Exit Festival 2011: No nunchucks allowed
Walking up the cobbled path towards the entrance of the annual 4-day music mash-up at Novi Sad, I noticed the sign showing the various items prohibited from the festival: bottles, drugs, unlicensed Exit-branded clothing…standard. Nunchucks?! Exit meant business.
The festival takes place in an impressive fort near to the beautiful Danube river, where revellers visit in the day to relax at the beach enjoying the superb weather before the forthcoming night of relentless partying – and relentless it is. There are 20 different stages, covering every genre from Metal to Reggae, with added entertainment such as a zip wire which runs through the night.
The first night’s line up was the strongest, with Arcade Fire, Pulp and Magnetic Man topping the bill. Arcade Fire put in a notably stronger performance than I’d seen them offer previously, preceding Pulp’s standout set during which Arcade Fire’s talented violinist Sarah Neufeld joined in during Common People, which unsurprisingly, the crowd went mad for. Jarvis Cocker is still an undisputedly charismatic frontman, despite a couple of songs perhaps bordering on boring – he always keeps the crowd fully entertained.
Magnetic Man was one member down as it was announced that Skream was expecting his first child, and the group ran into some technical difficulties with sound. Once the problems were sorted, they returned to full glory with crowd-pleaser Perfect Stranger and a treat performance from P Money who joined them on stage for their does-what-it-says-on-the-tin track, Anthemic.
Fans were told to stay put on the main stage for Dubstep veterans Digital Mystikz who kept those remaining dancing until the sun came up. This was one of those moments when Exit could contend for being one of the best festivals going.
The extremely popular dance arena hosted other big name acts throughout the weekend, including Groove Armada, Digitalism Live and Carl Craig, who all enjoyed packed audiences. Deadmau5 was scheduled to clash with the two former dubstep acts on main stage on the first night, but fortunately due to late arrivals I managed to catch half an hour of his consistently strong set, complete with bouncing mice heads scattered across the crowd.
Friday brought M.I.A to the stage, whose sexy and energetic performance went down well with onlookers – gunshot sounds punctuating every song until the finale with her much-anticipated hit Paper Planes. She invited two stage invasions: the first a rabble of photographers who oddly crowded around the star clicking away, and the second with about 30 girls from the audience. Take that Beyoncé.
Digital Soundboy Soundsystem injected some much appreciated Drum ‘n’ Bass into proceedings, infused with UK garage tunes from the nineties. Shy FX is a festival must-have DJ, owning the crowd everytime.
Saturday night saw Jamiroquai take to the main stage. Some people hate forks on a plate, for others the memory of nails on a chalkboard will get them cringing. For me, it’s Jamiroquai. I don’t have a reason and I know Jay Kay already has a penchant for punching the press so I will add that it was obvious nobody would’ve agreed with me at Exit, as fans filled every inch of space available to watch their headlining set, full of catchy hits.
The smaller and slightly hidden Happy Novi Sad stage had some impressive DJ sets that could easily contend with main stage acts, one notable inclusion being JabbaTon, two highly skilled female and three male Croatian DJs. Although there weren’t many watching, those who were lucky enough to catch the set could’ve easily stayed for more.
Although the Brits have quite a reputation at Exit for taking their drinking a little too far (well, not just at Exit…), the yearly influx of tourism is helpful to the struggling Serbian economy. It’s one of the cheapest European festivals, and there’s a reason the festival is becoming a big name in the UK. Don’t expect any of your British namby pamby field action, they embrace keeping you up all night. Complete with cliffs, tunnels, bridges, it’s an exhausting ride – and well worth every modicum of energy you’ll be using there.
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