About This Festival
One of Europe's five biggest music festivals, Rock Werchter knows how to thrill a crowd. It brings in 80 or so big-name bands, old-school crowd pleasers and up-and-coming tastemakers, then mixes them into a genre-spanning smorgasbord. A typical evening might see an LA. skate punk band thrash, followed by a soulful English singer-songwriter strumming and Swedish alt rockers wrecking the stage. Next comes a flashy Belgian hip-hop act, then a legendary metal band, and so it goes into the wee hours.
Eighty-five thousand fans arrive daily. They're a casual group dressed in T-shirts, shorts and bikini tops. One-quarter come from the neighboring Netherlands, while others stream in from France, the UK, Germany and Norway. By night's end, the crowd morphs into one big happy family, with everyone singing, dancing, arms flailing and glow sticks waving in the air.
The gig starts at noon each day (4pm the first day), and to make it until the last show dies out around 1am requires sustenance. That's where the great Belgian traditions of frites (French fries) and beer come in. Bountiful food stands fry up potatoes and slather them with traditional mayonnaise. Waffles, pizzas and wok dishes supplement the wares, while Belgium's famous brews provide liquid nourishment. The local selection flowing from the taps—Trappist ales, fruity lambics and head-walloping dubbels and tripels - is awesome enough to rival most full-on beer festivals.
The festival park spans a big, flat field where folks unfurl blankets to take in the scene. Small groves of trees provide shade here and there. Three stages rise up in the midst: the open-air Main Stage; KluB C, blasting electronic music under a blue-and-pink tent for 10,000 people; and The Barn, another tent, where newbie bands let loose. Unlike some music fests where fans have to dash between seven or eight stages to see their favorite performers, Rock Werchter lets you stay put, more or less, and enjoy your beer. A chill-out space at the back of the park provides relief if it gets too loud by the stages.
Another difference between Rock Werchter and its peers: there's not much going on besides the music—no theater shows, no carnival rides, no film screenings or art galleries. The focus here remains on the bands. Children are welcome to attend, but there's no special kids' zone for them.
40th Anniversary Headliners
2014 was the fest's 40th anniversary. The first groups to RSVP included: Metallica, Pearl Jam, Arctic Monkeys, Black Keys, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Pixies, Haim, Bastille, The Wombats, Biffy Clyro, Dropkick Murphys, Ellie Goulding, Franz Ferdinand, Imagine Dragons and Triggerfinger.
History & Past Headliners
The festival started in 1974 in the spirit of Woodstock, with multiple bands playing outdoors in a rural field. It was a one-day event originally. It became a two-day fair in 1996 and a three-day fest in 2000. It has been a four-day bash since 2003. It's always held the first weekend of summer vacation in Belgium (so either the last weekend of June or the first weekend of July).
Rock Werchter is a frequent nominee for "Best Lineup" at the annual European Festival Awards. It won the title in 2009 and 2011.
Just about any famous band you can think of has taken the stage here over the years: the Talking Heads, Kinks, U2, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, Ramones, R.E.M., Iggy Pop, Sting, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Oasis, PJ Harvey, Lady Gaga and heaps more. Many of these acts keep coming back and have performed multiple times at the venue.
Recent programs have featured:
- Bruno Mars, Iron Maiden, The Chemical Brothers, Linkin Park, Queens Of The Stone Age, Jimmy Eat World, Arctic Monkeys and Social Distortion in 2011.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Florence + The Machine, The Cure, Garbage, Deadmau5, Mumford and Sons, Justice and Wiz Khalifa in 2012.
- Blur, Depeche Mode, Frank Ocean, Green Day, Ke$ha, Kings of Leon, Sigur Ros, The Hives, The Lumineers and Vampire Weekend in 2013.
- Arctic Monkey, Bastille, Kings of Leon, Interpol, Pixies, Metallica, Major Lazer, Haim, Jack Johnson, and Imagine Dragons in 2014.
- The National, U2, Muse, Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, Deadmau5, and Tenacious D in 2015.
Tickets usually go on sale first week of December, and by mid-January the weekends already are sold out.