Agnes Klos takes a trip to French-speaking Belgium's biggest festival
‘Doureuuuh!’. The echoing roar of the crowd pierced the air like a powerful thunderstorm. The sheer sound of ‘Doureuuuh!’ planted excitement in every festival-goer, who marched like a well-trained troop in perfect unison, hoping to experience something new, something different. There was only one destination for all of us: ‘Doureuuuh!’
Wanna have a belly full of Belgium's world-famous beer, and experience unadulterated musical bliss, with music for 16 out of 24 hours each day? Beating all previous records, the 29th edition of Dour Festival once again served as an international summer retreat for music lovers and was officially declared a tremendous success. Over the course of five days, an overwhelming 242,000 music lovers visited the festival, Saturday being the busiest day of them all as the main stage welcomed for the first time the world’s most controversial South African rap-rave group, Die Antwoord.
Known as a more alternative festival that programmes techno, house, dubstep, reggae, metal and other less mainstream genres, Dour is the biggest annual music event in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Since its creation by Carlo Di Antonio in 1989, the festival has grown from hosting only five bands in its first year to this year’s truly staggering line-up of over 250 groups and artists, of whom 55 were Belgian.
The formula to become one of the most important events in Europe is simple: a unique and eclectic line-up, filled with impressive headliners and - more importantly - a lot of exciting young musical discoveries. One could discover various kinds of music at Dour, but not many that would be heard on your average Belgian radio station, spread over seven podiums for a very rich and diverse program representing a plethora of unique local and international talents.
The Last Arena is the open-air main stage of the festival and a sanctuary for lovers of live bands, whether it was Beyonce's little sis Solange, huge hip hop-artists like Nas or De La Soul, futuristic drum & bass heroes Noisia, the rock guitars of Two Door Cinema Club or electronic machines like Metronomy, Justice or Vitalic ODC. Dour has it all!
Redbull Elektropedia Balzaal, truly a worthy second stage, was the only stage that played stomping beats non-stop from 3pm till 3.30am (without breaks in-between like all the other stages). With drum & bass and techno taking turns on every other day, Elektropedia quickly became a paradise for all clubbers. Bewildered by the stage, a magnificent sonic cathedral, and by the visual designs of 15 VJs, electronic music lovers were taken away by a storm of heavy basslines, showcased by the finest drum & bass DJs on the scene: Annix, Goldie, Chase & Status, Teddy Killerz, Friction and many more. But techno on the Redbull stage caused just as much carnage, with the likes of Amelie Lens, Charlotte de Witte, Nina Kraviz, Blawan, Apollonia, Solomun, Tale of Us, Adam Beyer who whipped the crowd into an uncontrollable frenzy.
In the daytime, La Caverne was a haven for rock and metal lovers but as soon as it got dark outside, it would change into an electronic beat-pulsating paradise with the likes of world-famous Dubfire taking over the decks, Overmono and Wilkinson both giving a brilliant live spectacle, and an epic DJ set from Pendulum and Dax J.
For those with a musical palate that could be only satisfied by funkier, more soulful flavours, La Petite Maison Dans was the place. On the first night The Black Madonna kept the crowd raving till 4am in the morning. Trentemøller included a good combination of older tracks alongside the obvious crowd-pleasers, and an epic set came from Acid Arab, who dropped banging tunes on the emotionally energised crowd, their live performance causing an ocean of arms to shoot in the air.
However, the most truly hypnotising performance came from Meute, a marching band of 11 people, who play and arrange techno and house anthems like no one else! When those first beats hit the speaker, the cheering exploded across the entire tent and when Meute were finished, festival-goers all around were left with goosebumps.
Are you a hip-hop fan? Then Jupiler Boombox would be your energetic epicenter during the day for sure! Located conveniently opposite from the main stage, this stage hosted some of the best artists in the industry, taking turns behind the mic. The Underachievers, French Montana and Lefto are just a few names worth mentioning. Urban sounds dominated this stage but as the hour got later each night, you could count on some futuristic sounds and dub beats that changed the area into a raving dancehall. Sunday's ending sets had a bit more of a house-y note, with Mickey from Atmosphere Records closing the stage.
It would be remiss not to mention Le Labo, which became a mecca for wandering souls that reached the furthest edge of the festival, filled with randomness and experimental music. And if you got tired of all the banging sounds, you could always seek oasis in Dub Corner, located a bit further away in the shops area. This stage, as the name suggests, offered a more tranquil place to unwind under the shade of the cosy tent, with the heart-warming sounds of reggae, dub, rap and roots.
Dour Festival remains the biggest and most important musical event in southern Belgium, with widespread recognition and esteem. It took a couple of hours to get out of the chaotic car parking on Monday when festival arrived to an end, but Dour made an effort to operate in as ecologically responsible a way as possible, provided different camping options and great food stands, and paid lots of attention to the overall festival experience, which could fairly be described as ‘mind-boggling’.
Words and pictures: Agnes Klos
Tags: Dour, Trentemoller, The Black Madonna, Die Antwoord, Charlotte De Witte, Dubfire, Acid Arabic, Nina Kraviz, Solomun, Tale Of Us, Adam Beyer, Goldie, Chase & Status, Two Door Cinema Club, Nas, Solange, De La Soul, Annix, Noisia, Apollonia, Metronomy, Justice, Vitalic, Meute