Rock Werchter is a Belgian annual music festival held in the village of Werchter, near Leuven, since 1976. It is a large sized annual rock music festival. The 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2014 festivals received the Arthur award for best festival in the world at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC). It can host 88,000 guests daily, of which 67,500 combine all four days, to add up to a total maximum of 149,500 different attendees.
The festival started in 1974 as a one-day event with performances from Banzai and Kandahar, but over the years it has evolved to become one of Belgium's largest music festival. Originally it was a double-festival, called "Torhout-Werchter", with two festival areas at different sites in Belgium: one in Werchter and one in Torhout. In 1999, the festival dropped the Torhout site and since then has taken place only in Werchter. Since 2003 Werchter has been a 4-day festival, as it was sold by owner Herman Schueremans to American organizers Live Nation. Schueremans however remains the main organiser of the event. The festival is organised every first weekend of the summer vacation in Belgium (last weekend of June or the first of July). Roskilde festival and the Arras Main Square Festival are almost always organised in the same weekend, so they can 'share' bands. Sometimes, the Glastonbury Festival is organised at the same weekend, but most years it is organised a weekend earlier.
In recent years, there has been controversy about rising ticket prices. Because of this, Schueremans was heckled during an appearance on HUMO's Pop Poll, a Belgian alternative award show. At 200 EUR for four days (18 EUR extra to include camping or 25 euro for xl-camping) in 2012 it is still considered a relatively inexpensive music festival.
The camping sites officially open at 8am on the first day of the festival, but because of guests arriving early and camping on the street, the organizers have traditionally been forced to open the camping sites early - sometimes more than 24 hours. The campsites are located along the three main entrance roads into Werchter (from Haacht, Aarschot and Leuven), most of them within 1 kilometer of the festival site, but some located as far as 3 kilometers away. In 2011, for the first time, XL camping tickets are available, allowing festival goers to arrive and camp from 4pm on the Wednesday before the festival.
Until the 1990s the festival attracted mostly Flemish people, but in recent years it has become more and more international with an especially large influx of Dutch, French, Walloon, British and a notable Australian and South African contingent. Belgian alternatives remain in the Pukkelpop and Dour festivals.
The festival started off as a one-day event, became a two-day festival in 1996, a 3-day festival in 2000, and has been a 4-day festival since 2003.
Before 1995, when the festival was still a double-festival, it had one stage with 8 or 9 bands performing twice, once in Torhout and once in Werchter. Since 1995 the Main stage was accompanied by a second stage. This stage was an open-air stage until 1999 when it was made a tent named 'Pyramid Marquee', with a capacity of 6,000 people. The performers in Pyramid Marquee are usually lesser-known or aimed at a specific audience. Sometimes groups that do well in Pyramid Marquee are expected to have a hard time taking the step to the Main stage, especially when they are seen as an act needing intimate, smaller venues. Sigur Rós is the most famous example of this, when they were programmed on Main Stage in 2008 after their 2006 performance in Pyramid Marquee, but they managed the transition and were hailed as one of the best performances of the festival.
In 2012, a new third stage was added, called "The Barn" which is translated to "De Schuur" in Dutch, a reference to the nickname of organiser Herman Schueremans. The new tent – with a capacity of 10,000 – is meant for the more intimate concerts on Rock Werchter, like Beirut in 2012.
In 2013, Pyramid Marquee was replaced by a new bigger tent, named "KluB C".
The bands presented at Rock Werchter are traditionally a balanced mix of large well known artists, popular crowd-pleasing acts and local Belgian coming acts. Belgian band Deus in 2008 was the first local band to close the Main Stage on the last day since several years. The days usually start around noon and end around 1am. At the end of the last day there is a big fireworks show.
