Festivals have never been my live music format of choice. Back in 2008 I went to Rock Werchter for the first time and had a fantastic day and possibly my romantic memories of that day pushed me into trying it again in 2012, with the hope of reliving the fun.
However as we arrived at the festival grounds you could automatically tell that this was day three of the festival from the conditions of the grounds inside and out. We arrived just around the beginning “ish” of the day’s proceedings and as you walked in, it felt like you were surrounded by a sea of people being sucked through the security gates, the dust rising all around us only increasing the feeing and the reality of the number of people who were there sunk in.
We missed 80% of Alabama Shakes show which was unlucky as I had really wanted to see these guys play, but I did see just enough of them (whilst traipsing past them to see Noah and the Whale play) to entice me into seeing them play in Amsterdam on their next tour.
Noah and the Whale is a band that never disappoint and this has proven to be the case every time I have seen them in the last few years. They crank out a really good festival set, 45 minutes worth of all their hits and the crowd just loved them. I was surprised that these guys were on so early in the day, but that is just the way it is at a festival I guess.
After that, I headed to have a listen to the good Aussie rock boys Wolfmother play, and I wasn’t disappointed. These guys really proceeded to rock out with their cocks out, and you were not left wondering if they still have it. To bloody right they do! They were right up there with my favorite shows of the festival and it was great to see the entire crowd getting right into them and singing all the songs. That was a little rare in comparison to the rest of the festival to be honest, it always feels like people come to see bands they “should see” not bands they know about or are interested in for that matter.
From the Main stage we strode over to the Pyramid stage and locked ourselves into seeing Ben Howard. At the end of this performance I am happy to say, I think I missed or don’t quite understand the hype around this guy. Don’t get me wrong, he is good and he plays some fantastic surfer/ stoner rock, but to me, that’s all it is. That being said, the crowd loved it and they were the most animated of all the shows all day, when Ben asked them to sing everyone sang, if he asked them to clap, everyone clapped, such was the power of the man. That interaction is always great to see.
After the “lovin” that was Ben Howard, we strolled back over to the amassing 85,000 strong crowd to the Main stage to see Mumford and Sons. And whilst Marcus Mumford still had a broken wrist this didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. Ok I am not going to lie to you the festival crowd didn’t automatically fall in love with all the tracks off the new album (Babel due for release on 24 September 2012), but they did love all the older anthems, therefore they got a tick, a job well done. Did they perform the greatest show in the world? No. Did they have a great ability to engage with a completely diverse festival crowd? Yes they did.
For the next performance I was a little disappointed that we didn’t venture further into the breach after the Munford and Sons set and found myself in the outer periphery to watch what I think might have piped Wolfmother for the show of the evening - The XX. They had some new songs but also all the great tracks that I love and more to the point they were much more engaged than the last time I saw them. Their use of the cameras and lighting and projections was really good and added to the show all at the time that dusk was descending over the grounds. And I am now awaiting their new album Coexist release (September 11, 2012) even more.
After night was upon us, it was back over to the Pyramid stage for a chance to see Regina Spector in all her resplendent glory, and nearly up close and personal. I found myself being annoyed by the usual festival crowds talking around me, but this didn’t bother Regina, she just played all the songs I wanted to hear, hit after hit, and all in her incredibly cute, beautiful and whimsical way. I didn’t want her to stop, but alas her time was up.
And no sooner had the day begun but it was all over. For all its flaws of being such a big festival I felt like I would have been happily stayed watching bands for another couple of hours if I could. Looking back it was a good day, I got to watch some really good acts, Rock Werchter 2008 still beat it in my mind but that was just a bigger line up and less people were there due to rain. I am not really sure when the next time I will go to a festival will be, or if it will be any time soon, but I am glad I went.