Heartsick over the Love Parade breakup? Quaking in your gumboots at the thought of Beyonce headlining Glastonbury? This (northern) summer, fling your festival net a little wider and get Balkans-bound for en-masse music madness. Tamara Sheward goes backstage at Serbia’s EXIT Festival.
Most commonly referred to in sentences like “But isn’t it, like, freezing there?” (note: it’s Serbia, not Siberia) and “But isn’t there, like, a war there?” (note: not for the last 12 years, no), Serbia doesn’t naturally spring to mind when one thinks “knees-up goodtimes”… but it should. The country is home to an extroverted (and it must be said, spunky) population, a lively cultural-n-quaffing scene, and its capital Belgrade has been billed by Lonely Planet as the world’s top party destination. But it’s in Serbia’s ‘second city’, Novi Sad, where they really know how to rock the (erstwhile) Bloc. Enter, EXIT.
What began as a 100-day-long protest aimed at booting out prima-despot Slobodan Milosevic — hence the name — has become southeastern Europe’s largest and most frenetic music festival. Held in the otherwise austere surrounds of a 17th century fortress, EXIT is a genre-defying, (cheap) booze-drenched, 25-stage mayhemfest that’s hosted the likes of Chemical Brothers, Faith No More, Beastie Boys and Gogol Bordello… not to mention an annual 150,000 rakija-fuelled revellers from around the world.
Making merry from July 7-10, this year’s EXIT line-up thus far includes Grinderman, Portishead, Pulp, Underworld and Arcade Fire. A four-day festival pass starts at 105 Euro: see www.exitfest.org for ticketing and camping/accommodation details.
Fallen under a Slavic spell? Once EXIT has folded its tents, hit the ulica and check out these only-in-Serbia shindigs:
Guca Trumpet Festival, August 10-14: Yes, trumpet. But forget your dorky high-school brass band: this is ear-splitting hedonism at its most raucous. www.guca.rs
Belgrade Beer Festival, August 17-21: Say zhiveli! (cheers) with 500,000 of your new best friends over 80 different brands of beer. www.belgradebeerfest.com
World Testicle Cooking Championships, late August: For travellers who like to go a little nuts. www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/29/serbia-world-testicle-cooking-championship