As festival season is drawing to a close, there is one last stop that should be on every techno fan’s list. Brussels Atomium Electronic Festival is a free festival taking place at the iconic Atomium in Brussels, coming back for its first run since the COVID pandemic hit. Spearheaded by some of the best in the city’s underground music scene, this festival prides itself on unity, community, inclusivity and accessibility.
Taking place on September 10 from 2:PM until 7:AM on September 11, the festival will feature DJ sets and streams straight from the Atomium site, alongside workshops and discussions. Built in 1958 for the Brussels World's Fair, the Atomium it is in the shape of a unit cell, thought to represent an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times, in tribute to man's discovery of the atom and Belgium's wealth of knowledge in nuclear physics.
Since its first edition in 2016, Atomium Electronic has worked to bring together Brussels’ music community — electronic and beyond, encouraging attendees to use music as a way to overcome division within the city. “We started in 2016, we missed one edition because there was an attack in Brussels,” explains founder Tom Brus.
“Since 2019 there has been no run of this festival because of COVID, so now we’re re-starting this project. We added some activities, so it is more than just music, we now have a new site - it’s located on the actual Atomium site! Originally, it was just an open-air festival. We didn’t expect to have so many people in the first edition, so we hope to have more people again.”
It looks like this year’s edition will be even bigger, with Berlin favourite Marcel Dettman, Belgian artist Emily Jeanne and electronic legend Adiel all gearing up to drop bangers beneath the “symbol of Brussels.”
We sat down with organisers Tom Brus and Océane Lestage to discuss the festival, what to expect, who to expect to see at the event, and what they’re excited about. Here are five reasons why you should visit Atomium Electronic Festival,
1- It’s free
It’s free. If you can get to the north of Brussels with ease, then attending this festival should be little-to-no skin off your back. It was made free in order for it to be inclusive and to send a message during a time when prices are reaching all-time highs and cultural events are becoming more out of reach for certain demographics.
“It’s always been free,” says Tom. “It’s in the agreement with Atomium, they initially said we can use the location and the name for free, but it has to be free for attendees.
“Free events don’t really exist anymore, and we didn’t expect more than 1000 guests in the first edition. But then we got more, so we realised it would be best for the music community to keep it free so that more people can enjoy it.”
The organisers hope that having this accessibility measure in place will inspire people interested in electronic music to attend the festival, whether they have been to events before or not. They reiterate that the festival is an exciting way to learn more about the genre, the community, and the scene - all while not having to spend any money.
2- The line-up and after parties
The line-up boasts a stellar selection of techno aficionados, with sets from Marcel Dettmann, Adiel, Emily Jeanne, phanom and lunar convoy. Local talent is at the heart of Atomium Electronic Festival, and championing this contribution to the scene is what it strives to do. “It’s mainly techno music, we try to find local artists and people who are really involved in the scene and support them from the ground up. For example, Emily Jeanne is a resident of Fuse club - the oldest club in Brussels. One of the other artists, phanom, she’s a resident at C12,” Océane says.
Atomium Electronic Festival also wants to reach audiences beyond those physically attending, Emily Jeanne’s set will be streamed and broadcast by Bruzz, a local French-language media outlet, that will also be providing coverage on the day.
The festival is also welcoming talent from outside of Belgium, as the organisers hope to bridge the gap between the Brussels music scene and the wider global techno circuit. Tom says: “We are also inviting guests from outside of Brussels to play, including Adiel and Marcel Dettmann. We had a good connection with them both and they both loved the idea and concept behind this festival. There are plenty of festivals around this date, so many DJs are already booked. But we still tried to achieve a balance in the line-up. We try for all parts of the festival to have a balance.”
Beyond the line-up for the main festival, there will be two after-parties taking place at local clubs which will also celebrate electronic music: An A. Brehme all-nighter at C11, while C12 is welcoming Exal, Phara (live), Planetary Assault Systems (live), and U.r trax to carry on the party until the early hours.
3- More than just techno
Alongside the slamming music, there will be a plethora of workshops and talks — all centred around elevating those marginalised in the arts and creating a safer, more inclusive underground music scene.
Speaking about what attendees can expect, Océane says: “We’re doing a full day of activities and workshops, one will be focused on music production with Ableton, we’re doing workshops on how to DJ by local DJ school Futurgrooves, who have a partnership with Pioneer DJ, and there are workshops about body movement and reconnecting with yourself for women, trans, and non-binary attendees.
“It’s about re-appropriating your own body through music and dance. We’re inviting another collective from Brussels, called Les Sous-Entendu·e·s, who are going to do a talk and they’re going to invite owners of clubs, bars and venues in Brussels to speak about safety initiatives for women and non-males in the scene. All of these workshops are free to attend.”
The purpose of these workshops is to show that the electronic music scene extends beyond clubbing itself and can transcend into the self, hobbies, community and mental health. “We want to gather and unite people from all emphasis of life and all parts of cultural communities, beyond just techno and electronic music.” explains Océane
4- The location
Ever partied at a real landmark? Well, this festival is taking place at the Brussels Atomium itself. Known as the “symbol of Brussels” the Atomium was initially built for the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, and its top “sphere” provides a panoramic view of the Belgian capital. Though previous year’s editions have taken place at the sci-fi landmark, this year’s is at a new location around the sphere — providing more space, and more capacity for techno lovers. “This year the festival is taking place at a parking lot, really close to the actual Atomium site,” explains Océane. “There’s a fountain, it’s really charming! It’s the first party there, so we’re really excited to use this spot as our open-air location!”
The organisers are working around the existing structure to create different areas and visual elements for this festival. “The site itself has a fountain and some trees, and the floor is concrete because it’s a parking lot!” laughs Tom.
“The idea is to get a structure behind the DJ which will be a layered steel structure. We want to experiment with light and textures, and we will use the existing structures there such as making the fountain area a chill-out area. We want to create an identity with the festival, but also keep it related to Atomium.”
5- The ethos
At the heart of it all, you should want to visit this festival because it stands for everything that techno was built on — community and inclusivity. “We really would like people to know that we want this festival to be as safe as we can, it is important to know that there is no bad behaviour that will be accepted,” reiterates Océane.
“This is going to be an inclusive and safe space for everyone. I hope people feel as though they are part of something and feel free - I’d like people to also view the Atomium differently. It’s an interesting proposition. No matter where you come from, you can take part here.”
To find out more about the festival, the workshops, the line-up, and where to reserve spots - visit the Atomium Electronic Festival website here.