Ever thought of a trip to Belgium? Here you can find an eagle’s view of the Flemish music scene. There are a tonne of venues where you can spot the next dEUS or the heirs of Too Many DJ’s. So get bombarded, get inspired by new places to lurk, rare record shops to rummage in, gear up to dive into the Lowlands. A guaranteed Tin-Tin free zone.
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A good starting point would be Ghent; apart from being a – still quiet – tourist hangout, this easy-to-get around city is one of the places where music lovers go to check out ‘what’s cool’ in the national/international music scene. Many pubs turn into rock clubs at night: Kinky Star (Vlasmarkt) club, Café Video (Oude Beestenmarkt), Café Charlatan (Vlasmarkt), Trashic (Vlasmarkt), Roerkuip (Oude Beestenmarkt) are just a few hot spots where you can discover upcoming local bands and foreign artists on tour. Just to name a few Ghent based bands: Madensuyu, Drums Are For Parades, Kapitan Korsakov, Soulwax, Ping Pong Tactics, Falling Man, Absynthe Minded, Mong Dosus, Black Up, Manngold, Teddie Drum…
Next to these smaller clubs, Ghent also accommodates larger bands: Vooruit (and Café Vooruit) and De Handelsbeurs are two concert halls with an international repute and have always had a keen eye on the national and international pop-, rock and alternative scene. If you are more into world music, be sure to pay a visit to De Centrale, for their programming is very eclectic and worldly. For jazz- and avant-garde aficionado’s, Négocito (Brabantdam, in the midst of the red light district) is worth checking out; they also serve superb and cheap Latin American dishes. If you want to discover the upcoming Belgian jazz scene, this is absolutely the place you want to be; Monday nights can be very wild, when Italian-Ghent drummer Giovanni Barcella mounts the stage and starts sparring with great musicians like Jeroen Van Herzeele, Filip Wauters (cf. Back Back, Kamikaze), Mathias Van de Wiele (Moker), … Hot Club de Gand is another hang out for jazz-cats, and if you really would like to explore the Ghent scene, be sure to check out White Cat for their jams. If you are planning on going music shopping there is Music Mania, Vynilla, Dune, Vinyl Kitchen or Strictly Dance. For second hand records De Kaft is one of the most visited shops. Close to Ghent there remains a lot to be discovered: small clubs pop up (and sometimes disappear) and excel in persistent programming. Vox in Maldegem is a small venue, but has a big heart for all things nu-post-rock and post-folk. Or try De Walrus.
One of the cities that has been booming music wise, is Kortrijk. There has always been a buzzing and strong straightedge, hip hop, rock- and hardcore-scene, but since the lads of Goose, Steak Number Eight and Ozark Henry have been taking over the world, Kortrijk has been adding a lot of brilliance to its musical credibility. For good shows, be sure to check out De Kreun, the alt. rock- and pop haven that has been inviting exciting underground bands ever since they started programming, going from Alphabeat, The Melvins, The Residents to Deerhoof; the latter was asked to be the curator of the 2010-edition. Their annual festival Sonic City is one of the annual musical highlights. Apart from De Kreun Kortrijk is famous for The Pits , a dungeon-like venue where you can check out the local heroes and is a good hangout to discover the newest punk and hardcore bands.
A little away from Kortrijk, you will find the city of Diksmuide. Ever heard of 4AD? Not only a superb label, but also a music club. 4AD is a highly acclaimed after venue for – weekly – discoveries. A little out of your way, perhaps, but a very inspiring place. 4AD has joined its forces with De Kreun, Le Grand Mix (Tourcoing, the very North of France) and Les 4 Ecluses (Duinkerke, France, too). They go under the name 4x4music.eu and exchange bands. Membership cards cost ten euro and give the right to ticket discounts. And what to think of Brugge? Many tourists race through Brugge, but forget to check out the local music scene: Cactus Club – and the well-known Cactus festival – is definitely one of the country’s better music clubs.
dEUS? One of Belgians best known alt bands, with an international repute, come from Antwerp. Antwerp city has always been at the centre of musical innovation. Most people know dEUS, but there are more bands worth checking out: Zita Swoon, The Hickey Underworld, School is Cool, Blackie and the Oohoo’s, Mintzkov, Admiral Freebee, You Raskal You, Styrofoam, The Go Find, … Cartoons used to be a cool place to discover new bands, but since it has turned into a full time cinema, you need go to elsewhere to ease your musical urges: Petrol Club, for example. Ever heard of Trix? Probably not, but be sure to check it out on your quest for alternative pop and rock. Jazz-o-nauts need to drop in Busker, a club with a vibe similar to Hot Club de Gand.
Of course we cannot forget Limburg, home of many great underground bands and musicians. The province stands out by its love and passion for music: Pukkelpop Festival is the highlight of the year; it is the best alternative pop, rock dance festival around. Takes place the second week of August, this three-day musical splurge for app. 65000 visitors each day. You want Limburg bands? Evil Superstars, for example, is a band that you need to discover. Big in the nineties, especially thanks to Mauro (Pawlosvki), one of Belgium’s finest musicians. After quitting Evil Superstars, he started different projects, from Mitoosbishy Jackson, Othin Spake, Mauro and the Grooms, to Radical Slave (now). His fellow Superstar – crazy Tim Vanhamel – started Millionnaire, toured with Eagles of Death Metal and now shares his musical passion with Pascal Deweze (amongst others) in Broken Glass Heroes. There is so much to say about Limburg! Be sure to go to MOD (Muziekodroom) for great bands, Zaal België, … And just to name a few other bands worth a look: Vandal X, Mong Dosus (same drummer as Vandal X), The Galacticos, the Sore Losers, …
Skipping Brussels? Don’t do it! The Brussels music scene is a different story all together: there is a great musical buzz in Belgium’s capital, but it is very eclectic and multi-cultural. For alt rock and pop, there is one big musical temple: AB, Ancienne Belgique, a venue where young talent is teamed up with the big stars of today. If you can only enjoy music under the best circumstances, go there. If you want to check out new bands, go there. AB’s programming goes from Islandic undergound music to – erm – Ebgelbert Humperdinck and Grinderman, so to speak. If you would like to explore the Brussels scene more thoroughly: Les Ateliers Claus (programming eighties icons like Blur, and nu-music, from rock opera to chanson) is definitely a cool hangout, just like Récyclart or Magasin 4. Some pubs – The Walvis, Roskam, Le Coq, Archéduc, … – have bands too, but not on a regular basis. TBC…
Sven De Potter has been writing about music and the Belgian music scene for more than a decade. Music and writing has been his religion for ages. Plays music too, as a drummer, in two Ghent-based bands. Amongst his work you'll find interviews with many national and international pop and rock gods, articles on drum tuning, tips and tricks on how to set up your gear, etc.
Absynthe Minded Admiral Freebee Anton Coene Belgium Benelux Black Up Blackie and the Oohoo’s Brussels Café Charlatan (Vlasmarkt) Café Video (Oude Beestenmarkt) DJ Drums Are For Parades Falling Man Festival Filip Wauters (cf. Back Back Jeroen Van Herzeele Kamikaze) Kapitan Korsakov Kinky Star (Vlasmarkt)club Madensuyu Manngold Mathias Van de Wiele (Moker) Mintzkov Mong Dosus Ping Pong Tactics Roerkuip (Oude Beestenmarkt) School is Cool Soulwax Styrofoam Teddie Drum The Go Find The Hickey Underworld Trashic (Vlasmarkt) You Raskal You Zita Swoon