We can still do it. Have breakfast with a fresh pint (some), survive on French fries (the majority, and wash down with kebabs) and think ourselves rock stars (everyone). When 50,000 hoarse crows on the meadow suddenly sing ‘The number of the beast’ together, after years of silence, it almost becomes poetry.
With some exaggeration: no festival in Flanders where the love of the visitors for each other is so great. Pitch black teddy bears they are, even if one seems a bit more frayed than the other. “Connected,” you should write on a cut out fish in religion class. But it’s true: Graspop is about halfway through and spotlessly cozy. And then there’s that scorching heat. She makes lazy and languid, she makes every beer come in like a six pack. But she also shows: we live in a beautiful world again. Even though those temperatures consistently claim the first victims of overestimation shortly after noon. Burnt red, dead drunkards in the grass, they are part of the decor.
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You also notice that enthusiasm when you ask people on the meadow how happy they are to be back, and what appeals to them about that Kempische pelouse† You don’t get an answer right away, you mainly get a look of: stupid question. We will earn back those ever more expensive snacks and drinks later. In addition, the festival site and the camping site have been arranged differently this year, resulting in a smoother flow, and the facilities have been expanded. You even get into the shower in the blink of an eye. The only problem is that traffic on Dessel’s inland roads does not always follow suit – give the municipality its own ring road!
Musically it’s a puzzle for Graspop. As always. If you put the posters from previous years on top of each other, you will see a striking number of overlaps. This edition is not just a carbon copy, it’s more than moving dots and commas. But calling it a breath of fresh air is dishonoring the truth. Especially if you look at the top of the bill† You can hardly call it surprising with Iron Maiden, Volbeat, Sabaton, Deep Purple and Judas Priest. That is not a stone to the organization by the way, because those bands are usually very good. And what else should you do?
There are also more privateers on the coast: Rammstein is doing it solo, Metallica is married to Rock Werchter, Slipknot is passing through Kiewit this summer. The old ones, how dirty they sometimes still are, gradually shuffle back to the exit: Kiss of Black Sabbath will probably no longer meet you. And the number of ‘young’ groups that can bear that status and aim broadly – no music style is such a patchwork of subgenres like metal – is limited. Or you should be called Ghost.
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It is an observation, a challenge too, but not a judgment about the festival this year. Because there is a lot to experience musically and there is a lot of diversity, such as the mix of Afro-American spirituals with black metal that Zeal & Ardor bring. And would you have put The Offspring’s pop punk on the main stage twenty years ago, churches were set on fire and little kittens sacrificed. That should be possible today. And good too. This increased openness is also reflected in the band shirts. They are still the most important piece of clothing, but you can already see Modern Talking or Duran Duran passing by.
Moreover, no one seems to think in terms of “after corona” anymore – the covid phase has been cut. The high number of foreign visitors, apart from neighboring countries, is perhaps the best proof of this. Mexico, Chile and Brazil are not extras at Graspop. As it turns out, everyone in Dessel does what they always do, at their own pace, and what they like to do. It is not so much a release, not so much: “it’s allowed again”. Any music lover just continues to have fun, and does it superbly.
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