Published: September 11th 2007
July 15th 2007
The Dance Arena at Sunrise
You basically only go home when it becomes too hot to dance. For me that was about 8am but many were still going.
Around June time last year I can remember telling people that I was about to go to EXIT Festival in Serbia. The typical reaction was “you are going where?” After telling them the line up their interest perked up a little but few people were envious. This year the reaction was completely different. They were either very jealous or they were coming too. Despite being seven years old it took us in Britain a while to notice this festival but that all changed this year. And that wasn’t necessarily for the best.
In the days of so many commercial festivals, started by big companies out to make some money, it is fulfilling to come to a festival like EXIT that was set up with the intention of making the world a better place. The first EXIT festival was in the year 2000 when thousands of students and young Serbians got together to demonstrate against Slobodan Milošević and his regime. The event lasted 100 days and as well as the performances and parties “the young were able to express their opposition to the imposed nationalism, xenophobia, censorship and repression”. (Taken straight from a flyer).
Milošević lost the next election but
The Main Stage
I think this was Zinc playing. It does look fun doesn't it?
the EXIT organisers still decided to hold the festival again the following year, mostly to gain some positive international exposure for the Serbian nation. Since then it has just got bigger and bigger with cracking line ups and crowds of up to 180,000.
The festival is held at the Petrovaradin Fortress at Novi Sad. Sitting high up on a rock beside the river, it is also known as the “Gibraltar of the Danube”. It was designed by a French chap called Sebastian Vauban and was built between 1692 and 1780. After spending a few days here it is hard not to think that Vauban did not have festivals in mind when he designed this place. True, the thick walls and deep enclosures are probably great for keeping out pesky invaders. But, the way the stages and arenas fit so perfectly amongst the defences cannot be coincidence. The tunnels, passageways, cobbled courtyards, nooks and crannies meant that even after two EXIT’s, on the last night I was still finding stages I had never seen before.
One thing I liked about EXIT last year was the range of performers, from old to recent and from DJ’s to bands. For example,
Wear a toga. I had one of my best night's ever.
from The Cult to Franz Ferdinand to Krafty Kuts. This year the festival seemed to go more down the dance music route, which is normally my thing but there wasn’t the variation of last year. The Metal Hammer stage, always good for a laugh, had gone altogether. However, there were more big names this time so you had to decide who not to see. Unfortunately this meant we tended to keep going backward and forward between the 35000 capacity main stage and the 25000 capacity dance arena thus seeing very little of the smaller stages that I enjoyed so much last year. Highlights though; Zinc was brilliant, Prodigy were ace and Bez was hilarious.
So back to my other issue with EXIT 2007; the number of Brits. I’m not saying I wanted this festival to myself but when travelling this far you don’t want it to be anything like going out at home. Most of them were good people though. Apart from the large groups of post private school posh girls in sequinned wellies with flowers in their hair having read the Sunday Times style section’s “What you should be seen in at this summer’s festivals” and having spent
Thanks Dawn, Alice, John and the rest of the gang. I had fun.
a lot of time and money to look like they haven’t bothered, try hards.
Even without the festival, I really like Serbia. The people are rightly known throughout the Balkans as being very friendly. And very good looking. Next time tennis is on look out for Ana Ivanović and Djoković if you want proof.
This country has had a troubled recent history but I have got into lots of frank but friendly discussions with Serbs, Croats, Bosnians and Slovenes, and I am always surprised at the openness of all involved. As soon as some of the backward thinking dinosaur politicians have moved on then the Serbs can start looking towards the EU and a freedom of movement that the rest of Europe enjoys.
There are more photos below