So, getting to cover Exit Festival in Serbia this weekend has been pretty fantastic for us. There’s an incredible atmosphere (and a bucketload) of heat, but getting to witness genre-defining bands like Portishead as well as up-and-coming new acts like Sheffield indie starlets Hey Sholay all in the same weekend has been an incredible opportunity that we would’ve never passed up; not even if you’d have offered us a life-time supply of chocolate ice-cream, with a load of cream on it…and some sprinkles. Nope. We wouldn’t have traded for anything…anyways, here’s a run down of the bands we got to see!
Proper punk band Bad Religion start our weekend off after we make the very long trek (it’s a massive site people – very impressive, and very tiring to get around…totally worth it, mind) to pick up our lovely press passes, and we are fortunately greeted with their hard-hitting and addictive mix of tunes including ‘American Jesus’ and ’21st Century Digital Boy’ – we bounce, kick feet and have lots of fun led by the charms of Greg Graffin who honestly has always made being a frontman look as simple as standing up to say your name in class at school. What an awesome way to fire things up and put us in a good mood to endure this almost blistering heat and see what is set to be the most diverse set of musical performers possible!
Following on (and still at the Main Stage), is progressive indie music kings Arcade Fire and their blissful cinematic live show, we get to check out a selection of weird and wonderful visuals alongside their enchanting erray of sounds that completely blows away the rammed crowd. Standouts for this set include ‘No Cars Go’ and the anthemic, uplifting modern alt-pop of ‘Intervention’. Coupled with the intense (and yet, very welcome warm evening air), this band goes down a storm and showcases exactly why they are billed as “one of the very best live acts in the galaxy”. Top stuff. Near perfect in fact.
Rap all-stars House Of Pain fire things off next over on the Fusion Stage with their playful mix of tracks. Approaching their 30 anniversary now, it is a little sad to think that (arguably) they are known worldwide for just one tune…yep, you guessed it…for most of the set including the blues-rap mix of ‘Back From The Dead’ and the heavier more ominous ‘Just Another Victim’, the crowd never really gets into it fully until that tune is played. Indeed, ‘Jump Around’ incites a near-riot within those looking on. It has to be said though, that this lot do pour all of themselves into their art and as a result the energy is somewhat infectious, and as crossover bands go, House Of Pain really should be held up as one of the main influences for those looking to mix rap with rock and other elements.
Finishing our first night out in Serbia (working..gotta love this job, eh?) we bare witness to Yorkshire brit-pop powerhouse Pulp led by the ever delightful Jarvis Cocker. No matter what you are in to, this band can pull out a song that has something for everyone. To his credit, the singer speaks to his attentive audience in both English and Serbian tongue, and amidst a rather excellent laser light show, songs (ahem…anthems) like ‘Common People’ and ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’ sound just as relevant and powerful as they have always done. Already, we are getting to experience one of the sure highlights of our collective life writing for music. This is a band that, without question, you must see live before you die. Go. Get your tickets. If they suck, come and find us. We’ll take your beatings.
Our second day kicks off with the alt-pop stylings of Editors who put their goth-tinged sound out to the appreciative European audience in the form of powerful tunes like ‘An End Has A Start’ and ‘The Weight Of The World’. While this act bares more than the slightest similarity to US scene darlings Interpol, their stage-prescence and excitable nature surely helps them to stand proud in their own right; the beautiful piano elements coupled with dark and almost hypnotic vocals seamlessly seduce the crowd making Editors one of the more popular artists performing this weekend – they have a tune for every emotion, and for some reason (we’re not going to spend ages figuring it out) they seem to appeal to fans across the great genre devide; even those in to much heavier sounds seem to be involved here.
Next we have the ever controversial M.I.A performs her vibrant mix of energetic dance and hip-hop music over on the Main Stage. ‘Paper Planes’ and ‘Bucky Done Gun’ stand out for us. This artist is without question, our favourite of the weekend. Her show seems to encapsulate Exit’s philosophy of championing a range of sounds from across genres. The atmosphere is incredible and we have never been more f****ng impressed by a solo artist rockin’ a festival main stage. We hope she tours over our way soon.
Changing tone next, we head over to the Explosive Stage to check out US hardcore act Parkway Drive and their heavy as hell guitar-driven, raw tracks. ‘Sleepwalker’ sounds the most accessible here, and there is undoubtedly a unique strength to this stuff that will appeal to those in to the aforementioned genre alongside styles including death metal and punk.
