Pukkelpop 2010

Considering it will go down in history for the death of Charles Haddon from Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, Pukkelpop 2010 was a very happy affair. There was no official mention of the incident at the festival itself, and although terribly tragic, certainly does not sum up the event as a whole, with its glorious weather and fantastic beer.

Thrice kicked everything off with a very solid set, and a great cover of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter. They provided a perfect start, and more than justified a later slot next time.

De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig can be reductively described as a Belgium Goldie Lookin Chain and although the crowd seemed very pleased, this was a cultural phenomenon I could not decipher. Think Flemish rap, and you’ve pretty much got it.

Limp Bizkit were amazing. Honestly.  Fred Durst, who at this point in his career could so easily have been a Vanilla Ice, didn’t look any older than he did ten years  ago, and I had to check my phone to make sure it wasn’t a Nokia 3210.  A few of the lyrics creaked very loudly (37 tons of “New Millenium”, anyone?) but were word perfect and passionately delivered. The crowd was simply astonishing, getting out eight years of Bizkit guilt in the one hour set. By far and away the biggest surprise of the festival.

Blink 182 instigated a similar response, and played a very pleasing set of old classics. Some of their silly humour fell a bit flat, and if you hate them this wasn’t going to get you running to the record shop. But  a drum kit going upside down is a treat no matter who does it.

Iron Maiden started off looking a little unsure if this really was their target market, but after a great response to their early classics and more recent material, became more relaxed and made a two hour set feel half the time. Bruce’s comments between songs are becoming more and more like a primary school headmaster’s assemblies as time goes on, but this is nothing but a compliment.

Although at first quarter to one in the morning seemed like a criminally late slot for The Flaming Lips, the raw energy of their live set more than made up for it. At their noisiest it became a session of lucid dreaming, and at their gentlest they were the perfect lullaby. A smaller crowd on the second stage only made everything more intimate, and this is not even including having thousands pounds worth of graffiti poured on your head.

Henry Rollins Spoken Word show is a great break at a festival, and a chance to see the man in question pour his soul. It’s somewhere between stand-up comedy and a political rally, although certainly leaning more towards the humorous side. Despite being a little po faced, he has a fantastic speaking voice, and doesn’t let up for the whole hour.  One a sunny day if there were enough sofas and ice cold drinks to hand I could probably spend a whole afternoon listening to him speak.

Parkway Drive played to a crowd of well over fifteen hundred, and whilst admitting to jet lag, played a fantastically energetic set to audience that lapped it up. They refused to have a bad time, and despite the dust rising with every jump had the whole arena on their feet for the whole session.

All Time Low, despite most of the crowd being on the small side of 5”6, were a lot of fun. This is certainly girly pop punk of the highest order, but with the amount of bras that were on stage do you think they care?

Die Antwoord gained a great deal of fame this summer thanks to the world cup, and can be reductively described as a South African De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig. Genuinely quite scary in their surreal rap and crazy dance, if you like Afrikaans and Pikachu there is something in them for you.

Queens of the Stone Age swanned on as a late headliner on the last day, drinking vodka from the bottle and nailing every solo. Hits and more obscure materials shone from the stage like moonlight, and this was a very solid and very, very cool way to wrap things up.

At 65,000 people, Pukkelpop is a great size, and had a superb range of bands and arenas.  Its only real issues are a ridiculous token system to buy food and drink, a second crowd barrier that goes beyond safety, and a lack of any real independent  market stalls. But its cheap price means it works out not much more expensive than Reading, even including Eurostar, and English will get you through it to an embarrassing degree. If the British festivals are sold out, or you fancy something different but comfortably similar, then head for Brussels.

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