Zwangere Guy is a pioneer and a record-holder. ‘Wie is Guy?’ (2019) was the first gold Dutch-language hip-hop record - within five months of release. It was also the first album in the genre that reached the top of the national charts. That same year, the Brussels rapper did it all over again with ‘BRUTAAL’ (2019). In a few short steps, Gorik van Oudheusden showed that he was a heavyweight, before turning things up a few more gears. According to his buddy Jan Paternoster (Black Box Revelation), the man is the hardest working “real G in the game”. Guy is a member of the capital’s posse STIKSTOF, has made an album with Lander Gyselinck and works on the fictional series ‘Putain’. He comes to Werchter as himself: the unstoppable, ruthless, mind-blowing Zwangere Guy.
No one has had such an amazing route into professional music as Nathaniel Rateliff. He had to quit his first regular job as a truck driver because of sleep disorders. He learned to play piano – he could already plays drums and guitar – and recorded a folk album that won him a place on a European tour in 2010 with Mumford & Sons. Rateliff really came into his own once he discovered blues and soul and built a sleek band around himself. Jimmy Fallon gave the final decisive push in 2015. A performance on his ‘Tonight Show’ elicited this tweet the next morning: “That guy the other night - son of a bitch.” Signed, Paul McCartney. Nathaniel Rateliff and his Night Sweats are the hottest soul revue around today. They underlined this point masterfully with ‘The Future’ (2022). It’s looking bright.
The 1975 consists of four childhood friends from Manchester who have played together since their teens. After many attempts, this resulted in The 1975, a name they got from a poetry collection. The singles ‘Sex’ and ‘Chocolate’ and their support acts for Muse and the Rolling Stones quickly opened the door to great success. Their untitled debut reached #1 in the UK, as did their latest album ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’ (2022), for the fifth time in a row. They are perfectly on course to make their dream come true: to become one of the greatest bands on Earth. The 1975 is definitely one of the most diverse bands. There isn’t really any genre with which they aren’t associated. They themselves most enjoy comparisons to My Bloody Valentine, The Streets and Talking Heads. Fun fact: 1975 was the first year Rock Werchter took place.
At home they call him a ‘heartland rocker’, a British take on Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Just like these Americans, Sam Fender is a storyteller on a mission. The indie singer-songwriter from the northern city of Newcastle wants to be the voice of his hard-working generation, the much-maligned millennials. He writes earnestly about the big issues of today, such as fake news, sexual harassment and privacy, but also with humour. Ben Howard’s manager saw Fender perform in a pub and needed no more convincing. The BBC has ranked Fender in the Sound of 2018, among other promising newcomers. Elton John and Paul Weller have come out as fans. His hit album ‘Seventeen Going Under’ (2021) is a letter to himself at 17 (he’s now 28), at which point he saw his life going in the wrong direction. Music was his salvation.
In 2019, Stormzy became the first black British solo artist to make it as headliner at Glastonbury. Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. is nothing less than a socio-cultural pioneer. He owns a publishing house for authors from minority groups and supports a score of black scholarship students at the University of Cambridge. Time magazine placed him on the cover as a ‘next generation leader’, all based on a record that shifted the goal posts – because how could it not? ‘Gang Signs & Prayer’ (2017) made dark, fierce grime accessible to a wide audience. His reward? The Brit Award for Album of the Year. Stormzy evolves at a rapid pace. On ‘This Is What I Mean’ (2022) the beats are softer, revealing his soul. He is in peak form.
As you all know, we were extremely excited to have Stromae headlining Rock Werchter this year, and we look forward to eventually welcoming him back to Festivalpark in good health. It’s been an almost impossible task to fill the space left by Stromae, but our friends in Mumford & Sons, who were due out in Europe this July, have kindly accepted our invitation and will be heading over earlier than anticipated to headline the festival!We are thrilled to welcome them back to Rock Werchter after their spellbinding set here in 2019. This will be the band’s first European show in over three years, and we are both grateful and excited to have them close the first night of the festival on Thursday 29th June for us.
