Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Music Festivals, Belgian Style

As a birthplace of and haven for electronic dance music, I was very surprised to learn that Belgium annually hosts four major music festivals with a heavy emphasis on rock music. Each festival boasts its own specialty: Rock Werchter is arguably the biggest festival and is the supreme all-rock festival, allowing each band a minimum of 1.5 hours to melt faces; Dour hosts a greater variety of acts, reaching out to music fans of all genres; Graspop targets hard rock metal heads looking for a summertime headbanging outlet; and last, Pukkelpop (translation: Zit Pop), with seven stages and music running from 11am until 5am everyday, signs alternative acts ranging the gauntlet from EDM to metal.

A one-day adventure at Rock Werchter wasn't enough for Europeanization efforts, so a four day, all out effort was needed at this year's edition of Pukkelpop. Housemates and close friends live just in the area- visiting the festival was not only convenient for supply-purposes, but for better understanding their early, pre-Chicago invasion years.   Music starts on Wednesday night, welcoming early campers with DJ sets that last until the wee hours of the morning, before the official opening on Thursday morning. Unprecedented heat and dry weather, a respite from the standard Belgian summer weather, made the idea of dancing until 5am after standing in the sun all day more appealing, and the next four days proved to be a relentless, dance-inducing party.

Necessities for Pukkelpop this year proved to be flag-tattooed anything (leading to very excited shouts of "God Save the Queen" by our group of 20), Kanye West-inspired eye wear, candy in the shape of a grill, and clothing no longer needed post-festival (copious amounts of dirt, dust and sweat destroyed nearly everything). Excessive water, both in drinking form and the cool-down variety whisked from water bottles waved overhead, greatly improved the Pukkelpop survival rate and duration rate.

  The most marked difference between US-hosted festivals and those in Belgium is the audience. Belgians (and Europeans from far and wide) span the age range from 14 to 80+, the former staking a notable claim at the camping sites and proudly (smartly?) trotting around in little more than a bandeau bikini top. Young US music lovers are often denied access to epic events and the old often cite the lack of festival-goers of the same age. Though fewer over the ripe age of 25 were noticed on the camping, the age diversity on site was stellar and restored the notion that music, indeed, can unite the masses.   

Required eye and teeth wear 

An afternoon show in the Dance Hall- one of seven pavilions erected for the festival

 Near the festival's bazaar and entrance.

A late night dance session with Diplo in the Boiler Room