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It’s on: Music festivals mix glorious green with chill beats

15:29 30/06/2021
In association with Tourism Flemish Brabant

We held our breath, but the news is good: Music festivals are going ahead this summer. Aside from the beats and good vibes, music festivals offer opportunities to get out of the city and hit the countryside around Brussels.

And the first one is this weekend. Gooikoorts is, in fact, the first summer music festival of 2021. And there could be no better place for a folk festival than in the picturesque Pajottenland, southwest of Brussels.

While 2,500 people are now allowed to gather out of doors, cities can limit that further, and Gooik has set their limit at 400. Rather than throwing in the towel, Gooikoorts is going ahead with its three-day festival, selling 400 tickets for each day.

“It’s smaller than usual, but at least it’s happening,” says Ilse Coppieters of Gooikoorts. “You know, there was no festival last year, and we felt a real need here to host it this year.”

Estonian band Curly Strings
Curly Strings closes out the Gooikoorts festival on Sunday with its lively blend of bluegrass and Estonian folk music ©Maris Savik

Gooikoorts is a chill, family-friendly festival that usually attracts 5,000 people over the three-day weekend. Besides an international line-up of folk bands, there are kids activities, an on-site restaurant and a market featuring craftspeople who make instruments. They even play a bit on the sidelines of the festival.

Much of that had to be abandoned this year, but there is a still an international line-up of European folk groups, food trucks and a guaranteed friendly atmosphere. “It’s a small, close-knit festival,” says Coppieters. “Everybody talks to everybody. If you come by yourself, you won’t be by yourself for long.”

There are still tickets available for Gooikoorts, from day tickets to full festival passes.

Next up on the green belt’s festival schedule is Paradise City. Like so many other music festivals, it postponed its normal date in late June to mid-August hoping to be able to admit more people. Organisers were right: On 13 August, when the three-day festival kicks off, 75,000 people are allowed to attend outdoor events.

Paradise City (pictured top) is so named for its location – on the grounds of the Ribaucourt Castle in the tiny Perk (part of Steenokkerzeel) – and its commitment to sustainability and healthy, organic food. Dance to the beats of four stages of international DJs and electronic music masters like Lefto, Beauhause and Avalon Emerson.

Rock Ternat back in 2013
Rock Ternat back in the day

Three more music festivals are on the agenda in the green belt this year:

While many festivals are happy to be back, Rock Ternat really has something to celebrate: It’s returning after an eight-year absence. Having folded after its 2013 edition, the rock and pop festival just 15 kilometres west of Brussels is making a comeback during the last weekend of August, and with a stellar line-up to boot: Discobar Galaxie, Arsenal, Black Box Revelation, Brihang, High Hi, Dirk and Ramkot. If you like smaller festivals, this is really the one for you: Organisers are limiting it to 3,000 people each day this year. Bonus: The festival is just a 15-minute walk from the Ternat train station.

A stage at Voodoo Villageorest at Frolic in the forest at Voodoo

Voodoo Village is a one-day dance festival in a sublime location: on the grounds of the Graven Castle in Humbeek, the northern-most part of Grimbergen. Festival-goers find their attention divided between the music and the 100 hectares of forest and gardens that are normally closed to the public. But there’s more: Star chefs are brought in for formal dining in the open air, a notable alternative to the usual food truck scene. A shuttle bus goes back and forth between Brussels South Station and the festival site all day and night. Voodoo Village happens on 4 September but is already nearly sold out, so grab tickets now.

The Horst festival mixes art, architecture and electronic music
The Horst festival mixes art, architecture and electronic music

Finally, the Horst Arts & Music Festival in Vilvoorde is an excellent way to end your summer festival season in the green belt. The three-day event in September is different from other music festivals in that it throws art and architecture into the mix. It takes place both indoors and out, on a former military site, overgrown and gone wild. It’s been transformed into a space for events and creative activities, such as Horst, which features specially developed, innovative dance floors to go along with its stellar line-up of electronic musicians.

Photo top: ©John Staples/EU Green Week


Written by The Bulletin with Tourism Flemish Brabant