About This Festival
Location, location, location. We've heard it before, but how many festivals can legitimately back up this claim? Serbia's EXIT Festival is the one-upper of amazing locales – Novi Sad's 17th century fortress that mixes up radical politics, a beautiful setting, and unparalleled musical offerings. This heavyweight combo earns EXIT the distinction as one of the most sought-out summer music festivals in the world. While it may now be divorced from its roots as a base for activist culture, EXIT still represents a way of life and a way of thinking. The EXIT village promotes this way of life; it's the beach home to all patrons of the festival throughout its five days. Besides mainstream acts, EXIT hosts a diverse array of artists, including representatives of underground electronica, metal, punk, and experimental genres.
EXIT Festival's Truly Radical Roots
The roots of EXIT lie in student organization, particularly three university students from Novi Sad, Dusan Kovacevoc, Bojan Boskovoc, and Ivan Milivojev, who established the first EXIT Festival in 2000 as a means of protest against the sitting government under Slobodan Milosevic. The idea was that this festival would be free of corporate sponsorship and a secure platform for educating the Serbian people about corruption and alternatives to its existing political structure, all while partying to some good local tunes. The name was coined from a slogan recalling the Milosevoc regime, "exit out of ten years of madness," indeed there has been a shift in the madness from intolerance to ecstatic celebration. This festival was not only an important catalyst for change, but a cathartic way for a nation to collectively heal from the atrocities of one of Europe's most recent wars.
Milosevic is long gone and the current administration of EXIT organizers are certainly not above taking a few corporate dollars to fund their event, with the festival attendance swelling into the six figures region. Still, many festival-goers and bands are attracted to EXIT, if only for its magnetic locale. Every year since 2001, the festival has taken place at the national landmark, Petrovaradin Fortress, located along the right bank of the Danube River. The fortress itself is an impressive 17th century stone edifice perched atop a hill overlooking the city of Novi Sad, Serbia's second largest city. One of the benefits of a music stage built in a fortress is that the stone walls provide superb acoustics, much like the natural amphitheater of Red Rocks, Colorado. These castle walls rock!
There's an unhinged vibe to EXIT, "a crazy wild side that very few festivals have," according to UK electronics legend, The Prodigy. Anticipations rise as campers arrive up to two days early to prepare for a five-day marathon. The shores of the Danube become a virtual city of tents by its opening day, with a string of private enclosures littered throughout the Petrovaradin grounds, mostly along the Strand beach area. EXIT seems to have the full support of the press, too, having won accolades from UK and American media as a top summer festival. Much like Sziget, the crowd is turning more and more international, with large promotion in the UK, Holland, and other festival-hungry nations. You can bet that many summer Euro trippers have put this on the top of their backpacking bucket list.
It's Just a Stage
EXIT Festival is still growing, so much so that it's been expanded from its original three-day run up to five days. In that time, over 16 stages will be filled with top-notch acts with the largest crowds drawn to the EXIT Main Stage and the Dance Arena. The Main Stage is located in the midst of the fortress, drawing over 30,000 attendees for headliners. Although each night's headliner usually ends around midnight, there is also an "After 2 AM" dance party each night featuring electronic acts performing until dawn. This is one of the main draws of the festival, and all-night revelers live for these dance-until-daybreak raves.
The Dance Arena is the second largest stage, though top of the chart for energy, treating about 25,000 attendees to the latest in dance and electronic music throughout the night. This is EXIT's most defining stage, held within a moat surrounded by castle walls, giving attendees the chance to dance in a futuristic rave set in the medieval past. For many, this may be the only stop on the list at EXIT and days are spent sleeping to prepare for the nightly awakening of the Dance Arena. The Explosive Stage is devoted to extreme rock genres like death metal, hardcore, and punk. Other stages celebrate an element of diversity closer to the roots of EXIT. Although the festival would subsist just fine on the mainstream acts that fill its primary stages, venues like Fusion, which represents up-and-coming artists, and Suba, which represents more experimental genres, are arguably the lifeblood of this festival, presenting a powerful and authentic alternative in more intimate settings.
Know When to Exit EXIT Festival
When the music gets to be too much, the EXIT village is dotted with "chill zones" that include hammocks, shade, and chairs where you can get respite from the madness. It's a young vibe here and people go hard through the night, sometimes to the point of burnout. Know your limits and take advantage of the gorgeous rest spots when you've reached them. All in all, EXIT is an idyllic location for a wonderfully eclectic week of music and hard partying at a breathtaking historic site. As easy as it is to get wrapped up in the party, don't forget the history, as we all play a role in the future of peaceful nations. Music festivals can be a positive agent for social change.