A State of Exit

Exit Festival 2012 review

published: Thu 19th Jul 2012

around the festival site

Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th July 2012
Petrovaradin Fortres, Novi Sad, Serbia, Serbia
4 day festival pass £95
daily capacity: 150000
last updated: Wed 13th Jun 2012

So Serbia – probably not everyone's first choice of holiday destination but then again if you've heard anyone mention Exit Festival, which is held in the 300 year old Petrovaradin Fortress which overlooks the Danube River, in Novi Sad then it would maybe make you think again.

And after just returning from one of the best times I have had at a festival, I hope this small review of my time there makes you hungry to find out more for yourself.

around the festival site

Exit Festival started back in 2000, when a bunch of students put on a load of gigs lasting 100 days which was really an anti-Milosevic protest. Since that first year it has grown into one of the most respected European festivals out there and this was one reason I wanted to check it out for myself.

So we booked our tickets last December when the festival had a special Christmas deal on tickets 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' and this got the ball rolling. Over the next month or so, we booked our flights, travel and accommodation. We decided against camping at the festival, though this was available at the nearby Exit Village campsite, next to the city Strand Beach. This was due to the temperature which can get up to mid-30's in July, not what I would call comfortable camping weather! Oh and if going for an apartment/hotel option, make sure they have air conditioning in the room, you won't regret it.

around the festival site
Travel to the festival does take a bit of planning, although this really comes down to your own budget and where in the UK you reside. Since we were leaving from Scotland, we looked at all various options for flights both direct and indirect but opted to fly direct from Edinburgh to Budapest, Hungary and then take advantage of having a night either side of the festival there. We then used a company called euFest who provide festival transfers from Budapest to Novi Sad which is around a 5 hour trip by coach.

Another option would be to fly into Belgrade, Serbia which is a couple of hours away and can be done for around 40 euros by taxi to Novi Sad if you are south of England based as flights fly direct from London airports.

So we arrived in Novi Sad on the Wednesday afternoon, the day before the festival gates opened. And unknown to us beforehand, the whole city had put on a party for the many thousands of multicultural visitors that come for the festival. There was a large stage in the main Liberty Square which had a couple of acts playing and DJs, bars and food stalls were also available and this party went on till the small hours. This made the festival even better value, and felt we were getting more for our Dinar even though it was cheap anyway but more on that later.

around the festival site
Exit Festival is a 4 day event, with the music running from around 8pm – 8am the following morning. This for us had 2 advantages, obviously the heat during the day would make it uncomfortable to enjoy it to its full plus it also allows you to explore the city earlier in the day. We had a couple of days were we had got up earlier in the day to explore, then have a siesta before the festival and found it to work really well. It was more like a holiday experience where you could play the tourist and also dine out in the evening before. Of course the hard-core might just party for the 12 hours then sleep the other 12 but that's the beauty of an overnight event as it gives you the option.

We had collected our wristbands early on the Thursday morning, as expected long queues later on in the day and we then explored some of the city. As this is about the festival, I will keep it brief but the City of Novi Sad has some wonderful architecture and over the 5 days we were in the town, we were never short of things to do. The whole city had an incredible atmosphere and everyone we spoke to was so friendly and helpful and this of course also extended into the festival site itself.

One great thing about this festival was the fact you never had to queue for anything, from initially entering the gates, to the bars, stages and even toilets. I will go into more detail on these aspects of the festival, but firstly as I work in security at events, let me start with the security and police.

around the festival site
Over the festival site there was vast numbers of stewards, security and police and you got the feeling that even though they looked very relaxed, if anything was to happen you were never far away from a member of staff. This gave it a very relaxed feeling, and even the staff seemed to be enjoying the music coming from the various stages.

Entry to the festival was swift each day with no queues, a quick bag check by stewards and then your wristband was scanned. Then a line of police were doing random searches checking for drugs and weapons, but were not over strict on the searching and if you so inclined and wanted to chance it, you probably could sneak recreational additives in with you if that's your bag. Once scanned, this registered you as entering the event, and unfortunately there was no re-entry once admitted which is a shame but it's not something we would have planned to do anyway.

The festival site itself is held on and around the fortress grounds with it being pretty much divided into 2 halves as you come through the main entrance. One side to left has the Main Stage and Dance Arena with a couple of other smaller stages, bars, food outlets, chill-out zones etc.

