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Annelies Rom

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Rave Scenes- Antwerp

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Rave Scenes- Antwerp

In search of the story behind drum & bass in Antwerp, some artists said “Antwerp is really the D&B hub of Belgium” and “a lot of artists move to Antwerp to be in the middle of what’s happening in the scene”. Others said “promoters are going to have to work hard to bring back the years of Petrol and 5 Voor 12”. One thing everyone could agree on: Antwerp has a rich history with drum & bass. And if we can believe its many artists resided here and all labels that have been popping up lately, the future is looking promising too.

But let’s start from the beginning and go back in time twenty years. Back in the early ‘00s, Petrol, a club in the South of Antwerp, was the place to be. With parties ranging from drum & bass to techno and Goa trance, this was a club where alternative minds met, away from the high-end clubs in the rest of the city. Figures, whose drum & bass journey started behind the bar of Petrol and who would later become the organiser of rave concept Cityflow, reminisces: “Petrol was such a memorable club, and they hosted quite a few legendary D&B nights. I remember Murdock, Friction, and Andy C playing there for about a thousand people. Nowadays these artists all play 20k capacity venues. I loved the underground vibe of the place, the old abandoned and industrial feel. Petrol meant a lot to drum & bass, it was sad to see it being demolished in 2016.” Robbe (Sub Skankerz) agrees: “About ten years ago, my brother, Blanko, introduced me to the drum & bass scene and soon after that I got hooked to the UKF YouTube channel and started going to Petrol for Skank N’ Bass raves. I loved seeing Bou, Hedex, and Voltage play there. They were upcoming artists back then, but are among the most influential artists out there. Bringing these kinds of artists to Belgium, Petrol has really meant a lot for the Antwerp scene.”

I guess you could say Antwerp really started to find its way into the international drum & bass history books even more in 2009, when Rampage was born. Now being the longest still running drum & bass concept in Antwerp, it grew from being a small party in Lotto Arena to a massive indoor and outdoor drum & bass and dubstep party. Murdock, the man behind the Rampage machine, explains: “Antwerp is the place where I started throwing parties many moons ago. Music in general, and drum & bass in particular, can feel very clique-ish: if you want to be with us, you need to like so and so, or if you want to be a part of that scene, you need to play those artists, and certainly not those artists… you know? I love all styles of drum & bass music and I wanted a party where everything was possible; from the deep and atmospheric, to the rough and hardcore, from the underground to the poppy stuff… So I started to throw them myself and they quickly grew to the biggest in the city and some of the biggest in the country.”

“Being in the thick of it for so many years meant I was offered many opportunities over time, and was able to build the different brands of drum & bass events I was running,” Murdock continues. “Antwerp was a good place to do so: back in 2009 there were quite a lot of venues, and there still are, that are open to programming drum & bass music. A lot of the local promoters were pushing drum & bass even if they were mainly programming different stuff. 5 Voor 12 and Petrol definitely deserve a special mention there. And because I also just loved partying and hanging out and loved all kinds of music, I got to meet kindred spirits from different scenes on dancehall, techno or house dancefloors across the city. With most clubs open till six, seven or eight in the morning every weekend, there was plenty of time and opportunity to soak up whatever was going everywhere, and that helped build my network, but also helped broaden my musical horizon.” 

The reputation of Rampage is incomparable to any other rave in Belgium, and that’s what many can agree on. Blanko (Abyssal Music): “Especially because of Rampage, the city built up their reputation. That’s why we moved to Antwerp, to be in the middle of it all. A lot of artists move here for that exact same reason.” Robbe (Sub Skankerz) agrees: “From the first second I stepped into Rampage, I loved it. The vibes are insane every time.”

One year later after the beginning of Rampage, in 2010, the next full spectrum rave was born: Cityflow. What started out as a rave night in Petrol, quickly grew out to be the main meeting place of everyone who loved drum & bass. Chompz (Abyssal Music) thinks back on those nights: “For me personally, Cityflow was one of the most influential concepts in Antwerp. This was the party you just couldn’t miss, because they brought together the whole spectrum of drum & bass. Etherwood, Goldie and Ivy Lab could be playing all on the same night, it was madness. Nowadays you see a lot of one and the same subgenre on a night, but I would love to see more of those ‘whole spectrum’ kinda parties again.” When talking to Figures, the organiser of Cityflow, he revealed that one more edition of the legendary party could be happening sooner than we think: “We’re still looking for the perfect location and date for it to take place, but we would love to come back one last time.” 

Yet another influential rave concept was Skank N’ Bass, which ran from 2012 until 2020. I know what you’re thinking, “isn’t that the name of a YouTube channel?”. Yes, it is, but this was a different kind of party. For several years, this concept invited both drum & bass, dubstep, and bassline artists to tear down clubs like Waagnatie, Petrol, and IKON. This resulted in it becoming the perfect way to get to know drum & bass more. For many, Skank N’ Bass was their first proper rave experience. Skank N’ Bass was mainly known as a jump up rave though, and this was one of the parties that really solidified Antwerp as the place to be for Belgian jump up. Robbe (Sub Skankerz) reminisces: “Skank N’ Bass was a concept that helped push the jump up scene a lot in Antwerp. It’s a shame they had to change their name in 2019, and stopped organising events due to covid. This concept really gave a lot of newcomers in the scene, like us, the chance to get their name out there.” 

