The 43rd summer of Lokerse Feesten

Pictures by Stiene Laureys & Robin Goossens (Kemizz)

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The Lokese Feesten is a true city festival. The first edition took place in the summer of 1975, at the time showcasing the talents of a certain Toots Thielemans. As local as it started out back then - it was organized by the local youth club - today, the festival has become a massive ten day throwdown drawing thousands of people from the whole of Belgium and beyond. Much like the neighbouring Gentse Feesten, Lokerse Feesten is a celebration collecting all the cultural activities in the city center - whether art, music, theatre and much more - for ten days and nights in a row.

No-one in their right mind would have thought, back in the seventies, that over the years the city of Lokeren would get summer visits from legends such as Snoop Dogg, Simple Minds, Suzanne Vega, The Cure, Madness, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Human League, The Prodigy, Bryan Ferry, The Sex Pistols, Sinéad O'Connor, Morrissey, Front 242, Neil Young or Pet Shop Boys - and the list goes on. Now at its 43rd edition, booker Peter Daeninck and his colleagues Lander Merckpoel and Bert Renier explain how Lokerse Feesten has grown to become what it is today.

Hi Peter. Could you tell us a little bit about the early days of Lokerse Feesten?

Peter: "When the Lokerse Feesten started in 1975, obviously it was a lot smaller back then, with only a couple of bands playing every day. But even then it already lasted for ten days. The focus in the early years lay mainly on Belgian bands and the occasional international roots/blues act. During the years the festival gradually and steadily evolved to its actual format. Today we welcome visitors from Holland, France, Germany and England, especially for our annual metal day, but also when we book bands like The Cure, Neil Young etc."

Being from Lokeren yourself, how did you roll into the team?

Peter: "I started visiting the festivaI from a very young age in the early-mid eighties. I even saw The Sound perform as an 11-year old, back in 1982. I was asked to book the bands from 1998, at the time together with my brother. I didn’t have any experience, just a great interest in music, concerts and festivals from a visitor’s perspective. Around 5 years ago we noticed we were reaching fewer young visitors than before so we decided to add an electronic music room as well as more young acts on the mainstage. With great success. That’s when Lander and Bert joined the festival as co-bookers for the Red Bull Elektropedia Room, however they were already working for the festival at that time."

Lander: "I was promoting some local parties, concerts and Lokerse Feesten afterparties back then. When the Lokerse Feesten asked me to join the Red Bull Elektropedia Room-project, I didn’t hesitate for a single second."

Bert: "Born and raised in the city centre, like Peter, I was a regular visitor of the Lokerse Feesten. It’s fantastic how every resident can list a handful of his favorite bands that he or she saw at the Lokerse Feesten. Later I worked behind the bar. But as a local DJ and party promoter, it was a dream come true when I was asked to help out with the Red Bull Elektropedia Room."

Many big names have performed at Lokerse Feesten. Sometimes it takes ages to book a band, e.g. Faithless last year. How did you finally manage to seal the deal?

Peter: "It usually depends on the band’s availability and our relationship with the booking agent - as well as finances, of course. We can offer these bands a complete production and a full night time slot, as well as many years of experience, resulting in a quite impressive reference list of acts which have played our festival."

Have you forged personal relationships or friendships with some of these big names?

Peter: "Our philosophy is to keep a reserved approach to artists, so they can concentrate on their show. Obviously there are a few bands and DJs which have played our festival numerous times and with whom we have developed a friendly relationship. Belgian band Arsenal and Brussels / Oostende singer Arno are good examples: they’e performed at Lokerse Feesten numerous times throughout the years, in various formats."

As mentioned before, Red Bull Elektropedia hosts its own room for eight of the ten nights. When did you personally first discover electronic music?

Peter: "I am a big fan of New Order, who were one of the first bands to merge dance and rock, so dance music was part of my musical interest since the mid-eighties. Air and Leftfield (who are both playing on August 12) were two of my favourite bands in the nineties."

Lander: "By the age of 11 or 12, I sneakily started listening to Teknoville and later Switch on Studio Brussel on Friday and Saturday nights, because I wanted to listen more to ‘real’ dance music instead of the pop charts. I soon bought my first dance album: Chemical Brothers' Surrender. I was also really interested in the flyers (Belmondo, Eskimo, 10 Days) my sister brought home with her after shopping in Ghent or Antwerp."

Bert: "Like so many people, I embraced dance music when I first heard Daft Punk’s ‘Homework’ and ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’ by The Prodigy. Later followed by ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ by Laurent Garnier. My interest grew even more when I discovered drum ’n’ bass."

Lander and Bert, what can we expect at the Red Bull Elektropedia room this time?

Bert: "We’ve got a light system so big you wouldn’t expect it in a club! But since it’s all about the music... with names like Tiga, Erol Alkan, WWWater, Fabio & Grooverider, Roméo Elvis x Le Motel, Charlotte de Witte and a night dedicated to the legendary Cherry Moon club, we have a very varied line-up with many legends and a lot to discover!"

Lander: "Yup, waaaay too many lights for the size of the venue! Apart from that there’s a glittering disco stick in the middle of the room and super tight light design by the infamous Arf & Yes guys. All this combined with a huge L’Acoustics sound system. No more spoilers... Come and see!"

Last question then: how do you see the future for Lokerse Feesten?

Peter: "The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades (laughs). We take each year as it comes, try to learn from mistakes, listen to our visitors and keep an eye on new developments."

This year, Lokerse Feesten takes place from Friday August 4, until Sunday August 13. Starring Air, Doe Maar, Pixies, The Offspring, Ben Harper, Marilyn Manson, Leftfield (performing LEFTISM), Pennywise and many more. At the Red Bull Elektropedia Room, watch out for appearances by Tiga, Erol Alkan, WWWater, Bad Company & MC Messy, Fabio & Grooverider, Zwangere Guy, Roméo Elvis x Le Motel, Charlotte de Witte, Cherry Moon Legends and Dysfunkshunal.

Check out the full programme here.