Review: Exit Festival

MAGGIE BROWNING on why you should go east for your festival fix next year, and possibly catch some culture rather than just fleas from the campsite.

Belgrade Crystal Castles David Guetta Does It Offend You Yeah? Exit Festival festival Glastonbury Leeds Maggie Browning Novi Sad Pendulum placebo Reading Serbia The Klaxons

What: Exit Festival.

Location: Novi Sad, the second largest city in Serbia, about an hour and a half from Belgrade.

Venue: The festival itself is set in the sprawling 18th Century Petrovaradin Fortress atop hill on the banks of the Danube River overlooking the city.

Date: 8-11th July 2010.

Price: 85 quid i.e. a bargain if you compare it to Reading/Leeds, Glastonbury etc.

Vibe: Truly an incredible place, Exit Festival was created in 2000 as the “State of Exit” by three Novi Sad students as a protest against the brutal Milosevic regime. There is a wonderful atmosphere of freedom and multiculturalism, against the backdrop of the many nationalities, cultures and languages amongst the attendees. The music reflects the diversity of the festival’s attendants, as major bands from a wide variety of European countries are invited to play.

It’s very refreshing to attend a festival with such an international, diversified atmosphere, as it gives the opportunity to meet a wide variety of different people and listen to music you can’t really get at the average English festival. On the other hand, it’s still your general messy, dance-til-dawn five-day party. Moreover, the acts at Exit only start playing after 8pm, so don’t expect to get to sleep before sunrise.

Music: A complete eclectic mix, from punk to hardcore, reggae and dance to salsa and indie. There are around 13 stages, with the hub of the festival taking place at the main stage and in the dance arena. Major acts this year consisted of Missy Elliot, Mika (surprisingly good), Pendulum, Klaxons, Die Antwoord, Placebo, Royksopp, Crystal Castles, SebastiAn, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, the Chemical Brothers (amazing), David Guetta, Dirty South and, bafflingly, Ms Dynamite.

Musical highlight: Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Special mention must go to Does It Offend You, Yeah? for their fantastic set that inspired sweaty moshing at its very best, and to Mr Guetta, who can always be relied to on to entertain the crowds. The dance arena where he played is particularly overwhelming, a huge sweeping stadium, at its best when the sun’s rising at 5am and you’re high on life and dancing, jammed next to thousands of other equally euphoric people.

Brit boys The Klaxons played at this year’s Exit Festival

Accommodation: Unlike a lot of British festivals, only about a quarter of those who go to Exit actually stay in the campsite, while the majority opt to stay in hostels or rent apartments from local people in town. If, in true cheapo style, you decide on the campsite, ensure you equip yourself with a bumbag (sexy) for your passport etc, as there are thieves operating in the area.

Eating and drinking: Going into Novi Sad itself for food is a lot cheaper and nicer than eating the crap you get in the campsite and the arena. It gives you an opportunity to sample traditional Serbian dishes, and to visit the beautiful man made beach that sits on the banks of the Danube river, where many festival goers spend the day sleeping off their hangovers.

With regard to alcohol, you’re best buying along the side of the road, as Novi Sad locals make full use of the influx of foreigners by selling cheap (potentially bootleg) liquor all along the mile or so of pavement leading from the campsite to the arena. Alcohol is generally good vale for money; a very large bottle of vodka will cost you around 4 quid. The vendors are also generally keen to give you free shots of eye watering Rakia, a traditional Balkan spirit, particularly if you’re a group of young, hot females. Hot as in sweaty obv.

View From The Fort: The Danube, with Novi Sad in the background

Comfort Factor: The festival has around 200 deliciously cold showers, essential refreshment in the 30 degree sweaty, grimy, Serbian heat. The toilets, sadly, are the basic vile festival portaloos, worsened by the heat which causes their contents to ferment slightly. Don’t look down.

Why You Must Go: Exit is for seasoned festival goers who wish to have a seriously good time in a new and exciting environment. As it’s all the way in Serbia, it’s definitely the perfect excuse to explore Eastern Europe while you’re there. I can personally advocate Budapest as a vibrant, student friendly city, but Zagreb in Croatia, Sarajevo in Bosnia and Belgrade in Serbia itself all come highly recommended as places to culturally and socially enrich yourself on the cheap. With the risk of making this review sound like I am being employed by the people who run Exit, I’m going to end by letting the below picture speak for itself.

Still undecided?

Although direct flights to Serbia are hard to come by, Easyjet offer flights to Budapest, from where Exit festival offer a shuttle bus to the festival site at Novi Sad. If you can afford the BA air fare, the airline does offer flights to Belgrade.