Beleuvenissen Tropical 2010

July was almost over and I had not attended any Beleuvenissen yet! How could I let that happen? ...I didn't let it happen. Last Friday I was ready to attend the "Tropical" edition of the yearly city festival that takes place on the first 4 Fridays in July.

Even though we've had quite a hot summer so far, the temperatures weren't exactly tropical that day. We walked downtown quite early and there weren't as many people getting out yet as I'm used to.

After some great tapas and good sangria at Los Flamencos in the Naamsestraat, we first headed to the Oude Markt to listen to Cookies & Cream. Well known covers were already audible from the access streets but there's wasn't too much atmosphere on the square yet. I guess it was just too early in the evening because they were pretty good although they didn't fit in the 'tropical' theme at all.

Our next stop was on the Mathieu de Layens square where Grasjas brought Flemish reggae. I've never heard of this group whom I kept calling Grapjas (=joker) by accident. The typical reggae rhythms and the lead singer's trombone play were quite catchy. A few little kids in front of the stage were turning around in little circles on the rhythm with their arms up and they were having the time of their life. The lead singer with his long rastas was seeing it all with a huge relax smile on his face that made me wonder which grass he was smoking. But it all sounded fresh & original .

At the Vismarkt Buscemi was playing (see Made in Belgium: Buscemi) so we had to go and check that out as well. The square was well filled and the funky latin dance music floated easily above us all. The problem with a DJ act , at least in this case, is that all the songs get mixed together and continue non-stop without much interaction or pauses which becomes a bit monotonous to watch if you're not dancing. Since Beleuvenissen is like a giant music buffet with concerts on many different squares we went on to the next performance.

In the shadow of the city hall, the famous Cuban Septeto Santiaguero was bringing a very traditional Cuban sound. It didn't take long before many couples were dancing salsa around us. Aaaah Beleuvenissen Tropical at its best!!! Excellent.

It looked from far as if Dany De Vito had found a new passion in playing guitar in this band which looked quite funny as the little guy was holding a big guitar in his stretched out arms while in contrast the tall lead player was playing on a small solo guitar. The inverse proportional size of the guitars was very comical to watch.

The tiny well-hidden Vounck square was packed with people listening to another Cuban artist Rey Cabrera. Here we learned that it surely is a Cuban rule that the biggest guys were playing the smallest guitars.

La banda de Tomas Gonzales playing on the Hogeschool square felt like a little too much of the same so we quickly moved back to the Oude Markt were Vaya Con Dios (see Made in Belgium: Vaya Con Dios) was going to start. I was really looking forward to this concert. We had seen while passing by earlier that all the fences and stewards were in place to close off the square if it would get too crowded so I really did not want to risk missing this concert. (That had been the case the week before when Kate Ryan was performing and attracted 14000 people. )

Surely enough all the side access streets to the square had already been closed so they could only be used as exit roads and we had to walk to the Grote Markt to be able to go into the sole entry road. There were big traffic lights hanging above the street for the occasion and just when we walked by, the stewards behind us pulled in the fences across the street and the lights jumped on red. Hurray, we were the last ones to get in. I had never thought the square would have truly get closed for Vaya Con Dios but clearly this group still had a load of fans even after the many years of silence.

Step by step we could advance a bit from the back of the square where the sound didn't come across very well but there was a lot of people indeed. OK, the many pubs still had all their terasses outside, which isn't the case when the Marktrock festival is taking place here so the square wasn't at it's max capacity yet, but I was glad for the organisation's timely decision to close off. With the hindsight of the Love Parade tragedy the day after, I'm quite happy for Leuven's extensive experience with mass city events. I know the university has done computer simulations on this particular square and the movement of masses & the effect of obstacles such as the fixed garbage bins in case of needed evacuation etc... There are also many camera's on the squares constantly monitoring the crowd. On a side note, I've always found that the crowd control is also very well done at the Gentse Feesten were also on a regular base squares need to get closed off when they reach the max capacity.

Vaya Con Dios didn't swing however despite the good turn-out. I know that their newest songs are much more intimate and calm but this is a big festival and in front of a 10000 people crowd, you can't play the same way as in a small club. There was little to no interaction and when there was and Dani asked if we felt like singing along to their old hit Puerto Rico...they kept fiddling the guitar for a minute as if they first needed to tune it before really launching the song and the momentum was lost again.
I still love their music very much and Dani's voice is great...but this concert was a big disappointment to me. Maybe my expectations were too hight, but after all this was a European top act a few decades ago.

We didn't stay for the full concert but left via one of the nearby exit roads to enjoy the last bit of Cuban music on the Hogeschool plein on what turned out to be a lovely summer evening after all.


Virtualsprite said…
What fun! You guys seem to have the best festivals over there. Thank you for sharing!
Brian Miller said…
this sounds marvelous...would love to go to a music festival!

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