Eupen, Belgium

With its expertly curated line-up sidestepping headliners and dedicated to sonic experimentation in all forms, Meakusma – held in the small border town of Eupen, Belgium – has become a magnet for open-eared punters from all corners of Europe.

On hold since 2019 due to Covid-19 and devastating floods that prevented last year’s return, the 2022 edition was extended to a four-day affair. And an additional slew of artists topped off the names initially booked for the 2020 edition.

After pitching up on the campsite, we walked through verdant fields to arrive at Alter Schlachthof, a former slaughterhouse-turned-cultural centre. Most of the action at Meakusma takes place indoors, with a concrete courtyard separating the cultural centre’s two main buildings. This serves as a breezy meeting point between sets and is soundtracked by the music emanating from the opened panorama windows in the LYL Radio-curated Heuboden space.

The Heuboden stage, perched on the first floor of a smaller unit on-site, had an intimate vibe. By day, the windows offered stunning views of the surrounding hills. At night, with its red lighting, Anatolian carpets and a cloud of cigarette smoke hanging in the air, it felt reminiscent of the iconic Düsseldorf club Salon des Amateur. On Friday evening, when Phuong-Dan – resident of the legendary St. Pauli underground venue Golden Pudel Club – handed the reins to Nosedrip, the room was heaving. Revellers crammed onto podiums dotted around the sides of the dance floor for the Belgian DJ’s set of slow-pitched trance beats.

Around 1am, festival-goers packed into a side room of the main venue for John FM, who stunned the audience with a new live show comprised of soulful piano jams. Some audience members, perhaps expecting a house set from the Detroit artist, scuttered back towards the bass music luring from the corridor, whilst others remained, entranced by his dulcet singing voice and contemplative mood. “It’s hard to be vulnerable, to expose yourself in front of a bunch of people,” he admitted, as if anticipating that his set might seem too intimate to be slotted for this time of night.

Afterwards, Brussels-based Weird Dust stepped up the tempo with a live set straddling dancehall and dub. This energy bled into Saturday afternoon, where the crowd faced the powerful bass vibrating from the 54Kolativ Soundsystem’s giant speaker tower instead of the DJ. It was an ideal setting for London producer Al Wooton and his dubby selections, topped off by an amapiano moment that pulled dancers up from the comforts of the carpeted floor. A few hours later, the vibe underneath the tent resembled a wedding party with everyone singing alone to Daddy Yankee’s Gasolina, courtesy of NTS resident and reggaeton expert Felix Hall.

Indoors, Incienso label affiliates James K and Anthony Naples brought the sound of New York’s underground to the main hall. A little later, Cologne producer and DJ Viola Klein’s R’n’B-infused house cuts had the crowd swooning. In a stand-out main room closing set, Philipp Jondo bounced from Jersey Club, Miami bass, searing electro, UK drill and global club selections into an emotional hardcore cut with jaw-dropping effortlessness.

Sunday’s more restrained and mellow live music programming encompassed a collaboration between vanguard jazz musician Robyn Schulkowsky and the Teichmann Brothers in the Freedom Church – a chapel in Eupen’s town centre. Using modular synthesizers to warp Schulkowsky’s percussive improvisations into abstract soundscapes, the trio’s on-stage harmony permeated the air.

It’s hard to overstate just how much music was on offer at Meakusma, which at times could lead to a certain discomfort at missing out. Yet this also yielded part of Meakusma’s charm – with its very intentionally put together programme, the proximity between various stages and lack of headliners guaranteed a steady dose of new discoveries and surprise highlights throughout the weekend.