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Summer Guide: Music Festivals
From classical to rock, jazz to heavy metal, Belgium is a hotbed of summer music festivals. And quite a few of them are free, too! Here are a few of The Bulletin's recommendations, in Brussels and beyond.
SUSHEELA RAMAN JULY 14
Brosella Folk & Jazz Festival, Brussels
London-based Tamil singer Susheela Raman made a splash when she first presented her signature blend of South Asian, African and Western influences some ten years ago. Indeed, BBC Radio 3 named her Best Newcomer at their 2002 Awards for World Music on the strength of her debut album, Salt Rain. Raman has since recorded several more albums and appeared on stages across the UK and Europe. She and her four-piece backing band present songs from last year’s Vel album at Brosella Folk & Jazz Festival. www.susheelaraman.com
THE DAMNED July 21
Power Festival, La Louvière
UK goth-punks The Damned (pictured) are currently in the midst of a year-long tour celebrating their 35th anniversary so it’s no surprise that the current live set revisits two of their most influential records: Damned Damned Damned (1977) and The Black Album (1980). The former, their debut, was the high-water mark of the punk movement. The latter, a double LP with an entire side consecrated to the lengthy psychedelic dirge “Curtain Call”, revealed a group which had gone far beyond genre orthodoxy. They remained every bit as desperate and irreverent as their peers, but the Damned were above all curious in their insolence. www.officialdamned.com
MIDIS-MINIMES JULY 2-AUGUST 31
Long-running festival of short, lunchtime concerts. The eclectic programme stretches the classical label to the seams, bringing together world sounds, early music, Romantic sonatas and even a nod to contemporary creation. Taking its name from the Sablon church where it first saw the light in 1986, the Midis-Minimes has since decamped to the nearby Conservatory, whose acoustics--organisers claim--is a big improvement (provided you don’t mind the screech of passing trams or cooing pigeons that have taken residence in the venerable building). Individual concerts cost €4. Passes for multiple concerts are also available.
BROSELLA FOLK AND JAZZ FESTIVAL JULY 14 & 15
Established and up-and-coming acts perform at the thirty-sixth edition of this completely free international jazz festival in Osseghem Park, a stone’s throw from the Atomium.
B UNITED JULY 21
An afternoon and evening of free world music concerts on the Place de la Monnaie in celebration of Belgium’s national holiday. The theme: unity through music.
BRUKSELLIVE JULY 28
A relative newcomer to the festival scene, this day-long event is held in the open-air Groentheater in Osseghem Park. This year’s headliner is French smooth pop revivalists Nouvelle Vague. Best of all, the whole thing is free.
BRUSSELS SUMMER FESTIVAL AUGUST 10-19
Ten days of music on four stages with loads of fringe activities in the bargain. The main stage, on the Place des Palais, hosts names like John Cale, the Stranglers and Iggy & the Stooges. The Brussels Summer Festival is particularly cheap, especially for a bill packed with a total of over 50 acts both local and international. Day tickets cost €17.50 (August 10-12) or €12.50 (August 13-19). Better still, a ten-day pass costs a paltry €35!
BOTERHAMMEN IN HET PARK AUGUST 22-26
Discover Flemish and Dutch artists at the 22nd edition of this free, week-long festival series put on by the Ancienne Belgique with the support of the Flemish Community. Concerts held every afternoon in the Parc de Bruxelles.
FEEËRIEËN AUGUST 27-31
Another Ancienne Belgique production in the Parc de Bruxelles, this one promoting obscure music. The festival, now in its ninth edition, showcases a wide spectrum of styles, from contemporary classical to electronica.
DOUR FESTIVAL JULY 12-15
According to the highly influential website, Lastfm.fr, the Dour festival is “the best place to discover new artists”. One quick glance at the 2012 line-up tends to support this view, but it should be added that this year’s star draws are no spring chickens: Franz Ferdinand, The Flaming Stars, Atari Teenage Riot and Dinosaur Jr most definitely don’t need discovering. The most eagerly awaited concert is certainly that of Ministry, the iconoclastic shock-rockers led by the wonderful Al Jourgensen. Day tickets cost €50, while a four-day ticket costs €100.
ROCK HERK JULY 13 & 14
Alternative festival in Limburg Province featuring rock, metal, hip-hop and electronic. Book in advance to get a deal: €20 for one day and €32 for both.
BLUES PEER JULY 13-16
Twenty-eight edition of the biggest blues event in Belgium, with B.B. King, John Fogerty and Steppenwolf. Day tickets cost €64 and combi-tickets (good for the weekend) €138.
CEREXHE FESTIVAL JULY 14 & 15
Twenty-seventh edition of rockabilly and Americana weekend (complete with American car show) near Liège. Tickets are only sold by the day, for €8.
GENTSE FEESTEN JULY 14-23
Eclectic, city-wide music and arts festival.
