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Brussels' Music and Nightlife Scenes Through the Eyes of a Local

julien_no_sleep_till.jpgEach week in our new column, "No Sleep Til...," we'll be talking to cool kids around the globe, asking them to fill us in about the bands, DJs, music venues and night spots they and their friends are obsessing over. Next time you visit their home city, leave your Fodor's and Lonely Planet guides behind and go party like a local instead. 


Julien Van de Casteele



Where do you live?

I was born in Brussels, Belgium, but moved to India when I was 17 and lived there for 3 years. After that I came back to Belgium and finished high school at an international school and went to university in Belgium. During the past year I was in New Zealand for six months and then NYC also for six months and now I'm back in Brussels.

What do you do?

I just graduated from the Louvain School of Management and I'm now slowly getting my mind onto job hunting.

What Belgian bands or DJs are you and your friends obsessed with these days that Americans should know about? 

[I really like] Goose. The band mixes rock with electro and I discovered them at a summer music festival called Rock Werchter. I had successfully made my way to the front row to see the Klaxons and I had such a comfortable stand there that my friends and I decided to stay there for LCD Soundsystem, coming a few hours later. In between, there was Goose. During their performance, the whole marquee venue went crazy; kids were flying from all directions above your head, your face was constantly smashing against your sweaty neighbors, it would sometimes be raining and you'd hope it was beer -- all of this while the crowd was moving in waves going back-and-forth between two meters of space. Since then, listening to Goose (especially their old 2006 album) throws me back to that atmosphere. The band released two more recent albums (2010, 2012) since then but I recommend listening to 2006's Bring It On.

Belgium [has a lot of] talented electronic music acts but does not do so well with indie rock music -- probably because of a shitty English accent. If you want to seem cool, listen to Belgium's pioneers of the electronic music scene: Front 242. Great current DJs include Peter Van Hoesen (techno), and The Magician (house/disco). Another one of my favorite Belgian artists of the moment is Aeroplane, who plays chilled out house. I actually had to be in New York to start listening to the music, after someone had asked me if I was going to see my "favorite Belgian act." Ashamed of not knowing who he was, I decided to go to the concert. Check out "Big Boys Don't Cry," especially if you love that new house/disco trend.

Where are the cool places to see live music in your hometown?

My top venues are the following: Les Ateliers Claus and Botanique.

Botanique: I think this place is perfect. I'm always amazed. It's a botanical garden and greenhouse converted into a venue. It welcomes just as many small bands as super famous ones and allows for anyone to have the opportunity to experience this place. (Check out pictures.) 

Les Ateliers Claus: I think I like this venue because it forces me to go to an area in Brussels where I don't generally go to, as there isn't much else there. The place is tiny; you probably can hold 150 people max, and that's when you can lick your neighbor's armpit without him realizing it. I would compare it to Cameo Gallery in NYC. It also welcomes small bands that you don't necessarily know about, and it has a family vibe -- everyone knows each other.

And what about your favorite bars or nightclubs?

[I like] Mr. Wong, Mirano Continental and Bazaar. Mr. Wong is pretty much a Chinese-style bar/club located in the Asian neighborhood of Brussels. The one thing that I love about this place is its decoration and atmosphere; when I'm drunk enough I can easily start picturing a samurai-style movie scene where at any moment some guy dressed in a white suit is going to start fighting a black-suited guy while jumping against all the walls of the place.  Mirano Continental is an old movie theater turned into a club. The place has a '70s New York clubbing style to it. It's huge but not everybody gets in very easily (they have "physiognomists" selecting people waiting in line). People are often dressed extravagantly. And as for Bazaar, like its name says it, it's a mess. I never really understood its structure -- you enter from this normal house door, then you're suddenly in a warehouse. It's usually very dark in there and they often have projections on a screen at the same time. I would say that the crowd is more rough [than at other clubs]. Though each of these three clubs I selected are very different in style, they all attract a hipster-ish crowd.

What's a bar or nightclub you would NEVER go to in Brussels? Why?

I hate all those "luxury"-focused nightclubs -- it's not my thing, and the music is s-h-i-t. Among the "shit" ones I'd say Louise Gallery, Le You, Le Carré, Spirito Brussels. There are probably many more, but I haven't grown any interest in them so I can't really list them.

Check out Julien's band and DJ recs:

Goose -- "Synrise"

Aeroplane -- "Superstar"

Front 242 -- "Welcome to Paradise"

Peter Van Hoesen -- "Perceiver album mix"

The Magician -- Remix of Lykke Li's "I Follow Rivers"

Check out Julien's nightlife listings:

Les Ateliers Claus, Brabanstraat 23A, 1210 Sint-Joost-ten-Node

Botanique, Rue Royale 236,
1210 Sint-Joost-ten-Node

Mr. Wong, Rue de la Vierge Noir, 10-12-14, 1000 Brussels

Mirano Continental, Chaussée de Louvain 38,
1210 Sint-Joost-ten-Node

Bazaar, Rue des Capucins 63, 1000 Brussels

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