The world's weirdest festival....
OK, quick history lesson. After two decades of having racist human rights abuser Slobodan Milosevic in charge, the youth of Serbia decided they had had enough. When they couldn’t get him out via elections, they decided to do it the only other way they knew – by holding a massive party to force him out through the power of love, peace and dancing.
The first State Of EXIT festival, held in 2000, culminated in a 100-day peaceful protest to have the infamous tyrant removed, and by the following year it had succeeded. Now in its fourth summer of love and 96 days shorter, EXIT stands as a Serbian symbol of troubles past, triumph over evil and, well, getting fucked up and not sleeping for four days.
Held in an island fortress in the city of Novi Sad and separated from the mainland by the Danube, the festival runs from 4pm-8am daily, boasts 13 stages, 400 acts and costs the equivalent of £40. Over on the Afro Cuban Latino Stage we find a man giving free salsa lessons, while on the Balkan Fusion stage the highlight of the weekend has to be local ska band Lost Propelleros’ cover of [a]EMF[/a]’s ‘Unbelievable’. Unbelievably, though, the biggest draw of the weekend isn’t this retread of late-’80s indie dance hits, but the main stage on Sunday where [a]Peaches[/a], [a]Kings of Leon[/a] and [a]Iggy & The Stooges[/a] are expected. Except, of course, the Kings cancel at the last minute, with drummer Nathan’s “strained thumb” officially the most pathetic excuse we’ve ever heard.
Their replacements are Serbia’s Partibrejkers – an ageing four-piece specialising in ’80s drivetime classics. Then, in a slight change of gear, [a]Peaches[/a] comes onstage, strips to her underwear and hollers [a]Electric Six[/a]’s ‘Gay Bar’ in its entirety. Aided by her two hermaphrodite (well, ladies with beards and strap-ons) dominatrixes, she slicks her way through a dozen outfits, a variety of spectacularly-shaped guitars and songs about bumming.
Luckily, the only man in the world dirty enough to follow her is waiting backstage. With a reformed line-up of The Stooges, [a]Iggy Pop[/a] is greeted like a deity. As they pound through the guttural sleaze of ‘1969’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, paying maniacs swing suicidally from the uppermost branches of nearby trees to get a better view. ‘No Fun’ starts a stage invasion that sees a hundred fans ripping off their shirts and pogoing alongside the sworn high-punk hater of all this hippy love shit. But then, as the Serbs have already proved, at EXIT anything’s possible.