Listen! Festival 2019: bigger and bolder


Listen! Festival’s tagline (“Clubbing, expo, talks, workshops and concerts on various locations in Brussels”) uncovers the ever-expanding ambition of the 5-day festival that’s preparing its fourth edition. Between April 17 and 21, visitors will be able to indulge themselves in an incredibly wide array of different activities. There’s one common thread: the love for quality electronic music. So whether you’re eager to check out the opening concert at Flagey with Tony Allen and Jeff Mills live, the main event that spans 3 days at Horta Gallery with dozens of heavyweights or just curious for one of the many side events: Listen! has your back. We understand that such an over-the-top schedule may be a little overwhelming. So instead of explaining it ourselves, we let Nicolas Bucci, artistic director at Listen!, do the explaining. What? Where? When? And most importantly: what’s new? Everything you need to know is right here.

Listen! 2019: bigger and better than the last 3 editions? Seems like you will extend the daytime activities this year, right?

Yes, this time we’ll have a distinct centre for daytime activities at Les Halles St Géry in the heart of Brussels: the Listen! Sound District. Here, we will put everything together under one roof: an independent record label market, a synth and gear fair, feedback sessions, talks, workshops, a photo exhibition and live internet radio.

Live internet radio: who is hosting that?

Kiosk Radio, in collaboration with international counterparts like Red Light Radio, Le Mellotron, LYL and Dublab. Most invited DJ’s will be Belgian, so these sets will be broadcasted not just here, but across their networks too. It’s a simple way to showcase local talent.

Why did you pick Les Halles St Géry?

Because of many reasons. It’s an old market in Flemish Renaissance design, much bigger than you would expect from the outside. When we first checked it out, it made perfect sense for Listen!: it’s located in the middle of a tourist zone with dozens of bars which are not often frequented by locals, so it could function as a bridge between both audiences. The basement is perfect for hosting various workshops. We really wanted to create a physical meeting point during the festival, much like Cultuurhuis De Brakke Grond during Amsterdam Dance Event. Eventually, we hope to build up a whole creative district and cooperate with the surrounding nightlife venues.

What else is new this year?

We’ve added a whole extra day: 5 in total now. On Wednesday we’ll have the opening concert at the prestigious Flagey, Thursday we’ll see various record label showcases, while the main concert and club action will take place across Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Horta. From Friday to Sunday, we’ll also host a series of extra events in collaboration with other local curators…

Tell us more about those record label showcases on Thursday and the extra events…

Other than our main program at Horta, we wanted to showcase a broad selection of organizations that push a relevant sound, regardless of genre, type of crowd, etc. On Thursdaynight, 7 different events will take place in various locations in the city centre, all free of entry. Each night will be hosted by Belgian labels - such as We Play House, Kalahari Oyster Cult, Radio Martiko, Cosmic Pop, Vlek, etc. - who will invite their favourite international labels.

Concerning other extra events, on Friday the amazing STROOM record label will set up a night filled with ambient and cutting edge electronics at Les Brigittines, an old chapel that has recently been renovated. On Saturday Molenbeek’s VK Concerts will be the backdrop for a global sounds night with Rebel Up, while LaVallée will host an avant-garde electronic night curated by Le Bureau Electronique. Finally, on Sunday SPEK and Gay Haze will team up for another day to remember for to the LGBT crowd, from the afternoon till the early night.

That’s a long list of curators! Is that a strategy to involve communities of more niche scenes?

True. That’s a very conscious decision. We want to use the Listen! Festival platform to showcase local talents and support the Belgian music scene’s growth. This creates the most interesting results. Other than those already mentioned, we are working with artists, DJ’s and promoters like Crevette Records, Lefto, soFa, Vice City, Deep in House, Under My Garage and Basic Moves amongst others.

What are the biggest challenges as an event promoter of such a big event in the middle of the capital?

Our biggest challenge is the future of the festival. Other than Horta, there are not a lot of venues in the center that are able to host these kind of big events. That’s why we decided to let the festival grow horizontally instead of vertically. We prefer a wider diversity over a bigger capacity.

How is your relation with the city?

It’s incredibly positive. We received a lot of support from all the different institutions here – and with great results! Over 40% of our ticket sales are from Flanders, an incredibly high percentage for an event in Brussels. A lot of folks are finally realizing that a festival like this is excellent for breaking the boundaries between our communities.

Does Listen! showcase the strenght of the Brussels music scene at the moment?

We believe this city is such a fertile ground for music and opportunities that allow talent to blossom are popping up more frequently. But that said, we aim for more than Brussels. We try to shine a light on artists and DJ’s from anywhere in this country.