Pukkelpop 2011

Hasselt, Belgien 18. Aug. 2011

Pukkelpop Festival 2011 - 18.08.2011 - Hasselt, Belgien(18.08.2011) Pukkelpop has been one of Belgium’s most known festivals the last 25 years. At the 26th edition of the festival the organisators added great bands to the bill like the ones of FOO FIGHTERS, RISE AGAINST, BRING ME THE HORIZON, FRIENDLY FIRES, EMINEM, THE OFFSPRING, 30 SECONDS TO MARS, NOAH AND THE WHALE or KASABIAN. It always offered a huge field of bands, doesn’t matter if it is punk, pop, metal, hardcore, hip hop or electro. Bands like IRON MAIDEN, TOOL, FALL OUT BOY, MASSIVE ATTACK, GALLOWS, BLINK 182, RADIOHEAD, ELLIE GOULDING or GUNS N ROSES played previous editions of the music event. But this year’s Pukkelpop will end like nobody expected it so end.
It’s a really warm thursday. The sun is shining and there are only a few clouds in the sky as TITLE FIGHT start their set. It seems like only a few people know the band already. They play emo like 90’s bands as MINERAL, TEXAS IS THE REASON or SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE. But they mix it with a well dozed portion of punk and hardcore. Though MINERAL or TEXAS IS THE REASON are good bands and TITLE FIGHT get real close to the sound of those cult acts, the band can not catch the crowd’s attention. Their performance is quiet well, though. The vocals are what is annoying because actually both singers can’t sing well. After half an hour their set is over.
Right afterwards TITLE FIGHT British indie/guitar poppers YOUNG THE GIANT are up next in the club tent in front of the big main stage. The band seems to be in a great mood today and really wins over the crowd fast with their nice sing-along tunes like „My Body“ off of their self-titled debut album, which was released earlier this year. Especially their singer knows how to entertain the crowded club tent. Their songs are great as well, sometimes they remind of old BLOC PARTY and in the other moment they sound more like COLDPLAY during their „X&Y“-phase, but with a lot more up-tempo songs to make the people dance to.

Unterwegs in - © sumnersgraphicsinc - Fotolia.comTROPHY WIFE play the Chateau right after YOUNG THE GIANT. The smaller tent is filled with only about 150 people, but most of them are familiar yet with the band’s sound. Somewhere between electro and the indie/math rock of FOALS’ „Antidotes“. Therefore the group has released only two singles so far their set is short but really enjoyable. This time it is the drummer to be the center of attention. He doesn’t sit behind a drum kit, rather he stands in front of some pads he is hitting at to create his drum sound. He also manages to leave his pads and dance across the stage during some parts to animate the people to dance and sing-along, which they do all over the time. So TROPHY WIFE is a band people should keep their eyes on.
People are getting excited before the British indie/folk pop outfit NOAH AND THE WHALE enter the stage. Recently they are getting hyped for their new record „Last Night On Earth“ and the single „L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.“, which is on heavy rotation on the radio and tv. Dressed up in suits and not moving too much there is not much happening on stage, but somehow the band is sympathic. They play a good mix of their three records focusing on „Last Night On Earth“, though. „Life is Life“, „That’s The Kind Of Night“ or old tunes are welcomed by the crowded Marquee, Pukkelpop’s second to biggest stage on the rock side of the festival. But after the great „L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.“ the five piece leaves the stage after their furious win over the crowd.
Right behind the Marquee is the Shelter where TWIN ATLANTIC from Scottland already begun with their set. The alternative rockers have been at Pukkelpop last year, too. This time there are much more people attending to their show and those are way more familiar with the songs. Mostly they present songs taken from their most recent record „Free“, their second one. Old tracks off of their debut „Vivarium“ get their chance, too. People seem to dig songs like „You’re Turning Into John Wayne“ , „Free“ or the slower „Yes, I Was Drunk“. The Scotts are doing a real good job today, which is far better than their previous Pukkelpop set in 2010. Their live show is quit energetic and they have learned a lot during the last year as a live band, so their set is really enjoyable and people would have taken one or two more songs gratefully.
After the alternative rock it is time for american pop punkers VEARA to excite the people. I didn’t think that many people would attend their set in the Shelter, but it is even more crowded than it has during TWIN ATLANTIC before. Their blend of pop punk reminds of SET YOUR GOALS or THE WONDER YEARS. The fans in the small moshpit sing every word when it comes to the sing-alongs and the four piece from America enjoys the show itself.
Later on the Club gets crowded as THE NAKED AND FAMOUS are up next. Their hit single „Young Blood“ off of their debut record „Passive Me, Aggressive You“ is still on the radio, so it is really no surprise that the tent is very crowded. The band plays almost every song of their debut, opening their set with the two record’s opening tracks „All Of This“ and „Punching In A Dream“. The sound of the five piece can be settled somewhere between RADIOHEAD, BJÖRK and BLOC PARTY. Afterwards these two tracks people are getting more silent but as the first chrods of the indie pop anthem „Young Blood“ roars out of the boxes people are waving their arms and sing-along. Though the band fails to make the song’s chorus a sing-along during the „Yeah yeah yeah“ it is a quite good performance, but nothing special.


Unterwegs in - © Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.comAfter the show there was some wondering going on amongst the visitors, because the weather had changed from a cloudless midsummer day to a grey and dreary one. A thunderstorm was announced for the day. Apart from the festival area the owner's of priate snack bars are preapring for the severe weather. The first drops of rain however are already very heavy. Just in a couple of minutes a strong thunderstorm is building up above Hasselt becoming stronger every second. Festival visitors are looking for shelter underneath the snack bars' tents and to be safe from the ever growing rain fall. The tents however cannot stand the strong winds of 100 kilometers per hour and have to be heled fast by the inmates. Giant hailstones are falling from the sky and cars need to hold between camping and festival area whilst people are trying to escape from the hailstorm. Floods are building up on the road's ditches, and fences are broken.Three tents are collapsing on the festival area and also does the terrace beneath the Chateau. The crowd remains amazingly silent despite the apocalyptic circumstances. No mass panic is developing in which people are overrun. Greater tragedies are prevented by the festival's fine organisation.
The storm itself has its fangs on the festival for just about ten minutes. Coming out of the hideout offers a horrible sight. Crying people, destroyd snak bars and it can be seen from outside the festival area that Chateau and Club are offering cracks. The camping area is buried underneath floods of muddy water. This is also an image of dread that ges far beyonf the camping ground. Metal stem towers, emergency exits or showers are partly missing completely. Overthrown tents are not seldom to be seen, just as crying people phoning. It is said that between two and six people have died and there are many injured as stages, club, chateau and bolier room collapsed. Many people are packing their things together and leaving the festival. Noone will continue a festival that was struck by such a diaster. We are also leaving – unscathed.
On the way home it can be seen that the festival is well organised also in this chaotic situation. One side of the road is closed for the emergencies to come and leave.
In the evening it is said that the festival was about to continue at 11 o'clock the next day, but the next morning Pukkelpop is cancelled. Five dead and 75 injured, 3 of the seriously is the official result of the events.

Pukkelpop 2011 is over before it really began due to circumstances no one was aware of. But who is to blame? I don’t think it is the organisation’s fault, because everything went well before, during and after the tragical storm. So people hope that the festival continues next year.

Text © by Sebastian Berning