Festival fever 😎🤳🏾🌭🥤

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Summer is just around the corner! As the sunshine and warm weather approach, so does the festival season. We caught up with some familiar faces from the Belgian festival circuit to hear their thoughts on the local music scene, emerging artists, and the acts they're most eager to see. From their insights, it’s clear that the music ecosystem is thriving, and festivals are playing a key role in that.

Who are the must-see up-and-coming artists at your festival this summer?

Lennart (general coordinator Absolutely Free Festival): I look forward to the shows of Hotline TNT, Gurriers, Lifeguard, Humour, Youniss and Lézard. Great left-field acts with a bright future ahead.

Klaas (business associate Democrazy/Boomtown): Lézard and Piffy; both young and exciting acts who will open the festival on different days. Those acts create an interesting clash between die-hard fans of other acts, new fans and people who just don’t get it.

Gilke (music promoter Beursschouwburg/Out Loud): Cinna Peyghamy, IMSOBABY, MartyrX, k means and DracoBoy.

Jim (bookings Klub Dramatik): Movulango is a Belgian musician who deejays as well. He has excellent taste in selecting tracks and doesn't do DJ sets often. He's opening a stage on Sunday (setting the tone) and I look forward to this. 

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Who do you think your audience will connect with?

Jim: I love to go to festivals from the very beginning of the day. A festival has different phases; you need to be there from the beginning, feel the evolution and go through them with the people around you. That's the whole strength of a festival and when real connections with people are to be made... It's a journey and sadly too many people miss out on this.

Lennart: The audience and artists connect at our XPRMNT stage. This is a 360° stage where the band is playing in the middle of the audience. It gives the artists a feeling of playing in their rehearsal room. This makes a great connection between the band members themselves and the audience. Last year's highlights were acts such as Lambrini Girls, Fat Dog and Avalanche Kaito.

What are you looking forward to most at/about your festival? 

Rutger (founder LLOSS Festival): It’s the moment we start building and bringing all our work together 2 weeks before the festival. During our build-up, we get the chance to put our vision, plans, hours of brainstorming sessions and sleepless nights into reality. We have the chance to make the final changes and to fix what we might have forgotten along the way. This is the moment when all parties who are involved do what they are expected to do and help us create the best LLOSS-minded environment possible. In this period we are having the most fun of the year. Except for the fact that our stress levels are rising, we all have the same goal, passion and mindset. We get the chance to bond with all creatives who have been part of our journey and to get to know each other in a whole different way as we are spending at least 12 hours per day together. At the end of each day, we always come together to drink some beers, make a campfire, have some fun and discuss what’s next and how we should proceed or reflect on what we can do better the next day. These moments are pure joy and probably the reason why it’s so fun.

Steven (creative director Fuse & XRDSXRDS): The revamped Viaduct stage will be something to behold. We've also upgraded and expanded most stages and have gone the extra mile to bring a unique line-up with lots of things to be discovered. Each year we try to go more and more niche into our line-up and try to be less dependent on big names to sell our tickets. 

Gilke: Every day of Out Loud (05.06-22.06.2024) is curated by another Brussels-based collective or organisation; Liaison, Sketchy Lines records, Polytope, schiev, Jabanè Sessions, AB concerts, Fortune Collective, momsnightout, Noannaos,... Like this, I discover a lot of new artists coming from different scenes and new styles of music.

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What other locally organised events/festivals are you looking forward to this summer?

Steven: This year I'd love to attend La Nature and hear what all the fuss is about! I love these nature festivals with a more open-minded approach that are relatively small-sized. 

Gilke: Holidays at Recyclart!

How do you explore and find emerging artists? Are there certain qualities you look for in line-up potentials?

Benny (co-founder/art director Doel Festival): It's a combination of going out and partying myself, as well as bumping into artists online through venues and radio platforms I follow. I find the presence of an artist very important, how they bring themselves while deejaying, their radiance or aura, next to great mixing, I love it if I can hear the mix happening, it gives a certain energy.

Steven: These days there are so many channels to discover new talent. Kiosk Radio or other online niche radio stations, magazines like Different Class, mailings from booking agents, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Bandcamp. And of course, it helps that we also have our club, Fuse, where we program a lot of names and can check out who delivers behind the DJ booth and takes our crowd on a nice musical journey.

How do you balance your line-up, for example, between bigger and smaller artists? Has your approach to this changed over the years?

Benny: I've always taken into account booking local acts next to headliners and balancing female-male-queer. I build a line-up for the atmosphere and sequence I would like to bring, all slots are equally important and you decide the energy that is built up and brought down by placing your artists meticulously.

