Updated: Oct 14
In a word: don’t go to music festivals in Benelux.
It’s not that they’re terrible or badly done. More about that later. But it’s just that everyone is so damned tall. At 6’2”, I’ve long lived with my own height disadvantages. Always too lengthy for buses, low doors, airplanes, and so on. At least I could see things. But the Flemish and Dutch are truly long-stalked people, evolutionarily shaped by living in ultra-narrow row homes.
Werchter Boutique was my first festival experience in Belgium. And simultaneously I’m convinced that I’m too short, too stingy, and too old to really appreciate the atmosphere.
The festival grounds are great. The place is truly made for a festival. Not the slapdash field setups I’m used to growing up in Tulsa, OK or living in Tbilisi, Georgia. This place was a permanent location, with boxcars stretching out in a misshapen crescent cookie of overpriced nachos, dried-out hot dogs, and lumpias. Seriously, 14 euros for a shawarma?
The festival grounds
It was a good thing we had grabbed a hot dog at the truck before entering. Even though the hot dog were terrible. I was trying to figure out why it was so dry and tasteless for quite some time, and later I saw a sign saying "baked hot dogs". Yeah, baked. That explains that. Nothing to dry out any beauty of heart-clogging Americana like an oven.
Europe is strange like that. It's a checkers board of sausages. One country has amazing ones, the next one bakes them. The next one they melt in your mouth. And so on. If you judge countries by sausages... well, I'm not sure where that would land you, except with a nice map of sausages and a residence in Krakow.
So, them tall folks...
Can blame them for that. But it seemed to closer we got to the stage, the worse our viewpoint grew. Damnit, I was the one that was supposed to be blocking everyone else's view! It was like the ultimate revenge of all the midgets I've stood in front of combined into one nightmarish vertical.
So then the answer was to step back for Gorillaz, the last band to play. Back and back and back, until finally we had a clear view of the stage. That miniscule, tiny ass stage smaller than a tardigrade on vacation on the Moon.
On the plus side...
Both Stromae and Gorillaz were out peddling some new material.
Stromae’s techniks were really cool: a huge screen that broke up into 8 pieces and moved around with the help of these giant mechanical arms.
Stromae's funky cool stage
Gorillaz’s techniks were nothing extraordinary. Just a huge screen showing off their signature anime, with occasional shots to the vast array of musicians that scattered the stage. Seriously, they tour with an entire hip-hop orchestra. What was extraordinary was frontman Damon Albarn’s practical juggling of musical instruments as he transitioned from one melody to the next. A real whirlwind of a singer.
Festivals no more
But therein lies my boot with both acts. They were perfectly performed. Perfectly staged. And I think I’ll forever prefer more intimate shows, where you can see the musicians’ sweat pour down from their foreheads, the grimace they make as they saunter through a wrong note hoping that nobody noticed. But well, you’ll never get that with professionals anyway.
All these are just excuses. I'm mostly just bitter over that 14 euro sammy and 7 euro beer. Ungh, eff that!