Nuits Sonores is not a techno festival

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Who said the festival season was over? The fourth edition of the alternative music event will take place this weekend at Bozar, C12 and La Vallée.

Back in 2017, the well-known Lyon-based festival Nuits Sonores held its first excursion to Brussels. Even if the line-up was ram-packed with huge names, Palais 10 remained well under capacity. However, four years later, Nuits Sonores is a very different festival. It's now a joint effort between Arty-Farty, the organisation behind the French event, its Belgian counterpart, and the art institution Bozar, represented by Dorian Meeus (also known for Under My Garage and Les Garages Numeriques) and Roel Vanhoeck, respectively. We had a quick chat with the duo ahead of the good times.

“We're very close with Bozar”, says Meeus. “They gave me an office in their building so we can brainstorm the production of the festival the whole year long. It allows us to give a coherent narrative in the long term. It's a very different situation than when Nuits Sonores came into town for the very first edition, which was a bit brutal. Today, Nuits Sonores is a three-headed beast.”

This fourth edition of Nuits Sonores Brussels must not have been easy to set up. How did the preparations go?

Meeus: “We started to work on it the day after the 2019 edition, which was a big success. It was the first time everything went so well. We thought, "now we're here for the long term.” But then 2020 happened. At first, we really thought we could still do something. We made five or six versions of the festival. Eventually, we had to postpone, of course.”

We love this mix between music and conferences and between club music and alternative concerts.

So this 2021 edition is basically the 2020 edition?

Meeus: “More or less, but we had to make sure this time, we were actually going to do it. We reduced the total length to five days, and most of the activities will take place at Bozar with a seated audience. That's the main reason why we have a line-up that’s more post-modern or neo-classical than dancefloor-oriented. You can head over to C12 for the whole nightlife part of the festival.”

That’s interesting because the last edition’s line-up was very techno-driven. This year’s bill reminds us of the discontinued Bozar Electronic Arts Festival.

Vanhoeck: “That’s not on purpose! That’s because we had to focus on the quieter side of the line-up, given the COVID-circumstances.”

Meeus: “Daniel Avery was supposed to be playing last year, but we only announced him recently. On the other hand, Helena Hauff had to cancel. Originally we were planning to do a big rave party at Gare du Nord. Maybe that will be something for next year!”

So for those who are still confused, what can we expect at Nuits Sonores?

Vanhoeck: “When we first spoke with the French promoters, they really wanted us to know that “Nuits Sonores is not a techno festival!” But we didn’t mind. We love this mix between music and conferences and between club music and alternative concerts. Electronic music is so much more than techno, and we have the ambition to shine a light on all its sides, whether it be jazz, global sounds, contemporary, house or techno. That's part of our DNA.”