Mostly Good News In Belgium

Although Cactus Festival suffered from some very wet weather, most of Belgium’s mid-size and smaller festivals have been happy with their 2008 results.

The signs were good for Cactus, which started with a 9,000-capacity sellout for Leonard Cohen July 10. The presale for the three-day festival that followed was up on last year, but rain kicked in a week before the event and the ticket-buying dried up.

The festival had daily crowds a couple of thousand smaller than the Brugge site’s 9,000, which was a disappointing result for Cactus director Patrick Keersebilck.

"It was particularly upsetting after the presale and the weather had both been so good," he said, estimating that the event did little better than breaking even.

The acts bearing up under Belgian skies July 11-13 included Starsailor, Arsenal, Saul Williams, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, The B-52’s, Dinosaur Jr. and Cinematic Orchestra.

At Sfinks Festival, one of Europe’s best-known world music gatherings, event director Patrick de Groote was happy with a three-day crowd of about 30,000.

He said Sfinks attracts people who don’t regularly go to festivals and tend to make up their minds a day or two before the event, which means he never has the comfort of seeing a healthy advance sale.

This year’s festival July 24-27 opened with a "Balkan Beatz fest" with Balkan Gypsy Sound System, Va Fan Fahre, The Gypsy Queens and Kings, and Gypsy Sound System attracting 12,000 people.

The next two days brought the Antwerp festival’s usual mix of music, circus, theatre and film and crowds of 10,000 and 8,000 respectively, with the drizzle accounting for the lower figure on the third day.

The other acts on the bill included Zionyouth, The Garifuna Umalali Project, Babani Koné and The Gladiators.

Over the same weekend, Suikerrock, which is in the heart of the province of Flemish Brabant at Tienen, festival president Walter Kestens reported the first sellout in the event’s 21-year history.

"We’ve sold out 15,000 in a day before and some years we’ve sold out two days, but this is the first time it’s been all three of them," he said. "Maybe mainstream rock is what works best in Flanders, and this year’s crowd has responded to it and given us a good position financially."

The acts keeping things sweet for Suikerrock, which takes its name from being at the centre of the country’s sugar-producing region, included Deep Purple, Eddy Grant, Sisters Of Mercy, Zap Mama, Tom Helsen and The Presidents Of The United States Of America.

Dranouter, one of Europe’s premier folk festivals, and the world music Couleur Café Festival in Brussels, also reported crowds a little bigger than their 25,000 per day averages.

At Dranouter, on the southern tip of West Flanders, festival co-organiser Bavo Vanben Brouck said the scoop that made the 34th edition so special was a one-off European show from Tori Amos.

The other international acts in the August 1-3 lineup included Suzanne Vega, Ozark Henry, Billy Bragg, Loreena McKennitt, and Xavier Rudd.

The bill-toppers at Couleur Café June 27-29 included Zucchero, Shaggy, Jimmy Cliff, Gentleman and Erykah Badu.