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Rock Werchter 2009: A Look Back

To those of you that pay attention to lists (so, nobody) a little while ago I made a list of who I was most excited to see at an upcoming Belgian musical festival. Well, the awesomeness has come and pass, and here is how the bands faired in my most humble of opinions.

As expected, Coldplay was the standout highlight of the entire four days. I sacrificed two good shows
(Bloc Party and The Killers) standing in line to get up to the front section for them but it was worth it
twenty times over. Their show was absolutely magical but what's more, it was personal. The entire
band, with the possible exception of the bass player (whose name eludes me at this moment) seemed
genuinely excited to be playing for us. Will Champion was wailing on his kit as hard as ever,
Buckland's face was chock full of emotion as his beautiful guitar leads soared through the air, and
Chris Martin was happy-go-lucky and playful throughout the show. They looked like they were having
a great time on stage which is more than I was hoping for seeing as they had played France the night
before and were playing Denmark in two days. For a band with such a hectic schedule, they had
quite a lot of genuine energy. And let's not forget the music. Oh God the set was near perfect.
While I could have done with more from Parachutes (Yellow being the lone song played from that
album) the set was put together in a brilliant and climatic manner opening and closing with the two
different versions of Life in Technicolour. The emotional Michael Jackson cover (Billie Jean) played by
Martin on piano was the icing on the top of the most delicious metaphorical cake I have ever eaten.
Highlight: Lovers in Japan (butterfly confetti for the win!).
Setlist found at: ://
2Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes played on the secondary stage called the Pyramid Marquee which made it much easier to
get a good spot. In my half-drunken excitedness, I pushed my way through and was near the front.
They sounded, if possible, better than they do on record. The vocal harmonizing was stunning. Also,
they were quite good at talking to the audience between songs while they were tuning their guitars.
Near the end of the show, my half-drunkedness had perhaps become more of a full-fledged
drunkedness and I began yelling things to the band (I was so close, how could I not?). Among the
things I yelled were: "Fleet Foxes, best album of '09!" (which is funny because it's not quite true, MPP
is still my standout '09 release) and "Play something by Metallica!" All of this drunken stupidity was
taken in good humour by the band. The frontman even responded to me: "This next one is by
Metallica." Great show.
Highlight: Blue Ridge Mountains
Setlist: ://

Oh man. I had no idea what the post-rock experience would be like live. In a word: moving. This
show was as awesome as it was loud. And it was loud. They played quite a fair bit of older stuff
which is nice because I only really know Young Team and Happy Songs For Happy People by them. I
thought that a full set with no (or little) vocals would get tiresome but boy was I wrong. A great
Highlight: Yes, I Am A Long Way From Home
4Regina Spektor

While still incredible, this was the biggest letdown of the festival. She was absolutely excellent, but
we pushed our way to the front and cemented our spot before the set was up and as it turns out, her
hugeass piano was blocking our view of her for all but the two songs that she played guitar for.
However, it was still incredible obviously. I'd been waiting forever to hear some of these songs live
and while she didn't play some of my favourites (Daniel Cowman, Consequence of Sounds, Blue Lips)
she still played a great set. I nearly cried during On The Radio ("And everyone must breath/until
their dying breath).
Highlight: Samson (cliche I know but oh God was it ever moving).
5Kaiser Chiefs

As I thought would be the case, this mediocre band puts on one hell of a live show. You know how
it's lame when bands repeat the same thing over and over on record (This a'int a scene, it's a God
damn arms race)? Yah well that strategy rocks, I repeat, rocks, live. Yes, the singer was egotistic.
Yes, the drummer it mediocre at best. But when 60,000 people are all singing "We are the angry
mob, we read the papers everyday, we like who we like, we hates who we hate, but we're also easily
swayed" the details fade into the background. This was, above all, a fun show.
Highlight: The Angry Mob (as expected).
Setlist: ://
6Kings of Leon

The negative side first: I was soooooooo far away from the stage for this show. Ok, now the
postives: I was drunk enough not to care, Kings of Leon rock my socks. Positive side wins I think. I
have only listened to their latest but all their other songs are so good for dancing that I didn't need
to know the words. Also, that singer has got an absolutely incredible voice and it didn't falter once
Highlight: Sex On Fire
Setlist: ://
7The Mars Volta

Halfway through the set, it started to rain. It was the first rain of an incredibly dry, hot four days so
it was welcome at first. But then, it got heavier, and I got soaked...and cold. I had to leave to go
dry off and change in my tent so unfortunately, I didn't get to experience the whole set. What I did
see though was awesome.
Highlight: Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)

What can I say? They were so metal. SO metal. It was awesome. The vocals weren't great live but
the drumming was absolutely spectacular.
Highlight: Oblivion
9Katy Perry

