Exit Festival - Day 1, Serbia

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  • "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"
    There's a memorable scene in the '80s flick "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" where Steve Martin, after failing in all possible attempts to hire a car in order to reach his destination, explodes in frustration at the desk clerk, reeling off a rather charged sentence with repeated and quite epic use of the 'F' word. I mention that scene because before one can even begin to touch on the nature of the Exit Festival itself, it has to be said that getting to the festival in Novi Sad - which is neither THAT close to Belgrade nor Budapest - is an exercise in logistics, patience and IMMENSE faith in public transportation. For RA's review team flying in from various ends of the earth, I think I can speak for all when I say on more than one occasion we were reminded of the aforementioned scene as we utilised every means of possible transport to reach Novi Sad. A planned mid-morning departure out of London Heathrow on that fateful morning of July 7th saw my plane to Belgrade taking off without me. Around the same time RA's Paul and Claire were stuck halfway between Budapest and Novi Sad attempting to blag their way onto the only connecting but rammed train between the two cities. So it was, that a little after 1am both of us eventually stumbled into the grounds of the Petrovardin Fortress - although not together since we had also been foiled by Telekom Serbia and were reduced to a hopeful, if-all-else-fails "Front and left at the Dance Arena?" back-up arrangement made 24 hours earlier. Clambering up the numerous steep, winding, cobbled footpaths - already massively littered with empty bottles of 80 Euro cent booze - I attempted to make my way to the entrance in pitch black darkness amid throngs of incredibly ripped and might I add, rather tall Serbian youth, who unlike me, all seemed to know exactly know where they were going.
    "drifting between the countless number of makeshift stages and DJ booths hidden in archways, at the end of tunnels, tops of stairs... making for a reggae-death metal-electro-latin-house-polski-trance soundtrack not unlike a really f*cked up mix tape..."
    Having not had the benefit of seeing the venue beforehand in daylight, my first hour at Exit was spent stumbling around the grounds drifting between the countless number of makeshift stages and DJ booths hidden in archways, at the end of tunnels, tops of stairs and on not-that-flat-but-will-do areas around the fortress, making for a reggae-death metal-electro-latin-house-polski-trance soundtrack not unlike a really f*cked up mix tape made at a mate's After's following a big night out. Then about 300 metres along path X to unknown stage Y the distinct vocals of Underworld's Karl Hyde suddenly seemed to emanate from behind a large group of conifers. As I excitedly gravitated towards this burning bush of sorts, my near-religious experience began to turn on me (as they tend to do), Karl's voice now suddenly appearing to be coming from behind me and around me, the sound bouncing and echoing off the walls of the fortress and within the valleys to ultimately, confuse the shit out of me. What the Exit Festival may have lacked in well-lit paths and strategically-placed clear signage, it more than made up for in its sound and staging as it was another good 700 metres or so before I eventually arrived at the Main Stage and spied a thimble-sized Karl on stage in the midst of the dying stages of their finale "King Of Snake". My success at having managed to find one of the main stages was sadly short lived as I quickly realised that the Dance Arena was in fact, now where I wanted to be. A good third of Underworld's parting 20,000 strong crowd seemed to have the same idea and so armed with another 80 Euro cent beer in hand, I locked onto a group of those tall Serbian youth and trailed them until I found myself looking down into a rather large valley of another 15,000 to 20,000 people. Ruling the roost on the multi-level stage were 2manydjs, in the midst of one of their standard festival sets. Bouncey cut-up house numbers were interspersed with indie brit-pop dance remixes (Blur's "Song2") and moments of pure '80s synth pop (New Order's "Blue Monday") before the audience was jarred - some might say scarred for life - with 'aussie cock rock' numbers like AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long". The former, which personally, I could have done without, bringing the crowd almost to a standstill. While 2manydjs do inject some much-needed jest and playfulness into a night, there comes a point where you just want them to get on with it and give you something to blatantly dance to; particularly when it's closer to 5am than 12am as was the case tonight. Although the music-hungry crowd seemed happy to feed off anything 2manydjs put on their plate there was also a sense that they wanted something to really tuck into and the eventual changeover to Felix da Housecat proved to be exactly what the Dance Arena crowd wanted as he wasted no time in putting together some very dancey consistent beats and rhythms.
    "Techy and minimal urgent grooves and stripped-back but jacking techno summed up Felix's first hour and quickly had the crowd rocking it out before he slipped into twisted disjointed electro mode..."
    Techy and minimal urgent grooves and stripped-back but jacking techno summed up Felix's first hour and quickly had the crowd rocking it out before he slipped into twisted disjointed electro mode in the second half of his set, throwing in a remix of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the obligatory, sing-along, karaoke festival moment; Felix filling in nicely for the shoes of an absent Dave Clarke, who had cancelled at the last minute due to the events in London. As the sun suddenly burst forth between the trees to the far left of the stage, bringing with it, my sense of bearings, a spectacular view of the layout and staging of the valley making up the Dance Arena and the promise of a sunrise set by Dutch techno superstar-in-the-making Joris Voorn, my spirits were lifted considerably and the earlier long-winded train, bus, plane and automobile journey began to be nullified. Performing a live set of both unreleased tracks and material from his fantastic debut album "Future History" and other Sound Architecture releases on a set up of three machines, Joris provided the perfect 6:30am soundtrack with a tidy, hugely energetic set of Detroit-influenced techno. Never losing momentum with excellent, tight transitions between songs, tracks like last year's techno anthem "Incident" and "Scape" proved to be a very bright and fitting way to bring the first day of festivities at Exit to an end. Special thanks to Nikki Wright and the organisers of the Exit Festival.