‘This city is so alive.’ Canadian DJ Melissa Juice has grown a lot of fondness for Brussels, where she moved to from her home town Vancouver a few years ago. In awe of both the contemporary scene of the capital and the rich music history of Belgium - hello Soulwax, R&S or CJ Bolland - she decided to stay. With some early experience as a DJ in her backpack, it’s in our scene that she had her first big date, the first edition of the lesbian and trans popup bar Mothers And Daughters at Beursschouwburg. Over the past year, things have changed for the positive. From bars she moved to clubs and raves, seeing her soon also work the DJ booth of our 24h+++ sunday rave during Listen Festival in collaboration with Gay Haze and SPEK.
Furthermore, Melissa has been contributing to our nightlife scene as well. She is a co-organizer of Missfitte, a collective hosting care-focused, queer-forward underground events with women and non-binary people at the core. She is also the host of HEAVY FLOW and Double Double, two radio shows on Radio Vacarme that promote women and queer artists in various scenes across the globe. ‘Those communities feel very sacred to me. We built a little family, alongside other collectives such as rebel, Deep Down East and Not Your Techno, where queer parties meet underground electronic music.’
Pondering over the quality of our Brussels nightlife scene, Melissa offers an insight someone shared with her lately: ‘Brussels is so special since everyone has to share spaces and work together’. The fact that the list of good venues in the capital is countable on two hands, gets a positive connotation in her perspective. Asking what can be improved in this city, she again remains constructive: ‘Improvement is always possible, but I’m very amazed about steps that clubs have taken, especially after Covid when there was the big movement of Balance Ton Bar that led to the introduction of safety and care teams. But I'd like to praise the smaller, more community-organized events for pioneering this in Brussels, who were already offering teams like this at their events. Balance Ton Bar took these issues to a more mainstream scale and led to a movement that demanded the larger clubs to follow suit. The thing that I find a bit difficult is that venues are becoming less accessible because they are becoming more expensive. I know venues are hurting after the pandemic and the recent inflation. The dream is to convince the city that Brussels’ electronic music and nightlife scenes are worth protecting and investing in.
From the viewpoint of a Canadian who moved to Brussels, we are curious to find out Melissa’s Brussels Highlights.
Food: Lucifer Lives
Lucifer Lives is a vegan antifascist coffee shop and lunch place in the Marolles. Famous for their Belgian comfort food and amazing brunch on the weekend, it’s a spot where Melissa enjoys spending time to work or hang out with friends.
‘After a night out, Lucifer Lives is a really good place to come back to the real world. The team is amazing, it’s a really sweet place. The bar has that healthy punk vibe you know, all kinds of people go there and they are very family and dog friendly. They also have some cool clothing collabs with Purple Sun Tattoo, you should definitely check this out.
Music: Brasserie Illegaal
Here is a local brewery engaging itself as a support for artists and socio-cultural projects. Through organizing events, films, debates, ateliers and a radio station among others, Brasserie Illegaal wishes to be a vehicle for exchange, sharing and meeting. And they also brew great beers, such as their very tasty Khop-Killer, Sociaal or Tropicaal.
‘They opened in their new location in Vorst/Forest a year ago, in a beautiful open space. The vibe is much like a free party, most of their events are actually free or pay what you can. You always meet respectful strangers at Brasserie Illegaal, which I find quite rare. They also host Radio Vacarme, a radio station run by an incredible and passionate group of women, where I do two radio shows. One of them is called Double Double and runs together with Spirite, another Canadian living in Brussels, focusing on the connection between Belgium and our roots in North America.’
Nature: Parc Pierre Paulus
In the heart of Saint-Gilles, nestled at the bottom of a valley and almost hidden from view, Baron Pierre Paulus Park is one of those timeless places where it is good to get lost for a few hours.
‘Coming from Canada, we are so spoiled when it comes to nature spots such as our big wild forests or endless coast lines. But this park is really a favorite, being very accessible and when you go in, it goes down which makes it a bit sound isolated. It’s a weird magic place full of cute ducks, chickens or wild cats. And a great place for dating.
Hidden Gem: Modus Fiesta.
Modus Fiesta is the meeting point of Modus Vivendi, a Brussels based organization that implements all actions and reflections aimed at reducing the risks associated with drug use for the benefit of drug users and with their participation. At Modus Fiesta, you find a safe space, a listening ear, psychotherapists and a drugs testing lab.
‘With Misfitte we work with Modus Fiesta. I also have them on my rider, as a suggestion to the venue. Harm reduction is utterly important for me. Nightlife is a place where people do drugs or perform risky behavior. I’m still astonished that so little is talked about this. This kind of policy is much more present in Vancouver, while here it stays a bit more occult. Modus Fiesta really is great, they have so many resources, all the latest information and their offer is completely free and anonymous.
100 Tracks from Melissa Juice
Melissa was so kind to present us with a detailed walkthrough of the playlist she curated for us.
‘For Listen Fest, I've decided to present a brief, hectic and roughly chronological history of my relationship with electronic music! This playlist spans nearly 15 years of evolution as a deeply musical person and later, DJ. Every track has played a pivotal role, and most come with a story too.’
1 My namesake, courtesy of a band whose music will always be with me in my introspective moments. 2 The First Track. My conscious entrance into the world of electronic music. First heard in a cellphone ad on TV.
5 Excision, the king of West Coast Dubstep. Played exclusively on a phone speaker in a stranger’s living room that smelled like cheap weed and puberty. The real ones know.
17 Aside from being a big Portishead fan in my youth, I was lucky enough to be able to play this track later with four dancers for a live, public performance in Italy. 19 My exploration of more minimal production introduction to sub bass. I used this track to test headphones and speakers for years.
24 Beyond pivotal. I didn’t know music could, and most likely will evolve to, be like this. Holly is a huge technical and cultural inspiration.
27 Taken from a Skream Boiler Room set. My first time playing what I considered real DJ music.
30 - 42 The beginning of my long love affair with queer Pop and French Electro. The beginning of my first DJ identity. 41 The track forever dedicated to the Brussels queer community, without whom I would not be DJing today.
43 + 44 A shout out to my love of video games and their incredible soundtracks.
51 Azo played a big role in my identity as a DJ. It’s thanks to her that I discovered Acid, which is now a staple of my sets.
56 My safe song. This is the track that I listen to when I need to calm my anxiety. One of my top five favourite producers.
58 - 59 Two tracks that helped me find my sweet spot between guilty pleasure vocals and progressive, breaky production.
62 Seeing this performed live with a 15 minute buildup at the closing of Horst Festival 2021 was life changing and is still my favourite festival experience.
65 A special dedication to my sister and Double Double co-host, Myriam (AKA Spirite). Our musical relationship has heavily influenced me as a DJ. Doubly doubly doubly <3
69 My closing track for my first set at C12!
70 - 72 My deep dive into the iconic Belgian sounds. My trip to fantasy ;)
80 A special nod to my love of all things sci-fi, particularly sound design for film. This track is featured on the soundtrack of the movie Annihilation.
83 - 84 Two tracks brought home from my first trip to Berlin, both with unforgettable memories attached.
89 Continuing my deep dive into the origins of the music I play.
90 - 98 My current obsession with all things Progressive, Acid & Trance.
99 The track of my heart. Released the year I was born. Featuring an incredible reverse sample of Opus III’s Fine Day. First heard when I was 12 at the end of Mean Girls and later rediscovered with joy and deeper appreciation as a DJ.
100 The closing track of the first vinyl I ever bought. A very emotional track about the exhilaration of learning to ride a bike. Learning to DJ also gave me this feeling.