Exit Festival 2014 – Novi Sad, Serbia
Exit Festival turned 15 this year and in addition to the Petrovaradin fortress in Novi Sad, it was hosted at a new festival location at the Jaz beach near Budva, Montenegro – an event dubbed the Sea Dance Festival. Forged after the end of the Yugoslavia war as a student movement against the regime of Milosevic and massively endorsed by Mtv, Exit has become a token of liberty for the Balkan country. On top of that, Exit was named Best Major Festival for 2013, after having attracted as many as 200,000 festival-goers during last year’s edition of the music summit.
The 2014 instalment of the festival boasted a total of 10 stages, a very eclectic line-up at the main stage and quite a massive b2b line-up at the dance arena. The b2b formula is exactly what caught my eye on the festival in the first place. To all those first-timers, the event proves to be a lot more than just another music festival, as the entire experience in the fortress is truly magical. This was my third time in Petrovaradin and it goes without saying that each time it is a whole new world. Not only because of the diverse line-up, but also due to the ever-changing face of the fortress itself and the introduction of new stages, itineraries and entertainment on the premises.
This year’s edition kicked off with an explosive b2b series at the dance arena, featuring the likes of Ben Klock vs Marcel Dettman, Carl Craig vs Green Velvet, Dusky vs Paul Woolford and Eats Everything vs Cassy to name but a few of the star studded pairings on offer. Still, Saturday night was the jewel in the crown line-up-wise. Techno gladiators Tiga and DJ Hell delivered a breath-taking b2b set. After having witnessed Tiga’s apocalyptic set at Sonar Barcelona just a month ago, I was fully prepared for this gig. Although, I had expected Tiga to drop his new banger Bugatti, there was no way I could have foreseen him play Maceo Plex’s remix of Gus Gus’ Crossfade. This gave me the biggest goosebumps so far in 2014 and set the mood just right for what was about to happen next. Heidi and Kim Ann Foxman followed suit and the crowd danced their asses off under the jacking sounds of the two divas. Still, the b2b mix of Maceo Plex and Danny Daze, that closed the third night of Exit, was really la crème de la crème of techno. Man of the moment Maceo Plex made a triumphant return to Exit, having closed the 2012 edition of the festival with a set that is still a personal benchmark when it comes to good techno. This year however was much more fun orientated with Maceo and Danny clearly enjoying themselves behind the decks with their obvious delight contagiously spreading throughout the crowd. In an interesting turn of events Skrillex stepped behind the decks and played a couple of tracks alongside the Jupiter Jazz guys, as the sun was rising above the arena. This was quite an interesting sight to witness, as he played tracks were far removed from his usual bass-centric style. Finally, Danny Daze played the closing tune, Toto’s Africa, festival-goers went absolutely ecstatic. As odd as it may sound it proved an inspired choice as Maceo and Danny closed the dance arena at 8:30am, which is a record for the stage that usually closes at 8am sharp. This was appreciated by all and we can only hope for a similar extra half hour next year!
On Sunday – the final day of the festival, the sizzling heat turned into summer storms. Ultimately, you could see your own breath, while dancing at the dance arena. Still, the final day of Exit introduced two very interesting sets. Dubfire and Sharam reunited under their joint alias Deep Dish to play a set the dance arena will remember for a very long time. However it was Better Lost Than Stupid, the ‘superband’ consisting of Berlin sound campaigners Martin Buttrich, Davide Squillace and Matthias Tanzmann that provided the highlight of Sunday evening. The iluustrious trio treating us to their trademark Berlin sound at Exit for the second time, following their gig in 2011. Techno legend Steve Rachmad and Marko Nastić closed the festival and even though they didn’t start playing until at 6am amongst daylight, the dance arena remained packed as if the festival had just began. At this exact moment I thought to myself I would have done another round of Exit in a heartbeat, no matter the sleep debt and the exhaustion. And somehow I knew everybody around me was on the same page.
Despite the challenging weather conditions, which included rain showers, sweltering heat and thunderstorms which came with copious amounts of mud, the crowd at Exit were fierce and enjoyed one hell of an adventure in the fortress. As usual the Petrovaradin fortress defended its title as a leading dance and fun hub. What is more, it set the bar really high for Exit 2015 and I can’t wait to see what Exit will come up with next year.