The Rock Werchter 2006 Report – Part 1

Well folks – it’s that time of the year again – the time when I forgo all the wonderful facilities that my compact but bijou apartment affords me such as a bed, a toilet, a settee and – well that’s about it really, for a 5-day stint in the wilderness of a field in the middle of nowhere in rural Belgium surrounded by 79,999 like-minded sweaty individuals.

It’s hard to believe that 12 months have already passed by since I regaled you of the horrors of last year’s festival, when I rather stupidly decided to indulge in the 5-day rock festival experience that is Rock Werchter, just a few days after having had my hand operated on.

The rest as they say was a bloody mess.

(For those not in the know, I refer you to the July 2005 postings elsewhere in this blog titled “Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Werchter experience”), perhaps you can read that before continuing with this one.

It’s ok – I’ll wait. Off you go….

Ho hum…

OK then - everyone on the same page now?

Good – it makes it all so much easier if we’re all in this together right from the start.

So, on with the show!

This year’s Werchter once again fell on the same weekend and so once again coincided with my birthday celebrations. It really is sooo kind of the people of Belgium to put on such an extravaganza for little old me and it makes it really special for me that 79,999 others make the effort and come and join in the fun.

And believe me, it can be quite the effort and have even me questioning my own sanity as I sit in the traffic jams, walk for miles carrying my camping gear in the searing heat and wrestle with my tent and…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s just start at the beginning shall we? The evening before – Wednesday 28th June 2006 – to be precise.

Having finished work, and taking the short 10 minute commute back my apartment to the centre of Antwerp, I was filled with the sort of happy feeling that only the prospect of sharing a long sun-drenched weekend in a field with 80,000 sweaty revellers can generate.

Excitement, tinged with expectancy, mixed with anticipation, tempered with a little nervousness as to what the weekend would bring all bubbled under my usually calm exterior. (No laughing at the back)

Arriving home, I came to the neighbourhood where I currently reside – an apartment on a square near the centre of town which, as it just so happened, was also hosting a festival for the weekend. A festival right on my own doorstep and yet I was destined to leave it all for The Daddy of all Belgian festivals – Rock Werchter.

Actually, I should take this point to compliment Belgium on all it’s festivals during the summer. Every weekend, for a period of about 3 months, you could be going to some (not so) far flung corner of Belgium and indulging in various festivals of varying sizes, catering all types of musical tastes, and that’s not to mention all the concerts that are on the way as well.

A brief look at my agenda, shows that over the next few weeks I am hoping to go see Madness and The Charlatans, Jamiroquoi, Daan*, Flogging Molly and my home town rockers Therapy?, the 3-day Antaliannse festival with its south American and Caribbean music, Bodycount and the Streets, with only the last one actually being indoors. Let’s hope the good weather lasts.

* = For those of you that have not heard of the Belgian dance artist Daan, I would recommend you should go out there pronto and acquaint yourself with his music. After you finish reading this blog of course. I would especially recommend him if you like your dance music with a heavy bass line. Tracks to look out for include the unofficial Belgian Anthem “Swedish Designer Drugs” and the extremely bass-heavy “Houswife.” Brilliant.

Incidentally, Daan is playing an outdoor concert in the main square of a Flemish town called Turnhout, about 30 minutes east of Antwerp on Friday July 21st. It is one of many organised every Friday during the summer, and is an example of just how good at Belgium is for these sorts of things. They are expecting between 15000 and 20000 people and you know what – it’s absolutely free!

Bring it on.

But back to the matter in hand…

So having parked the car illegally, (due to a lack of parking spaces because of the upcoming festival in the neighbourhood), I rushed up the stairs to my “penthouse shoebox” that is my home and packed for the weekend. Having looked at the weather forecast for the weekend I knew that that the average daytime temperatures were going to be around 30+ degrees and that the evenings were going to be hot as well. Instead of last years sweaters, jackets and jeans, the packing was relatively simple – shorts, T-shirts, underwear, toiletries (including sunscreen), tent, sleeping bag, torch, cigarettes and booze.

Of course I had to include a couple of long sleeve numbers and a pair of jeans. Just in case. I guess you can take the boy out of Ireland but you can’t take the boy out of Ireland, eh?

The point is, within a matter of a few minutes my packing was complete. Putting my dinner in the microwave, I jumped into the shower – timing my shower to perfection to coincide with the ‘DING’ that announced dinner was served.

Having polished that off, pronto style, I went and joined a few friends in the local pub - an English pub, 3 minutes walk from my home where I had arranged to meet a few of the guys that were going and a few of the ones that weren’t going, to join in the celebrations / commiserations of the upcoming Werchter weekend and also the fact that the following day, I was to become a year older.

The party went on a little later than it should have and it was around 04:00 in the morning when I eventually got myself into bed. Not exactly the wisest preparation for a weekend where sleep would be at a premium but sure, I wouldn’t expect anything less of myself…

Next morning, well 4 hours later, my alarm went off and I set about getting in the mood by playing music from some of the bands that would be playing that weekend – The Streets, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Eels, all came out of my stereo system that morning, whether my neighbours wanted to hear it or not.

It’s amazing how easily I can get out of my bed for this sort of thing and yet struggle for my work. Why is that, I wonder?

Showered, dressed and a bit of a boogie in my apartment all complete, I went downstairs with my hold-all and then rescued my Canadian friends’ camping gear along with my own from my cellar, putting everything in the hallway waiting for them to arrive.

I looked at my watch – 10:25 and I was supposed to meet them at 10:30. I was ready before them. This sort of thing never happened!

I can remember sitting on the cooler on the footpath outside the apartment building waiting for them to arrive, the glorious early morning sun beating down on my face, a little hung-over, but happy with my lot in life.

I lit a cigarette and enjoyed the smoke whilst probably looking like some Irish version of a Mexican bandit sitting in the sun to the passers by going about their daily business.

My friends arrived and we loaded their car and then arranged to meet them with all the others in the local for breakfast, as I walked around the corner to where I had left my car.

Except there was no car.

There was a space where my car should have been but definitely no car.

Across the narrow street I saw the reason why - a cement truck, parked up dumping its load into the foundations of a building site.


I had forgotten about that. I had parked illegally the evening before in my haste to get ready for the weekend and in my haste to start the party I had forgotten to move it.

And now it had been towed away to make way for the building site traffic.


4 people were travelling in my car – not to mention all their camping gear. What the hell was I supposed to do now? Was the Werchter Weekend that I had been looking forward to going to turn into a big washout after all – in spite of the heat wave that was predicted?