Nuits Sonores in Brussels: San Soda and Laurent Garnier at Palais Expo

From 14th to 17th of September, Nuits sonores + European Lab had is first edition in Brussels. A project around many different events, conferences, workshops and (of course) music in the European capital. Clubber Confession was at the second night in Palais Expo, this the story… 

The location was marvellous, right in front of the imposing Atomium at Brussels Expo, almost intimidating. Inside, one main room with high ceilings, superb lightening and a massive soundsystem was already announcing the blast who was about to be served by Laurent Garnier.

Upstairs, in the smaller room, we arrived when the duo Africaine 808 was about to end his live performance. We still had time to admire the Berlin duo having fun with their famous Roland TR-808, with the analog sound of the drum machine that they claim to use “in every track”. And it was a nice surprise to find such a well-balanced rhythmic joint between islandfunk, afro and percussive disco with the analogue synthesizer baselines.

Soon after them, even earlier than planned, was time for San Soda to take the floor. The Berlin based Belgian dj was playing in his own territory, and we immediately felt his confidence while listening to the opening track. Baja by Mascara set the tone for the night, between the raw funky celebration of the Hot Mix 5 on WBMX in Chicago and the hedonistic atmosphere of the ‘80s in New York City.

San Soda proceeded in showing off his deep knowledge of different nuances of house music, from the melodies and openness coming from its italo disco touch, to the lilting chords and boogie bass of some Chicago throwbacks, sometime with an electro touch, others with an acid flap.

San Soda (half of the Belgian duo FCL) was internationally acclaimed for the accappella version of It’s You on Defected back in 2013. I have seen FCL playing at the first edition of Defected Croatia, such good memories, and it was great to find one of them in such a good form.

The crowd loved his selection, during which he was never too eager to show off with the djing skills, but instead decided to give enough space and time for the tunes to grow into the minds of the public.

Listen to a podcast by San Soda just a few days after the event

It was a wise choice. Probably most of the people didn’t plan to stay in that room for his entire set, but the music and the atmosphere were so good we ended up staying until 4 am. He also threw out some proper house gem, going a bit dark with Panorama by Benoit B (on Banlieu Records), or instead exploring different landscapes with the superb Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja by Parvati Khan. It takes balls to present some Indian disco tune nowadays, probably not every crowd would be ready for it. Not everyone can deliver something like that, a risky move. But very effective, as when I turned around everyone was jumping all over the place.

It was one of the best set I have had the pleasure to enjoy in recent times, particularly because it was refreshing, unexpected and just cheerful. Never too cheesy, with a music safari throughout solid grooves, San Soda brought one last sunbeam before the long Belgian winter.

There was no time to waste though as Laurent Garnier had already started in the main room.

I must say, the production of the event was just perfect: every corner of the venue was covered with a top quality sound, not too invasive, but very accurate and detailed. The lights were coherent with the spirit of the night, which had music at the centre. One piece of advice for next editions, probably a cloakroom would have been useful, but we survived anyway.

And the legend Laurent Garnier was already spinning his records, making his presence very clear from the beginning with an epic entrance. He had a pretty dark beginning, with a couple of tracks which were slowly building up the set, while the dancefloor was getting packed. He started with a low key approach and then continued by building up the set.

From the moment Garnier started, we found ourselves locked into the main room. The mixing was so smooth that rarely we noticed a change of mood. It seemed more like the finest journey through techno, a continuous refinement of the musical experience for the crowd.

The room went nuts when Laurent decided to have a “KiNK moment”, with the remix of the Bulgarian artist of Unit 2, with the notorious punch at the drop which was brilliant on the mega soundsystem, and immediately after Existence (Ovum Recordings, 2011).

The crowd was loving it, and the location was big enough to give everyone space to enjoy the French genius on the decks. Laurent Garnier decided to close the night with class, and with Als wär’s das letzte Mal by DAF (probably the Boys Noize Remix? not sure…) he successfully blew up whatever was left of the people on the dancefloor.

Overall, Nuits Sonores was up to the expectations. I was unfortunately unable to enjoy much of the side events and everything else that went down in the city the days before, but this night at Palais Expo was sufficient to give me a taste of the experience and the dedication of the people behind this project. A night to remember and well thought event. Not only for the music and the artists, but also for everything else around, it was definitely a fantastic night.