Since 2002, the organizers created TW Classic as a tribute to the early days of Rock Werchter. TW Classic ('TW', as in Torhout-Werchter, is the traditional abbreviation of the festival) is a one day/one stage festival held one week after the main event. It usually programs veteran acts like Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, The Police, Depeche Mode or Simple Minds, supplemented with younger mainstream Belgian acts. In 2014, The Rolling Stones headlined TW Classic as one of their few festival concerts of 2014. In 2015 Robbie Williams headlined with his Let Me Entertain You Tour, and in 2016 Bruce Springsteen will return to the stage.
This new festival was created in 2008 and organised one week after the main festival. It mainly aims at complete families with acts for children, teenagers as well as adults. The main acts in 2008 were Tokio Hotel, Santana and Doe Maar. In 2009 was centered on a concert of Madonna during her Sticky & Sweet Tour. 68,000 tickets were sold for the concert, making it a one-day sell-out event. In 2010 Prince made one of his only 3 stops in Europe as the headliner. In 2012, it was headlined by metal band Metallica, supported by various heavy metal and rock bands like Gojira, Mastodon and Soundgarden. Muse performed there during their 2013 Unsustainable Tour, with Belgian bands Balthazar and SX as support. In 2016, Rihanna was planned to headline the event, but a shortage of police forces on the planned day because of a national holiday led to the 2016 event being cancelled, with Rihanna now scheduled to appear a month later at Pukkelpop.
Since 2008, the organisers created a small version of Rock Werchter on the central square of Arras, in northern France. It is held on the same dates as Rock Werchter, with a similar line-up - which is an advantage for organisers as they can offer artists two shows instead of one. Arras was chosen as a location because of its large historic central square and because of the lack of big rock festivals in France.
Day 1: Underworld, Radiohead, Björk
Day 2: Massive Attack, Moby, Ozark Henry, The Roots, Feeder, Morgan Heritage, The Polyphonic Spree
Day 3: Metallica, Arno, Queens of the Stone Age, Anouk, Xzibit, Millionaire, Stone Sour, 't Hof van Commerce, Krezip
Day 4: R.E.M., Coldplay, Counting Crows, Cypress Hill, The Cardigans, Supergrass, Stereophonics, De la Soul, Das Pop
Day 1: Basement Jaxx, The Cure, Pink, Sean Paul, Michael Franti & Spearhead
Day 2: Metallica, KoЯn, The Darkness, Dropkick Murphys, Monster Magnet, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Lostprophets
Day 3: Lenny Kravitz, Muse, Moloko, Wu-Tang Clan, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The Black Eyed Peas, Within Temptation, Heideroosjes, The Rasmus
Day 4: 2 Many DJ's, Placebo, Pixies, PJ Harvey, Lamb, Starsailor, Zornik, Danko Jones
David Bowie was meant to headline the festival but had to cancel.
Day 1: The Chemical Brothers, Kraftwerk, Snoop Dogg, Ozark Henry, New Order, The Bravery
Day 2: Faithless, Green Day, Velvet Revolver, Garbage, Within Temptation, Jimmy Eat World, KT Tunstall, Simple Plan
Day 3: Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails, Audioslave, The Game, 't Hof van Commerce, Daan, Pennywise, Therapy?
Day 4: R.E.M., Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Soulwax, Keane, Feeder, Kane, Flogging Molly
Day 1: Matisyahu, Deftones, Manu Chao Radio Bemba Sound System, Kaizers Orchestra, Death Cab for Cutie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Eyed Peas, Tool, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, The Streets, Roger Sanchez
Day 2: The Who, Muse, Skin, Kanye West, Editors, Live, Anouk. The Kooks, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Elbow, Mogwai, Radio Soulwax presents: Vitalic, Soulwax Nite Versions, Tiga, 2 Many DJ's
Day 3: Wolfmother, Arsenal, Kelis, Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Placebo, Deus, Donavon Frankenreiter, Arctic Monkeys, Goldfrapp, Sigur Rós
Day 4: Absynthe Minded, Eels, Starsailor, Robert Plant & The Strange Sensation, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Hooverphonic, Depeche Mode, Collective Soul, Bettye LaVette, An Pierlé & White Velvet, Laurent Garnier & Bugge Wesseltoft featuring Philippe Nadaud, Superdiscount, Hard-Fi
Main Stage: The Chemical Brothers, R.E.M., Lenny Kravitz, Mika, Counting Crows, Air Traffic
Pyramid Marquee: 2manydjs, Soulwax, Shameboy, The National, Vampire Weekend, Modern Skirts
Main Stage: Moby, Neil Young, The Verve, Jay-Z, Babyshambles, Slayer, Monza, The Black Box Revelation
Pyramid Marquee: Digitalism, Hot Chip, Zita Swoon, Duffy, My Morning Jacket, Ben Folds, Patrick Watson, The Cool Kids
Babyshambles canceled and were replaced by Air Traffic.