TEMPO! FESTIVAL JULY 14 & 15/JULY 28 & 29
Twin festivals in Ciney and Tournai put on by events agency Covadis. Machiavel and Roger Hodgson headline the former and Thomas Dutronc the latter.
Ciney & Tournai, www.covadis.be
POWER FESTIVAL JULY 20 & 21
Rock festival in the context of La Louvière’s year-long Metropole Culture 2012 project. Saturday night’s headliner are UK goth-punks The Damned (see above), who celebrate 35 years of blissful damnation this summer. Day tickets cost €10 (Friday) and €15 (Saturday); weekend passes cost only €20.
La Louvière, www.powerfestival.be
SUIKERROCK JULY 26-29
Heavy riffs will dominate the proceedings in Sugartown this year, at least for the first two days, courtesy of Triggerfinger, Channel Zero, ZZ Top, Alice Cooper and the irrepressible Status Quo. Days three should, in comparison, should prove somewhat less frenetic, despite Belgian avant-garde legend Luc Van Acker’s past stint in Revolting Cocks. Day four, featuring Daan, Ozark Henry and Scotland’s kings of bland, Texas, is by far the least appealing. Combi tickets are sold out, but day tickets are available individually for €45.
KLINKERS JULY 27-AUGUST 11
Mostly free festival in historical Bruges, featuring several concerts in the open-air inner court of Bruges’ Gruuthuse (not to be missed: Gavin Friday on August 8 for €12 advance).
TOMORROWLAND JULY 27-29
Open-air rave festival in rural Flanders.
MICRO FESTIVAL AUGUST 3 & 4
This eccentric Liège alternative festival is dedicated to musical discovery. No headline names here but rather up-and-coming or niche acts such as Gablé, The Chap and Tim Exile. The price is right: weekend passes cost only €10 in advance.
GOUVY JAZZ AND BLUES FESTIVAL AUGUST 3-5
“Gouvy is groovy.” This long-running (33 years and counting) jazz and blues festival is held at the charmingly pastoral Ferme de la Madelonne, near the Belgo-Luxembourgish border. Pre-sale day tickets start at €23. Three-day passes cost €85.
DRANOUTER FESTIVAL AUGUST 3-5
Originally a folk festival, this unconventional event gets more and more diverse by the year. The current programme includes Goran Bregovic, the Waterboys, Balkan beat Box and Bart Peeters. One-, two- and three-day tickets cost €50, €80 and €100, respectively.
LOKERSE FESTEN AUGUST 3-12
The most pleasant outdoor festival in this land. Easy access, very reasonable pricing, the – relative - absence of queues and the choice of food stalls both inside and outside the grounds offer the advantage of an open-air festival without (most of) the inconvenient. Then there is the small matter of the music: New Order, Bryan Ferry, Suede, The Beach Boys, The Charlatans, Public Image Ltd, Echo & The Bunnymen and The Specials... with the latter three on the same night! Day tickets cost between €20 and €35, while a combi-ticket costs a measly €115.
MAFESTIVAL AUGUST 3-12
This Renaissance music showcase, organized in the context of the region-wide Flanders Festival, takes place in the appropriate city, Bruges. Some performances are held in neighbouring Lissewege.
MARKTROCK AUGUST 10-12
“100% free, 100% Belgian” – the Leuven festival occupying the Vismarkt and the Oude Markt - is 30 years young. This year’s bill features punk evergreen first-generation punks The Kids, electro cult heroes Neon Judgement and housewives’ favourites Soulsister.
GAUME JAZZ FESTIVAL AUGUST 10-12
Twenty-eighth edition of well-known jazz festival put on by the Jeunesses Musicales in Belgian Luxembourg. Day tickets start from €26. €72 will get you in all three days.
PUKKELPOP AUGUST 16-18
Yet another huge, corporate pop/rock festival, this one in Limburg Province.
HUY ART FESTIVAL AUGUST 17-22
This world music festival in the village of Huy, between Namur and Liège, features artists from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and even some from our own backyard. Tickets are sold à la carte but multi-day passes are available. You might as well do the full monty as a 6-night pass costs only €72.
BEAVERFEST AUGUST 24 & 25
Premier edition of intimate rock-and-roll festival on the grounds of hotel and concert venue La Truited’Argent in the far, far east of Belgium. Pre-sale weekend wristbands cost €17.50.
MAANROCK AUGUST 25 & 26
Pop/rock festival in Mechelen city centre, headlined by regional celebrity Daan (Daanrock, anyone?).
LATITUDE FESTIVAL (UK) JULY 12-15
Massive festival in rural Suffolk, England. Belgium’s own dEUS performs on Saturday.
LOWLANDS (Netherlands) AUGUST 17-19
Another chance to pay lots of money to see Foo Fighters and the Black keys.