About This Festival
Pukkelpop is a three-day alternative music festival that takes in mid- to late August each year. It is held between a dual carriageway in a large enclosure of fields and woodland in the small village of Kiewit, just north of Hasselt. Pukkelpop started as a small, local music event before rising to become an outdoor festival that is now considered one of Europe’s greatest music events. It is the second largest music festival in the country after Rock Werchter, with an annual attendance of around 180,000 people. Funnily enough, the term pukkel is actually the Dutch word for "pimple", so the literal translation could be “Pimple Pop.”
Pukkelpop was founded (and still organized), by Chokri Mahassine, a Belgian politician, and the youth organization Humanistic Youth of Leopoldsburg in 1985. It started its life as a single day event on Belgium's National Day holiday (July 21), in the village of Leopoldsburg, located just to the north of the current location.
The inaugural event started with just 3,000 fans attending and featured seven acts, with English songwriter Anne Clark headlining. Some of the bands in those early days included The Ramones and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Since then, Pukkelpop has grown to join the elite among European festivals, cultivating along the way an enviable reputation for supporting the more progressive and alternative sectors of rock.
Pukkelpop has changed its location a few times over the years. In 1988, the festival relocated to the village of Hechtel-Eksel where it was held at Sanicole Airfield. In 1991, it moved to its current home in Kiewit, though the first event took place on the grounds of the children's petting farm in the village. It settled in the fields by the Kempische Steenweg motorway, where it has been held ever since.
Currently there are eight different stages—besides the main stage there are the Marquee, Dance Hall, The Shelter, the Boiler Room, Club, Château, and Wablief stages. Meanwhile Petit Bazar and Salon Fou provide additional entertainment and well being in all senses of the word. There is even a circus show, the Bataclan, as well as a smoking area full of bongs and eastern music.
Over 200 artists all come to perform on one of our eight stages. Notable acts that have performed at Pukkelpop include Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Metallica, Green Day, Blink-182, Guns N' Roses, Pixies, Daft Punk, The Prodigy, Nine Inch Nails, Iron Maiden, Björk, and The Stone Roses.
Accidents and Incidents
Although the festival has seen a meteoric rise over the years, it has unfortunately not been without incident. During the 2010 festival, two musicians died. Michael Been, lead singer and guitarist of The Call, died of a heart attack and the very next day, Ou Est Le Swimming Pool singer Charles Haddon committed suicide by jumping from a communications mast in the backstage parking area. He was reportedly upset when he injured a fan after stage-diving into the crowd.
In a horrible twist of fate, the 2011 festival was affected by a severe thunderstorm on the evening of the opening day of the event. Torrential rain and strong winds up to 170 km/h (106 mph) uprooted trees, destroyed tents and knocked down heavy light towers and video screens. The Chateau tent collapsed shortly after American rock band Smith Westerns began performing their set.
Five people were killed, and at least 140 were injured. Following the storm, officials decided to cancel the entire event. The festival was to have featured Eminem, Foo Fighters, The Offspring, dEUS and Thirty Seconds to Mars among the headlining acts. The incident came just five days after the Indiana State Fair stage collapse in the United States, which killed seven people, and sparked debate about regulations in outdoor concert events.
Bring your Tent
Most festivalgoers come for the full three days, sleeping under canvas in a well-organized campsite which is located on a field opposite the festival. A main highway separates the festival and the campsite, so take extra care when crossing, especially after a trip to the bar.
Campsite access is included in the ticket cost. The campsite is open from noon on the Wednesday, and needs to be cleared by 11am on the Sunday. There are always a number of local DJs providing entertainment on the Wednesday evening.