2017: The year Belgian festivals went international


Nowadays, any electronic music fan has been to - or has at least thought very seriously about - taking a trip to Croatia, Mexico or Brazil for a music festival with a top notch lineup. The days when festivals like Sziget or Glastonbury were the only foreign festivals that could draw international crowds are over. The ‘more-is-better approach’ is slowly making room for dozens of smaller festivals that prioritize a handpicked niche artist program and a sublime location. Fans of more refined electronic music that want to combine a festival visit with a week’s vacation have been tempted more and more to go to one of the many British owned festivals in Croatia (which has seen a surge in these events in particular).

Lately, this trend has made impressions on Belgian promoters as well. It’s not only Tomorrowland doing events in faraway places anymore. ‘Journey of Sound’, ‘Labyrinth Open’, ‘Waking Life’ and ‘WECANDANCE x Habitas’ all host(ed) their first foreign adventure this year. This seems like a topic that needs a little more investigation, so we asked the same questions to these four promoters. Where, what and why? You’ll find out here.

WECANDANCE X Habitas: Mexico, January 13 - 15

The popular fashion-, food- and art-conscious electronic music festival that graces Zeebrugge’s beach every August has now started an adventure in Mexico together with Habitas, a community that focuses on connecting creative people in a story where sound, talks, wellbeing and excursions form the chapters. Now that Eduardo Castillo, founder of Habitas, has installed a permanent base at the beach in Tulum, the two have put in the work to offer an all-round experience for the festival goers during one weekend in January. “Tulum has become a very popular destination for many music enthusiasts”, says Julie Vermeire from WECANDANCE. “Names playing at The BPM Festival in January enjoy Tulum’s nature during a holiday, but surrounding hotels and villas started to invite them to play at private after parties. That made Tulum a mythical place for small communities that also attracts a couple of Burners (Burning Man visitors, red.) that are musically in-sync, in an environment where everything is possible."

So how did this first edition go? “Great! But it was different than most festivals. In order to join, you have to become a member of the Habitas community – so the capacity is limited. Membership applications are reviewed in order to create a group of like-minded people with the same values, with a great experience as a result. It is thanks to Eduardo Castillo, founder of Habitas with whom we have a good relationship, that we have taken our first step in international waters for WECANDANCE”.


Journey Of Sound: Hungary, July 2 - 9

Although this is technically not really a traditional festival in the strict sense, it’s nevertheless a massive international operation with hundreds of Belgians that revolves around an electronic music experience. For those who are unfamiliar: “We organize a yearly road trip to Balaton Sound Festival in Hungary, with 700 Belgians and with multiple parties and activities on the way”, explains Thomas Lambrechts. “The journey starts in Brussels, takes us through stops in Germany and Budapest, before landing on our Belgian campsite at Lake Balaton, where we have our own stage with a lot of Belgian artists performing”.

Unlike other festivals, Journey Of Sound works with ambassadors, who push people within their network to participate in this road trip slash festival. “With around 10.000 visitors from Belgium every year for Balaton Sound Festival, this has definitely proven to be feasible”, adds Lambrechts.

When asked what has been the craziest experience over the years so far, Lambrechts recalls a young couple in love that wanted to get married. “This news came up on one of the last days of the festival. So in a record time we organized a full wedding ceremony with dinner and a party for 500 people on the campsite. Creating things like this is why we started in the first place”.


Labyrinth Open: Croatia, July 8 - 11

Since Labyrinth Club moved from Antwerp to Hasselt last year, they have been on a roll. With a weekly top shelf international house or techno lineup, a stellar cast of residents and an enthusiastic and loyal audience, things are looking stupendous. So the crew decided to expand its borders once again - only this time, to Croatia.

“We want to create a hotspot for early summer hangouts. #LABO17 will offer a mix of classic summer activities and the best of what house and techno has to offer”, explains Sam Deliaert, marketing manager at Labyrinth. “Not only will we have interesting DJ’s and live acts performing, we have also invited influential scene people and brands to come and give interactive lectures and workshops during a one-day music conference. This ought to be a nice change of pace during all the partying! All this will take place on a beautiful and full-functional campsite in Omis with direct access to a white sandy beach. The venue is extremely convenient to reach with the vibrant city Split right next door”.

Deliaert continues: “we have always planned to expand our activities with a festival like this, but we had to wait until we found the perfect location. Croatia is a country that welcomes initiatives like this. Its economy is booming and its tourism industry is flourishing. We are thankful that we got the chance to organize a festival here – and we will work in close collaboration with the local community – hopefully attracting more music enthusiasts to Croatia (and Labyrinth Open in particular)."


Waking Life: Portugal, August 17 - 20

A couple of weeks ago, the promoters behind Roots of Minimal, Hertz and Moodfamily revealed their new project: Waking Life. A festival that will take place in Portugal, focussing on the fine side of electronic music. But if you expected a ‘foreign version’ of their Belgian events you might need to think again. “It will be a completely new project, unlike anything we have done so far”, explains Jens Van Ruyskensvelde. “Portugal is an excellent location where we can fully practise our vision: enough space, an anything goes attitude, a warm climate, etc. We could never do that in Belgium”. And even though they aim high, capacity remains relatively low. This was a conscious decision to ensure a good vibe amongst the festival goers. Van Ruyskensvelde adds: “The maximum capacity is 2500 – 500 of which we aim to receive from Belgium”.