More than Tomorrowland Belgium: Festivalitis
So after your holiday you get home, people ask “what have you been up to?”. “I’ve been to Belgium and went to a festival” you reply. They’ll almost all presume you’ve been to Tomorrowland Belgium. Ok, if you’re Dutch, German or French the above isn’t for you but all you other guys will probably know what I mean.
Well to be honest Tomorrowland Belgium simply is just an amazing festival. It is however only one of many great festivals in Belgium. Last time I counted numbering over 20 major ones (meaning 50.000+ visitors). And uncountable smaller ones.
Because there are so many every summer, we (or more accurately some clever marketing guys) started using the word “festivalitis”, best described as festival fever.
A Belgian view on festivalitis
We have been visiting Belgian festivals for over 15 years. We’ve seen them grow and perish, split and come back together. For example we visited the first 8 editions of Tomorrowland and worked at the last 4. We’ve visited more than 10 different (major) festivals. In this post we want to tell you a little something about some of them and try to convince you to visit one. The below chart gives an overview on pricing, duration, visitors and stages.
Genre: EDM – House / Techno
This one always seems to be standing above the rest. We’ve literally seen it grow to what it has become today: a worldwide loved event, attracting visitors from over 75 countries. Tomorrowland Belgium is just something different. What sets the festival aside from the others is the level of artwork found all over the property. Being held at “De Schorre”, a recreational area that already has a mystic feeling around it, the addition of the artwork simply makes it magical. All effort goes into making the experience unique in every way. From the leather bracelets containing the festival’s own currency named “pearls” to the artists performing on every of the 17 stages. This unique feeling is intensified by the sense of harmony that’s constantly created with uniting slogans like “People of Tomorrow” and people of all countries being asked to wave their flags at the DJ’s.
Check out this great all-inclusive report on Tomorrowland by Jacob and Emily Cass of Just Globetrotting.
TIP: Arriving at Tomorrowland for the first time can be quite overwhelming. Take a couple of hours to go check out the stages as if it were a city trip. When you’ve seen everything just go where the music brings you and don’t worry about artist names too much. On sunday make sure you’re at the Main stage by 22.30, the closing show will give you goosebumps, we promise.
Genre: Popular Alternative
Before Tomorrowland Rock Werchter was the biggest festival in Belgium. Last edition (2017) attracted more than 350.000 visitors all adding to the festivalitis. All these people come to a festival hosting only 3 stages and that can only mean 1 thing: The biggest names play here. Headliners of recent editions were Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, The Offspring, Florence+The Machine but also Paul Kalkbrenner, the Chemical Brothers and The Chainsmokers. If one can say 1 thing about Rock Werchter it’s that it really is a festival for music lovers. Most visitors come and watch their favorite groups rather than just coming to a festival. furthermore they won the “Best Major festival” award on the European Festival Awards in 2017.
TIP: Come to the festival by public transport and come early. There were some organizational problems last edition like paid parkings being full and long waiting lines at the entrance. The organization promised to solve this by next year.
Genre: Pop – House / Techno – Rock – Hip Hop
Pukkelpop is Belgium’s 3rd largest festival, with more than 243.000 visitors. Although attracting a very young crowd (seeing drunk 16 year olds is no exception here), we think it’s probably the most cosy and diversified. Next to those drunk 16 year old’s it’s no exception to see partying drunk 50 year olds. (Hey this is Belgium what can I say, we like to drink). On the 10 stages the world’s biggest artists perform. Headliners from recent years are Rihanna, Linkin Park, Eminem, The Prodigy but also Techno and drum and bass legends like Nina Kraviz or Netsky. All in all it’s a festival where anything goes and the main reason to be there is to have a hell of a party and a lot of fun.
TIP: There are 2 main campings. The younger, wilder crowd stays at “Camping Chill” right across the festival. If you want a calmer place to stay, better choose “Camping Relax”. There’s also premium packages providing tents or huts. Bonus: Every year there’s a hidden stage. Try to find it!
Genre: Techno / House – Drum & Bass
Hosting artists from the electro scene, Dour Festival is held in a unique setting, next to abandoned mining terrils. The growing pains of the first editions (long waiting lines, bad sanitary, drugs) are all resolved and right now it’s one of Belgiums finest festivals to visit. Traditionally the festival is opened by a pre-party on Wednesday and followed by big performances on Thursday – Sunday. Featured artists from recent editions are Chase and Status, Adam Beyer, Nina Kraviz but also Sigur Rós, Snoop Dog and Lauren Hill.
TIP: Go early. The camping fills up really fast and is located in the length away from the festival grounds. If you’re late, it’s a long way to the entrance. Also stay after the last artist performed. If you’re lucky, people will start hitting trash bins, creating a self-made party.
Graspop Metal Meeting (GMM)
Genre: Metal / Rock
So, you’re a metalhead? Graspop Metal Meeting will cater your every Metal-need. And the needs of 135.000 other Metal fans. The festival is opened on “Belgian Thursday” and from Friday to Sunday the biggest names in the Metal scene are hosted on the 5 stages. Headliners from recent years are Rammstein, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Slipknot.
TIP: The main stage actually consists of two stages. Build-up and sound check times between bands are kept to a minimum and people don’t have to move to check out the next act..
Niche and city festivals
Next to those giants of festivals there are tons of “smaller” ones worth mentioning. Note these small ones still attract tens of thousands of visitors. Raggae Geel and Antillaanse Feesten both serve carribean music vibes like Raggae, Raggaeton, Merenge, Salsa, Timba, Zouk and many more. Lokerse Feesten is a very diverse 10 day festival bringing a different theme each day. With headliners like Martin Solveig, Pennywise, Lil’ Wayne, Craig David and Jamie Lidell, every year they attract some of the hottest artists. Gentse Feesten is a very big, 10 days long and free city festival. Every year they attract more than a million visitors. Shows vary from street performances to cabaret and local artists. During these 10 days the city is really crowded as on literally every corner there’s something to watch, eat or drink.
Next time you’re in Belgium, check out the calendar. Chances are there’s a very fine festival where no doubt you’ll have the time of your life!
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