On the May 9, the Belgian hip hop & beat scene will be celebrating the very last edition of Shuttle in Louvain. A conscious decision that was taken by the team. “Five years is a long time, and we’re happy with that. Last year we held our best editions ever, and we want to end it with a positive note,” says Brahim 'Grover' Tall. After a good era for hip hop music in Louvain, it hasn't been easy for new promotors to step up, due to it’s well-known lack of venues and student mentality. However, there’ll always be concepts like Shuttle, trying to add value to its city's nightlife. Time for a trip down memory lane with Brahim, the Shuttle Don Dada!
Tell us about the early days of Shuttle.
"When I came up with the name and concept, I had to put my plans on hold, as I didn’t find any support at that time. A little while later, when I started working for Rumba, they asked me if I could fill an empty slot in their schedule. I had been sitting on the Shuttle idea for a while and it felt like the right time - despite having only two weeks to set up the event. Almost nobody showed up. I really took my time for the second edition, added some great artwork by Frederic Vanvaerebergh, and the whole thing went more than well. We were finally off to a good start! Rumba was sold shortly after, so we weren’t sure what we were going to do next. The new owners promised they would collaborate further with us - and kept their word. Their support enabled us to have one of our best editions we had, which featured Iamnobodi. Shortly after, we had Hannah Faith over and topped off our second anniversary with Lefto. That was the first time we had Rumba really, really packed. You could see the direction we were heading into."
How did you cope with everything becoming bigger all of a sudden?
"You could see we were starting to form a collective then. Kenny (Mala Ngombe) and Samuel (De Slegte) started helping me at the door, setting everything up, breaking it down... You definitely can’t run a sold-out event alone, and I’m really thankful for people like them. During our third year, we booked Just Blaze, and asked a little more than the standard €5 entrance fee. Sadly, people aren’t willing to pay that in Louvain. It has never been about the money, but we wanted some margin to do something extra, instead of always having to play it safe. Nonetheless, after the edition with Just Blaze, we booked Gravez and Canblaster. At that point we really found our artistic direction, in which we were very comfortable."
How would you describe your vision for Shuttle?
"Aside from bringing underground artists to Louvain, the experience factor has always been important to me. I wanted people to come down and talk about more than just the music. I wanted them to be interested in our artwork, merchandise, set-up of the venue, … For that reason, we placed the DJ-booth in the middle and started making our own merch - for that extra touch. We designed and printed all the clothes ourselves. Kate Housh also joined our team as a stylist, and helped us make a crazy lookbook for Shuttle. In the end, it’s just an expression of our style: we try to give the crowd a new perspective, and eventually be a place where new ideas could grow. A lot of people liked that."
Was it hard to keep growing in Louvain?
"Louvain doesn’t have a lot of venues. Not for starters, nor for 'professional' promoters. Everyone on our team grew up in the city, and it has a special place in our hearts. But we’ve seen the city go from a nightlife capital, to whatever it became now. You can’t keep growing when there’s nothing, like, Silo - for example - anymore. Depot has a good vibe to it, but it just doesn't suit us. It’s not really the kind of place where people stay late. We’re in desperate need of a club adapted to nightlife. Something like Kompass in Ghent for instance. I don’t believe it’s going to happen, though, the mindset of the people and investors has to change. You can’t keep throwing a good party when you have to keep the entrance fee at only €5. People don’t realize the cost of giving a party... You pay €10 to go see a movie, so why not pay €10 and have a heck of a night?"
Did you reach your personal goals with Shuttle?
"Well... We’ve sold out Rumba on numerous occasions, and brought artists like Troyboi and Sinjin Hawke to Louvain, artists who normally would’ve never played here. I personally think that’s quite an accomplishment. We had ram packed editions with 900 people, and even more lining up around the corner. Dysfunkshunal decided to close our parties just because he likes our concept so much. Faisal also did a lot for us, I hope we can bring him over at our last edition. So, when you look back and ask me if we reached our goals: yes, goals reached (laughs)."
When the last person stumbles out of Shuttle on May 9, what’s next for the collective?
"Kenny is working on his own art, Kate is the main stylist for Coely, and the rest of the team is well on their to finding their paths way aswell. I really think it’s been a personal stepping stone for everyone. I’ll still remain active in nightlife (last month was the first edition of Grovestreet). I just don’t want to feel the pressure and expectations that Shuttle brought in the end anymore. Pushing underground stuff is where I want to go."
Join the Shuttle gang for its final launch on Wednesday, May 9, at Rumba in Louvain. RSVP here.
Keep an eye on Grover's next endeavours by following the man's Facebook page.
Next edition of Grovestreet will be on April 20, at POPCLUB in Louvain, featuring Soothsayer, Otis and Ate. RVSP here.