Scene Invasion: Rock Werchter 2013
Rock Werchter marks the beginning of summer in Belgium as one of the biggest and most highly anticipated music festivals in Europe, set on the outskirts of the sleepy town of Werchter. Between the three stages, Klub C, The Barn and the Main Stage, a total of 79 bands performed during the course of the four day festival. And with 139,000 unique visitors each day from 69 different countries it was obviously going to be a memorable and fantastic couple of days. So onto the music…
Los Angeles punks FIDLAR made history at the festival, being the first act to play in the new Klub C tent. Playing tracks from their epic debut album, the show was all sheer energy and aggression with lead singer Zac Carper leaping into the crowd after a frantic performance of “Wake Bake Skate”. What a way to break in the new stage. Vampire Weekend took to the main stage later that afternoon and despite Ezra Koenig’s renowned despondency their classic tracks like “A-Punk” and “Cousins” as well as material from their latest album brought a ray of sunshine to what was a unusually overcast day. Over in The Barn however Biffy Clyro failed to perform with the same gravitas that accompanied their UK arena tour earlier this year. While this was probably due to the reduced set list and stage, popular tracks like “Bubbles” as well older material like “Living is a problem because everything dies ” stirred up the audience with ease.
Playing the festival for the fourth time, Bloc Party’s set was perhaps the most hectic of the day with a crowd that never ceased to move. The band performed “Ratchet”- a new track presumably off their upcoming EP The Nextwave Sesssions which is cited to be released in August. Far removed from the frenetic performance by Bloc Party, the ambient and ethereal Sigur Ros, accompanied by a dramatic visuals, performed their latest album Kviekur an audience in awe. The band took a time out to sing happy birthday to Orri Páll Dýrason, the drummer, whose expert and thunderous performance was a particular highlight of the show. Next door the thunderous bass of The Bloody Beetroots in Klub C and Netsky on the Main Stage meant that the festival continued long after Jónsi had put his violin bow away.
Blurry eyed, a small crowd gathered to watch ex-James Brown impersonator Charles Bradley who shot to success after his debut album in 2011. His emotive and Brown-like performance, complete with dance moves, set an incredibly high standard for the following acts during that day. Over on the main stage the two brothers that make up The Bots were unable to stir the crowd, their strongest tracks like “Northern Lights” echoed over a fairly disinterested and small crowd who were probably just waiting for Two Door Cinema Club who attracted a huge crowd ready to dance to their numerous indie pop anthems.
However, Friday belonged to the trio of DJs who played the two tented stages- Major Lazer, C2C and Vitalic. Major Lazer was first in Klub C pulling possibly the biggest crowd of the festival. Featuring tracks from his latest album Free Universe as well as successfully mixing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a tasteful manner the set was a weird and wild experience. If you even need to learn how to dance to dubstep simply attend a Major Lazer show. C2C meanwhile gave a more technical show- the four DJs taking it turns to mix tracks from their debut album Tetra before splitting off into a 2 v 2 scratch off. Comparatively regular tracks like “Down the road” went down well with the audience especially after the serial experience of Major Lazer. Finally Vitalic, whose impressive light show made the set an impressive visual spectacle as well audible.
Despite this though thousands flocked to the Main Stage for Blur, their two hour set a medley of classics opening with “Girls & Boys” and ending with, of course, “Song 2″, the ultimate way to end the day. On the walk back to the camp-sites “Tender” could be heard among the shuffling crowds.
Despite the success of a number of their singles, British DJ duo Disclosure had a tough time getting the audience to move. Even the stronger tracks off their new album “Settle” like “When a fire starts to burn” failed to ignite any enthusiasm. Perhaps, while in the UK the pair have been making waves, they’re still to break onto the European dance scene. Rap collective Odd Future, despite being late to start, managed to get the crowd going with a collection of their work ranging from Tyler the Creator’s solo albums including “Wolf” and “Goblin” as well as their mix tape albums. At one point the frustrated front man asked the crowd “why are you all so sleepy?”. Typically hit-or-miss, Odd Future were on top form with entertaining and ridiculous performances from key members. Rudimental satisfied a large crowd in the oppressive heat of Klub C featuring live singers for their entire set- their greatest hit “Feel the love” sparked a reprise by the audience that continued long after the London based drum ‘n bass group left the stage.
The personal highlight of the entire festival came from the psychedelic Tame Impala. Drawing material from across tehir discography, especially their latest (and excellent) 2012 album Lonerism. Tracks like “Elephant”, “It feels like we only go backwards” and “Mind Mischief” were highlights of what was an all round spectacular show, enhance by kaleidoscope like visuals. After the excitement of Tame Impala, James Blake’s performance seemed terribly bland, a shame as his Overgrown is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year. Headlining the main stage were German metal band Rammstein who, complete with pyrotechnics and a foam shooting phallus, wowed their fans and disturbed the rest.
With festival exhaustion kicking in after three long days, Youth Lagoon had to try hard to keep everyone awake. Perhaps it was the hair or the irritating vocals but, live, the group did not meet the high expectations that their two studio albums had set. Bastille, continuing the day’s trend of strange hair, managed to kickstart life back into the audience. Their massive hit “Pompeii” was an apt track to close with with temperature steadily rising and rising. The highlights of the tented stage though came from the Haim sisters and singer-songwriter-extraordinary-pianist Tom Odell. The energy and humour that Haim brought onto the stage reflected the band’s immense potential (who were celebrating the sixth year anniversary of their first show) and certainly increased the growing anticipation for their début album which comes out in September. Featuring a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh well” as well as impressive percussion breaks performed by the three sisters it was definitely one of the best shows of the festival . The emotive playing of Tom Odell meanwhile was instantly captivating and, after playing “Another love” one of the major tracks off his latest album, yielded what seemed to be the longest applause of the entire four days.
Headlining the Main Stage were Depeche Mode, an eyebrow raising choice for a festival that is predominantly young people. Despite these concerns though they pulled a huge crowd and classics like “Personal Jesus” and “I just can’t get enough” went down exceedingly well. DJ duo Like Mike & Dmitri Vegas closed the festival in Klub C with an impressive set featuring classic EDM tracks while also featuring new material from the pair. Complete with confetti and fire it was a grand way to end a hectic but fantastic Rock Werchter 2013.
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