Before you judge me, read the following: Katy Perry is not a huge tool like I had previously assumed.
While some of her songs were...not good, the vast majority of them were performed excellently. Her
band, the drummer in particular, were incredibly talented and she actually plays a pretty mean guitar
herself (she went solo for two songs). What's more, unlike most starlets of her type, she was
unbelievably modest and very grateful to the crowd for supporting her rise to fame. She involved the
crowd very well and even brought one lucky die-hard fan on stage to sing Hot and Cold with her.
Also, come on, she's no chore to look at. My opinion of her completely changed after seeing her live
show. I was very impressed.
Highlight: Hot and Cold (because it's probably the only song whose name I remember).
10Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor rocks live and while I'm only familiar with two of this band's albums, the show was
mindblowing. It was quite passionate which is probably because this is going to be their last ever
Highlight(s): Pigs, The Hand That Feeds (too close to call).
Setlist: ://
11Eagles of Death Metal

I don't know this band at all but they opened up the festival and it was all very electrifying. The
main guy (the one from Queens of the Stone Age) was awesome. While talking to the audience, he
said "Can you dig it?" after everything he said. What's more, he was wearing a signed Lily Allen t-
shirt (she was up next). Also, that mustache rocks. Hard.
Setlist: ://

The festival closers, six years running (or so I'm told). Their set was a massive two and a half hours
long but they kept it interesting with fireworks and great stage theatrics. As a casual fan of the
band, most of their songs were new to me but the one's that I knew were played very well and with
high energy.
Highlight: Master of Puppets
Setlist: ://
13Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Again, I don't know much about this band but they were pretty solid. Their stage was pretty funny
with a huge eyeball bulging into the middle of it all. Also, Karen O must snort cocaine or something
before the her shows. She's so crazy. She was eating the microphone at one point. Like actually
biting it with force. Weird.
Highlight: Maps
14Lily Allen

I like Lily Allen a lot. She isn't like most other pop stars, she seems genuinely into what she does
and she actually has some pretty good songs. She was really fun to see live.
Highlight: Not Fair
Setlist: ://
15M. Ward

I didn't know this band at all but I will definitely be checking them out now. Great guitar solos and
awesome songs with a classic rock feel.
16Henry Rollins

He did a spoken word performance. It was basically just him talking about his travels around the
world and how he hates (hated) George Bush with comical interludes thrown in and ending on an
optimistic note of "you are the key generation that will decide the fate of this fragile world". It was
quite entertaining.

Another band I had not heard of before but will definitely be checking out now. Straight up rock and
roll. You've gotta love that.
Setlist: ://

I was nice and trashed for this show so that probably helped me not to notice that they have quite a
handful of very mediocre songs. But still, who doesn't know and love at least a handful of their
songs? Wonderwall live? Come on, sing-a-longs rule. They closed with a cover of I Am The Walrus
which, while it was pretty wanky, actually sounded kinda cool.
Highlight: Champagne Supernova
Setlist: ://
19Bloc Party

One of the two shows that I had to sacrifice a good spot for in order to get up front for Coldplay. It
was really a shame because while I was terribly uncomfortable and in a terrible place to see it all, it
sounded great and seemed like it would have been really fun to dance to. I want to get some of their
stuff but I don't know where to start. Suggestions?
Setlist: ://
20Jasper Erkens

This guy is a Belgian singer-songwriter. He only spoke to the crowd in Flemish (Dutch) so of course,
that was lost on me. But his songs were quite good and he has an excellent voice.
21The Killers

The other band I had to sacrifice seeing properly for Coldplay. The circumstances for this show were
much more unpleasant though. I was being absolutely crushed by probably a thousand people who
all wanted my spot in the line (I was literally the next person to be let through) and my girlfriend had
made it though and was anxiously waiting for me. Also, I couldn't even see the screens because
there was a massive security guard blocking my view and trying in vain to keep the peace. It's too
bad because I had always kind of disliked The Killers but I thought that this would help turn me. I
got Hot Fuss and it's really a great record so I thought I might enjoy the live show. They sounded
good anyway.
Highlight: Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine
Setlist: ://
22Social Distortion

Good not great. Turns out I'm not a huge punk fan. Too many of their songs were too generic for
my liking. Still pretty fun though.
23Black Eyed Peas

Ok. Some of their songs were fun to dance along to, but deep down, you can't help but be
embarrassed. I only know this band on a radio single kind of level and I think that's enough. Some
of their songs (come to think of it, almost all of their songs) are just plain dreadful. "Imma Be," for
example, is pure crap. What horrible lyrics. My God. Also, and Fergie are just so...fake. kept screaming "Hello Brussels!" despite the fact that he was not, in fact, playing in
Brussels. The sound was alright and the show on stage was really good (however pretentious) but it's
a real shame when you can actually see that the drummer was only there for show. Most of the time,
he wasn't even miming the right beat. He would be playing eighth notes on the high-hat when the
song actually had quarter notes on the crash cymbal. Not like I was expecting much but this show
blew. And for fuck's sake can't they turn down the bass even a little bit?
Highlight: Where Is The Love? (The only decent song they have).

I thought that maybe I could give this a try and maybe I would like it. Well, I gave it a try but I
hated it. It wasn't even good electronica. It was just way too much bass with tasteless looped
samples. I was even drunk and I'm soooo much more open to bad music when I'm drunk. But no
dice. No dice.
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