Festival Fever (Part 2): The State of Exit in Novi Sad

What started off as a little rebellion against a dictatorial regime has become one of Europe’s most-awarded music festivals.

What started off as a little rebellion against a dictatorial regime has become one of Europe’s most-awarded music festivals.

Brian’s heart thumped with anticipation as he marched towards the fortress. He was surrounded by a sea of people who kept pushing him forward towards what has become known as one of Europe’s biggest play grounds.

“The feeling once you cross the gates into Exit is indescribable,” he says. “There’s so much going on and so much you want to see that the mind just boggles.”

Brian’s first trip to Exit, held at the Petrovaradin Fortress in Serbia’s Novi Sad, was in July this year.

“What a line up,” he says. “I had a chance to see Rudimental, Pet Shop Boys, Carl Cox, Jamiroquai, Albarn and other music major players, all in one go.”

Indeed. Exit, also known as State of Exit, has seen a procession of music heavy weights grace the various stages of this multi award-winning festival: Iggy Pop, Roni Size, Sepultura, Massive Attack, Felix Da House Cat, Cyprus Hill….

The history of Exit

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Exit began in 2000 as a music protest against the oppressive regime of former president, Slobodan Milosevic. Held out the front of the faculty of philosophy at the University of Novi Sad, the inaugural Exit lasted 100 days and featured domestic headliners as opposed to international stars.

“Exit, to us, meant an exit away from the hardships of living in Serbia and the hatred that had culminated between the former republics of Yugoslavia,” says Darko, a former student that has been present at Exit since day one. “Music was a way to  come together for reasons other than war.”

In 2001, after the ousting of Milosevic in October 2000, the new democratic government took a shining to Exit as it embodied the progression and pan-Europeanism they sought to develop in post-war Serbia. Exit was given a surge of funds and moved to the Petrovaradin Fortress. It was cut back to a more manageable and palatable nine days.

“Nine days was still a stretch,” says Darko. “(My group and I) would sleep in shifts in tents and shower in the river. The vibe back then was something you won’t see today. A mix of festival and commune almost.”

Today, the Exit itinerary lasts three days. The motive for the festival is no longer fuelled by political sentiment. Rather, the Exit festival is nothing more than a great excuse to high-tail it over to Europe to see your favourite music greats rock the fortress to its core.

When to Exit

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The Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad.

Exit takes place every year in the month of July (the actual date is never fixed). The festival’s info page offers packages that include tickets, transfers and accommodation (with 40 000 music lovers ascending into Novi Sad for Exit, it is highly recommended to take these packages).  There are even packages that provide the opportunity to visit Exit’s sister, the Sea Dance festival, held at Jaz Beach in Montenegro.

Survival tips

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The main strategy for surviving Exit is to plan. Highlight the attractions you wish to see and attempt to stick to the itinerary, otherwise you’ll end up being distracted by the cacophony of various sounds coming from a variety of stages. The second is to give up on rushing. Crowds are thick. Bar cues are long. The fortress is slightly labyrinthine…

“And learn to chill” says Darko. “I know Serbia isn’t known to be a very chilled-out place but you’d be surprised. Leave all your aggression and agenda at the door. Exit away from the usual bar scene of drinking too much and picking up chicks. If its meant to be, it’ll happen.”

For those that want a taste of Exit, check out Jamiroquai live on the MainStage:

Do you have a favourite music festival you’d like us to cover? let us know!