Rock Werchter (Belgian music festival) is getting closer, it’s as good as a sell-out, and like every year loads of youngsters will again travel to Werchter to enjoy a lot of music and the festival ambiance. Many brands will be present at Rock Werchter as well. Last year Studio Brussel (Belgian national radio) and InSites Consulting aimed to find out what is cool and not cool at festivals and wanted to find out why. That is why we invited some 50 festivalgoers at Rock Werchter from different age categories to take pictures for 4 days of everything that stood out as being ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’. In total this resulted in over 1,200 pictures, made by and commented upon by themselves, which were then analysed.
Our big festival survey already taught us that a festival is not just about the music, but also about the ambiance. Through this survey we checked in a more creative way which parts of a festival are savoured on location and why. Pictures of youngsters, asleep or reading magazines, during the concerts were labelled as ‘uncool’ as a multiple day festival like Rock Werchter is also about the social befriending of people you know and don’t know and allows to escape the daily routine and to really go mental in the temporary ‘state’ Rock Werchter. Antisocial behaviour is therefore disapproved of by youngsters these days at an arena such as Werchter where everything is about the shared and unique experience.
The 1,240 pictures, taken by the festivalgoers, allow us to distil some major trends, the main 5 of which are:
1. Memories and surprises
That’s what it’s all about at a festival where you are together to experience the music and the ambiance around it. Memories, bizarre underpants with strange texts, weird people, strange hairdos, risqué texts written on boards. It’s about the exclusive goodies which are only available at Rock Werchter and which you can reminisce about afterwards. These youngster generations are stimulus junkies. An example from Pink’s concert last year: the singer did not simply appear on stage but fell out of a massive box, and later on in the concert she rolled over the entire audience in a large transparent ball; she took everyone by surprise, both friend and foe of her music. You want to be there, with such an experience, so you can talk about it or write it on your Facebook page.
2. Look after each other and those around you
The festivalgoers also shared pictures of earplugs, of very ugly tattoos (tagged with the message that it’s a pity it is so difficult to have them removed), of the litter which is left behind on the festival arena once everyone has left and of signs of destruction. Today’s youth has respect for the human body, for their environment, and more and more they think about the future.
How about refrigerators to keep your food cool at the festival arena? Or power points where you can recharge your mobile phone or other electrical appliances? Or the option to drink Jupiler beer in proper glasses, not plastic cups, at the Joe Piler Saloon? Luxury is no longer a dirty word at festivals. A campsite without mobile phone recharge post is not done; the home luxury needs to be available at a festival. Since 3 years there is a Rockvillage, 200 wooden chalets with real beds, warm showers, Jacuzzis and breakfast-with-newspaper; these are a clear demonstration. And every year it’s a sell-out.
Festivalgoers shared pictures of fake tattoos of the only real gnome who’s always straightforward: Gnome Wesley. The pyramid tent Marquee, the place where you can discover smaller bands and participate in more intimate sets, was often mentioned amongst the cool moments. By now the Marquee has probably turned into the most important symbol of Rock Werchter. Certain Werchter traditions were also present in the picture report of the festivalgoer: the Discobar Galaxy deejay sets between gigs, the firework at the end of the festival, etc. In a world which is flooded by a wealth of events and products, youngsters often choose authentic, real and honest things. The key to authenticity means you give youngsters a chance of self-expression and self-fulfilment. Last year Green Day invited some youngsters on stage to sing along with them. In the arena and in the streets around the festival arena you often see groups of youngsters who dressed up eccentrically and that way hope to co-determine the festival’s ambiance.
5. Conversation starters
Youngsters would like to meet other youngsters; they are quite keen to do so. Anything which gives cause to talk to people you don’t know, is a good move. The signs by De Morgen (Belgian national newspaper) on which you could leave your personal messages are a good example of how a newspaper facilitated conversations at Werchter. The number of T-shirts with funny one-liners at such a festival is uncountable. Rock Werchter also has a long list of famous visitors. Famous Belgian people such as Prince Laurent, K3’s Josje or Piet Huysentruyt are simply amongst the crowd and are very willing to be in pictures. At Werchter everyone is the same and everyone is there for the same ambiance.