Holly Humberstone grew up in a rural area where there was absolutely nothing going on musically. So she simply imagined her own world. The talented youngster’s first artistic steps were as a violinist with the Lincolnshire Youth Symphony Orchestra and she was later discovered as a singer-songwriter on a regional BBC radio show. Her debut album, ‘Can You Afford To Lose Me?’ (2022) was preceded by tours with girl in red and Olivia Rodrigo. The album won her the accolade of Rising Star at the Brit Awards. Previous recipients of this distinction include such greats as Adele, Ellie Goulding, Sam Fender and Sam Smith. Humberstone’s music is often compared to that of Lorde and Bon Iver. She identifies Damien Rice and Phoebe Bridgers as her main influences.
“Thanks for coming to see some random bitch from TikTok!” GAYLE called out last year at the end of a mighty Pukkelpop set. Okay, her early fame is indeed down to the viral smash ‘abcdefu’ (2021). But, over the course of her 45-minute set, Taylor Gayle Rutherford showed she has so much more to offer. Her CV is impressive for someone who is only nineteen. GAYLE knew what she wanted to be when, as a child, she heard jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. This talented youngster was performing in bars in Nashville at barely ten years old. It was simply a matter of time before she was discovered. Kara DioGuardi, a member of the American Idol jury, took care of that. Since then, she has befriended Taylor Swift and ‘abcdefu’ has been nominated Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards. She can do no wrong.
As a child, Ashton Nicole Casey was raised on a musical diet of country and Slipknot in Estonia and Latvia, where the American artist’s father studied. All this has had a noticeable effect on his daughter’s creativity. Her public manifestation, Ashnikko, is a kind of comic-book heroine with blue hair who describes her work as “sad-girl-feminist, bubblegum poo poo music”. Her motto in life is “trying not to lose my mind”. Within this esoteric universe, Casey has worked with likeminded peers such as R&B veteran Kelis, hyperpop star Grimes and Princess Nokia. Her breakthrough single ‘Stupid’ (2019) featured a guest appearance by rapper Yung Baby Tate. The song became a TikTok phenomenon and her first gold record in North America.
Raye's revenge is sweet. Several years ago, a great future was predicted for the talented performer. However, the British vocalist was messed with by a label that kept on delaying her debut album. In the meantime, she proved her talent with hits for Ellie Goulding, John Legend and Beyoncé. Altogether, her songs have been streamed more than 2 billion times. In 2022 she made it onto the list of nominees for the Ivor Novello Awards, a prestigious award for composers and songwriters. That was all fantastic, but Raye really wanted to sing herself. She eventually regained her artistic freedom and got it all out of her system on ‘My 21st Century Blues’ (2023). It’s a statement that she elevates to a higher level on the stage, just like greats such as Janelle Monáe or Amy Winehouse.
AURORA – born Aurora Aksnes – makes the kind of electropop that can only come from Scandinavia. Her songs warm the soul but also have an intangible side. “Dark folk-pop”, as the singing angel from Norway describes her music. She grew up with The Chemical Brothers, Bob Dylan, Enya and Tolkien’s books. Her favourite song is ‘Suzanne’ by Leonard Cohen. Aksnes started writing songs at an early age, and her mother urged her to perform them live. Mother dear claimed that her songs could help people. ‘All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend’ (2016) was compared favourably to Björk, Lorde and Florence Welch. She considers ‘The Gods We Can Touch’ (2022) to be a new direction. The storylines were inspired by Greek mythology, and her musical radar reaches further than ever.
A röyksopp is a toadstool that waits until it is stepped upon. Only then can it reproduce. Fortunately, it also means warm fjord funk from inside the arctic circle. Torbjørn Brundtland and Svein Berge started making tropical-sounding music in the Norwegian Tromsø. They have known each other since taking Holy Communion and got into electronica through local hero Geir Jenssen (Biosphere). ‘Eple’ (1999) put them on the map. The instrumental song was so infectious that every construction worker was whistling along. However, it was their ear for a good guest vocal - Erlend Øye (Kings Of Convenience), Karin Dreijer (The Knife), Robyn, Susanne Sundfør and others – that helped make the duo legendary. They downed tools in 2014 after ‘The Inevitable End’, only to return last year with the ‘Profound Mysteries’ trilogy. That’s worth celebrating!
