Heard at Exit Festival

By Dan Cole

Now in its tenth year, the Exit Festival, located in a historic fort perched above the river Danube, brings a wealth of music and culture to the little town of Novi Sad, Serbia.

Originally instigated as a party to rebel against the oppression of the old Yugoslavian regime, the festival has grown to attract thousands of revelers from across Europe. For those still yet to experience Exit, imagine Sonar in the East. It’s a true festival-goer’s dream: picturesque setting, easy access, cheap drinks, brilliant set planning, and friendly locals. The lineup itself is a diverse and rich mixture of contemporary and classic, electronic and rock. The main stage itself switched between the likes of Faith No More and The Chemical Brothers to DJ Zinc [a] and the Foreign Beggars [a].

Up on the main stage the first night was LCD Soundsystem [a]. James Murphy’s troop of stadium-rock disco pioneers went through the singalong hits from ‘Daft Punk Is Playing in My House’ to the electro-prog ‘Yeah’.

Moving on through to the Dance Arena, along came Montreal’s multi-cultural, Prince-worshipping duo Chromeo [a]. Playing funk-driven disco aimed straight for the ladies, they rinsed through the likes of ‘Tendoroni’, ‘Momma’s Boy’ and ‘Bonafied Lovin’. To tie it all up, Chromeo finished with new single ‘Night by Night’, which is exactly how we approached the rest of the festival (oh dear).

On the Resident Advisor stage, Tim Exile [a] offered his unique blend of techno-cabaret, mixing in tracks from his new album and ad-lib productions of crowd samples and electronic beats. Moving through the crowd with a joystick controlled interface through and chopping up beats on his iPad, Tim Exile proved to be one of the most entertaining and unexpected acts over the weekend. Finishing up with the track that made him a household name in the UK,

‘Family Galaxy’, Tim made way for fellow Warp cohort Clark [a], whose broken-beat techno set moved from material off last year’s ‘Totems Flare’ through to Metallica.

Back on the main stage, Erol Alkan [a] and Boys Noize [a] tore it up with characteristically brash beats and electro pop. Still managing to entertain the kids with their charged energy and indie glam were decked out with enough fluorescent accessories to land a plane on a foggy runway.

Day two in Novi Sad began even hotter than the previous one, with the thermometer creeping its way up to 35 degrees. On the main stage, I was shocked to find the Horrors had been replaced with Atari Teenage Riot, who eventually got the crowd into their cyber-techno-gabber-hip-hop fusion. After all these years Alex Empire and co. are still angry about something, although I haven’t been able to quite figure out what.

In the dance arena, Moderat [a] were churning out their Berlin styled emo-dubstep. Apparat [a]‘s wispy vocals and guitar combined with Modeselektor’s destructive beats; their live set included singles like ‘Rusty Nails’ as well as the Modeselektor remix of Headhunter’s ‘Prototype’.

The Resident Advisor stage played host to one of the weekend’s best DJs and entertainers, Joker [a]. Playing to the crowd, the Bristolian banged out his unique style of purple music, R&B flavoured dubstep, and drum & bass. Moving from one hit to the next, the 21-year-old played his remix of ‘Cruel Intentions’, ‘Tron’, ‘Digidesign’, Guido’s ‘Orchestral Lab’— and even Rhianna’s ‘Rude Boy’, TC’s ‘Borrowed Time’ and the 2009 anthem, ‘Time Warp’ by Sub Focus.

Back on the main stage, the Chilean lord of techno, Ricardo Villalobos [a], was caught sporting some exotic, multi-coloured knitwear while spinning everything from early broken beat to minimal and modern techno, keeping the crowd going for three hours, right through the sunrise.

Suddenly it was day three, and Exit kept on going. As Germany overcame their South American rivals in the World Cup, Missy Elliot took to the stage and indulged the crowd in shoe throwing, dance theatrics and 15 minutes of some of her hits. Britain’s very own Missy, Ms. Dynamite, came on afterwards with a set bringing back memories of late ‘90s UK garage. Finishing with her hit ‘Wile Out’ she promptly made way for DJ Zinc and fellow namesake, MC Dynamite. Pumping out his unique style of “crackhouse” (that should be just house, though, right?), Zinc rinsed through his own re-edits of EmalKay’s ‘When I Look At You’ and Magnetic Man’s ‘I Feel Air’ and forthcoming the Duck Sauce track ‘Barbara Streisland’.

Over on the Fusion stage, Australian outfit Midnight Juggernauts [a] were beginning to start up and inflict the relatively small crowd with some of the tracks from their forthcoming album and hits from their latest release on Modular. Starting off with ‘Tombstone’, the prog-disco Antipodeans also delivered ‘Hearts on Fire’ and ‘Shadows’.

On day four, the festival started to fill up to the brim, as it seemed every music lover from Serbia began flowing into the fort’s walls. As the field around the main stage became more and more packed, it became obvious that everyone was here to see the Chemical Brothers. Indulging the crowd with tracks from their new album, as well as classics from their huge repertoire of hits, the UK duo entertained with an array of visual displays and lasers that would put the Death Star to shame.

Back at the Resident Advisor stage, the music was getting very “UK bass” with the likes of DBridge and Instra:mental [a] taking the notion of drum & bass and dubstep to a very different level. Playing tracks such as ‘Wonder Where’ and ‘Watching You’, the RA stage brought a new and heavier vibe to the weekend’s proceedings.

At the Dance Arena, meanwhile everything was starting to get very French. With the line up dominated by Sebastian, DJ Mehdi [a] and Canadian DMC champion A-Trak [a], the crowd was treated to a deluge of classic French house, Ed Banger staples and more Barbara Streisland. Highlights of the evening included a special Mehdi mic of Justice’s ‘Stress’— which lasted for over 15 minutes—and Sebastien’s almighty Daft Punk remix.

It’s not often you get to hear such a diverse multitude of music and party with so many music lovers from across the world. This review goes out to the London lads who built the human pyramid during Black Rose, the Irish guy in the monkey mask during A-Trak, the Italians who accepted me into their family, and everyone else in between.