The other side is the main part of the fortress walls with multiple stages spread across the walled areas. This side has more to explore and you find yourself crossing drawbridges, under bridges and even through tunnels. This side also has a large hotel and various bars, shops and restaurants which have stunning views over the Danube and I spent a lot of the time just relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere and almost felt you weren't at a festival at certain points. The best discovery we made was one of the bars called Viribus which had draught local cider for sale for 200 Dinars (£1.35 a pint).

Knife Party
Talking of food/drink, Exit Festival use a token system for drinks at the festival bars, which were all over the site and you never had a problem finding one. The tokens were based on what drink you wanted, so this made it slightly confusing to know how many to buy. They were different values for Beer, Wine/Juice, Water and Energy Drink. Though the prices were really cheap with beer around £1.30 a pint and bottled water for around £0.65. In saying that, there were also plenty of actual bars based around the site which took Dinars so it was never really an issue getting a drink.

Food options were mostly hot dogs and pizza stands dotted around the site, though there was a food village which had a burger/kebab stall, a vegetarian stall and even a KFC plus a couple of other types of stalls.

The toilet facilities were plentiful too, however there was a lack of urinals and would have liked to have seen more of these nearer the main stages at least. There were also plenty of medical points around the festival, and chill out zones to relax if needed.

around the festival site
One thing to be careful about is some of the areas were very dark and uneven under foot. Some of the steps that have been put in for the festival were very steep and certain places had just small ledges to step over to get to stages. From a Health & Safety point of view, if this festival was in the UK they would never get away with it, so if you plan to get totally drunk I would advise to be very careful!

The large Dance Arena also meant the largest steps to get access to this area, unless you had VIP. There was a large scaffolding staircase that was built for access to either side of the arena, and then once down in front of the main stage, the back sloped up towards another levelled off area and this also had scaffolding around it for dancing/chilling. This gave it a natural Amphitheatre feel and that along with the huge projection mappings on the stage and side structures created one of the best stages I've seen at a festival.

So what about the musical performances? Well we booked in advance of the line-up being released for the festival and once it was complete, I will be honest and say there wasn't a great deal that I had as a must see. Although this suited me fine, as gave more time to explore and find out other stuff.

Duran Duran
Thursday I managed to catch Gossip, who gave a good performance and went down well with the crowd. Then I managed to watch a bit of Duran Duran, who the Serbians loved and sang the words to every song.

In the Dance Arena, we saw some of Eats Everything, and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs who both gave brilliant sets.

Friday was all about New Order, and this was the first time I had seen them without Hooky and with Gillian back in the band. They were the best I had seen them for years and seemed much tighter and more confident. They even got out Hercules And Love Affair who played before to sing and dance along to Blue Monday which was epic.

This was my late night, and managed to see the sunrise in the Dance Arena while enjoying Luciano, and Kenny Larkin who again were brilliant.

Plan B
Saturday was spent mostly in the other stages watching random acts, but did manage to catch Plan B on the Main Stage who put on a fantastic set and much better than I expected. He nailed it and brought along S-FX who done a beat-box section which had the crowd going wild.

Also managed to see Miss Kitten in the Dance Arena, though wasn't that impressed so I called it an early night.

Finally on Sunday, I managed to watch a bit of Little Dragon on the Fusion Stage who seemed to go down well, but the main act I wanted to see was Knife Party in the Dance Arena.

around the festival site
After getting there early for them, we had around 45 min delay to their set, and turned out only 1 of them turned up, Gareth. Not sure what happened to Rob but rumour was he was unwell so didn't travel. This didn't spoil the set and this was the one of the weekend for me, the place was rammed and the whole crowd were bouncing along to every tune he dropped… it was simply amazing in that arena!

One last surprise was walking down one of the fortress tunnels, we found a doorway which led down some steps to a hidden bar/rave. Now this place was only open at certain times, and was the most surreal place in the festival, they had some pink liquid in a bowl on the bar we managed to try and there was a DJ playing banging techno/dance tunes, and at one point they even set the bar on fire!

So that was Exit Festival. The highlights for me were the friendliness of the crowds/staff, cheap drinks, Knife Party and the atmosphere as a whole. It's definitely one I will return to and all going well that will be next year, hopefully with a lot more of my festival friends. I recommend it to you try at least once.

around the festival site
review by: Paul Melville

photos by: Paul Melville

Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th July 2012
Petrovaradin Fortres, Novi Sad, Serbia, Serbia
4 day festival pass £95
daily capacity: 150000
last updated: Wed 13th Jun 2012


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