Rock Werchter

Coordinates: 50°58′5″N 4°41′3″E / 50.96806°N 4.68417°E / 50.96806; 4.68417
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Rock Werchter
Plaine de Werchter.jpg
GenreAlternative rock, rock, indie rock, pop, hip hop, heavy metal, electronic music, dance music
DatesFirst weekend in July
Location(s)Werchter Festivalpark, Werchter, Belgium
Years active1974 – present
Founded byHerman Schueremans
WebsiteFestival Website

Rock Werchter is an annual music festival held in the village of Werchter, near Leuven, Belgium, since 1976 and is a large sized 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.[1]

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 festivals. 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 organizer of the event. The festival is organized every first weekend of the summer vacation in Belgium (last weekend of June or the first of July).

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 for four days (€18 extra to include camping or €25 for xl-camping) in 2012, it was still considered a relatively inexpensive music festival.[2]

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 one kilometer of the festival site,[3] 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.[4]

Until the 1990s, the festival attracted mostly Flemish festival goers, but in recent years it has become more and more international with an especially large influx of Dutch, French, Walloon and British visitors, with notable Australian, South African and other contingents.[5] Belgians alternatively go to the Pukkelpop and Dour festivals.

All graphics of Rock Werchter, inclusive the posters, were designed by Tom Hautekiet, who died in April 2020.[6]


Rock Werchter 2010

The festival started off as a one-day event, then named "Torhout-Werchter" festival, becoming a two-day festival in 1996, a 3-day festival in 2000, and a 4-day festival named "Rock Werchter" 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.

Inside Pyramid Marquee

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.[7] 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 well known artists, popular crowd-pleasing acts and local Belgian acts. Belgian band Deus in 2008 was the first local band to close the Main Stage on the last day for 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.

Satellite festivals[edit]

TW Classic[edit]

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 returned to the stage.

Werchter Boutique[edit]

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. In all, 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 the Belgian national holiday led to the 2016 event being cancelled, with Rihanna rescheduled to appear a month later at Pukkelpop.

Main Square Festival[edit]

Since 2008, the organizers 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.

Festival by year[edit]

