Saturday morning saw the rains clear and a welcome dry and searing heat descend upon Novi Sad, much appreciated by the campers after the moist evening beforehand. The poolside was full with the bold and the beautiful of the continent with “DJ Dale” from local station AS Radio playing housey summer hits as people swam, basked, and slept in the shade on loungers.
I asked a couple of people what they thought of the festival so far:
Roya and Derik from Holland had decided to attend EXIT with a group of ten after previous summers at Sziget and Rockwerchter to try something new. EXIT was the next logical step in the european festival hierarchy and they had heard lots of good things about it from friends. They were a fan of the camp location for the ease of the supermarket, cafes and restaurants.
For Anja from Serbia Stromae and Rudimental was the standout performances of the weekend so far, but she was of the opinion that both the organisation and the weather had been better the year before. This seemed to be the general consensus amongst a lot of the returning natives and staff.
Now that it was officially the weekend the whole town of Novi Sad seemed to be immersed in Festival Fever. The half hour walk from the campsite to the grounds was crammed full of partygoers and everybody, visitors and locals alike, seemed to be soaking up the atmosphere. The banks of the Danube beneath the imposing fortress were lined with lively dudes and dudettes merry making as groups of scantily clad Serbian ladies maneuvered through the crowd selling shots of Rakjia, the Serbian “national” spirit.
Slowly people made their way across the bridge through the mass of humanity who easily took over the entire street. Buses crammed like tins of sardines had a tough time getting past the impromptu parade. Street vendors lined both sides making a killing off the convenience of cheap sunglasses and rave lights.
The sun had obviously worked its magic and there was a real sense of expectation in the air as the pilgrimage moved itself forward.
As usual the first players on the on the Main Stage were of Serbian origin, a nice touch for the festival as it gave home grown bands some exposure and pleased the large contingent of locals. Both Stray Dog featuring Tamara Milanovic and Negative played to a rapidly expanding audience which reached a healthy swell by the time sexy string duo 2 Cellos, began their crowd pleasing repertoire of well known tunes executed with gusto on electronic cellos accompanied by smouldering good looks and expressive facial expression to rival the “bass face” of Haim.
Midnight saw Saturday’s first headliner Damon Albarn take the stage for a set full of swagger and melancholy. Despite the large crowd that he drew the mood seemed slightly subdued, as his solo work lacked the bounce of his well known tracks with Blur or Gorialiaz and he seemed slightly jaded with the whole thing, even throwing beer over the photographers in the photo pit at one point in some sort of anti-press sentiment. Despite this he found himself playing to a captive audience who although not moving much listened intently while his musicians went from one grinding guitar solo to the next, and he finished to raucous applause.
The night was only really starting to kick off, and the good weather had people all hyped up for a long haul of partying.
At every stage in the fortress, big and small, there was dancing to be found. Smooth tuneage at the Positive Vibrations Reggae Stage kept people pretty much skanking all night and a rip-roaring set by Drum and Bass stalwarts NZ Shapeshifter went down a treat at Huawei Fusion Stage.
A huge and expectant crowd throbbed in the Main Stage under a heavy full moon in expectation for Skrillex, who kept his fans waiting for almost half an hour before appearing in a blast of light and noise. He clambered and jumped around on the decks like a man possessed, dropping big bassy hook after big bassy hook accompanied by a blinding laser show that had the entire fortress happily blasted with beats and luminance.
Bass remained the name of the game at the Main Stage with Gorgon City and Shadow Child keeping things bouncing well past dawn.
The good times were continued over at the MTS Dance Arena which was a was an undulating sea of topless and bikini clad humanity under the blood red sunrise as big hitters Afrojack, Tiga, Heidi Vs Kim and Foxman rolled out feel good minimal and techno summer beats well past 6 am.
The night never really ended, and as the sun climbed rapidly into the sky the hardcore found themselves making their way back to base camp under a clear blue sky with ears still ringing and hearts still pumping after a long night of thoroughly modern rhythms.
EXIT was now past the halfway mark, but you got the feeling that the party had only just begun.