Four days of hell on Werchter plain

-The early summer musical event was saved by the weather and by memorable performances (Blur, Nick Cave, Frank Ocean…).

- 340,000 people were filled with good vibrations

- No incidents to report

People, people and more people. For four days the Flemish site was transformed into an autonomous village where time stood still for 96 hours. Apart from a few small issues (smartphone thefts for example), the organizers reported no major problems. The medical staff was reassuring about the health of a young man who had suffered a heart attack Thursday before Major Lazer’s performance. Considering there were 300,000 people over 4 days, that’s nothing.

Except that so many people were on the move, the plain often seemed like Main Street the first day of sales. On the other hand, the sound was impeccable, and there were no distractions from other groups playing at the same time. The good news – Rock Werchter isn’t one of the world’s best festivals for no reason – is that despite the crowds, the lines at the various bars, food stands or shops were insignificant.

In regard to the quality of the bands, there were the excellent, the good, the not-so-good and the frankly terrible. Despite a program that looked unstoppable on paper and the headliners (we’ll come back to them) who kept all their promises, there were intervals where time dragged even for the most relaxed audiences. The program, which continues to blend genres, this year celebrated the best of hip-hop and r&b. The rascals of Odd Future, Frank Ocean or the super-gifted Kendrick Lamar, who we will come back to during Pukkelpop with a final interview, justified their presence with some good times. Especially Frank Ocean…notably accompanied by an excellent brass section. He was discovered in the midst of Odd Future. He could be the son Marvin Gaye and Prince never had. Saturday, between sensual soul and swing, he delivered one of the best concerts of the festival.

Rock Werchter also brings generations together, allowing them to share the same emotions at the same time. We saw fathers and sons together at the Blur concert and the Rammstein circus. They were also there on Sunday for Depeche Mode. More reassuring was the diversity of the audience on Friday at the Blur concert (absent from the Belgian scene for the last 10 years). Many young people saw Damon Albarn’s group for the first time; it was quite a long wait. It was like 15 years ago, when R.E.M. or the Red Hot Chili Peppers only appeared once every five years, but unlike today, when fans going to Ardentes, Lokerse Feesten, Werchter or Pukkelpop can see Snoop Dogg, Mika or Editors every other year.

PHILIPPE MANCHE

DIDIER STIERS

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