Friday, July 27, 2007

Exit... Stage serbia

3 dimensional stages
Originally uploaded by cornasdf
When we heard the Beastie Boys were touring Europe this year, Dan, a buddy from work, and I had to go see them. Where was a question. It was narrowed down to Denmark or Serbia. Dan was sold on Serbia after his research so we decided on the Exit Festival. Started 7 years ago as a student protest against Slobodan Milosevic. The first few years each had a real themes and messages. MTV took it over a few years ago and now there is no longer a specific message. But in any case, a fortress on the Danube doesn’t sound like a bad place to watch a show. I had no idea, how great of a venue it would be.

The flight from London got us to Belgrade just before midnight. We caught a cab to the Hotel Royal. A bit run down but it had a 24 hour restaurant, bar, and shop. We stopped at the bar for a beer. 100 dinars, about 1.75 each. It also had a hot line in the bathroom. There was a bright red phone in the bathroom. Just in case I needed to call in a nuclear strike from the toilet.

Next morning we headed over to the train station. There were plenty of other Exit Fest types. Enough that when the train pulled into the station people started jumping on before it even stopped. They needn’t have bothered, there was plenty of room. It was the first time I had to jump on a moving train though.

When we finally got to Novi Sad, we encountered a huge unorganized queue to get into the campgrounds. It was all Brits too, I thought they were supposed to be good at queuing. It is one of their national prides but I guess when in Serbia all that goes to hell. Other than having to muscle your way through crowd to get close enough to be in the 10 people they let in at a time. All told the line took about an hour to get through the camping line. Unlike other festivals I have been to, well, THE other festival I have been to, there was no organization in the camping area. Just a large field and tents 15 and 20 deep.

We eventually found a spot a little off the beaten path and set up. I recently bought a new tent, backpack, sleeping bag, etc. I ended up getting some all in one kit. It is pretty decent, on the lower end of the quality gear.

Once we were set up, we headed to the beach. They had a DJ set up and all the brits were out sunning. One annoying thing was that they had some funny money setup for the drinks. You had to buy tokens to get beer, different ones for water, others for wine, energy drinks, sodas, etc. Ugh, annoying especially since later in the camp they weren’t accepting the tokens (despite all the signs that said you couldn’t use cash). In the festival, they only ever took tokens. After having a beer on the beach though, it was really starting to feel like vacation.

We decided to head over to the festival to get our tickets squared away. The fortress was straight across the Danube, not far as the crow flies. As I walk, however, it is a bit far to be going over to the bridge and back. We started hatching a plan to find a room closer to the festival.

After sitting through another queue, we went into the festival grounds. Nothing was going on yet so we just wandered around and got the lay of the land. The main stage area was a bit small but other than that, the grounds were great. 13 large stages with 29 discreet areas. The 3D effect was great. There were places you could be at one stage and see one or two others in the background. For the sound all they did was turn it up really loud. If you were at any of the stages, the sound was all encompassing.

After a tour of the grounds, we went back into town to look for a room. I asked a cop that was standing on the side if the sign behind him said room for rent. He was super nice and ended up going out of his way to ask around for a room for us. He made some calls and comes back and tells us somebody will be there in 20 minutes. Well, since we are at the bar, we might as well celebrate. Tequila shots are only 80 cents you say? Well serve em up. While we drank we met some of the locals, All told the locals were extremely nice.

Eventually our cop friend had to leave but he came up to us and told us that the guy would be there in 10 minutes. His English wasn’t great but he conveyed that the guy ‘looks like Jesus, long brown hair, blue eyes’. Had an awkward moment when I tried to go to the bathroom. Somebody pointed me towards an archway and told me to go downstairs. I went down and found a small underground bar. I was waiting in line for the bathroom when an older Serbian woman comes up and starts berating me for bringing my beer in there. “We don’t serve beer in plastic glasses”. Now, I see her point but I had to go to the bathroom and I was close to the front of the line so I couldn’t leave either. Her English wasn’t great so I had a time trying to talk her down, offering to buy a drink (but after I went to the bathroom) etc. She seemed to calm down and all was ok. Randomly, a girl came up later and mentioned she had seen the whole thing and complemented me on how I handled it. All of this did mean that I had to buy another shot of tequila after I went to the bathroom. This day is getting messy.

Eventually Jesus showed up, I was waiting to pay for a round of drinks so Dan went off to deal with it. We ended up paying 12000 dinar (about 25/per person/per night) to be about 100 feet from the entrance to the festival. The room was private but the bathroom was down the hall. The Ritz, it ain’t. There was a constant leak in the bathroom so it was always covered in water. The beds were basically just little foam futon things. All that said, it was a private room and bathroom 100 feet from the festival. Score.

Since we were running out of time, we decided not to go back to the camp. We headed back to the festival. They gave us crap about coming in saying we had already been there that day (earlier when we took a look around) but we argued it through. That would have sucked. But it didn’t so we headed over to see Robert Plant. His show was sweet. The lack of dinner is starting to get to me. After his show, we went wandering around the show. Of course we completely forgot that we wanted to see Prodigy and Groove Armada. Ahh well, we bounced around and eventually made it back to our room.

I was feeling the love in the morning. Gotta stay away from that tequila. We eventually made it out for some breakfast and then over to the camp to get our stuff. After we moved, it was time for food again. We asked one of the vendors just outside our door where to get a real meal. He mentioned a few places in town but nothing close. We resigned ourselves to heading back over the bridge but decided to check the place on the water on the off chance that they had food. Turns out to be a great meal, no idea why the guy didn’t mention it.

After dinner it was nap time. We were just getting ready to head out to the show that evening when there was a knock on the door. The owner of the room, an attractive Serbian girl, came in and gave us a 15 minute history of Serbia. She set up to meet the next day for a more in depth tour. Odd, at this point I am still worrying about ulterior motives. Ahh well, problem for tomorrow, back to the show.

We were much more ready for the show tonight. We started with a cool Serbian ska band on the Fusion stage. The next band on that stage was also good, Defence, a Bosnian reggae band. Not looking at him, you would think he sounds like an old rasta with dreads. Looking at him you see a balding white accountant guy. Odd, but the sound was good.

More wandering, we he headed over and caught CSS, a brazilian band that we saw in the 02 festival in LDN. They are good with a fun presence. Next was the Beasties. This is why we came. We had worked our way up pretty close by the time they started. This was a bit of a problem b/c there were a bunch of big as Serbians basically moshing. I am getting to old for this shit. We moved back a bit and had a much better show.

We wrapped it up around 3am, feeling much better for having played teetotaler. I added another mattress that was leaning against the wall to my bed and made it much more comfortable. Feeling nice and human again.

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