Blood, Sweat and Tears - The Rock Werchter Report - Part 1

Before I go on with this most recent of addition to this corner of cyberspace, I am aware that some of you are experiencing problems when reading the text in your email. At the moment I can only suggest going to the website to see it in all it's glory. At least until I can sort out what the fuck it is that I am doing wrong!

Well Folks,

The dust has settled on yet another Rock Werchter festival...and what an eventful one it was.

For the uninitiated amongst you Rock Werchter is the largest music festival in Belgium and indeed one of the largest in Europe and has been rocking in its various guises for over the last 30 years.

Werchter itself is a small, sleepy town that lies between the Flemish towns of Mechelen and Leuven (the home of the beer Stella Artois) and is less than 30 minutes from Brussels.

Granted, the idea of spending 5 days in a field with 80,000 sweaty Belgians might not be everybody's cup of tea, but I consider myself fortunate enough to have been to the last three Rock Werchters and was determined to get to this year's event, purchasing my ticket through a long suffering friend and someone who I am sure feels like a part-time ticket agent. As per usual, the event sold-out within a matter of days, long before the final line-up was to be announced.

Make no mistake, the event is not for the faint-hearted. The festival is a 4-day long event, with the first band taking the stage at 18:00 on the Thursday and the final band closing on the Sunday at half past midnight. We had decided to stay the Sunday night to avoid the traffic leaving the event.

The build up to this year's event was setting the scene for a great one - a convoy of 12 of us were going to join in the festivities, the weather leading up to it had been scorching hot and several of my favourite acts were performing.

As per usual, the organisers managed to get a great collection of bands with many of my personal favourites playing. Although I suppose that is all a matter of taste but personal highlights for me were (and in no particular order):
Nine Inch Nails
The Chemical Brothers
and of course those fellow Northern Irish men - Therapy?

Spirits were high when we all met up at Thursday lunchtime in Antwerp's Grote Markt for a couple of pre-festival drinks, before setting off at around 14:00, only an hour later than planned which has gotta be some sort of record for the crowd of chronologically-challenged people that I knock around with.

At around 15:00 we joined the traffic heading fro the festival site and after crawling along in the glorious sunshine, we arrived at our destination and unloaded our cars at close to 16:00 - just as the heavens opened.

Caught in a huge deluge, weighed down by our camping gear, we were faced with no other option but to partake in our first of many visits to a burger van.

Suitably enchanced by our intake of grease-soaked fast food and seeing a break in the rain, we made a dash for the campsite and made our way to a corner of the campsite big enough to house our 6 tents, 2 gazebos and enough junk food to give Jane Fonda a coronary, we began to set up our base for the next five days.

Just in time to be caught in an even bigger deluge.

Setting up tents, especially those that have only recently been purchased, is a difficult enough task, but add in some howling wind and pelting rain, the task becomes a Krypton Factor task that even Gordon Burns (a fellow Northern Irishman) would have been proud of.

Needless to say tempers were frayed and long-standing friendships were put to a severe test.

Having purchased stunningly naff plastic raincoats at the more than reasonable price of 1.99 euros (believe me - even at this price - a little bit pricey) we put them on immediately, forgoing any semblance of fashion sense for the much more practicality of a pneumonia free festival. Certainly not designed for their freedom of movement, whilst protecting us from the torrential downpour, they only managed to further compound our situation.

Suffice to say we looked like a bunch of giant smurfs, indulging in a drunken rampage through an army surplus store.

Throw into this disastrous equation the fact that I was handicapped by my recent hand operation and was proving to be of as much use as tits on a skateboard and I am hoping that you are imagining a picture of just how difficult things were.

Multiply that picture by a thousand and you're getting somewhere close.

Of course by the time we had finished wrestling with the tents, swore profusely at mates and questioned our own sanity at the fact in deciding to willingly put ourselves into this predicament in the first place, the weather improved just as we had finished setting up base camp.

Unfortunately, during this mayhem I had managed to re-open the wound in my hand, the bandage soaked and bloodied, hanging off my hand making me look like the latter stages of a strip-tease act as performed by The Invisible Man.

This was not good.

With the supplies still to be retrieved from the cars, it was evident that I was in need of medical attention and accompanied with a friend I set off looking for it.

Unfortunately this was not for the last time in what turned out to be one hell of an eventful weekend...