The fairytale world of Weyes Blood – pronounced Wise Blood - is ready to open up to a wider audience. Her new, fifth album ‘And In The Darkness, Hearts Aglow’ (2022) is for young and old, everything and everyone. The ancient myths and modern tales touch on deep themes but also allow space for dreaming. And everything has an aura of timelessness, like the work of Kate Bush, who she resembles on stage in a somewhat awkward way. The American refers to her shows as “music to cry to”. Although being sad really doesn’t hurt at all. Her voice is the most remarkable element. It puts us in mind of female luminaries of the 1970s like Karen Carpenter, Carole King and Joni Mitchell. She’s keen to add Enya to the list too. Pure beauty.
Anna Calvi received her first letters of recommendation from notorious fans such as Nick Cave and Brian Eno (“the biggest thing since Patti Smith”, he said). The Londoner’s background is in classical music, with such heroes as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. When she discovered Jimi Hendrix and Django Reinhardt, she started to try to express her feelings through the guitar. She recorded her eponymous debut in 2011 with Rob Ellis, who has helped colour the sound of PJ Harvey for years. It also brought her to Werchter. Things went a bit quiet after that. Calvi kept going but was barely heard again outside the United Kingdom. Her compositions for the Netflix hit Peaky Blinders offered some consolation. Last year, she showed how much she had progressed at Hear Hear in Hasselt. “One part guitar goddess, one part vocal fury”, wrote Humo.
Mikaela Straus caught the bug from her father Oliver, whose New York studio has Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons and The National for clients. His daughter received a thorough musical education. She knows all about recording equipment, plays a number of instruments and knows the ins and outs of the music industry. Straus turned down Virgin Records at the age of eleven. Too soon. Many years later she opted for Zelig, the label run by successful producer and pop king Mark Ronson. Her 2018 opening gambit, ‘1950’, blew up and has so far received 600 million streams. King Princess comes to Werchter with her second album ‘Hold On Baby’ (2022) in her back pocket. The final song is dedicated to Taylor Hawkins, the late Foo Fighters drummer. His appearance on ‘Let Us Die’ was one of his final recordings.
Balthazar took a hiatus in 2016. And what do you know? Another three kings appeared right away. Three members of the band presented their own work. Warhaus, that of frontman Maarten Devoldere, was the first and longest-lasting. In ‘We Fucked a Flame Into Being’, the British music magazine Mojo heard traces of Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Serge Gainsbourg, and at least as much international appeal as Balthazar. The self-titled follow-up in 2017 included the great ‘Love’s A Stranger’, a duet with former partner and band member Sylvie Kreusch that has since been listened to 20 million times. ‘Ha Ha Heartbreak’ (2022) sets a very different tone. The album is a broken heart set to music. Devoldere recorded the demos in isolation in Palermo, lending them an Italian flair. Very cinematic and very beautiful.
Charlotte de Witte is forever pushing boundaries, not least her own. Last year, the leading magazine DJ Mag named her the best techno DJ in the world - for the third year in a row - and put her on the 14th spot in the overall list of the top 100 DJs. In the summer of 2022, she was the first woman and the first techno DJ to be the final headliner act at Tomorrowland. In April of the same year, she played a marathon ten-hour set to a crowd of 20,000 at Flanders Expo in Ghent, a stone’s throw from the Evergem youth club where her journey began in 2010. Initially, she performed under the pseudonym Raving George, to ensure she was judged on her talent alone. Since 2015, she has been proudly going by her own name, within the label of KNTXT - a brand covering events, radio shows, clothing lines and production releases by de Witte and her colleagues.
He's 76 this spring. Even at that relatively old age, Iggy Pop remains the most convincing comic book character in the entire world of rock. An enigmatic performer. A master of the stage. A provocateur. And the proud parent of two absolute evergreens. ‘Lust for Life’ is without a doubt one of the most energetic rock songs ever. And ‘The Passenger’ is still one of the most danceable. Iggy Pop was punk back in the sixties as a member of The Stooges and, more than half a century later, is still showing the youngsters what’s what on his latest album, ‘Every Loser’ (2023). Furthermore, it’s a welcome return for one of the legends and founding fathers of the festival. Pop appeared previously in 1987 and 1991, at the time of such successes as ‘Candy’ and ‘Real Wild Child’, and in 2016.
