Before embarking on this adventure with the lovely Dunk! Festival crew, be sure to read this travel guide thoughtfully. It will guide you along the do's and don'ts, the tips and tricks, the sights, activities and places of interest on this three day journey. It will also quote reactions from people at earlier editions and everything you need to know to experience this splendour in all its glory. We at Merchants Of Air wish you a very pleasant stay at the cosiest festival on the face of this earth. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.
Wednesday - The preparation
Obviously, you should not forget your ticket but if you do, no problem, you can probably find it in your mailbox on your smartphone. In this modern day, the QR-Tag on that ticket will be enough to get you one of those wristbands that will give you full access to the many activities we have in store for you. On that same smartphone, you can also find the full time tables and other useful information. For old school people, there will probably be booklets available with everything you need to know, including a ground plan of the festival area and some sweet articles about some of the appearing bands.
We can't exactly tell you what to take with you. You are your own boss so you decide how many boxershorts, toothbrushes, sanitary napkins, condoms or pairs of shoes you will need. There will be showers available so bringing a towel, shampoo and soap is a very good idea. Remember, there will be hundreds of people in an already hot tent so any odors that can be avoided, should be avoided.
Speaking about being hot: most of the previous editions of Dunk Festival saw excellent weather, sometimes even too hot. So be sure to protect yourself. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and a funny hat. Of course, you can always cool down in the lovely forest surrounding the festival area. It's one of Belgium's most beautiful nature reserves and an excellent place for photographers to practice on birds, insects and the occasional fox.
Phone-addicts, and that's most of you, be sure to bring one or a few power banks with you. There are sockets where you can plug in your phone but definitely not enough to charge more than a thousand phones. If I remember correctly, same goes for wi-fi so make sure your 3G or 4G internet connection is reloaded.
Because people travel to Dunk! Festival from all over the world, the organization opens the camping grounds on Wednesday. Toilets, showers and coffee are free throughout the entire festival. Everything else it available at honest prices. You can walk from Zottegem station to the festival but if you're not a regular walker or if you carry a massive tent and six hundred boxer shorts, you might want to wait until a taxi stops in front of the station. We can't promise that Zottegem has already invented taxis or public transport, but we can promise you a nice walk...
Thursday - The Arrival
At one in the afternoon, the festivities begin. On this edition, Chilean atmospheric noise makers La Bestia de Gevaudan will roughly invite you to the big tent to kick off the three days of post rock, sludge, doom and whatnot debauchery. Fifteen minutes after their set finishes, their fellow countrymen from Tortuganonima take over. From then on, there will be five minutes between each live act, which will give you plenty of time to walk from stage to stage. So there are no overlaps.
I Am Wolves opens the second stage and with them, an impressive array of Belgian bands will drag this event into multiple highlights. Most people in attendance primarily look forward to seeing Caspian and EF live on stage. Your loyal Merchants Of Air crew also recommends Hemelbestormer, Astodan and ( B O L T ). Those are our musical picks for Thursday but given the perfect sound and light engineering, we are sure that the majority of performances will be impressive.
After Caspian's last soundscapes dwell through the village of Zottegem, around midnight, the soothing rest of the Flemish Ardennes will slowly return to the area. For a few hours, people will disperse to their tents, to the chill and merch area or to the hospital for a treatment for that overdose of exhilaration. We would like to ask you to respect everyone's night's rest. If you do want to party hard, you will find some nice spots to sing and play your music further into the forest.
Friday - The High Day
It's best to wear your best walking boots for this day as the festivities follow each other in a raging tempo. There is not one band not to look forward to. That counts for the entire festival but most of all for this day. Yet, if you do find the time, there will be other things to discover than music. Paella, chili con/sin carne, stew and of course the legendary Dunk! Festival fries will tantalize your taste buds. Believe me, the food on Dunk! festival is unrivaled. Not even big and respected festivals like Jazz Middelheim, Tomorrowland or Ghent Jazz deliver that quality. Some might say that the secret ingredient here is love. Who knows...
Those legendary fries guys started a little party on Friday night a few years ago. Back then, the only CD they could find was one by Bob Marley. Since then, they have bought (or downloaded) a lot more CDs (or songs), which last year resulted in a huge party with some highly questionable tunes ('Maca-fucking-rena' for example). Let's hope they do better this year... If not, the sleepy people will undoubtedly crawl back into their weekend-caves a bit earlier.
