Werchter’s Best, Says Press

Although the Belgian press isn’t given to getting carried away with anything, a few of the major papers are becoming pretty bullish about saying the country’s got "the best festival in the world."

The latest to make the claim was Het Nieuwsblad, after this year’s Rock Werchter (June 28 to July 1) put acts including Metallica, Pearl Jam, Muse, Faithless, Marilyn Manson, The Killers, Keane, Kaiser Chiefs, Kings Of Leon and Arctic Monkeys in front of another sellout crowd.

"A cast-iron festival," said Het Laatste Nieuws, while De Standaard also focused on the fact the Live Nation-run four-dayer regularly attracts one of the best lineups in Europe.

Outside of the U.K., only Germany’s twinned Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park festivals and Denmark’s Roskilde can regularly put together bills that have equal strength in depth.

"Like Michael Eavis’ bash [Glastonbury], Werchter has heritage (it began in 1975), a pretty, rural location and ethically minded organisers" Guardian music columnist Chris Salmon wrote, adding that this year the Belgian festival probably came out best because it was "cheaper, lasts a day longer and its lineup was arguably stronger."

Festival chief Herman Schueremans said he found this year’s event "relaxing," although 80,000 people were on the Werchter site for each of the four days.

A story in Belgium’s Trends magazine, which was picked up by the U.K.’s The Times, discussed the state of the country’s outdoor market and that of its French neighbours.

Using examples including the Stones pulling 33,000 of a possible 70,000 on the Werchter site and George Michael and The Who abandoning plans to play there in favour of smaller venues, Trends said the "agents and managers of these big commercial machines that operate on a planetary scale" need to adapt their ticket prices to the local market.

It also cited the fact that the Stones played to a thinly populated Stade de France in Paris last month, and Sir Elton John canceled a planned Paris mega-show with seats at euro 750 (US$1,025) and replaced it with a gig at the Paris Zenith at euro 150 (US$204).

The Werchter attendance, at euro 75 for a daily ticket and euro 160 for a four-day pass, and decent crowd figures from the early French festivals support Trends’ theory that it’s big acts with overpriced tickets that are suffering, as opposed to any general downturn in the two countries’ outdoor markets.

Other acts on the Rock Werchter bill included The Chemical Brothers, Bjork, Incubus, Beastie Boys, My Chemical Romance, Interpol, Queens Of The Stone Age and Goose, the Belgian act that’s picked up seven or eight shows from this year’s European Talent Exchange scheme.