In Sun Tzu’s âThe Art of Warâ, the author indicates that âin the midst of chaos there are also opportunitiesâ. The organizers of Serbian’s Exit Festival took this message to heart over the weekend, as they put on a widely successful (and, they hope, sure) music festival, the largest in Europe since the start. of the pandemic.
Held every July in and around the sprawling Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, the Exit festival drew around 180,000 people over four nights (the event ended early Monday morning), organizers said. And while the event, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, has long drawn music fans from neighboring Balkan countries, new festival aficionados from countries like France, Germany and Spain have flocked to Exit this weekend as most of the big Europe was forced to cancel events for the second year in a row due to lingering coronavirus concerns.
Serbia has had surprising success in terms of vaccination rates, with around 2.5 million fully vaccinated people in the country, which has a population of just under seven million. The Serbian health ministry said only two people in the country had been diagnosed with the Delta variant so far, as Reuters reported earlier this month.
As a result, Exit Festival, with the crucial blessing of local government officials, was in a good position to organize the mass rally, which still required all participants to present proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test as a condition of entry. Despite the fact that several studies of concerts of recent test events in countries such as Germany, France, England, Spain and the Netherlands have shown that concerts (especially outdoor events such as Exit) can be organized without becoming so-called âsuper spreaderâ events as long as entry measures are respected, European governments remain somewhat afraid of giving the proverbial green light to music festivals. Just four days ago, the Netherlands reimposed restrictions on nightclubs and music festivals just weeks after they were lifted, in a bid to curb a suspicious wave of coronavirus infections among young adults .
Coronavirus concerns were largely absent once fans arrived at the festival grounds over the weekend, as the maskless masses fainted at names like David Guetta, DJ Snake, Amelie Lens, Charlotte de Witte, Sabaton, Paul Kalkbrenner, Maceo Plex and more. But as a reminder that travel and health issues are still present, many artists were absent at the last minute of the event, including American rapper Tyga, German DJ Boris Brejcha, Scottish DJ Denis Sulta, DJ / UK producer Hot Since 82 and US DJ / producer Honey Dijon – forcing Exit organizers to scramble and rearrange lines at the last minute. Luckily for fans, Exit was able to appease ticket holders and reward them with longer sets of favorites, or surprises dotted throughout the weekend.
While the Exit festival has hosted major rock or rock adjacent groups in recent years, such as Guns N ‘Roses, Arctic Monkeys and The Cure (this year Exit featured Swedish metal band Sabaton), the event has always been about dance music. , and this year was no different – with DJs serving as the main draw and spread across multiple stages, including the main stage.
What was different this year was more female DJs, who did a lot of the heavy lifting to make the 2021 edition shine. The opening night of the festival featured some of the best draws in the world. international circuit of festivals such as the Belgians AmÃ©lie Lens and Charlotte de Witte (as well as the local DJ Tijana T and the Croatian Insolate). The revelers weren’t disappointed, especially on Thursday when Lens delighted Exit’s Dance Arena scene. By the time Lens released her own thrilling track “Higher” about 30 minutes into her set, and early Friday morning she had the crowd wrapped tightly around her finger. The Belgian’s wildly energetic, tense and techno-heavy turn set the tone for the evening and showed why her remarkable rise in recent years to the top of every festival-goer’s wish list is no accident.
Not as well on the main stage Thursday night, DJ Snake, whose lackluster, heavy dubstep set busted all of the mundane live DJ clichÃ©s in the book (âEverybody clap their hands now!â). Still, the mood remained jubilant on Thursday as the festival kicked off with massive fireworks and even a goofy art film starring Serbian actress Miona MarkoviÄ played on a giant screen for those taking part in the scene. main title titled “EXIT the Pandemic: Dance to Freedom!”
The film was a bizarre break from the generally good sets on opening night, and its tone was hopeful, even though it turned out to be the opposite of escape – as the short refers to pandemic on several occasions and even in a funny way presents a fake show that read: “In America, tech companies are already designing the cities of the future, in which people will not need to be in contact with each other. other.”
As the weekend wore on, the number of spectators increased as the number of Exit attendees walked through the gates on Saturday night. The highlights of the weekend included more female talent from the electronic music world, including names such as Russian Nina Kravitz (who replaced Boris Brejcha’s closing set at the Dance Arena early Sunday morning), Italian Adiel, Belgrade-based techno duo Monosaccharide, Polish VTSS, Italian 999999999999 and Palestinian DJ Sama ‘Abdulhadi.
The more traditional acts that were performed over the weekend were mixed up, with Meduza’s set turning out to be twisty, while David Guetta’s appearance got the job done on the main stage, as he apparently couldn’t doing harm in Serbia with its long history in Exit having played the festival many times before. in past years.
Most of the aforementioned DJs who lit up the weekend at Exit performed on the festival’s âNo Sleepâ stage, which was smaller than the main stage or the Dance Arena stage, but still offered one of the best and some of the most exciting music from the whole festival. . Showcasing fresh and at times stimulating electronic finds in a more intimate setting flanked by fortress walls, it provided a bit of a respite from massive and more traditional crowds on stages that are easier to find.
Exit’s “No Sleep” zone is no secret: the stage has proven to be so popular over the years that Exit has created a brand new festival called “No Sleep”, which has been running as a standalone event ever since. 2018, also featuring more âundergroundâ DJs playing techno and other genres of dance music that are difficult to categorize.
Beyond “No Sleep”, Exit also announced last month that it will be launching a new (much smaller) outdoor event called “Sunland” on the Black Sea in Bulgaria which will take place this summer. A new Exit-branded nightclub in China (Exit Effinity) and a partnership with Space Miami are also planned, which will host an Exit-themed party this year.
The fact that Exit is still an independent festival (despite multiple buyout / partnership opportunities over the past two decades) allows it to build – and expand – its brand. And after successfully hosting a stellar event that brought smiles to tens of thousands in the midst of a pandemic, and despite multiple roadblocks, it certainly bodes well for Exit next year, and beyond.