Carnivore (organiser of High Rollerz) looks back on his first jump up raves as well: “Throughout the last decade, I’ve surely seen the scene in Antwerp evolve. Back when I was going to my first events we saw artists like Hedex, Majistrate, Upgrade, Annix, and Guv performing on a weekly basis. On a pure sound-basis, I can say that jump up has changed a lot. ​​Nowadays you’ve got ‘new-school’ and ‘old-school’ jump up artists, with the new-school DJ’s using fake drops, sometimes even multiple ones, and high pitched sound dynamics. And it’s this kind of music Belgium (and Antwerp) mainly gets associated with most of the time.”

The previous rave concepts that were talked about in this article, other than Rampage, are not taking place anymore. For now, we’re done talking about the past, and ready to look at what Antwerp has to offer us in terms of parties that are still being organised up until this day. One of those concepts is Liquicity. In 2013 this Dutch label had their first Antwerp edition, and this proved to be a very wise decision. Subsequent, one of the people behind the Liquicity label, explains: “Antwerp is truly a special place for drum & bass. The city has always been an essential part of the Liquicity events calendar. Over a decade ago, the second-ever Liquicity event took place there, and since then, the nights at Trix have continuously sold out. The energy and vibes in Antwerp remain forever top-notch. No matter what style of drum & bass is being played, the love is always there. You can have a night packed with both deep soulful liquid and jump-up, and it will be well received. On top of that, the city is a great hub for producers to connect. Artists such as Andromedik, Murdock, Hiraeth, and Blue Marble are all linked with Liquicity through Antwerp.”

And from the raver side of things, Liquicity proved to be a very welcoming event: “Liquicity Antwerp was my first ever rave, I didn’t even know it was drum & bass at first”, Synoxis, Antwerp based DJ, says. “I had an affinity with planets, and there was a planet in its logo, so it seemed like a cool party. But sure enough I fell in love with the genre from the moment I stepped into the rave, drum & bass sounded so euphoric and dreamy! From then on, I became a regular Liquicity visitor, and the more you go to raves, the more ravers you meet and the more parties you discover. Another thing I really like about Liquicity is the fact that they give beginning DJ’s the chance to play their event, thanks to their second, and smaller, room in Antwerp. It opens a lot of doors, and it gave me the chance to play there earlier this year. This makes Antwerp a great place for aspiring and beginning artists, as well as concepts like Rampage and High Rollerz.”

While Antwerp didn’t stand still between 2013 and 2019, a lot of legendary places and concepts had to close down during those years. Petrol closed down in 2016 and with it a lot of D&B history, Cityflow had its last edition in that same year. Skank N’ Bass changed their name to Skankmania in 2019 and didn’t start up again after covid. But not all was bad in Antwerp, as 2019 was also the year High Rollerz had their first edition. Carnivore, organiser of this rave concept, saw the need to bring back the full spectrum rave: “We at High Rollerz try to incorporate the full spectrum of drum & bass into our events. The idea grew out of my own experiences when visiting events in Belgium. There were very few promoters who actually dared to present artists across different subgenres, and that’s something I wanted to change. We now host both large and small indoor and outdoor events alike, where we combine new and upcoming artists with settled DJ’s. Hosting events in and around Antwerp we’ve worked our way into the Belgian scene with the support of an awesome core of volunteers!”

“We’ve been able to establish a community by trying to add value to people’s lives by joining our events. Getting to know the team and our ravers, adding value to the event by working with themes, going for the best possible overall quality combined with full spectrum drum & bass music… It’s very important for us that when our event ends, you feel as if you haven’t just done another party. We want to offer an experience above all.” Synoxis can add to this: “You just feel that a lot of people in Antwerp are looking for the full spectrum, they are looking to broaden their D&B horizon. High Rollerz is one of those raves that truly offers the full spectrum of drum & bass, and this results in a lot of opportunities for DJ’s who are just starting out and finding their own style.”

After those first few editions, High Rollerz as well was forced to hit the brakes for some years as the world suffered from the pandemic. Although not all suffered, as some Antwerp residents saw this as the perfect opportunity to start a label. Midas Touch Recordings and Abyssal Music were two of these labels and they are still going strong up until this day. Blanko, Abyssal Music label boss, explains: “My drum & bass journey started in Nijlen and Lier, I was a jump up regular. It wasn’t until later that I got into the deep scene more, and I wanted to give it its own proper space in the Antwerp rave scene. Back in 2020 the scene was separated into subgenres more than it is now, it’s nice to see that this is changing.” Chompz, also a part of Abyssal Music, can add to that: “I’ve been raving all over the country and a few years back it used to always be a change of audience. But after some time audiences started to mix, and that’s nice to see. This resulted in tastes getting broader and scenes starting to merge.” One last thing Blanko wants to add to this, is that not only audiences and raves, but also artists are making this change. “There’s quite a few jump up legends choosing to change it up and produce deep drum & bass, Atmos for example.” 

Guess you could say the Antwerp rave scene is looking quite healthy with events like High Rollerz, Liquicity, and Rampage going strong, and beautiful labels popping up. FarFlow can add to this: “Antwerp is slowly becoming the D&B hub of Belgium. We really see that this city is leading the way for the rest of the country. There used to be more events in cities like Leuven, Hasselt, Brugge, and Ghent, and there still are, but we feel that the balance has been shifted a little bit. There are just way more events and opportunities to be found in Antwerp I think, not to forget its many festivals. Full Circle and Vaag Outdoor, to name two, had their own dedicated drum & bass stage last year.” 

“Drum & bass will get bigger and bigger”, Synoxis says. “The future’s looking bright. Just look at festivals like Sunrise Festival. Thanks to the rise of drum & bass, Used was able to host a full stage there this year.”

“The capacity Antwerp has to offer is a lot,” concludes Chompz (Abyssal Music). “Bringing people together is easy in Antwerp, because it’s easy to get to and pretty central. The general underlining is: this city is the place to be for drum & bass.”

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