Rave Rebels: taking the warehouse spirit to unseen levels

Pictures by Peter Decuypere & Simon Leloup


On Saturday April 11, Rave Rebels takes over Palais 12 in Brussels for its highly anticipated second edition. Whoever likes their techno loud and their dancefloor massive is at the right place here. More than 10K people will witness the sounds of Boris Brejcha, Sven Väth, Tale Of Us, Mathew Jonson, Reinier Zonneveld and many more to a production that will blow away even the most seasoned ravers. We sat down with the two driving forces behind the operation, Jens Grieten and Olivier ‘Nick’ Ramoudt.

How did you feel after the success of the first edition?

Ramoudt: “Do you know that glorious feeling on a Sunday after a fantastic night out? I was feeling that afterglow for over two weeks. In many ways, the event felt like it lasted forever, but then again, it was over in a flash. I came home at 5 PM the next evening, and I saw a couple of videos in my feed; that's when it finally dawned upon me. "We did it, time to organise the next one".

At which point in your lives did you realise you wanted to organise raves like this?

Grieten: "A rave is a place where all the misfits in society come together and celebrate the present. When I first started going out, I realised that maybe I wasn't the only weird one. All these eccentric people shared love for each other, and that powerful feeling is something that has always stuck with me".

Ramoudt: “There is one moment where it all started for me. It was the summer of 1993 in Knokke, of all places. If you wanted to know about the good parties in those days, you had to read about it in Out Soon magazine, or you had to go to the right record shops to take flyers. This rave was happening in an old commercial lot outside town. It was the day after King Baudouin had died, so it was a national day of mourning, which implied that no loud noises were allowed on the streets. And so, they closed all the windows on that rave. Two thousand ravers drenched in sweat; people were dancing in their underwear, having the time of their lives. On that very moment, I realised that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life".

You should always judge events from the perspective of the dancefloor, not from a screen. - Olivier Ramoudt

Fast forward to the present day. Where did you get the inspiration for an event like Rave Rebels?

Grieten: “We just wanted to do things that simply aren’t possible in regular clubs”.

Ramoudt: “Most of our inspiration comes from partying ourselves. We are two guys that started in the business as ravers, so we always have the experience of the visitor in mind. Too many events are organised by people on a laptop that never experienced a proper rave. You should always judge events from the perspective of the dancefloor, not from a screen”. 

Is it not hard to maintain the old rave spirit when you're working in a massive and well-organised event hall like Palais 12?

Grieten: “All the amenities you have in a venue like this are there to better the customer experience. We host raves, but without all the stuff that would normally irritate you”.

Ramoudt: “I may have just told you a story about the good old days, but we look back those old warehouse raves with a little bit too much nostalgia. There’s nothing nice about having to wait 30 minutes to go to the bathroom because there are only two toilets or getting a lukewarm drink because they only have one refrigerator. All those rave stories from back in the day sound incredible (and they were), but people tend to forget the downsides. When you’re young, you don’t think about the safety risks, like the fact that there are only two doors that lead to an exit. If something were to happen during peak time, the results would be catastrophic. We should be happy that the whole event scene has taken steps forward”.

If we can give people that same what-did-I-just-witness feeling, then we have accomplished our mission. - Jens Grieten

Grieten: "It's a good thing that we're professionalising the organisation, as long as you continue the value of that collective experience of togetherness. If we can give people that same what-did-I-just-witness feeling, then we have accomplished our mission”.

Ramoudt: “Rave used to be a forbidden culture. Throwing parties at abandoned spaces is still as illegal as it was 25 years ago. The only difference is that you can’t operate in secrecy anymore. The authorities already know about your rave from the moment you put it online. Additionally, society’s tolerance for it has disappeared. It used to be like: “some kids are making noise on that old industrial site, weird, but whatever”. Now, people call the police as soon as they suspect something might be happening later. I’m not sure you could do underground raves like in those days, even if you wanted to”.

After I Love Techno’s downfall, the time for mega indoor events seemed to have gone forever. However, with multiple Rave Rebels in the same year, it looks like you’re proving the sceptics wrong.

Ramoudt: “We hope you’re right. Before the first edition, we had no idea if enough people would be interested in such a large scale event. It’s always easy to talk about that in hindsight, but there was, in fact, a market gap. In The Netherlands, there are multiple sold-out Awakenings and Timewarp events a year. The same goes for Kappa Futur Festival in Italy, or the evolved version of I Love Techno in France. We didn’t have this in Belgium anymore, even though our country was a pioneer in the field. Maybe we have just stumbled upon an idea people were waiting for to come back”.

How could you possibly make every Rave Rebels edition bigger and more impressive than the previous one?

Grieten: “It’s not only about improving; it's also about doing things differently every time. The range of possibilities is as big as your imagination (and budget) allows you to be. It's just a lot of fun to design a whole new concept every time. Connecting the creative part with the practical side is where we thrive. We may push our whole crew to their absolute limits, but we would never reach these results if we didn’t. A 5-ton-heavy cube that moves above the audience? Looks fantastic, but that requires a lot of planning and work. For example, we had to ship in parts from countries as far as China and Finland. Seeing these ideas from the drawing board come to fruition is one of the best feelings in the world. The next one is going to be even more intense”.

Any advice for the ravers who will come on April 11?

Grieten: “Please think twice about coming down if you’re faint-hearted (laughs)”.