Rock Werchter kicks off tonight which can only mean one thing: Belgian festival season is about to break forth in a muddy melée of noise and manky portaloos. Oh, and good music, too. Once again this little country is spoiling its music fans rotten with an immense, intense, insane and mountainous mound of musical variety of summer festivals, just like every other year. To help you navigate the Belgian festival jungle, just like you might help a mud covered and sunburnt reveller elbow their way to the mosh pit, we’ve recruited the help of five homegrown musos to tell us which three acts you absolutely cannot miss out on this summer.
Ayco Duyster, Studio Brussel
1. DIIV, Dour and Boomtown
Brooklyn’s DIIV are playing at Dour and Boomtown in Ghent this July. I love their ’80s shoegaze pop sound. Reminds me a lot of early Cure songs. And with Zachary Cole Smith they have the perfect frontman. A young blonde loudmouth who’s not afraid to speak his mind about the music industry. The band recently cancelled a string of European dates to work on new music. I hope we get to hear some of those new songs this month.
2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Pukkelpop
This Canadian band is a force of nature. The post rock masters were absent for about ten years but have returned with a new album this year. They’re hard to pin down. On the one hand they’re a politically and socially engaged troupe of musicians, but they hardly ever give interviews, which adds to their mystery. Godspeed You! Black Emperor live is always an intense experience. Not to be missed.
3. Mount Kimbie, Pukkelpop
This electronic music duo from London was supposed to play the Pukkelpop festival two years ago, which never happend due to the fatal storm that stopped the festival. This year they’re back with an excellent new record. I expect a dreamy and exciting show from them. A guest appearance by King Krule – who features on the record – would be a bonus!
Olivier Donnet, music photographer
As one of Belgium’s most prominent music photographers Olivier is almost an institution at the country’s festivals. We are especially fond of his One Minute After project which you can check out here.
1. The Hives, Rock Werchter
I’ve seen them several times and I was on stage with them last week, and it’s always a great show… The Hives are probably the best band to see live!
2. Blur, Rock Werchter
I definitely won’t miss Blur this year because I haven’t seen them for a long time. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time.
3. Thee Oh Sees, Dour
In my opinion The Oh Sees is one of the best garage bands in the world. They bring so much energy on stage.
Disco Naiveté, music blogger
1. Haim, Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop
Haim have done nothing but win over hearts with their bold approach to pop the past year, with tunes that are both witty and energetic. Their live show is a fun and refreshing affair, with the three sisters pouring out songs that make you feel you’re part of the Haims. Our generation’s Destiny’s Child, with added drums and Este Haim’s wonderful bass face.
2. Frank Ocean, Rock Werchter
It’s his first appearance in Belgium after the cancellation of his Pukkelpop show last year, and the man is set to make eyes quite wet with his set of both old and new songs. Mr. Ocean is a genius both lyrically and vocally. His live show is just like his music: simple but full of melancholy and simply amazing.
3. The xx, Pukkelpop
The xx have come a long way since their first show at Botanique‘s Rotonde back in October 2009 – no longer clumsy affairs, but proper live shows that are a pleasure for the ears and eyes. Combining material off their much-praised debut xx and their latest effort Coexist, their moody songs come alive on stage. A must-see, preferably with a loved one by your side.
Bart Sibiel, Onda Sonora
Bart Sibiel is one half of Brussels Dj duo Onda Sonora. Together with Yoeri Bellemans he hosts a show on FM Brussels and organises the infamous ‘Our Party’. A while ago the music buff also came on board as a regular contributor for the Word magazine website where he dazzles our readers with uber-sharp insights into Belgian music.
1. Falty DL, Bruksellive
For several reasons. Because he’s one of the most interesting artists coming out of the bass/beat/”call it whatever you want as long as it’s popular with the hipsters” scene. Consistently interesting, not defected to the ’90s house camp and actually developing his sound rather chasing the hype. The fact that I’ll be playing on that same stage a little earlier during the day only makes it more exciting. Bruksellive has alway been fun as I meet a lot of friends front and backstage but this year it’s by far the most interesting festival music-wise with Float Fall, Koreless, A Made Up Sound, Gullfisk, MonkeyRobot, J Rocc and many more interesting artists on the bill. On top of that, it’s free.
2. Dan Lacksman, Brussels Summer Festival
Thanks to Daft Punk everyone and their mum is raving about Giorgio Moroder but to me Dan Lacksman deserves just as much praise, if not more. I like his music and everything about him far better than that of the suntanned German. The less prolific synth wiz compared to Marc Moulin in Telex has, since the late ’70s onwards, produced on electro disco/pop gems galore (check his longplayers like Electronic Systems, Plastic Bertrand’s ‘Tout Petit La Planète’ or his recently released Electric Dreams album). Couple that with a typical Belgian/Brussels sense of humour and you easily win it from a guy whose ego only matches the dullness of that track dedicated to it. Couldn’t make it to his gig at Les Nuits but this one I won’t miss.
3. Tikiman live with Scion (performing songs from the Rhythm & Sound classic ‘Showcase’ album) + Mark Ernestus (DJ-set), Feeërieën
I’m not too fond of big festivals and the crowds that come with them. I like it small and among connoisseurs and Feeërieën is exactly that. I’m also very interested in what Ancienne Belgique will to celebrate 45 years of dub reggae, and I’ll be catching as much of their special events as possible. The hybrid between house and dub has always been a love of mine and this Rhythm & Sound themed evening promises to be fantastic. Once again a free event.
Sylvestre Defontaine, Pure FM
1. Blur, Rock Werchter
I saw Blur once, it was at Dour in 19944. The group had just released the album Parklife. Having seen the reunions of Suede, Faith No More and the Pixies, I’d like to see if Albarn’s band still have the energy.
2. Charles Bradley, Dour Festival
After a career as a cook, the American has released his first album at 63 years of age. Driven by urgency, he’s already back with his second, Victim of Love. I want to see the possible successor to James Brown, it might be an experience that’s just as exciting and raucous.
3. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Pukkelpop
The mythical Canadian group are breaking ten years of silence. Nobody knows how they will be on stage. Are they still the emperors of post rock? Enough questions to make people head for the tents of Kiewit…
The Hives, Rock Werchter, 5 July
Blur, Rock Werchter, 5 July
Frank Ocean, Rock Werchter, 6 July
Haim, Rock Werchter, 7 July
Charles Bradley, Dour, 18 July
Thee Oh Sees, Dour 21 July
DIIV, Dour, 20 July
DIIV, Boomtown, 23 July
Falty DL, Bruksellive, 27 July
Dan Lacksman, Brussels Summer Festival, 12 August
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Pukkelpop, 15 August
Mount Kimbie, Pukkelpop, 16 August
Haim, Pukkelpop, 17 August
The XX, Pukkelpop, 17 August
Tikiman, Feeërieën, 30 August