Travel & Design Blog - BY YASMIN METZ-JOHNSON

Friday, 1 August 2014

EXIT Festival! Novi Sad, Serbia (10-13 July)




So, the highlight of July without a doubt was the Exit Adventure! I want to say it lived up to expectations, but the truth is I tried not to have any at all. Exit Festival is one of the biggest festivals that occurs annually in Europe, in fact this year was the 15th year of the major festival. This festival was contrasts any festival I have ever been to on so many levels. To begin with during the 4 day festival the earliest act would start at 8pm with the last performing at 5am so you can imagine it was bizarre walking to the venue at night and then returning back to Exit village (the campsite) at the break of dawn. I say it was bizarre but strangely enough it was something I was getting used to. One night (I mean morning) after the 3 out of 4 shows a friend and I went for breakfast (pizza lol) with some newly made Serbian friends we met at the festival before returning to camp at 8am to sleep in our sauna of a tent! The temperature varied a lot in just the few days in Novi Sad, however every morning was pretty consistent, as I don’t remember ever waking up not sweltering in our spacious yet humid 4 persons tent. I do not know how we would have coped if 4 people were in it, thankfully it was just the 2 of us.

 After we arrived at Beograd airport around midday we took the Exit trip coach which was part of our package to Novi Sad. The arrival admin is a process I hoped I wouldn’t have to do again, but unfortunately we did it again, and again for security purposes I guess. As we arrived we had to queue at the camp site field reception to pay a tourist fee for our 4 night stay of 800 dinars (£5.45) and proof of our purchases in order to get our wristbands in order to enter the premises. A process which should be so simple with a system and a little organization was such a headache as we queued forever, in the heat with our rucksacks and tent before finally getting to the front of the desk 2 hours later. It was a hot mess, I say queue but it really was a ‘all man for themselves battlefield’ kind of thing. I didn’t see an orderly queue until later hours when people were arriving from the airport in the evening, I’m guessing the staff learnt from earlier events. Enough of what could have been better and on to what I came for… the 4 nights of music! 



AS FM Dance stage
Same stage hours later

Stromae headlined the first night at 10.00pm I can not think of a better act to have done the same job, The Belgium born entertained the crowd of 200,000 on the main stage in a dapper monochrome attire, as his entire band also wore the trend with black bowler hats as he sang and danced to his most recent album Racine Carrée and even involved costume changes as he changed into his famous combo costume and mannequin composure before chanting his popular tune 'Papaoutai'. I couldn't take my eye off of his screen graphics which were pretty impressive as they duplicated Stormae himself in miniature size and had some cool geometric art throughout his hour and a half on stage. Definitely the perfect contender for the opening night has he connected with his fans. Throughout the night we visited other 13 stages at the Petrovaradin Fortress, I couldn't believe that there were quite easily over 100 acts per night as each stage would have a schedule usually with the first act starting from 21:00. However depending on the particular stage a few act would even start their hour show slot at 19:00 with over acts following until the early hours of the morning. Before Exit festival every festival I had ever been had began during daylight hours and the headlining act would be the performer you would have spent the whole night waiting for. But I guess they do things differently out here, which is always good. Also headlining the first night (10 July) were the British duo Disclosure on the Dance Arena (probably the largest arena after the main stage) who showcased many new material after commencing with their album settle intro 'When fire starts to burn'. I don't know if by me vividly remembering the artist's the modest drawn animal inspired graphics for their back drop screen meant that their show didn't have me enjoying the vibe for the hour a half they performed for. I'm not sure but to be honest the only real climax were the fire eating entertainers who spat and munch blazes just a few metres in front of their set. Perhaps I only felt this way because a lot of their set was new material, and everyone (well I do) loves and prefers the songs they know! The melting mud wet were unfortunately standing/ slipping in after it briefly rained didn't help either. Other acts I saw the opening night were Pet Shop Boys, Jaguar Skills and Dimension, the night went by in what felt like a flash.

Stromae!
The following evening, 2 major headline acts were Gloria Gaynor and Rudimental, I didn't see Gloria's set but heard she really pleased knew how to please the crowd. Rudimental's set was also one a throughly enjoy, but call me biased this four piece can do no wrong. I love every song of theirs. The band also sang new materials with their new line up of vocalists. This night I also discovered 'Foodland' this was an area in the Fortress dedicated solely to food, they had everything! From KFC to apple flavoured popcorn. I also noticed many 'chill out zones' dotted around the place, however I never found myself in any of them as I didn't come to a festival four hours away from home to chill. That's the way I saw it. Because there were so many artists and acts performing though out the 4 days it was inevitable I was going to come across new music which is always interesting, I heard and saw the two piece 2Cellos for the first time, they were incredible as they dramatically played on their cellos from chairs to lying across the main stage floor, I had never seen anything like it. I also really enjoyed watching  Dub FX, also known as the worldwide loop station performer. The independent artist would record his rhythm live using the loop station. I would be lying if I said this was not monumental as he successfully intertwine two genres reggae with drum and bass.


2cellos smashed it!
The Petrovaradin Fortress where the festival is held, has to be the eldest and most historical festival venue I have ever visited. It is located in the province of Vojvodina, on the right bank of the Danube river in Novi Sad, Serbia. Inside the premises, Exit had set up 13 stages, so I was discovering new stages and places within the fortress every night. Half way through the four night extravaganza I learnt about other eccentric stages such as the Latino stage which was always a blast to be at. They had Latino/Salsa dancers lavishly dressed in their wear encoring us to dance and learn the steps along with them on a raised platform in front of the stage, almost resembling an old school dance floor. On the opposite side of the Latino stage was the 'Silent disco' area which I only visited once. Silent disco's do not really appeal to me although they had the option of two channels to choose from with your headphones. I just believe you could do a similar party for one in your room at home and most likely have more fun with it, as it would be your own custom made playlist, surely? A stage that was very popular with the majority of people was the reggae stage especially during the early hours of the morning. This was the stage you would go to if you wanted to wind the night down and just listen to some light hearted Reggae music. However before the easygoing tunes and the Bob Marley favourites, a movement they call 'Positive Vibration' would happened. This involved a collaboration of Reggae artists f like Deadly Hunta, Mel Dube, Chay Nelle and Tony Terror Douglas from Jamaica, UK, USA etc who would unquestionable start the party!



Deadly Hunta on the Reggae Stage
Reggae Stage - The party continues tip the morning.
There were so many acts I enjoyed, such as Afrojack, Gorgon City, Shadow Child, Damon Albarn, these are the acts I remember but the list really does go on. Despite the imperfections in organisation, the event on a whole makes up for it all. I would most definitely go again to Exit Festival. Not only is the adventure fun but also interesting as you will bump into so many people of different nationalities. Call me sad, but I really do find it fascinating how music manages to bring so many people together. I recommend going at least once, especially if you are into the festival scene and want to explore Eastern Europe.






I cannot believe I missed this set! :(

Damon Albarn
Dance Arena - Afrojack! vs Quintino  




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