After making the trek back to the arena on this (really) warm Saturday eve, and on the Main Stage we check out Santigold – another great solo artist adept at mixing rap elements in with electonic music. ‘Get It Up’ strikes fast as a proper dirty dance track with all the right parts incorporated to get everyone moving. Similarly, ‘StarStruck’ represents a change of pace for the artist as it’s much slower but it is something much heavier and more prominent than other tracks offered at this performance. The great thing about this artist, much like M.I.A before her is the ability she has to work a crowd far beyond the stereotypical beat-led solo artist who relies on decks and a mic. We do ackowledge that there is a similar format for her live show, but in terms of atmosphere, Santigold creates something very special here.
Next up, we are on the Exit Music Live Stage for Sheffield’s own Hey Sholay and their quirky indie music that falls somewhere between The Arcade Fire and The Polyphonic Spree – effortlessly uplifting and commercially friendly sounds for the masses. Pretty standard stuff for a new band these days, yeah? Good point. However, new single ‘Dreamboat’ (with its enchating guitar elements and spikey drum beats) is performed with an energy and vigour that is seen rarely in the current crop of scene pretenders and that is what lifts this material above and beyond. Good-quality homegrown talent.
And now, for something slightly different, we head to the Main Stage for JK and co. to rock our collective soul as Jamiroquai. Yeah baby! All the standard party anthems are present and accounted for. Cosmic Girl? Check. Deeper Underground? Double check. It’s rammed on the Main Stage, and we can hardly fit, but the squeeze is worth it for the feel-good atmsophere that enevitably follows when this act is on form. Jamiroquai have a reputation as one of the UK’s ultimate party bands, and tonight they prove themselves to be not only that, but one of our best live acts. Period.
Things get a little bit more rough and ready next, as we check out Brit-punk stalwarts Anti-Nowhere League. Now, this band seems to get everywhere…really. Our editor’s pretty sure that they were seen performing at his local pub-cum-music venue in York fairly recently? That aside, the band put on an impressively action-packed and interesting showcase. Tracks like the iconic ‘So What?’ and ‘I Hate People’ work the crowd into a fine frenzy and frontman Nick Culmer (Animal), with his intense and brash nature, keeps the crowd motivated throughout.
In our final review of Saturday’s events, we go to see the genre-bending madness embodied within the music of London natives Hadouken! Their truly unique brand of rave rock sits nicely within this setting – not only because it’s the Fusion Arena, but because it’s Exit and like we touched on earlier in this write-up, Exit really seems to champion the crossing of genres like no other festival in the world, and we really dig it! Tunes including ‘Turn The Lights Out’, ‘Bombshock’, ‘Mecha Love’ and ‘Mic Check’ come across like arena-beating anthems here that easily rival contemporary counterparts like Pendulum and The Prodigy and their best work. This is truly exciting and innovative stuff, people.
We do love changing pace and mixing things up, and you know we love diversity here at Soundsphere HQ, so there was no way that we were going to miss the chance to see trip-hop legends Portishead in action while on our travels. Tonight, the band remains ever-sombre but still so great in delivery, the band breaks through its grand range of material including ‘Sour Times’ and ‘Glory Box’ to the delight of the chillaxed crowd and we are left feeling like we’ve witnessed something truly special here in Serbia. Portishead as a group is one of a kind, and as such their performances our the same – euphoric, eerie and passionate all at the same time. Also, props must be given to the band for their immense live presence. Despite the slow vibe and mood, there is a defining energy with the act here.
Next, we hop over to the dance stage for Digitalism live just in time to witness the best lighting show of the weekend kicking in. ‘Pogo’ stands out for us, and the impact is really aided by the addition of live drums and guitars. Many will know that we have spent many years pushing bands that successfully mix electronic music with acoustic instrumentation – mainly ‘coz it’s so darn catchy and cool, right? Digitalism do this so very well, to the point where they surprise us, forcing us to look way beyond their pop and pure dance roots. Knock-out lights. Massive beats and killer riffs. It’s all good here.
If we’re gonna see such standalone bands as Pulp, House Of Pain and Portishead over the weekend, then there’s no real way that we can afford to miss an act like Nick Cave & Grinderman is there? This guy has influenced so many bands across so many styles of music that it’s almost ridiculous. Nick Cave’s sultry and seductive voice hooks his capacity audience in from the word go and material like ‘Solitary Man’ and ‘Heathen Child’ sound fresh and powerful in pace and tone. Grindermen reign supreme on the Sunday and we end our experience on a complete and total high.
There is so much on offer for even the most casual of listeners at Exit, and we would definitely recommend that you make the trip given the chance. Indeed, We’ve witnessed the stuff of dreams this weekend and Serbia has been the ideal setting (while the weather has been sweltering – maybe we’re just too British, eh?). We can’t wait to come back again and experience Exit’s great atmosphere and admire their diverse choice of performers. 2012 is going to be a lot of fun, we can assure you!
For more information visit the official Exit Festival website.