A deeper look inside Liège’s Supervue Festival

Pictures by Denis Ledent & Emilie Cronet

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Summer is well under way, and we all know what that means from a music perspective. Nothing wrong with major festivals and their obese lineups that seem to grow more impressive every season; but a wave of new, alternative festivals is shaping up nicely on the sidelines, each creating their own niche market of artists, values and fans. For its third edition on Saturday, July 28, Supervue Festival is more ambitious than ever; stepping up its production game and booking an impressive list of artists from all corners of the alternative electronic music spectrum. Rather than letting the Liège-based festival present their standard promo lines, we dug a little deeper, trying to uncover the challenges and the strategies for a small independent festival in a hypercompetitive market of major multi-day music events. Without giving away too much, we are impressed – and we believe you should give this one a try. But don’t take our word for us, take that of the people behind it…

What did you learn from the first two editions of Supervue festival?

"Munix (Supervue artist booker): It has been a continuous learning process, most of the team was new to festival organisation when we started the project. Previously, we had all worked on small events, but developing a project like Supervue has exposed us to a wider range of responsibilities and realities we have to deal with. I think the first edition made us realize the project was worth expanding. The second one, where we doubled everything (number of days and the amount of artists on stage) taught us to organize our logistics more efficiently. During the whole process, we have also learned how to present our vision more coherently, both musically and aesthetically."

Your lineup reflects a deeper interest in the subcultures of electronic music that bring worldly flavours to the table. Do you feel like many of the names on your bill get enough attention from Belgian promotors?

"Many of the artists on our lineup are classified under the 'world music' category, in a classical sense of the term. Although a lot of artists on the festival, like Clara la San or Manish Pingle, are overlooked by a lot of promoters in Belgium, I don't think the issue comes from the music itself, but from the inability of certain promoters to envision something bigger than just the representation of a musical genre. One of the main ideas of Supervue is to go against such conceptions of musical style: we want to offer something new, we want to book artists who add something to the table with their innovative approach. For us, it is not about being a proper electronic festival, or a world music festival, but about trying to represent our influences with a coherent vision. Sounds and beats from Latin America or Africa are influencing pop and electronic music more and more, while many hip hop artists make emotional music with melodies coming from totally different genres. The frontiers between styles are getting very blurry; but we think that’s only for the better."

Do you believe there is a potential for this kinds of alternative electronic music to reach a larger audience?

"We definitely think they deserve more attention and there is no reason they shouldn’t get it. I don't think they are aiming at the mainstream market, per se, but they all deserve to live off their art, they are adding more substance to the music market in general. The artists booked at Supervue do not approach music with the idea of a strict recipe they have to stick to, instead, they represent a different way to envision music without categorization. This division is obsolete for us and it is becoming increasingly clear that many new influential acts all develop something that reaches far beyond this."

Is there a scene in Liège that’s open for alternative music? If so, who are these people?

"In essence, Liège and its people are open for alternative music: it’s a small post-industrial city with great artistic interest, many people from very different backgrounds, which all results in a specific atmosphere that’s hard to find elsewhere. The vibe here is raw and honest, there is as much beauty and happiness as there is poverty and darkness. People in Liège struggle, but they are party animals. The city is not mainstream at its core. It’s not about about a scene, which is actually lacking these past years because the city doesn't invest enough in new cultural initiatives; but there is a strong potential that’s worth being acted upon."

The aptly-named ‘Supervue’ takes place at Terril Piron, an old mining hill with splendid views across the area. Is the location one of the things you try to make yourself stand out? Which other features of the festival are things we should pay attention to?

"The view probably is the most important element of the festival. We are so used to festivals where you only walk across some flat fields; and the Terril changes everything, from the disposition of the stages and installations, to the way people interact with the environment. It also exposes Liège like no other place, the mix of nature and industrial landscape really tells a story and is probably the most explicit representation of the city's unique atmosphere. The fact that the festival, being completely independent, isn't flooded with banners of sponsors is also something we pay attention to. We keep enough of the surrounding nature intact and everyone who visits can feel that."

What promotional action do you undertake to draw attention to Supervue in a country that’s flooded with big festivals?

"We try to approach it differently; we are not trying to make a name for ourselves by investing into the most popular names, but by providing an experience you can't get at other festivals. Alternative collectives from around Belgium, like He4rtbroken, Slagwerk, Gay Haze or Lait de Coco will all be playing at this year's edition and we’ve also invited several visual artists to create installations. It’s important that the people who are innovating this country are represented. We are a small country with a great amount of artists that don't get the exposure they deserve. We can take advantage from the fact that you can cross the whole country in three hours. If we enhance a collective vision with independent values, we can create something more relevant and interesting than what most people are used to. Our aim is not to become the biggest festival in the country, but one of the most unique. The lineup is important of course, but this is not the essence of our promotion, the atmosphere and the vision are."

Which are the artists on the lineup with the most interesting story? Feel free to explain.

"Jam City is probably one of the most interesting acts in the electronic scene from these past ten years. He has been able to develop a very personal sound while creating something different every single release. From the dystopian club sounds of his ‘Classical Curves’ album, to using his voice and guitar on ‘Dream a Garden’, which sounds like a quest for hedonism in industrial landscapes, he is now producing for pop and R&B acts like David Byrne and Kelela. No one is able to create such a coherent atmosphere through a DJ set combining so many different genres. Gabber Eleganza and DJ Lycox are representatives of two of the most exciting and energetic developing club music scenes in the world. Clara la San is one of the most promising voices of the new R&B scene. The performances of Les Filles de Illighadad, Manish Pingle and Organ Tapes should be a poetic and hypnotic experience; each of them has a very personal aesthetic approach to music. Oriental and African influences are often infused to create something much more special than what a mainstream audience is used to, but that is what Supervue is about! Beton plays Teddy Riley, a collective of Belgian musicians playing Teddy Riley's music on midi instruments, should also be something very special."

Supervue Festival takes place at Terril Piron in Liège on Saturday, July 28. More information and tickets available on its website or on Facebook.