Exit Festival reviewed

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How many Australians can you fit into a medieval Serbian fortress? This is not a redundant question. Despite being held in one of the world’s most inaccessible venues in a part of Europe where they’re still cleaning up their war criminals, EXIT is literally crawling with antipodeans, who, together with the British, easily account for a third of the attendees at what has now become Eastern Europe’s premier music festival. It’s mind-boggling.

The primary reason for this invasion is that Aussies love to have a good time; something EXIT is particularly adept at giving them. Beer costs less than a dollar. There is no curfew. But most importantly, EXIT is a suspension of reality. Punters literally party all night and sleep during the day, lose track of time and hang out together in specially set-up hostels that begin to feel like summer camp for uni leavers.

There’s nothing remotely like it in our country; the kind of restrictions we have, not to mention limited set times. When Groove Armada goes an hour overtime nobody bats an eyelid. The next DJ can play later. In fact, that’s easily what sets this apart from any Aussie festival; there’s absolutely no such thing as stress.

Musically, EXIT is an absolute treasure trove for fans of any genre, patently because it dips into all of them. Out of left field, Femi Kuti brings the Afrobeat, House Of Pain bring the rhythm, rap and blues, and walking back to the bar, there’s an ungodly roar coming from where the moat used to be. That’s right, Parkway Drive are here. On the same bill as Tiga and Underworld. The Serbs, it seems, want music in all shapes and sizes and they don’t care how incongruous the line-ups appear to us. This achieves the highly sought-after festival goal of ensuring that everyone will go away having seen someone new, rather than Busy P for the fifteenth time in a row.

While the matinee names may be rock or pop artists – Arcade Fire, Grinderman and the now-trainwreck M.I.A among them – the real winners are electronica, house and tech lovers. The Dance Arena, situated at the bottom of the fortress and flanked by ancient ramparts on each side, not only has the consistently best atmosphere, but also embarrassingly professional sound that makes our flagship festivals look like amateur hour (and that’s before we start on the visuals). Even as someone who isn’t heavily into the scene, it’s impossible not to be converted by the setting and the energy. As Fedde Le Grand’s MC shouts before he drops another euphoric bassline just shy of 3am: “Do you hear that, Serbia? That’s the sound of 40,000 hands clapping!”


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JackT said on the 20th Jul, 2011

The paragraph on Portishead alone is enough to send me into envy overdrive. That setting would've been amazing for that.


AfroWhitie said on the 20th Jul, 2011

Great review - thanks for that


ladyinred said on the 20th Jul, 2011

Interesting read. It%u2019s nice to read that you checked out some other non-dance acts. Did you catch any of the local acts?? Usually they have a stage with more home-grown acts.

Australians taking up 1/3 or the festival population sounds like a bit of an exaggeration. Did you just speak to travellers or did you speak to everyone. I think there are a lot of Serbs that go to this festival and from last year maybe about half to 2/3rds were Serb and the remaining were International Festival go-ers.

I liked the honesty about how some of the performances were. M.I.A. actually did a great show at Sonar (and I don%u2019t even like her) so maybe it was an off performance, but if she was clashing with Underworld then I can totally understand the exodus. They seem to have played some really tight performances in the Euro Summer, and definitely not an act to miss.
The final song of Kalkbrenner%u2019s was %u201CSky and Sand%u201D?


JordanS said on the 20th Jul, 2011

Hey jonno - TOSCAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! Best festival mission ever.


crabman said on the 20th Jul, 2011

Happynovisad stage was the place to be.


jonnoseidler said on the 20th Jul, 2011

Published on my birthday, no less. Thanks dudes.
Portishead was pretty special, Jack. My teenage self pretty much hi-fived my current self.


fresh555 said on the 20th Jul, 2011

Good review - but I really didn't encounter many Australians at all which was really pleasant, lots of Brits though, but mostly Serbs.

Awesome location and setting, amazing sound system and stress free factor were big winners for me. Just do your own thing and look after yourself. Notable mention to Zab's for a standout sunrise set.


ionecoe said on the 21st Jul, 2011

Wow. Dripping with envy!


beyondandabove said on the 21st Jul, 2011

I would do anything to go to this festival! Great review and just made me even more determined to attend it


Flap-ur-tan said on the 24th Jul, 2011

Have to mention Joris Voorn on the first morning! Set of the festival for me! Nothing like class techno at 8am in morning! EXIT, definitely heading back next year! What a show!

Dejan Novi Sad

Dejan Novi Sad said on the 25th Jul, 2011

Hey Jonathan,
I was waiting this review eagerly. Excellent review. I have to correct you in just one thing you wrote, Serbian girls are best-looking girls in whole world not just in region :) I'm glad you had a extraordinary time here in Novi Sad.
See you next year.
Dejan from hostel