Reviewed: Exit Festival 2018
Our now annual adventure to Novi Sad, Serbia for Exit Festival – always fills the weeks before with utter excitement, previous trips to what can only be described as the best festival in Europe, if not world – making the journey to the airport at eeek o’clock one of joy.
For the un-initiated, Exit – which turned 18 years old this year, is a festival in an old fortress in Serbia, its four days long and each day runs from 8pm to 8am. In the fortress you have a massive 30,000 capacity main arena which hosts music from all genres this year including Grace Jones, David Guetta, Ziggy Marley, Matrix & Futurebound – it’s a real cross policy.
Then you have the monstrous Dance Arena, this truly is phenomenal and THE place to party. The gigantic outdoor stage is set in a part of the old moat, the hill in front of the stage creates an amphitheatre. The sun rises at around 4.30/5am each day so for the final 3 hours the stage is basked in sunlight when you are standing on the stage all you can see climbing up the hill is a sea of ravers normally punching the sky – it’s truly glorious.
To the left of the Dance Arena, you have the No Sleep Novi Sad stage, hidden in another section of fortress – equally as packed and even more underground on the music front – where Dance Arena brings the headliners in house & techno / NSNS stage is more experimental and brings you a wealth of different music from Helena Hauff to Tinman Live to Midland – this stage is for the dance music connoisseur, we are big fans of both for sure. Then across the rest of the festival, you have another 18-20 stages in different parts of the moat, hidden wall section, underground tunnels, stages looking over the stunning Danube river – as I said its astonishing how much music you can see and also value for money with a ticket price at 99 Euros.
We launch into day 1 with a gusto, the hike up to the fortress is a breeze on the first day, a mere hop, skip and well you know the rest, Greg Rutherford would have been proud at the distance covered. First up, the No Sleep Bar next to the press area for the first of probably 50+ ‘No Sleep’ Cocktails, now we aren’t sure what’s in them but we heard from a Serbian that it’s an ancient recipe involving, now we only know the Serbian word ‘muchosalcoholisepartytime’ but it sure does the trick. We power over to hear some music at the local Serbian stage, Urban Bug – where we are treated to the delights of Teo Trunk, Peter Portman, Ilija Rudovic, Jelly for the Babies and M.U.T.O.R – these guys really have some interesting house music (think all day I dream, type vibe). We get stuck in for a while, with the added entertainment of our fellow journo’s incredible dance moves – it’s like being in the presence of Michael Jackson, he’s that good!
We head to the Dance Arena through an underground tunnel, which brings you on the back of the stage (wristband wankers) just in time for the start of Amelie Lens and her take-no-prisoners techno. The first trip to Dance Arena of the trip and getting smacked in the face with techno was utter bliss, air punchers in front, lights, lasers – fantastic – let’s go Exit!
Amelie did what she does so well – executed great music, loads of acid and made us all stomp for two hours (watch the whole set below). Other highlights from Day 1 include Midland & Tijana T in the fabric takeover NSNS stage and our final for day one Tijana Kabic.
For us, day 2 is all about the arrival of Maceo Plex and everything he brings, he has a three-hour set to close the stage. Before him, we head to NSNS for Tinman playing live – for those that don’t know he’s been named the master of neo acid scene and has been producing for over a decade. With that title, you know he brought the acid – which for is the greatest thing about dance music – we were treated to an hour of pure squelches and bleeps, heaven!
We return to Dance Arena via No Sleep Bar [Insert a few more ‘No Sleep Cocktails’], this time heading for a higher viewing platform amongst the crowds for Rødhåd & that Maceo Plex set. Maceo Plex for us, delivered, the best set of the whole weekend – brought in the sunshine with trippy floaty techno, then drifting between the sub-genres with excellent execution. His remix of Bladerunner at 7am hit home hard as well his edit of The Smiths and music from Avision, Frank Biazzi and Christian Smith & John Selway.
You can hear a part of the set below.
By the third-day energy levels had taken a pounding, the walk over the bridge up the hill to the entrance now involved a couple of Sherpas and the ‘No Sleep’ intake had to be doubled, they have guarana in them. We needed something, something to pick the energy up and shake us back to life. Insert our second favourite set of the whole weekend from Disciples.
Eagle-eyed DT fans will know we’ve supported these guys from day dot and they brought the party to Saturday, to the techno-loving Dance Arena, oh my what a party! The crowd was fully involved, they dropped Donna Summer and of course the big guns ‘They Don’t Know’, ‘On My Mind’ – we sang, we jumped, we mostly whooped, it brought the energy back in abundance.
So much so we made it right to Helena Hauff at the close of NSNS, and some of Solomun and straight in to the after party (yep after the festival closes – you head down a track to the right of the exit to find the afters each day, some of the headliners play and it goes till 2pm).
The final day and they’ve gone big (well, why wouldn’t you), told you it was the greatest! The Dance Arena including in this order Dana Ruh, Kölsch, Joseph Capriati, Tale of Us and as with previous years Nina Kraviz to close. The main stage included David Guetta, whilst NSNS had the delights of DJ Tennis & Red Axes. We land on site as Kölsch is bringing his brand of techno with ultimate style and tons of energy, he said after he’d been recovering from a cold – man if that’s him on a low % then hats off – big performance! [Insert more ‘no Sleeps’] ready to be nailed to with pounding beats from Joseph Capriati and he comes in at number 3 of our sets of the weekend, big techno, big stage, hard-hitting. Next up on the stage was Tale Of Us, you can watch all their set below which includes the delight of Three Drives ‘Greece 3000’ – we stayed for part of Nina’s set but our bodies were hurting and the walk home was looming.
We headed back to the hotel, bodies broken, the step-o-meter said we’d clocked 50 miles over the weekend – we’d been truly ‘Exited’ but loved every second. For those that want a great weekend of music, in a country that’s really cheap to eat/drink/stay and be merry. Serbia & Exit MUST be on your list for next year & the following and the following.
Exit, we love you! See you in 2019!