Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rocking in Belgium; waiting for Belgium to rock back

This is technically day 5 in Belgium, although can a music festival really be included as time spent in a particular location? I'm not sure. But here's what's been happening:

Sharing a tent with the ex

Groezrock 2012 was supposed to be a festival spent in luxury. My campervan was loaded with baked beans, my solar panel carefully checked and stowed, my fridge filled with cider and wine.

Well clearly dear old Cecil wasn't going to make it so instead my good friend (we've been split up longer than we were ever going out) sent out a last-minute Facebook plea and managed to secure the loan of a slightly mouldy but otherwise adequate tent. He also found a bed roll (I tried not to think about the circumstances that might lead to one losing their high-quality camping equipment before a festival) and I supplied a pair of my old sleeping bags, originally acquired for Girl Guides so probably not made with the most recent technology.

Thanks to an unexpectedly useless public transport system I finally arrived on site shortly after midnight on Friday night / Saturday morning and found the tent ready-pitched and surrounded by good-natured blokes from Switzerland and England. My original Welsh friend was already pretty blotto so I poured myself a glass of wine, chuckled at him for a while and then bedded down, looking forward to a weekend of punk and hardcore.


This was by far my biggest fear. All predictions pointed to three days of hardcore rain to complement the tunes, possibly adorned with a hail or thunder storm. And cold. These are not the conditions that sheets of green canvas held erect by poles are best known for providing comfort in. I prepared myself with plastic trousers, plastic bags and even went to the length of lining my purse with tupperware, to protect smaller items such as money and phones.

None of this, however, proved necessary. We had one shower of serious rain on that first night but this was contained within the small hours and had no particular effect on the surface conditions. In fact I could almost call the weather perfect overall - most of the time it was dark and cloudy enough to allow daytime sleeping and to keep us warm at night without actually raining. Win!

The neighbours

Um, well. Aside from our immediate neighbours, who were of course lovely, this was something of a problem.

For starters the wine, the wine that I'd retrieved from the campervan and smuggled across Europe using Ryanair's ample luggage charges, was stolen. From our tent. In the night. Two glasses had been poured from a three litre bag at the time. Of course, it could have been worse - whilst booze at a festival has an increased value it's often abandoned once the last band has played. And they could have taken the Doc Marten's stowed immediately beside the wine, which would have been far more difficult to replace.

No, more than the wine, it was the sleep theft that bothered us. It seems to me perfectly reasonable to drift around drinking speciality beer, listening to live music and hurling yourself into pits of overexcited revellers until 3am and then to return panting with exhaustion to your tent, allowing your body just enough recovery to do it all again.


I consider myself a pretty easy sleeper. As long as I have something warm to snuggle into, I'll curl up in any corner on any surface and sleep through any noises I choose to ignore. At a festival it's often amusing to drift off listening to random snippets of conversation outside, such as the american guy talking about his family's gun ownership history (I'm not stereotyping, his Dad was crazy) or the group of Netherlanders singing the wrong words to a classic tune in unison.

However things you can't sleep through include:
- firecrackers being set off within 10 feet of your head?
- girls calling "Fire! Oh God oh God, FIRE!",
- groups of drunk 16-yr-olds from Manchester shouting, nay screeching, their favourite football chants as if in direct competition with everyone around them. At 4-5am.

I can't just blame it on the brits either - I might not have understood everything the locals said but I could hear them phlegming and pissing between the tents all night. And who knows which nationality of person it is that keeps stepping on your pillow (narrowly missing your head but sometimes catching the hair) as they attempt to stagger from one place to another?

In my days as a Girl Guide I never once woke up to find my tent and all those around me buried in discarded food and rubbish.

The good bits

All this paints Groezrock up to be a disaster but that would be entirely unfair! There was great food, a range of Belgian beers and most importantly rock. The tented stages did suffer from sound difficulties but Lagwagon, Reel Big Fish, Your Demise (I wasn't impressed when my Welsh friend said he was looking forward to this in an earlier conversation), Rancid, The Bronx and Refused were all excellent. We drank, rocked and enjoyed.

Sunday headliners: Refused

So I got back to Brussels yesterday, hugged friends new and old and checked into a youth hostel to shower and sleep. Boy did I sleep! And today I caught a train to Bruges from where I write to you. Tomorrow I'm doing an official tour of the city (oo-er) so I'll let you know whether it's worth blogging about...

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