Year Dates Guests per day (avg) Main artists Notes
1977 5,000 Philip Catherine, Jan Akkerman, Kayak, Dr. Feelgood
1978 6,000 Talking Heads, Dr. Feelgood, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds & Rockpile
1979 12,000 Raymond van het Groenewoud, Talking Heads, Dire Straits, Rory Gallagher
1980 18,000 Kevin Ayers, Fischer-Z, The Specials, The Kinks
1981 23,500 Elvis Costello & the Attractions, The Cure, Robert Palmer, Dire Straits The Cure, after being told to cut their set short by Robert Palmer's managers, play a 9-minute long rendition of "A Forest".
1982 37,500 Allez Allez, U2, Steve Miller Band, Talking Heads, Jackson Browne
1983 36,000 Eurythmics, Simple Minds, U2, Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison
1984 55,000 Chris Rea, John Hiatt, Joe Jackson, Simple Minds, Lou Reed Schueremans and De Meyer created StageCo Staging Company. All audio and video equipments were dismantled at Torhout and transported to Werchter to be built up for the Werchter leg of the festival. This had to be done in 10 hours.
1985 63,000 Ramones, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, R.E.M., Depeche Mode, U2, Joe Cocker
1986 60,000 Simply Red, Talk Talk, UB40, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Simple Minds Ticket price was Bfr 850, which is €21 nowadays.
1987 60,000 Iggy Pop, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Pretenders, Eurythmics, Peter Gabriel
1988 60,000 Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers, Los Lobos, John Hiatt, INXS, Bryan Adams, Sting Bryan Adams records his live album Live! Live! Live! while it "rained in torrents."
1989 50,000 Texas, Pixies, Tanita Tikaram, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Robert Cray Band, Elvis Costello, R.E.M., Joe Jackson, Lou Reed Elvis Costello is performing solo, yet he manages to overwhelm the crowd
1990 60,000 Mano Negra, De La Soul, The Jeff Healey Band, Lenny Kravitz, Ry Cooder / David Lindley, Wendy and Lisa, Sinéad O'Connor, Midnight Oil, Bob Dylan, The Cure
1991 50,500 The Scene, Dave Stewart, Deee-Lite, Happy Mondays, Bonnie Raitt, Pixies, Iggy Pop, Sting, Paul Simon In Torhout the crowd spontaneously started throwing empty bottles in the air during Sting's song 'Message in a Bottle', soon filling the skies with bottlework. The same happened in Werchter the next day, ending with bottles hitting people's heads and resulting in injuries. This incident marked the beginning of the prohibition of visitors bringing their own drinks to the festival, a decision criticized and alleged to be for mere commercial purposes.
1992 60,000 The Tragically Hip, Extreme, The Smashing Pumpkins, Crowded House, Lou Reed, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bryan Adams, Luka Bloom and Michael Jackson. Kiedis shouted at the crowd: "If you love us, throw more mud!" A few seconds later the stage was transformed in a place best described as a mud fight arena.
1993 60,000 Sonic Youth, The Levellers, The Black Crowes, Faith No More, Neil Young w/ Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Lenny Kravitz, Metallica
1994 50,500 Tool, Clawfinger, Therapy?, Sepultura, Rage Against the Machine, Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel A camping festival was held the night before the festival itself. dEUS and Tool performed on this stage.
1995 65,000 Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey, The Offspring, The Cure, The Cranberries, R.E.M. Second stage added.
1996 50,000 David Bowie, The Chemical Brothers, Afghan Wigs, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Björk, Pulp, Massive Attack, Foo Fighters, Neil Young & Crazy Horse First time as a two-day festival. First time ever Radiohead played Paranoid Android.
1997 50,000 David Bowie, Daft Punk, Supergrass, Live, Radiohead, Jamiroquai, The Smashing Pumpkins, Beck, Deus
1998 20,000 Sonic Youth, Eagle Eye Cherry, Garbage, Therapy?, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Beastie Boys, Björk
1999 2–4 July 51,500 Pavement, Blur, Marilyn Manson, Bryan Adams, Metallica, Placebo, Robbie Williams, Faithless, Lenny Kravitz, R.E.M. First time in Werchter only. First time as a three-day festival (shows started at 5pm on Friday).
2000 30 June – 2 July 55,000 Nine Inch Nails, Oasis, Bush, A Perfect Circle, Counting Crows, The Cure, Eels, Paul Weller, Live, Hooverphonic, Manu Chao, Kelis, Suzanne Vega
2001 29 June – 1 July 60,000 Fun Lovin' Criminals, Sting, Beck, Placebo, PJ Harvey, Muse, Sigur Rós, Grandaddy, Faithless, Incubus
2002 28 – 30 June 63,000 Sonic Youth, The White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rammstein, Queens of the Stone Age, Faithless, Coldplay
2003 26 – 29 June 70,000 Radiohead, Björk, Massive Attack, Moby, Metallica, Queens of the Stone Age, R.E.M., Coldplay First time as a four-day-festival
Arthur award for Best festival in the world
