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Festival fun! Your guide to Belgium’s top music events this summer

Couleur Café festival Brussels
14:37 14/06/2024

The outdoor music scene has kicked off in Belgium and rolls on all summer with every musical style catered to, from rock and electro, to folk, jazz and classical. If some of the country’s massive festivals, such as Tomorrowland, are sold out, you can still snag tickets to most of these events.

The Festivals of Wallonia are a summer-long celebration of classical musicwith concerts often fused with world, jazz and electronic sounds. A total of seven festivals adopt a nature theme with many concerts staged at more than one festival, including the family spectacle Les Aventures d'Octave et Mélo: le long de la rivière (ages four and up) and Faurés RequiemUntil 23 October, multiple locations

Duo_Huang

Summer classical music stalwart Midis-Minimes returns for its weekly serving of short lunchtime concerts at affordable prices (€6). Among the offerings this year are violinists and sisters Sylvia and Stéphanie Huang (19.07, pictured), accordionist Anne Niepold and the Quator Alfama (08.08), 18th century English music from Consort Songs (13.08) and the Etesiane Orchestra conducted by Gabriel Hollander, who close the festival. Until 31 August, Royal Conservatory and Notre-Dame des Victoires au Sablon, Brussels

 

This musical odyssey – spanning the 17th to 20th centuries and the heritage of the Mosane valley – boasts a picturesque backdrop with magical old stone churches, priories and fortresses serving as concert venues. For its 48th edition, the Festival de l’Été Mosan proposes an eclectic programme, from classical, early and chamber music to world sounds and jazz. This year, mezzo-sopranos Lucile Richardot (11.07) and Alban Carrère are accompanied by the Ensemble Contraste (11.08) , Bernard Fouccroule on Saint-Loup church’s new organ in Namur (27.07), cellists Ophélie Gaillard (04.08) and Marie Hallynck (30.08) and traditional Irish music in The High Road to Kilkenny (24.08), among others. 13 July to 31 August, locations along the Meuse valley (Wallonia)

If you are a fan of Couleur Café, then you’ll love Sfinks Mixed, which has the same laid-back hippie vibe with its colourful parades, world market and fun Kidz Village. The big difference? Sfinks is FREE. All four days of this diverse world music line-up from Afrobeat and Spanish folk to Cuban pop require no prior reservation. Headliners for 2024 include the long running reggae stars Black Uhuru. 25-28 July, Welvaartstraat 81, Boechout (Antwerp province)

Esperanzah-Les Patineurs-Credit ElineVyncke

Floreffe Abbey near Namur is once again hosting the world music extravaganza Esperanzah! A programme of activities plus a feast of specialist food outlets support the festival’s social and ethical mission. An exceptional line-up of musical artists this year include Xavier Rudd, Yame, Lucky Love and notably the veteran French rapper MC Solaar. The beautiful and historic abbey is a perfect venue for this relaxed and colourful event and the weekend festival promises to be another classic. 25-28 July, Floreffe Abbey, Rue du Séminaire 7, Floreffe (Namur)

Dinant

US saxophonist Chris Potter assumes the role of ‘godfather’ at this year’s Dinant Jazz Festival. He returns to the Mosane city after closing the festival in 2023 to play in a quartet with  Lionel Loueke, John Patitucci and Johnathan Blake, as well as joining fellow sax players Sophie Alour, Lionel Belmondo, Stéphane Mercier and Stefano Battista in a much anticipated sax summit. There’s also plenty of other musical gems lined up. As for the abbey brewery setting, what could be more perfect? 26-28 July, Abbaye de Leffe, Dinant (Namur province)

If you’re looking for an all-star line-up on a more human scale than the giant festivals, don’t miss Lokerse Feesten. Once the summer’s best-kept secret, it is now on any serious festival-goer’s list, with this year’s bill featuring a mix of classic rock and hip-hop acts, including De La Soul, The Pixies, The Damned, Jah Wobble,  Massive attack and an appearance by renowned Belgian Techno band Front 242. A solidly urban festival, it takes place in the heart of Lokeren, near Ghent. 2-11 August, Grote Kaai, Lokeren (East Flanders)

Dranouter

Do you like folk and acoustic music? If so Festival Dranouter will be right up your street with an array of musicians from many nations. This year has a real Nordic focus with artists this year comprising Fränder, Gangar, Suistamon Sähkö as well as internationally famous artists such as The Waterboys, Suzanne Vega, In addition, there are literally dozens of food options as well as three separate camping zones, all set in this quiet corner of Flanders, near the French border. 2-4 August, Dikkebusstraat 234, Dranouter (West Flanders)

