My Pukkelpop 2015 festival experience

“THE sole reason I am trekking to Hasselt, Belgium, this August for Pukkelpop is to see Chvrches play.”

This is what I wrote in my ‘Bands to see at Pukkelpop festival’ article. Little did I know when I finally got to see the band, after a 12+ hour coach journey and being awake for 36+ hours, at the Belgium festival they would have ‘technical problems’ and have to say goodbye after two or three songs.

I’ve been an avid fan (I got it bad, as Usher once sang) of this band for about six months and had some form of communication with them and fellow fans through twitter so it almost feels like they’re pen pals (sad, maybe). So shortly before they came on stage in the Marquee tent I had this nervous/excited feeling, like you get before a first date.

Anyway, they came on and it was fantastic to see them for the first time. It was like a dream even though I knew I was awake.

I think they played Leave a Trace, off their soon-to-be-released album, first. It sounded great. But in to their second or third song, it seemed one of the keyboards started to cut out, making me wonder if it was part of a new sound they were experimenting with.

The band left the stage for a couple of minutes – they must have discussed whether to just call it a day if the problems continued – but they came back and tried again. The problems returned straight away and they were clearly agitated.

So they left for good after Lauren sang The Mother We Share a capella, which was hard to watch as she seemed on the verge of tears, not surprising after the testing week she and the band had had bombarded by misogynistic internet trolls. Quite a depressing situation.

I was devastated but it was only my first of two days and I wasn’t going to let the disappointment ruin the festival experience for me.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the festival was simply wandering around – quite aimlessly – in a huge, sun-drenched field, passing thousands of happy people, and picking up the odd bit of continental food and a coffee.

I saw several bands I didn’t plan to see, like The Dear Hunter, who were on stage at a very early 11.20am, 20 minutes after the festival gates opened.

The Saturday was certainly an improvement on the tiredness and misfortune of Friday and Chvrchesgate.

I checked out Slaves, The Subways, Manchester Orchestra, Kate Tempest, The Maccabees, Tyler The Creator and Todd Terje & The Olsens. A day of new and more familiar music that blew Friday’s experience out of the water.

The North American bands I saw, The Dear Hunter and Manchester Orchestra, that I’d never heard of, were some of my favourite performers. They gave a similar atmospheric, vocally-impressive sound, that I love.

It was amazing to hear Kate Tempest spit her political verses, even though I couldn’t understand each word she said behind a large crowd of fans.

Seeing The Maccabees felt like a real reunion as I had been a massive fan for their first couple of albums, seeing numerous gigs of theirs, before I felt them going too ‘mainstream’ and looked elsewhere for my musical heroes. The lads were brilliant though, every bit as enthralling as I remember their intimate Manchester gigs being.

If The Maccabees brought me a nostalgic feeling it was nothing compared to seeing The Subways who were one of the first bands I saw at a festival, at T in the Park in 2008. I prefer The Maccabees but it’s hard to deny The Subways have written some catchy tunes and put on a great live show.

Although I was completely alone at the festival, having hordes of music fans around me all day (and night) made me feel like I was with old friends. It was a fantastic experience helped by the festival organisers who did a great job of making sure 99% of things went smoothly.

Until next time…

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