Pukkelpop 2010: Rated!
Kiewit, Belgium - 19-21 August
24 August 2010
Overall - 9/10
Pukkelpop is Belgium’s second largest music festival after Rock Werchter, but many nationals find it to be the best. The main reason given is the huge array of different musical tastes that Pukkelpop caters for. With eight stages of entertainment over three and a half days, Pukkelpop regularly has more than 200 acts performing. This year’s line up was exceptionally strong and for the first time ever Pukkelpop sold out, so capacity crowds of 62,500 each day took to Kiewit.
Getting there and back - 9/10
Driving is easy, at the site, there are five parking areas, the first being reserved for VIPs and disabled guests, but the others are no more than 500m away from the festival arena and campsite.
The Pukkelpop ticket includes free transport on the countries train network to and from the venue, so there are alternatives to driving. One would be to fly into Brussels and then train on to Kiewit. Alternatively, you could take the Eurostar into Brussels and similarly, take a local train for the final part of the journey.
The site - 7/10
The arena and the campsite are on opposite sides of the large road that goes through Kiewit. In theory this sounds a nightmare, because of the obvious traffic risks, but in practice, the excellent policing of the roads means that traffic and festival-goers exist in harmony, never having to wait more than a few minutes to get between sites.
The arena itself is modest in size, which is convenient for travelling between stages. There is really just one bottleneck, between the Marquee and the Main stage which can get crowded as a main stage act finishes. The eight stages are all accessible within five minutes of each other, and noise pollution across stages is rare. Only one stage, The Club, suffers from this at all where the Main Stage can be heard.
Toilets, food and drink outlets and quieter seating areas are spread out well and quickly available whatever stage you are on. The food and drink outlets only accept tokens, with a value of 2.50euros apiece. This makes the food and drink prices relatively steep - a 250ml drink (of beer, water, coke etc) will cost you one token. For a Kebab in the arena, you are asked for five tokens at a frankly ridiculous cost of 12.50euros.
The disabled guests at Pukkelpop are treated well, with viewing galleries designed for the use of wheelchairs on the two largest stages. The arena itself is also very flat and accessible.
For the first time this year Pukkelpop had a large Ferris wheel, which gives a bird’s eye view of the festival. The Petit Bazaar, a strange Glastonbury type experience within Pukkelpop is an oddball distraction as well.
The camping at Pukkelpop is somewhat disappointing. The campsite is too small for the estimated 55,000 campers. Tents are packed in like sardines but what is worse is that the initial wait to get a space is marshalled in an absurd way, with campsite marshals holding the crowd back by rope which meant having to build a camp in the middle of a throng of people. This is something that Pukkelpop organisers will need to reconsider, and a secondary campsite may need to be found.
Atmosphere - 8/10
The atmosphere at Pukkelpop is very friendly. Do not go expecting lots of British people, barely an English voice is heard but the Belgian and Dutch festival-goers are fluent in English making Brits more than welcome.
The age of the festival visitors started at around 15 and this did mean some immature and annoying behaviour. However, if you can accept no harm is intended and just enjoy yourself it doesn't really become an issue.
Music - 9/10
The line up was superb with something for everyone. Iron Maiden electrified all of the 55,000 people watching on the main stage and were ably followed up by Placebo, who as always, put on a superb show. Similarly, Snow Patrol, The Prodigy, Queens of the Stone Age and 2ManyDJs put on amazing performances across the three days. Mumford and Sons electrified the audience in the Marquee with a performance that was nothing short of spectacular. Elsewhere, Chase and Status, Pendulum and Soulwax rocked the dance tents. The Flaming Lips were somewhat muted, but as always put on an amazing visual performance, but the crowd didn't quite take to them. Biffy Clyro, We Are Scientists, Two Door Cinema Club, Yeasayer, White Lies, Gogol Bordello, Tinie Tempah, Eels and You Me At Six all impressed with tight performances that got the audience buzzing.
Mumford and Sons - 10/10
An outstanding performance that got the crowd on board through every song. ‘Little Lion Man’, always a crowd pleaser, joined by haunting modern classics such as ‘Sigh No More’ and ‘The Cave’.
Iron Maiden - 9/10
The amount of Iron Maiden shirts on display during Thursday always meant that the main stage would be heaving for this one. And as ever, Maiden didn't disappoint. The energy they showed put many more recent bands to shame (see The Kooks) and the crowd were buzzing throughout. Disappointing not to hear ‘Run for the Hills’ however…
Biffy Clyro - 9/10
Sporting a jet white beard reminiscent of Santa Claus, Simon Neal, resplendent in blue skinny jeans, red plimsolls and his trademark bare chest is every bit the rock star. And the show that he put on at Pukkelpop in the rocky Shelter stage would have been a show that any rock legend could have been proud of. Mixing in recent hits ‘Bubbles’, ‘Mountains’, ‘Many of Horror’, ’The Captain’ and ‘God and Satan’ with the classic material in their repertoire with a harder edge, the crowd were electrified throughout.
We Are Scientists - 8/10
An early slot on day one of the festival is never an ideal one. However, We Are Scientists responded with aplomb and the show saw the Marquee tent quickly pack and the crowd really take to the band from Berkley, California. The quirkiness of the act is really endearing, and the setlist was tight and included the classics ‘Great Escape’ and ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’, along with the recent single from the Barbara album, ‘Nice Guys’ which really got the crowd buzzing from the off.
The Kooks - 1/10
A late afternoon Main Stage spot saw The Kooks attract a large audience which they should have responded to. Instead, they seemed disinterested and even with a back catalogue which included some great sing along numbers, they never got the crowd moving.
Blink 182 - 5/10
The chemistry between Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus is still there, but the songs now seem awfully dated, the music anything but tight and for the first three songs the sound engineers clearly asleep. The crowd loved the old favourites from ‘Enema of the State’, but Blink could have stayed and the wilderness and the musical world would not have been any the worse for it. Points for the witty musings between the front men, and definitely an extra point for Travis Barker’s extraordinary talents on the drums, with the upside down drumming a festival highlight in itself.
Pukkelpop 25 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, and it would be remiss to finish this review without mentioning the untimely death of two musicians: Charles Haddon of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool and Michael Been of The Call (and father to Robert Been of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.)
By Ben Rothwell.