Not all of the consequences of the coronavirus were negative. The Mary Wallopers gained fame through the home concerts they streamed during lockdown. The most infectious Irish party band since The Pogues fits perfectly into a decades-long tradition of ribald songs about sex, drink and the devil. The young rabble-rousers raise a finger to the establishment with their blend of rap, punk and matured Celtic folk music. Frontmen and brothers Charles and Andrew Hendy also perform as T.P.M., a committed rap duo with humorous songs like ‘Eat That Curry’ and ‘Don’t Ever Smoke Skunk’. However, The Mary Wallopers are their main concern. Music is a serious business in a country with a rich culture and a weighty history. ‘It’s a way of coping with life for us’.
According to Body Type’s vocalist/guitarist Annabel Blackman, they’ve been lucky. It seems it’s not as easy as you might think to find people to start a band with in Sydney, a city of millions. Especially if you’ve never picked up an instrument before. However, for this all-female band, all’s well that ends well. After a lot of rehearsing, Body Type has turned out to be one of Australia’s most promising newcomer. What connects the four women is a distaste for the state of the world and a desire for endless amusement. The first result was 2022’s ‘Everything Is Dangerous But Nothing’s Surprising’: recorded in a week and bursting with fury and euphoria. The acclaim they gathered in Sydney awakened people’s curiosity in Europe, where they will present their next album this summer. Its title is ‘Expired Candy’ (2023).
There is a vast amount of highly eclectic music in the collection of Ian Shelton, frontman of the American post-hardcore band Militarie Gun - the virtuoso basslines of Fugazi, the political racket of Born Against, the flow of hip-hop and the melodic gifts of Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices) and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. The band’s very existence is due to Covid. Shelton had to cancel a tour with his former band Regional Justice Center and started a new project instead. In Los Angeles, he found four kindred spirits who loved punk, power pop and alternative rock just as much as he did. Militarie Gun took off like a rocket and caught the attention of the label Loma Vista, home to the likes of Korn, Rise Against and Soccer Mommy. Their first full album ‘Life Under The Gun’ (2023) will be released shortly before the festival.
It takes a fair bit of detective work to track down all of John Villagran’s musical exploits. The American grew up in a deeply religious family in Texas. He heard gospel in the living room and listened to Linkin Park and Paramore in his bedroom. Having worn out a long line of Christian metal bands he emerged as the acoustic solo artist Tremor in 2016. That turned into LiL Lotus, the name he used to create first emo rap and then punk pop. ‘ERRØR BØY’ (2021) is an interim summary of his twisting path. “A synthesis of my best attempts and my worst instincts”, he calls it. This energetic collection was recorded with John Feldmann (All Time Low, Good Charlotte, Story of the Year) and features Travis Barker of blink-182 as guest drummer.
The name evokes a pleasant family band. But there are no blood ties in The Reytons. It’s a bastardisation of ‘a right one’ in the dialect of the four indie rockers from Sheffield: the city of Arctic Monkeys, Joe Cocker, Human League and Pulp, not to mention pubs and chaos. The Reytons write thumping songs about all the things that can go wrong in the life of a young person. Relationships that end abruptly, parties that get out of hand… The group is surrounded by an ecosystem reminiscent of a football club. Fans travel far and wide to follow their heroes and ensure an exuberant atmosphere. This joyfulness is undoubtedly also the reason why their second album reached number one in the UK charts without the support of a major record label. The title asks ‘What’s Rock And Roll?’ (2023). Find out the answer at Werchter.
Picture This is the story of two school friends in rural Ireland. When they started making music they were joined by another two friends. Between them, they were fans of Coldplay, Mumford & Sons and The 1975. This manifested itself in dreamy songs about falling in love and a great longing for the way things were. Their eponymous debut took a flawless trajectory in Ireland. ‘Picture This’ was at #1 in the Album Charts for four weeks and went triple platinum. The best reward of all was a headline show in front of 70,000 fans in September 2022 at Electric Picnic: the Irish equivalent of Rock Werchter. You see, Ryan, Jimmy, Owen and Cliff grew up in the nearby market town of Athy. Such a great honour was their sign that the time had come to take on the rest of the world.