Jose Nicolas Gouvy

Jazz and Blues musicians from around the world gather in rural Ferme Madelonne for the annual Gouvy Jazz & Blues Festival. Located near the Luxembourg border, the festival hosts Jazz on Saturday and Blues and Rock on Sunday. The line-up for the 44th edition includes Belgian jazz great Philip Catherine as well as Dawn Tyler Watson. The site offers free campsite and parking, and enticingly, local speciality beers and food. 2-4 August, Sterpigny 4, Gouvy (Luxembourg)

For its 18th edition, Classissimo once again affirms its mission to stage a varied musical programme. The festival offers a different theme for each of its seven evenings. They include Les Joyeuses Facéties de Tijl with the Ensemble Kheops, a classic and folk evening thanks to A Road to Belfast and a Balkan evening. 7-13 August, Rue de la Loi

Cocktails and Caribbean music both flow in abundance at Antilliaanse Feesten, a fun and upbeat festival featuring internationals bands with roots in Cuba, Chile, Curacao and other Caribbean locales. The festival has been ruling for over 40 years and continues to provide sunny Caribbean vibes, helped by authentic street food and cigars! 8-10 August, Hal 3, Hoogstraten (Antwerp)

Alcatraz (c)Claus Christa

Bang your head at Alcatraz, Kortrijk’s big metal bash; for over 15 years it’s been the festival that likes to look scary but which actually draws some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, all here to see death, glam, punk, thrash and avant-garde heavy metal bands. Big names this year are Europe, Saxon and the welcome return of Gene Simmons, formerly the flamboyant frontman of the much missed heavy rock stalwarts, Kiss. 9-11 August, Bad Godesberglaan 22, Kortrijk

Gaume

Gaume Jazz in Luxembourg province famously provides  a stage for artists’ performing new works and inspirations. This air of originality and openness to a variety of jazz styles extends to the 40th edition’s festival theme, Jazz for Peace. Listen to Yun Sah Nah, Rémy Labbé, Aleph Quintet, Martin Salemi Quintet, Johan Dupont, Tania Giannouli, Mathilde Renault and Antoine Dawans, Astoria and its Piazzolo revistations, and more. 9-11 August, Rue Camille Joset 1c, Rossignol, Tintigny (Luxembourg province)

Second in size only to Rock Werchter and the long sold-out Tomorrowland, Pukkelpop has a fine line-up of rock and pop bands, such as Charlotte De Witte, Stormzy, Fred Again, Sam Smith, Goldband, Offspring, Sugarbabes, Haunted Youth, but at the time of writing there are only day tickets for Sunday (headliners - Queens of the Stone Age) still available, so don’t hang around! 15-18 August, Kempische Steenweg Kiewit, Hasselt (Limburg)

The Namur festival Les Solidarities is once again based at a site out-of-town due to renovation work at the Citadel. The three day music festival celebrates its 10th anniversary with a multicultural line-up offering 42 artists, including La Valise, Colt, Fugu Mango and Mika. A village with around 40 stands by community volunteer groups inject a social vibe, and a wide array of food and drink options will keep festivalgoers fuelled. A parking space is earmarked at the nearby Namur Aerodrome and free shuttle buses will link it with the festival site as well as Namur train station. No camping facilities. 23-25 August, Site Ecolys, Temploux (Namur)

Maanrock

Hats off to Mechelen for maintaining Maanrock, Belgian’s largest free city-centre based music festival. Multiple stages host big and up-and-coming local bands including Bavr, Bizkit Park, De Ketnetband and Natalia. Also performing, will be the beloved Flemish singer and Günther Neefs, who is bringing his full live band for a show full of nostalgia and musical highlights. 22-25 August, across Mechelen

Curated by Fuse, the famous long-running Brussels nightclub, the XRDS Electronic Music Festival returns for two days with a huge lineup of 43 artists on three separate stages. Held in a unique urban environment underneath the Anderlecht viaduct, this year’s line-up will feature renowned artists such as Assailants, Clara D, Merve, Sara Dziri and Timmerman. It is all set to captivate the hearts of all techno and house music enthusiasts. Don’t miss after show parties at Fuse until 7.00 on both days. 17-18 August, Parc des Étangs, Vijverspark, Brussels

See The Bulletin's guide to arts, performance, literary and family festivals here.

Photos: (main image) ©Couleur Café; Rock Werchter ©Jokko; Klarafestival Walden BjornComhaire; Esperanzah Les Patineurs Credit Eline Vyncke; Gouvy ©Jose Nicolas; Alcatraz ©Claus Christa

Written by Sarah Crew, Lisa Bradshaw, Damien Maguire