With its two massive open-air stages for international headliners and just as many club stages for local bands, Brussels Summer Festival is the biggest city music festival. Highlights of this 15th anniversary edition of BSF include British pop-rock singer Peter Doherty, French alt-rock veterans Louise Attaque and legendary Belgian underground rock group La Muerte.
Chamber music festival Classissimo began life in 2007 as a BSF bonus programme before going solo last year. Now a fully autonomous event, it hosts 17 classical ensembles across seven evenings in the Théâtre Royal du Parc. A visit to the beautiful 18th-century edifice is alone worth the price of admission.
The Parc de Bruxelles is also the site (and namesake) of the series Boterhammen in het Park, organised by concert venue Ancienne Belgique in collaboration with the Flemish cultural authorities. Boterhammen boasts five free lunchtime performances by some of Flanders’ top pop, rock and folk artists — the perfect soundtrack for a picnic.
Feeërieën, also organised by the AB and held in the Parc de Bruxelles, is for folks who take their music seriously. The multi-day festival promotes underground artists from around the world. Genres range from jazz (Chassol) to world music (Imarhan) to left-field electronic music (Visionist).
A few blocks away, the Sablon district’s Voce & Organo Festival turns 20 this year. The event celebrates Italian baroque music with the aid of Notre Dame de la Chapelle’s impressive Renaissance-style organ and several international choirs.
Brussels’ bars and clubs are also humming with live music during the summer months. Music Village takes its name seriously. Every week the centrally located jazz club invites a new Belgian or international artist for a five-night stand (Tuesday through Saturday). Visitors can enjoy dinner or simply sip cocktails while the band plays.
50 Rue des Pierres
Just blocks away, Saint-Géry’s newest establishment La Machine proposes free, near-nightly live entertainment from jazz to rock to reggae to electronica. The steampunk-themed bar opened its doors this year and has fast proven itself a valuable addition to the musical landscape.
2 Place Saint-Géry
Neighbouring Café Central has for years been a scene fixture. The late-night hangout puts on one live concert and a handful of DJ sets each week. Artists are picked from the alternative end of the musical spectrum.
14 Rue Borgval
Then there’s Chaff. Like the flea market it faces, this cosy neighbourhood café is the place to find stuff you never knew you wanted, until you saw, or heard it. Chaff’s sporadic but lovingly curated programme features touring indie bands you’ve probably never heard of but are well worth the detour. It’s a treasure trove of musical discoveries throughout the summer.
21-22 Place du Jeu de Balle
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