Main Stage: Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, Kings of Leon, Editors, The Hives, Gossip, The Whigs
Pyramid Marquee: Róisín Murphy, Gnarls Barkley, MGMT, Kate Nash, KT Tunstall, Galactic, Band of Horses, Donavon Frankenreiter
Main Stage: Deus, The Black Box Revelation, Anouk, Beck, Kaiser Chiefs, The Raconteurs, The Kooks, Panic! at the Disco, The John Butler Trio
Pyramid Marquee: Nightwish, Underworld, Justice, Grinderman, Mark Ronson, Hercules and Love Affair, Tim Vanhamel, DeVotchKa
Main Stage: The Prodigy, Oasis, Placebo, Dave Matthews Band, Lily Allen, Eagles of Death Metal
Pyramid Marquee: Tiga, Pendulum, Laurent Garnier, Fleet Foxes, Emiliana Torrini, Expatriate
Main Stage: Coldplay, The Killers, Bloc Party, Elbow, Amy Macdonald, White Lies, Just Jack
Pyramid Marquee: Lady Gaga, Arsenal, Jason Mraz, The Streets, M.Ward, Priscilla Ahn, Henry Rollins - Spoken Word
Main Stage: 2ManyDjs, Kings of Leon, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Franz Ferdinand, Limp Bizkit, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Social Distortion, Triggerfinger
Pyramid Marquee: Boys Noize, Grace Jones, Katy Perry, Mogwai, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Regina Spektor, Jasper Erkens
Main Stage: Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Kaiser Chiefs, The Black Eyed Peas, The Mars Volta, Seasick Steve, Mastodon, Metro Station
Pyramid Marquee: Milk Inc, Röyksopp, Ghinzu, The Script, Lady Linn And Her Magnificent Seven, De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig, The Hickey Underworld
Main Stage: Linkin Park, The Chemical Brothers, Queens Of The Stone Age, Anouk, The Hives, Seasick Steve and OFWGKTA
Pyramid Marquee: Hurts, Beady Eye, Eels, James Blake, Aloe Blacc, TV On The Radio and Warpaint
Main Stage: Kings of Leon, Arsenal, Arctic Monkeys, The National, White Lies, Triggerfinger, My Chemical Romance and Mona
Pyramid Marquee: The Subs, Goose, Chase and Status, Ozark Henry, Jimmy Eat World, Kesha, Lissie and Grouplove
Main Stage: Coldplay, Portishead, PJ Harvey, Elbow, Bruno Mars, The Gaslight Anthem and Rival Sons
Pyramid Marquee: Underworld, Magnetic Man, Selah Sue, Bright Eyes, I Blame Coco, Jenny and Johnny, The Pretty Reckless and Evaline
Main Stage: Iron Maiden, The Black Eyed Peas, A-Trak, Grinderman, Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian, Social Distortion and All Time Low
Pyramid Marquee: Digitalism, Robyn, Fleet Foxes, Brandon Flowers, Two Door Cinema Club, Tame Impala, The Vaccines and Everything Everything
Day 1: Foo Fighters --> Faith No More, Royal Blood
Day 2: BADBADNOTGOOD --> Funfanu
Day 3: Sam Smith --> The Tallest Man on Earth
Day 4: JD McPherson --> The Van Jets
Day 4: Jessie J --> Circa Waves