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We were lucky enough to check out HORST, our pure unadulterated musings follow:

As punters we've become drunk on the richness that festival purveyors and promoters bestow on us. We live in a world now where a lineup alone doesn’t cut through the noise of what else is on offer; people want more than a sound system and headline booking - they want an experience.

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This I feel is where HORST stands out as one of the stellar European festival weekenders - the interplay between curated booking, free flowing music, considered production and beautiful settings elevate this Belgian adventure above the status quo. The location upon first arrival is simply astounding. HORST takes place in the grounds of a centuries old Belgian castle; think lake with dusky smoke blowing atop it, meandering rickety forests and a Castle straight from the archive of Hans Christian Andersen’s memory bank. I was taken aback on the first day and that feeling did little to subside over the weekend. 

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The layout perfectly compliments such a regal setting, forgoing any of the maps/signage and simply drifting around in a haze made discovering the nooks and cranny stages and art installations a thrill. The ‘crossing’ installation pitted passers by against bridges of increasing difficulty, which gives an idea of the playful nature of what was on show. Nothing was pretentious and taken too seriously. 

The stages were absolutely something else, each completely different and captivating for their own reasons. Apparently this was the first year that the Castle Keep didn't open its gates to revellers and party goers, as it was going through much needed repairs. Didn’t matter, you were completely spoilt for choice.

Lakeside Dancers Club- a monolithic ship like structure , groaning out of the water, sat well next to the imposing Horst Castle and was apparently based on the scene from Gulliver’s travels where the eponymous hero finds himself bound by the ropes of tiny Island inhabitants. A fact, which upon reflection makes nothing but total sense when inside its wooden bowels.

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The Forest Floor stage was the complete contrast to its Lakeside counterpart. Instead of nannying to the beauty of the surroundings the cold, harsh scaffolding cut an interesting line in the countryside. Built like if Meccano was sponsored by 120bpm (+/-10), and it’s brand champion was DJ Fett Burger (and Eristoff - evidence below). 

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The music at the festival was simply great, looking at the lineup though it’s pretty easy to deduce that. The household names and headliners of course deserve plaudits, as they sometimes exclusively do; the festival residents however played some astounding sets. To give you a little tester, Bjeor recorded us an exclusive below:

It seemed from some of the tune selections there also that DJ’s felt a certain degree of selection freedom. Palms Trax teased with Depeche Mode, MCDE somehow unearthed a Belgian version of ‘I feel love’ and to top off Optimo played out a ‘Gimme Shelter’ edit which simply set the crowd alight (if anyone has a sniff of where that exists- DM us). 

Notable mentions which seem a bit off kilter to chat about in an ‘official’ festival review article but are well deserved nonetheless:

The Weather: Thankfully held, with zero rain. Such is the power of the HORST machine, even the most out of line weather systems would be bested by its sheer organisational power.

The Crowd: Nothing but love for the Belgian and English pals we made out there. Absolutely everyone was in it to win it.

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You’re not paying for a headline act you’ve seen on your faves DJ’s tour schedule (well you could be initially - and you’d be completely forgiven for doing so, as HORST’s UK penetration and British attendance seems absurdly low and small) you’re paying for a truly unique and almost other worldly weekender.

The friendly people - bliss, the surrounding grounds and charming chocolate box village of Leuven- bliss, but most importantly the music and meticulous detail afforded to the festival’s stages - magical. This is the last year of HORST, but the founder promised, after he and the HORST crew handed out hundreds of sparklers to dancers in the Lakeside Dancers Club before the closing tune, that they’re coming back next year with something ‘bigger and better’. Can. not. wait. Thank you HORST.

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