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Reviewed: Meadows In The Mountains

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As the sun starts peeking over the Rhodope Mountains, the first rays of sunshine and resulting warmth they bring mark the boundary between the new dawn and the light-filled dreams that engulfed our imagination the night before. It’s a special, ethereal moment and one this writer and his companion – much like everyone else in attendance – will be unlikely to ever forget; the intensity of the experience overwhelming the senses in an almost religious manner.

So just how did DT find itself in Bulgaria bewitched by a blend of inspired music, a sense of community and untouched vistas? Well, for that we have to head back to the hustle and bustle of London from wherein we’d depart. Like most things worth doing, getting to Meadows in the Mountains is a serious effort. Flights to the most nearby airport of Plovdiv are incredibly limited and as such most people fly into Sofia despite the increased time spent in transit. Wherever you arrive in Bulgaria, a considerable – if picturesque – journey lay ahead of you before you’ll able to lose yourself in any meadows or mountains. This however, is the first stage of the festival’s bonding process, with lots of early friendships forged by travelling attendees before a single note has been played.

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Upon arrival at our house for the coming days, we’re greeted by the lovely Mrs. Vodenicharov, who despite not speaking much English makes for a delightful host whenever she appears. She, like everyone else we come across in the village at the bottom of the mountain is friendly and welcoming, seeming to enjoy the change of pace Meadows bring to what we imagine would otherwise be a very sleepy town. One morning, we awake to find that she has been out foraging wild fruit for us to enjoy for breakfast, her sunny disposition seeming a world away from the stern faces we’re used to seeing on the tube each day. The accommodation on offer is rustic but sufficient and to our minds infinitely preferable to a night in a pop up tent both culturally and comfort wise.

The festival site itself is around a half hour hike from the village and having finally made our way to the top of the mountain, we were eager to explore what Meadows had on offer. We weren’t disappointed. Having recovered from the somewhat lung bursting trek up, we quickly lost ourselves within the beauty of the picturesque scenery. We survey the landscape, attempting to take in the majesty of all that’s before us. We catch snippets of other conversations hurling superlatives around to describe the sights on offer, exchanges offering up fresh insight into everything we can see.

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In short, the setting is absolutely unreal; one can lose themselves, and find themselves, amidst the infectious energy supplied by the 1000 or so strong crowd at one of the sites two main stages and various chill out spaces. Intimate and accessible, the line up is small but carefully curated, offering up more than enough to satisfy even the most demanding of music lovers. Beginning at midday and running right through until the small hours of the next day (a rare enough thing in the current festival climate) the eclectic array of talent on show entertained and amazed in equal measure, with Meadows a hotbed of experimental activity.

In the day time, talk was dominated by the performance of Marques Toliver, whose exploits on the violin quickly won him an army of admirers of both sexes, impressed as much by his singing as his dexterity on the strings. It was as the sun began to set that Meadows really comes into its own in our opinion though. DJ sets from DT favourites Anna Wall, Thugfucker and Ed Word were as varied and fun filled as expected, moving soles and souls throughout the night.

The multi talented Hutch debuted an impressive live show ahead of what we expect to be a big second half of the year for him and his production partner as Amber Shells whilst Grime don Last Japan gave us a taste of home with an expertly crafted set that blended the classic and the contemporary into one heady mix.

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Outside of the main stages, fun was to be had at the meticulously assembled ‘other spaces’, which included a wooden pirate ship (ahoy) a garage and champagne bar (yes, really) and a set of tree houses that took us back to a childhood spent playing Zelda and the Ocarina of Time. These all add to the binding atmosphere of the festival as (we keep saying it) people made new friends.

We also need to give a shoutout to perhaps the nicest and most professional medical team we’ve ever encountered at a festival. Moutaintops can be perilous places – especially in the dark – so to have such friendly team on hand to help anyone in need was both reassuring and shows a determination on the part of Meadows to ensure everyone has a great time.

In conclusion, we can’t recommend Meadows highly enough. Sure, that recommendation comes with some caveats. It’s difficult to get to and isn’t for everyone. If you want ‘superstar’ DJs, co2 cannons and laser shows then you’ll want to look elsewhere. But for those intrepid few willing to stray from the beaten path and look for something a little bit different, this is a special festival indeed.

Photography: Aron Klein

 

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