Rutger: Our approach has changed since this year as we present two days and two stages. We have more space to program with an open mindset, take risks, try to compensate for both stages each day and make it into a whole at the same time. Since we are still growing and completely DIY, we do not have the financial options to look into big headliners or big names in the scene at the moment. Therefore, we balance with loads of national talent and give them play time, add up their experience and present their skills to a varying range of people who visit our festival. We strongly believe that local artists are important. They can be spotted by other organisations who might give them the chance to break through or they just have a great time and cherish this moment at LLOSS festival forever.

Clara (head of press relations and festival booking Dour): At Dour we're lucky to have a strong community that trusts us! Of course, we're programming some big Belgian and international headliners, but the aim is for festival-goers to be surprised by other midliners or newcomers. We are also lucky to have an artistic community who follow us. Amelie Lens is a child of Dour. She started playing there at the camping and now she will curate De Balzaal stage, our biggest open-air dancefloor. Same for TRYM who will play for the third consecutive year and who is now so connected to Dour! 

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As so much music discovery happens online, can you speak to the role of the festival as a platform for discovery in this day and age? Has this role changed over the years?

Benny: Absolutely, it is still, festivals have space due to their long line-ups and multiple stages to book interesting upcoming acts. They should always have some artists who play there for the first time, as well as programming local acts!

Gilke: Giving actual space to collectives to organise a night and bring a community together is super important as it's not easy to find good infrastructure for that nowadays.

Clara: In my opinion, prescription and the human side are increasingly important at a time when events are specialising more and more in specific niches. In a world that's becoming increasingly polarised, I also think we have a great role to play in offering an eclectic programme of music made from the heart.

What is your favourite experience at a festival (either as a guest or as an organiser)?

Steven (as an organiser): After last year's XRDS festival on Sunday, we gathered with all the DJs and friends from the festival at Fuse for a big after-party. It's the culmination of many things in such a moment. Releasing all that tension and energy of one year of building up towards the festival, seeing all those people who support your project having a good time together and staying longer. There's no better feeling than this.

Gilke (as a guest): Last summer, I enjoyed the festival hosted by Kiosk Radio a lot; great line-up and hospitality towards the public.

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Who are the best discoveries you have made at festivals in recent years? 

Benny: I was taking pictures at Paradies Garten in Austria last year and I must say Dj Gigola stole my heart then and there, such a great set, as well as Katia Curie and Nizar Sarakbi. And Tatie Dee at Transit was also very memorable.

Steven: Some recent discoveries that caught my attention: Verraco, Interplanetary Criminal, Supergloss, Philippa Pacho, LB aka Labat. 

Gilke: Prince Kongo, Cindy Pooch, Rat Section, Tatyana Jane, Authentically Plastic and Mya Lee.

Rutger: We try to check out as many new things as possible at a festival. Our favourite activity at festivals is spotting unknown artists who might play unexpected great sets. When seeing such an artist and hearing such a set, we are making up plans in our minds and thinking about implementing and programming them in one of our own LLOSS events throughout the year. For example, during our 2024 Club Tour, we had the honours to program Jasmín, Amaliah, Angel D’lite, DJ Sweet6teen, Aroh, Mary Lake and Timmerman to name a few. They all are hidden gems who we found either by hearing them at a festival or a club. It’s great when you have them over at your event and they bring that same energy we fell in love with.

What are your thoughts on today’s music and festival scene in Belgium?

Jim: The scene in Belgium is something we can be proud of. There are so many strong communities that also resonate internationally. Belgian nightlife/music culture is real because of them. In Antwerp we do have a big gentrification problem; there is no more room for institutions to push forward young creatives, art and music, and that's where it all starts to experience a vibrant and diverse city. Clubs and cultural institutions that offer a programme week in and week out are maybe more important than festivals.

Benny: It is still thriving. Belgium has always been a forerunner and for such a small country we have so many, maybe too many. But I'm happy to see that we have a diverse offering as a result and lots of room for our many great artists to find their way into international scenes through festival bookings. My one remark would be that the visual aspects of a festival, such as scenography and graphic design, are as important as the music. I'd like to see more commercial festivals put the effort into that as well.

Steven: Thinking especially about Brussels, I think our scene is richer than ever. Filled with talented artists, labels and crews. Whatever kind of electronic music you like, almost every weekend you'll find something that's your cup of tea. When speaking on a Belgian scale, I wish that promoters would work together a bit more to keep the scene healthy. DJ fees are getting very high, DJs are being booked too much in one year, making it less healthy for everyone. There's fierce competition that I haven't noticed in the past 10 years. We have to be careful and make sure we all keep on trying to live together in harmony and respect.

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @absolutelyfreefestival / @klubdramatik / @dourfestival / @boomtowngent / @doelfestival / @llosslloss / @xrds.be@beursschouwburg <br/> Photos shot by Linde Stevens & Jente Waerzeggers <br/> Different Class offers their members free or discounted tickets for a lot of festivals this summer. Keep an eye on our agenda, become a member and make your reservation for the discounted tickets on time! <br/> differentclass.be </div></div>

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