Paul McCartney once sang about The Long and Winding Road. Perhaps he had the walk from the festival site to the camping in mind when he penned the lyrics.
In normal circumstances – i.e. without 79999 other people staggering back in the same direction, without the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol and without the temptations of all the various food and beer tents, the walk from the festival site to our tents would normally take about 20 minutes.
On Day 1, our walk back took three and a half hours.
Suitably buoyed by the evening’s festivities and firmly in ‘festival mode’ we made our by now annual and of course obligatory stop at ‘our local beer tent’. There are many beer tents to choose from but of them all, we keep coming back to the same one.
Once again, this gives the members of our group a target to aim for in the event of us breaking up and losing each other amongst the hordes of people, either by accident (drunken meandering can lead a person in many strange directions) or intentionally (stopping to chat to fellow revelers about – well about the things that drunken revelers talk to each other about in the wee hours of the morning).
My wingman and good buddy, the aforementioned PopTart who sadly wasn't able to join us this year and I (quite literally) stumbled across it on Day 1 of last year’s Werchter when, drenched from the torrential downpour during the Chemical Brothers and in need for somewhere to dry off and take care of the bandage on my hand, we stopped in for a moments rest.
We must have looked a right sorry pair because the girl that was working behind the bar – the beautiful Mireisse – took pity on us and gave us a couple of beers and provided me with a nice, new - and more importantly dry - Stella T-shirt.
This girl was an angel amongst all the rain and the mud. With eyes so deep, dark and warm that you felt that you could just dive in them and swim around and with a smile that could melt even the coldest of hearts, she truly seemed to be heaven sent.
On top of that, there were a bunch of guys that had obviously made this their Werchter local as well. Taking turns to stand on a chair and sing party songs, the singing and the dancing continued until 04:00 in the morning when unfortunately all the tents have to close.
We were hooked and went back every evening after that.
It has to be said that on occasion I was also known to stand up on a chair and give the crowd a few songs of my own with my favourite – the Liverpool Anthem “You’ll Never Walk alone” a daily occurrence.
Everyone joins in the fun and I suppose if I’m honest - it appeals to the extrovert side of me having a tent full of people singing along with you and applauding your efforts. No matter how bad they may be. This wasn’t about the quality – this was all about the taking part.
Approaching the tent this year, I was a wee bit nervous. What if Mireisse and the other friendly guys that operated the tent every year for a “bit of a laugh” decided that they couldn’t be arsed with it all? What if the 'choir' weren’t there doing their party pieces?
As we slowly neared our destination, at the pace dictated by the thousands walking the road, it soon became apparent that I needn’t have worried as their dulcet tones could be heard thrashing out their favourite anthem – “I Am The Music Man (what can you play?)”
And as we entered the tent, much to my surprise and obvious enjoyment, a few of the guys recognized us.
“Jonny, Jonny Sing us a Song, Jonny – sing us a song” came my totally unnecessary invitation to stand up on a chair and belt out “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Everyone joined in - except of course the bitter Man United supporting members of our group (and you know who you are.)
After my ‘performance’ I got off my seat to much shaking of hands and patting on the back.
God – it was great to be back!
I said hello to Mireisse and the rest of the crew and we settled in to join the party.
One guy in particular was the ringleader (there’s always one) and he got up to sing the tent’s anthem once again - “I Am The Music Man”
In case you don’t know the song, it goes a little like this:
Ringleader: I AM THE MUSIC MAN
Drunken Hordes: WHAT CAN YOU PLAY?
R: I CAN PLAY……PIANO
Everyone (whilst ‘air pianoing’):
PI-A, PI-A, PI-ANO, PI-ANO, PI-ANO
PI-A, PI-A, PI-ANO, PI-AANNOOO!
Ringleader: I AM THE MUSIC MAN
Drunken Hordes: WHAT CAN YOU PLAY?
R: I CAN PLAY……SAXAPHONE
Everyone (whilst ‘air saxaphoning’):
SAXA, SAXA, SAXAPHONE, SAXAPHONE, SAXAPHONE
SAXA, SAXA, SAXAPHONE, SAX-A-PHOOOONNE
However – unlike the version that I had heard before, this one had a few interesting variations.
THIS Music Man could also play:
WASMACHINE (Flemish for ‘washing machine’) which involved him flicking his beer over everyone as he spun around whilst stood up on the seat.
FREE WILLY – which involved him filling his mouth with beer and blowing it up into the air.
And then his pièce de résistance SUPERMAN – which involved him climbing up on the bar and then taking a running jump, superman style, into the catching arms of his mates.
I think you get the picture.
Granted - not very hi-brow stuff at all, but great fun to a gathering of pissed-up partyheads getting their freak on.
Various other songs were performed and more beer was consumed until the part of the evening that we all dreaded sprung up on us. Quite how 04:00 in the morning can spring up on anyone after an evening at Rock Werchter is anyone’s guess, but believe me, it does.
We all said our goodbyes and arranged to do the same thing all over again the following evening. I thanked Mireisse and the crew for their wonderful hospitality and wished them all a good night’s sleep, something I think we all knew only too well wasn’t going to happen.
After the weekend, I found out that our campsite, A3, was the biggest at the festival – 25000 people in tents in a field in the middle of nowhere at four in the morning sounds like a recipe for disaster when it comes to getting your head down for a few hours kip but to be honest, our little corner of the campsite was a comparatively quiet place, in spite of the thousands of people snoring, farting and belching in close proximity.
The campsite had taken over a somewhat eerie lunar-like appearance, with a landscape of domed tents, barely visible in the mist, lit up by the security lights.
Of course there were some people still milling about but by in large people were pretty well behaved (or just too bloody tired) and when I got into my tent, I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit my James Bond Mattress.
Ah yes – the James Bond Mattress.
On our way to the festival, we stopped off at a large supermarket for some essentials – water, disposable camera, luggage trolley and my James Bond Mattress.
Originally looking for an ordinary air mattress only to be disappointed to find out that they were all sold out, I spied a self-inflating mattress. It cost 17 euros and was a fantastic investment. Although I have to say, when I unrolled it when setting up my tent, it looked like I’d have been better off unrolling some kitchen roll – so flimsy was the material.
But it was a nice piece of kit – unscrewing the valve at the top causing the mattress to automatically suck in air and inflate – much to the envy of my fellow campers who were furiously pumping up their air mattresses in the hot sun.
OK – so mine inflated to a thickness of barely 2cm, making it look pretty useless but at almost 05:00 in the morning after the evening’s festivities, it was like the finest hand-crafted 4-poster bed. I was asleep in seconds, dreaming, no doubt, of singing on a stage in front of 80000 sweaty revelers.
And of course – Superman.
TO BE CONTINUED