With Club Focus, we guide the spotlights on to some of the nation’s most interesting dancefloors. Whether they focus on house, techno, hip-hop or all of them – a good nightclub is rated not on genres, but on the quality of the clubbing experience it offers the regulars as well as the first timers. A meticulously placed soundsystem, a consistently strong programming and thoughtful interior design are just a few of the things that help to bring in crowds every weekend, building not only a dedicated clientele, but a solid reputation as well.
There are only a few nightclubs in Belgium that are true institutions. Places that have celebrated nightlife over the course of decades, without making compromises. For the second instalment of this Club Focus series we have visited one of these places: Café d’Anvers (or ‘CDA’ in the local lingo). The times when people would mistake this place for a bar because of its name are long gone. For over 27 years (!!!) this Antwerp club has been a steady option for night owls in search for a place where they can let loose, preferably with a top shelf DJ and sound system. The location is pretty unconventional too: a former church in the middle of Antwerp’s famed red light district (many people waiting in line can recall uncomfortable times queuing right in front of the neon windows). With its ups and downs, Café d’Anvers is nowhere near stopping and getting closer to its third decade in business.
“Obviously I was just a toddler when the club opened its doors” explains Britt Van Wouwe, manager at Café d’Anvers, alongside Tommy De Mulder and Rob Van Dijken. “But even before I worked here, I was a big fan of the laissez-faire attitude at this club”. This is definitely one of the reasons behind the uninterrupted success of the club – and that’s what she hopes to continue while she’s working here. “In the end, you are providing some much needed time off for people who spent their whole week working and come to let their hair down. So I’d say it's important to do everything within your power to make sure these people do actually have a good time and can enjoy themselves to the fullest”.
Competition can be fierce. With the recent arrival of stellar nightclubs like Ampere or Club Vaag, the city has a lot more options for the house and techno enthusiasts, but it also makes it harder to stand out. Van Wouwe: “That just proves our city has a vibrant and lively scene. Although it can be tough sometimes, I believe that in the end, working together is the most productive option for everybody”.
In order to stand out as a club from this calibre, you must have a sturdy battalion of reliable resident DJs. And that’s definitely the case at Café d’Anvers. “Smos has been here for 25 years already”, exclaims Van Wouwe enthusiastically. “He’s a true house legend. Whether he is playing a two hour set or an all-nighter, he will always get you dancing. But he’s not alone: Arno Stolz (our newest addition), Bollen & Fichtner (peak time tech house at its best), Flapjackers (top shelf jacking house), Michael Thoelen (the man to close down the house) and Nukov & Yelmet (without a doubt our two craziest DJs) are all part of the CDA family”.
Local visitors aside, Café d’Anvers has always appealed a lot to the international crowd that flocks into the city every week. Van Wouwe confirms: “As one of the oldest clubs in town we have always attracted foreign visitors too. There’s a nice blend of local patrons and tourists that visit Antwerp for the weekend”.
Many foreign heads will recognize this dance institution, mainly for their yearly presence at Tomorrowland where they host an impressive stage. That kind of activities outside the usual club circuit are important for the brand of a club. Just look at clubs like Tresor or Fabric, who have all built a global brand with their own releases and tours that reaches well beyond their own nightlife events. Is Café d’Anvers planning on venturing in other territories soon? “Well yes, we are working on the launch of our own record label, which makes sense since most of our residents are great producers and have experience with their own record labels” Van Wouwe replies. “But we’re still waiting for the right time”. And what about stage hosting elsewhere than Antwerp? “After Tomorrowland, we have a guest stage at Ostend Beach. Additionally, we’re joining Floorfiller on their Snowfiller ski tour this year for what should be an unforgettable party trip. And like last years in which we hosted nights in Barcelona (Razzmatazz), Lille (Magazine Club) and Geneva (Baby Goa), we’re planning another club tour”.
After being behind the wheel at a club like this for a couple of years, one could wonder what has been the personal highlight in a career like that so far. “Kölsch! It’s an unreal feeling when a man with a legendary status like that doesn’t want to stop playing after an eight hour set. He’s coming back this year”! And what else is on the wishlist? “We would like to get KiNK back, a personal favorite. Wouldn’t mind having Marcel Dettmann, Ben Klock or Rødhåd here either”!
So what’s in the pipeline for 2017? As interested as we are, we were on the lookout for scoops. As expected, the list of confirmed acts was already looking very saucy: Adam Beyer, Hito, Flashmob, Martin Buttrich, Gary Beck, Reboot, Mathias Kaden, Sam Paganini, Dominik Eulberg, Ninetoes, Reinier Zonneveld, Paco Osuna, Gaiser, Kölsch, Fabio Florido and many more. “See you at Café d’Anvers this year”? Says Van Wouve with a cheeky smile. Sounds like a great plan, if you ask us.