One thing I’ve noticed from talking to other fans at gigs is that a lot of people like the idea of a gig or festival abroad but don’t do anything as they think it’s too difficult. In reality going to gigs abroad is getting increasingly easy, so we’ve decided to bring some information together for some of the popular European festivals, starting with Metal Female Voices Fest in Belgium.
What is MFVF?
Metal Female Voices Fest (MFVF) is a weekend festival held in an indoor venue just outside Aalst in Belgium. The lineup is limited to bands which have female singers for most of the vocals. This means that you get a lot of symphonic metal bands such as Epica, but also get folk metal and heavier bands such as Arch Enemy – there’s usually a very good mix of bands. Often bands will do a special show at MFVF rather than their standard tour performance.
When is it on?
MFVF takes place in mid October every year. This year it starts on Friday 17th, and ends around midnight on Sunday 19th October. Saturday and Sunday are all-day with Friday being an evening session only.
How to get there and where to stay?
Most people going to MFVF stay in either Aalst, or Brussels. Hotels in Aalst tend to get booked up very early (many fans book for the next year as they check out of the hotel on the Monday morning). There are a lot more hotels in Brussels so you can always find space there. A further option is camping – the festival organisers arrange for camping 2 minutes walk from the venue.
The Ibis in Aalst is the hotel used by the organisers so is where most of the bands and fans stay, and bands regularly drink with fans in the bar into the early hours. Sites such as Booking.com are a good way to find a hotel with vacancies.
Obviously you can stay elsewhere but Brussels and Aalst are the popular choices because the organisers put on shuttle buses from these two places.
From the UK it’s very easy to travel to MFVF. You can fly, take the Eurostar or get the ferry and drive.
Flying is simple – a flight to Brussels airport then a train journey of 30-40 minutes to Aalst (or a shorter journey into Brussels).
Eurostar is an easy option too – a train from London St Pancras to Brussels takes 2 hours 20 minutes, and a connection from the same station takes you to Aalst. Note that when buying a Eurostar ticket, if you’re going to Aalst, ask for a ticket to “Any Belgian station” rather than Brussels. That way you get a ticket that is valid on any Belgian train for 24 hours after the Eurostar arrives in Brussels, and is valid for 24 hours before your return Eurostar so you can get back to Brussels to catch it.
Ferry is again easy and its a relatively short drive to Aalst on good roads.
Information on the shuttle bus and details of the location and public transport – http://metalfemalevoicesfest.be/info.html
How much is it, and how do I buy tickets?
Standard tickets are 80 Euros for the 3 days, or 50 Euros for a day ticket. Visit the MFVF website http://metalfemalevoicesfest.be/ for details and to buy tickets. VIP tickets are more expensive and do sell out early. Don’t worry – you don’t need to be able to read French of Flemish to be able to read the site or buy tickets – it’s all in English.
Standard tickets get you access to the venue which is a large exhibition hall. There is some seating available. At the back of the hall there are stalls selling CDs, merchandise etc and to one side is the bar and a food stall.
VIP tickets give the above access plus access to a VIP area with more seating.
What about food and drink?
Like many European venues MFVF operates a token system – you buy a load of tokens that you then exchange for beer or other drinks (the same system used by some UK festivals). There is a stand inside doing some food, and just outside there are usually 2 or 3 stalls doing a selection of food.
Prices are cheaper than large UK festivals. There’s also a bakers 2 minute walk away that sells extremely nice cakes.
What about meeting bands?
Almost all the bands do a signing session in the main hall, and queues can be quite long. VIP ticket holders are luckier in that most bands spend time in the VIP area during the weekend, but it’s actually very common to see singers or other bands members in the crowd watching bands, so you are likely to get to meet bands. If you stay at the Ibis in Aalst then again you’re fairly likely to meet bands at the bar or at breakfast (but just try not to disturb them too much when they’re eating). Times for the signing sessions are usually only available on the day – a list of the bands signing that day and the times will be posted by the signing table near the start of the day.
I don’t speak any foreign languages – is that a problem?
In short, No. The organiser speaks English extremely well, and you’ll find hotel staff usually speak very good English too. At the venue most of the staff speak English to varying levels, and despite not speaking French I’ve never had any difficulties on my trips to Belgium for MFVF. You’ll be amazed how many people at MFVF speak English – there are fans there from the UK, The USA and Canada as well as loads of other countries, so you’ll always find someone to talk to. Inf act if you go to many gigs with female fronted bands, the chances are that at MFVF you’ll bump into people you know from those gigs.
What about money?
Well if you budget for a similar amount as you’d take to a UK festival you should be fine. I tend to buy a lot of CDs at MFVF as many of the bands playing have never played in the UK, so its a rare chance to see them and buy their CDs. If you don’t buy CDs or Merch then its down to how much you like to drink.
Can I take my camera?
Still cameras are allowed at the festival, including SLR cameras. The lighting at the festival is always very good, so you should be able to get some great photos of bands performing.
What acts are on the Lineup this year?
Sunday 19/10 :
THERION – ARKONA
XANDRIA – STREAM OF PASSION – HOLY MOSES – VIPER SOLFA – MAGISTINA SAGA – ENEMY OF REALITY – EVENOIRE – ARIA FLAME
Saturday 18/10 :
LEAVES’ EYES – THE SIRENS -SIRENIA
ANCIENT BARDS – DIABULUS IN MUSICA – DRACONIAN – HEAD PHONES PRESIDENT – DARK SARAH – LA VENTURA
JADED STAR – SKEPTICAL MINDS – SEASON OF GHOSTS
Friday 17/10 :
METAL FEMALE VOICES UNITED :
featuring Mariangela The Murtas, Canssandra Novell, Maxi Nil, Ailyn Giménez,
Karolina Pacan, Iliana Tsakiraki, Saeko Kitamae.
+ AYIN ALEPH – DIARY OF DESTRUCTION
Need any more information?
If you have any questions that aren’t answered here or on the MFVF website, then posting them on the MFVF page on Facebook will get you answers from other fans or from the organiser.