Saturday - Demolition Derby
After all, early in the afternoon, Belgian riff mongers Huracán will forcefully wake up the last sleepers and get them on their feet for one more day of post-whatever. This is the day of Russian Circles, who recorded their live-album on Dunk! a few years ago. Of course, this year Russian Circles will once again be one of the ultimate highlights, something our poll seems to confirm. Only Caspian had more votes.
But that doesn't mean that there's nothing interesting to do in between those two bands. It is Dunk! festival so there is always something to do. We picked out Russian Circles, Les Discrets, Worriedaboutsatan and Father Sky Mother Earth as possible highlights. Yet, we also think that Saturday is discovery-day with a surprising amount of bands rising above themselves, aided by that awesome light and sound engineering.
This night will be quiet, interrupted only by the sounds of the volunteers tearing down the huge tent and clearing the area. From then on, Dunk! 2018 will be a memory, a dopamine inducing thought in the grey mass under your skull. Maybe you will dream about playing on the festival one day. Maybe you will not dream, not sleep, but stare into the luscious green meadows of Zottegem. Maybe you will gaze at the stars, promising you will be back next year.
Sunday - Now sod off
Sunday morning is "goodbye" morning. Tears will flow, people will hug each other and everybody will thank everybody. "See you next year", they say and most of them keep that promise.
From then on the expectant previews, posts and questions can begin. "What will Dunk 2019 be like?" Well, just like the 2018 edition, it will be breathtaking.
The packing list
It will probably be a dry, sunny event but be aware that Belgium can be pretty cold at night. So grab your coolest t-shirts, some or a few pants and underwear for three days but also take a pullover, sweater or jacket with you. Pretty much all kinds of shoes will do but we advice sneakers. You'll probably be walking more than you expected and you'll be standing a lot so wear something comfortable.
There is no need to take a lot of canned food with you. You can eat at the festival. It's not expensive. You can also go to the nearby shop (but this store will probably be closed on Thursday since that's a holiday in Belgium). Besides, if you're travelling by train, you'll have to walk to the camping ground. If it's warm, that walk can be tiring so you might want to carry only a minimal amount of weight.
Barbeques and open fires are not allowed.
Also, drinks are available on the terrain and also, you can go to the store. However, be aware that you can not take glass to the camping area. Cans and boxes are allowed. Oh, and don't litter. There will be plenty of garbage bins to throw your rubbish in.
Aah, the true post-rock adventurer and his much beloved tent. Again, try lightweight stuff if you travel by train. It's not like you'll be sleeping a lot in that thing anyway. As mentioned earlier in this preview, bring a hammer or something to nail your pegs into the ground. It's a hard underground. You won't be able to push them in by hand.
A foldable or inflatable chair could also come in handy if you want to sit in the woods and read a book in the morning. There are some places to sit but not for 1000 people. If you want to read at night, bring a headlight or lantern. It's dark at night in Zottegem.
Most smartphones will not remain fully charged for three days, especially if you're roaming. So look for something to charge it, preferably on solar power. There are a few electricity sockets but not nearly enough to charge 1000 phones. Same goes for wi-fi so make sure that your 3/4/5/whatever G is loaded and ready. You'll want to send a lot of pics to Instragram of facebook. In that aspect, forget about tablets and laptops. Or don't. I don't care.
Before you start walking from the trainstation to the festival area, make sure you got plenty of cash on you. That merch tent will probably not work with Visa or Bancontact. That being said, keep your cash in a safe place. We have no knowledge of anything being stolen on Dunk! festival before but you definitely don't want to be the first one.
Drugs are illegal in Belgium, even if the Dutch think otherwise. Dealing drugs will result in either getting kicked out or even arrested. We have to stress that Belgium is getting increasingly strict on drugs being criminalized so be very careful with that joint. Obviously, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer are legal, hurray for that and hurray for that nearby shop.
8. Personal care
Experience tells us that it's a good idea to bring sunscreen and insect repellent. The showers are awesome so a washcloth and a towel are recommended. Those who need to take some kind of medication, there is tap water available. Even though Swans aren't coming this year, ear plugs can come in very handy.