropping onto the stage in a shower of confetti and balloons, Pink takes time to cover ‘Roxanne’ before rolling into the crowd in a Zorb. Incredible visuals create a backdrop to hits such as ‘Just Like A Pill’ before she ends the set suspended from wires, twisting and turning like an acrobat during ‘So What’.
Muse - 9/10
A rare outing for ‘Bliss’ provides the only difference from their triumphant set at Glastonbury a week ago, yet the boys continue their incredible momentum here. Their now-customary outros ape the likes of AC/DC, Deftones and Nirvana, in-between old favourites like ‘Feeling Good’ and new favourites like ‘Uprising’. Matt Bellamy throws his guitar high up in the air following ‘Knights of Cydonia’, causing it to fall to the ground like the jaws of those watching.
Green Day - 8/10
Tonight is a special night for Billie Joe Armstrong. He announces “16 years of being married and fucking” before declaring his missus is “now pregnant with my third child” and dedicating ‘Viva La Gloria!’ to his beaming wife. Billie waves a giant Belgian flag and is almost reduced to tears by the audience singing ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ louder than even he can. A set heavy on newer material like ‘East Jesus Nowhere’ is punctuated by entertaining set pieces. A girl brought on stage to sing ‘Longview’ is booed off by the audience for unforgivably forgetting the words. Billie Joe snatches the microphone back to show her how it’s meant to be done, snarling through ‘American Idiot’ before finishing up with the customary ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’.
Florence and The Machine - 8/10
“Jumping is fun! Try it!” says Florence, and the fans concur unanimously. Songs like ‘Kiss With A Fist’ create delirious joy in the devotees, all whilst Florence writhes and howls on the stage like a furious wind. The band give a gift in the form of new song ‘Strangeness And Charm’ and the love is reciprocated. A man in a wheelchair is held aloft during ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and it feels like he may be about to stand up and start jumping right along beside her.
Pink - 9/10
“I feel like a hamster except I don’t get the cheese” declares Pink, somewhat confusingly, after a mission out into the far reaches of the crowd in a Zorb. The Funhouse is open, and with it comes all the fun of the fair. A curious blend of ‘My Generation’ and ‘Basket Case’ is not the only cover, “What’s Going On” by 4 Non-Blondes proving to be better received than any of Pink’s own songs.
Tonight it’s all about the spectacle though, and Pink provides entertainment by the sugary spoonful. In a show featuring slides, fireworks, dancers, aerial acrobatics, videos of rollercoasters and bearded ladies, plus several lengthy costume changes, it’s hugely enjoyable and quite easy to forget the songs sometimes lack the punch you’d expect.
Rammstein - 8/10
Rammstein are quite a frightening prospect on paper, a squadron of Teutonic stormtroopers laying waste to all before them with incredibly heavy pounding riffs. In the flesh, they are simply ludicrous. During ‘Pussy’, lead singer Till Lindemann rides a gigantic phallic cum-cannon, spraying the audience with white foam, all the while remaining deadly serious.
Band member Flake is tossed into a sarcophagus and has sparks showered down upon him. He then is reincarnated, emerging wearing a glitter ball suit and resuming his post (playing synth whilst on a treadmill, naturally). ‘Fieuer Frei’ brings a roar from the crowd, ending with the band members all spraying jets of fire from metal facemasks and at one point a supposed stage invader is set alight with a flame thrower. It’s hard to believe anyone could take this seriously – but it’s superfantastiche entertainment.
30 Seconds From Mars - 2/10
Sporting a blonde Mohawk and white plastic glasses, Jared Leto looks like a prize tit and gets little to no response from the crowd, especially those by the trees who are near passing out from heat exhaustion. The band actually stop during one song, with Jared declaring they are going to play “the best motherfucking show of our lives!” but an initial burst of enthusiasm quickly fades, and continued pleas for people to jump are met with little more than a disinterested shrug.
Paramore - 4/10
Hayley Williams and her gang of youthful misfits certainly divide opinion. The most notable thing about Paramore is you will already know if you like them or (more likely) hate them, one for neutrals to avoid.
Coheed and Cambria - 3/10
Terrible lumbering overblown rock drudgery.
One particularly devoted fan was repeatedly filmed with hands held as if in prayer, eyes closed and singing along during Editor’s set, receiving an ovation from the crowd.
Gossip’s Beth Ditto was left confused by the Dutch not supporting Germany during their World Cup match, and a huge cheer in response to a female flasher was mistaken by the singer for a response to a goal being scored.
One sign shown on the large screen read “Paedophiles + Unemployment = Belgium” - hopefully this was not broadcast on live TV!
Many of the American bands noted it was Independence Day on the 4th of July, Vampire Weekend marking the occasion by coming out to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born In The USA’.