2004 1 – 4 July 70,000 The Cure, Metallica, KoЯn, Lenny Kravitz, Pixies, Muse, 2 Many DJs, Placebo, Moloko Arthur award for Best festival in the world. Headliner David Bowie cancelled because of a shoulder nerve injury. 2 Many DJs were flown back from the UEFA Euro 2004 Final in Lisbon to replace him.
2005 30 June – 3 July 80,000 New Order, The Chemical Brothers, Garbage, Green Day, Kraftwerk, Queens of the Stone Age, Snoop Dogg, Faithless, Rammstein, Foo Fighters, R.E.M.
2006 29 June – 2 July 80,000 Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Eyed Peas, The Who, Muse, Franz Ferdinand, Placebo, Deus, Depeche Mode Arthur award for Best festival in the world
2007 28 June – 1 July 80,000 Muse, Kaiser Chiefs, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Pearl Jam, The Chemical Brothers, Metallica, Queens of the Stone Age, Faithless Arthur award for Best festival in the world. Pearl Jam finally played at the festival after cancellations in 1992 (Eddie Vedder's stress collapse) and 2000 (drama at Roskilde).
2008 3 – 6 July 80,000 The Chemical Brothers, R.E.M., Moby, Neil Young, Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Deus, Beck, Kaiser Chiefs The ILMC (who gives the Arthur Awards) changed their restrictions, a festival which has won 2 years in a row can not enter the next year. This change has been done in favour of the other festivals.
2009 2 – 5 July 80,000 Coldplay, The Killers, Lady Gaga, Placebo, Metallica, Kings of Leon, Oasis, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Nine Inch Nails, Limp Bizkit European Festival Award for Best line-up, artist's favourite festival and best promoter
2010 1 – 4 July 80,000 Arcade Fire, Pearl Jam, Muse, Pink, Rammstein, Faithless, Green Day, Them Crooked Vultures, Editors
2011 30 June – 3 July 82,750 Coldplay, Linkin Park, Kings of Leon, Iron Maiden, The Chemical Brothers, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Robyn, Black Eyed Peas European Festival Award for Best line-up
2012 28 June – 1 July 85,000 Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Cure, Garbage, Skrillex, Justice, Pearl Jam, Deadmau5, Mumford & Sons, Editors, Rise Against, Chase & Status, Snow Patrol Third stage added, Arthur award for Best festival in the world
2013 4 – 7 July 85,000 Depeche Mode, Blur, Rammstein, Green Day, Kings of Leon, The National, Editors, Netsky, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Volbeat
2014 3 – 6 July 88,000 Pearl Jam, Metallica, Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, Pixies, The Black Keys, Placebo, Damon Albarn, Skrillex, Ellie Goulding One of only two festival appearances by Pearl Jam in their exclusive 12-date 2014 European tour.
2015 25–28 June 88,000 The Chemical Brothers, Faith No More, Mumford & Sons, Pharrell Williams, Lenny Kravitz, The Prodigy, Muse, Kasabian [8]
2016 30 June – 3 July TBD Rammstein, Florence and the Machine, Paul McCartney, Ellie Goulding, Editors, Iggy Pop, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
2017 Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Linkin Park, System Of A Down, Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, Alt-J, Blink 182, Imagine Dragons
2018 5-8 July Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Pearl Jam, Gorillaz, The Killers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Jack White, Nine Inch Nails, First year with 4 stages
2019 Fleetwood Mac, Kylie Minogue, Tool, The Cure, Muse, Mumford & Sons, Florence and the Machine, Bring Me The Horizon, Pink
2022 30 June- July 3 Pearl Jam, The Kid LAROI, Metallica, Twenty One Pilots, Imagine Dragons, The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Polo G

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "News - Rock Werchter 2014". Archived from the original on 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  2. ^ "Rock Werchter is helemaal niet duur - Opinie - De Morgen" (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  3. ^ "Parking Werchter - Rock Werchter & TW Classic (Rolling Stones) 2014". 2014-06-25. Archived from the original on 2016-10-07. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  4. ^ [1] Archived December 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "News - Rock Werchter 2014". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  6. ^ "Graficus Tom Hautekiet plots overleden - Het Nieuwsblad". 2020-04-30. Archived from the original on 2020-05-01. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  7. ^ "News - Rock Werchter 2014". Archived from the original on 2012-04-07. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  8. ^ "88.000 mensen beleven vier dagen feest van het jaar". VRT Deredactie. 29 July 2015. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.

External links[edit]

50°58′5″N 4°41′3″E / 50.96806°N 4.68417°E / 50.96806; 4.68417