Dour Festival @ Belgium, 12-15 Jul

Marked solidly by several facts, most noticeably on the ground are the abundance of dreadlocks and the absence of drunken abusive twats

Feature by Josh Wilson | 08 Sep 2007

The worst day of a festival, traditionally speaking anyway, is always the last day. Hungover, shattered, hungry, dying for some sanitation, yet you still need to pack your bastarding tent up. Thankfully however, the glorious organiser of Dour Belgium's premier alternative music festival have a big fat cure for this.

After a good 12 hours of travel to get to the festival, the organisers saw to it that entering the event would be as complex as possible. With extra queues put in for good measure. This extra six hours of fun however was made more interesting with a light rain, no toilets and 23,000 people all trying to do the same thing at the same time (which makes you appreciate a good, solid, British queue), something which these 'organisers'  who would later go on to redeem themselves were clearly not prepared for. Anyway, after day naught, exiting the festival was always going to be comparative bliss.

After the initial fracas, it was quickly apparent that Dour was a different breed of festival, truly alternative. Marked solidly by several facts, most noticeably on the ground are the abundance of dreadlocks and the absence of drunken abusive twats, and then there were none of the indie favourites who have been plaguing the UK festival circuit in recent years.

Over the course of the four days of music that comprise Dour, 224 bands played to 144,000 folk, over the six stages in the arena. An impressive feat. What is more impressive however, is the excellent timing of the stages, all of which are situated close enough to stroll between acts, which themselves are timed excellently so as to avoid clashes, but also so that there is always something on, which is never more than five minutes away. This in itself was an interestingly fresh take on festivaling; gone are the uber-clashes between bands on stages which are miles away, instead things are coordinated in such a way where, if needs be, you can catch half of each show, only missing five minutes in the crossover. It may sound like a minor issue, but when it's executed to perfection like this it definitely adds to an excellent festival experience.

Musically, Dour showcased an amazing array of talents from all across Europe. Thursday had I Love UFO kicking things off with a bit of europunk, followed later by The Skatalites who provided a solid if poorly sound-checked set. Bonobo followed later with a brilliant performance, though their mellow tunes seeming somewhat out of place in the evening time. The Cinematic Orchestra followed with their electro jazz hip hop providing a more upbeat end to the evening (for The Skinny anyway).

On the Friday we witnessed both The Rapture and Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah rocking a packed Last Arena stage, as well as Sick Of It All in more mediocre form than their glory days. The truly good stuff, however, was to be found in the evening, with some excellent pounding dnb from Murdock and later with Simian Mobile Disco.

Saturday, the day the weather turned for the better, also brought a fair wad of music for some sublime accompaniment. Fermin Munguraza of Manu Chao fame brought along his new band the 13-piece Afro-Basque Fire Brigade and proceeded to get anyone in the vicinity to skank uncontrollably for an hour or so; a truly excellent band and one of the highlights of the festival. This was followed by an extremely delayed and somewhat disappointing performance from Tony Rebel (apparently he is not much loved by the Belgian authorities). Later the Dropkicks performed amicably, before The Skinny moved on to a truly amazing DJ set from Kentaro who scratched his way through a brilliant set.

The final day of the fest had the highly energised if slightly over the top, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra pounding out the daytime entertainment before an interesting evening where Sun 0))) massively confused an entire crowd. Drone metal is exactly what is says on the tin who were followed by the performance of the festival by 65daysofstatic; be amazed at the drummer (no one should be able to do that much) and then just enjoy the incredible post rock glitch, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. After such a spine-tingling performance it would take a lot to take things higher, sadly DJ Shadow failed miserably, doling out a rather dull run through the motions. Finally there was Amon Tobin, who, while also serving up a DJ set, went far beyond what seemed possible. With interesting and well thought out mixes and a wide variety of tunes (not one of his own in sight) the Brazilian maestro's efforts made for an excellent end to a well programmed four days. Hell, it was even worth the queue.