Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia Boast Three of the World’s Best Music Festivals

Text by Ekaterina Petrova   
There is nothing like an open-air music festival to celebrate the warm temperatures, the holiday mood and the overall excitement of summer. Until not too long ago, such events were mostly unheard of in the Balkans, their citizens’ left largely out of the loop and faced with long trips to Western Europe or North America if they wished to partake in the festivities and see world-renowned music performances.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case. In the last several years, music festivals – large-scale and small, in mountains and along coasts, in cities and on meadows, have been springing up all around the Balkans like mushrooms, with each summer season seeing more numerous and exciting events and bringing ever more recognized artists to the region. Some, like the EXIT festival in Serbia, which began in 2000 as a protest against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, have a comparatively long and complicated history. Others, like the Spirit of Burgas in Bulgaria, are quite new but have managed to prove world-class in just a couple of years of their existence.

In addition to achieving their primary goal of bringing music and excitement to the people of the Balkans, these festivals are also gaining international recognition for their quality.

The Sunday Times recently included Bulgaria’s Spirit of Burgas, Serbia’s EXIT and Croatia’s Stop Making Sense as three of the world’s best music festivals in the publication’s “definitive guide to the top 100 music festivals.”

“From boutique to blockbuster,” the guide includes festivals as popular as Glastonbury and as obscure as Alcester Folk Festival in Warwickshire. Separated into categories, such as ‘The big boys’, ‘Family-friendly’, ‘Small is beautiful’, ‘Folk festivals’, ‘Dance festivals’, ‘In the city’ and ‘Day trippers’, the list consists mostly of festivals in the UK and Ireland.

The guide’s ‘Foreign fields’ category includes three festivals in the Balkans – Spirit of Burgas in Burgas, Bulgaria; EXIT in Novi Sad, Serbia; and Stop Making Sense in Petrçane, Croatia, in the company of other renowned festivals around Europe and the US, such as Hungary’s Sziget and Spain’s Benicassim.

Called a “festival to visit now, before hordes of Brits discover it” by the publication, Spirit of Burgas – this year only in its third edition, was nominated for best European festival at the UK Festival Awards for the past two years. The festival, The Sunday Times wrote, “takes place on the white sands of the Black Sea coast. The beach stretches for two miles, the sea views are stunning, tickets are cheap and the seven stages offer rock, dance and jazz.”

“The British hoards do not worry us. Burgas will welcome them with a unique atmosphere, hot nights and cold beer,” Mihail Kutsev from the Burgas Municipality, who is a member of the festival’s organization team, told national media as a response.

This year’s confirmed line-up for the Spirit of Burgas, which is scheduled to take place on between August 13 and 15, includes Prodigy, Gorillaz Sound System, Serj Tankian, Andy C and MC GQ and DJ Shadow.

Three-day passes cost 120 leva (around 60 euro) and one-day passes cost 50 leva (around 25 euro). More information, including line-up updates can be found on the festival’s website.

EXIT in Novi Sad, Serbia, was also among the Balkan festivals considered by The Sunday Times to be among the world’s best. “Expect four riotous days and next to no sleep,” the publication warned, noting that, “with 25 stages, you are almost certainly guaranteed to find whatever specialist style of music you seek.”

This year’s big names in the line-up include the Chemical Brothers, Mika, Placebo, Faith No More, Missy Elliott, LCD Soundsystem, Pendulum and David Guetta.

“A lovely site on the slopes of a castle overlooking the Danube, cheap food and drink, blazing Balkan sunshine and entertainment that goes on all night make this a favourite with students from all over Europe,” according to the review.

This year’s EXIT festival takes place between July 8 and 11. Cheaper tickets are already sold out but pricier ones – for 6,490 and 10,990 dinars (around 64 and 110 euro, respectively) are still available. More information can be found on
the festival’s official website.

The third Balkan music event included in the list was the Stop Making Sense festival in Petrçane, a small fisherman's village, 12 kilometres northwest of Zadar, Croatia. “Billed as three days and nights of musical anarchy by the sea, this is a brand-new dance festival co-organised by a former Big Chill director and British club promoter,” the publication wrote.

Between September 3 and 5, 25 years of techno will be celebrated with DJ sets from Juan Atkins, Carl Craig, Theo Parrish, Friendly Fires and Optimo. Son of Dave, Django Django and Nathan Fake will play live.

General admission to the festival for the three days costs £80 (around 93 euro) and for an extra £10 (around 12 euro), festival-goers get access to after-dark boat parties and clubs. More information on the festivals’ line-up and practicalities is available on the Stop Making Sense official website.

So, if you’re in the Balkans this summer, you have no excuse to sit and mope around your house. Experiencing the thrill of a music festival no longer requires you to cross half of Europe or the Atlantic Ocean – getting there can be as simple as going to the beach.




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