The sign of a good festival is if it all feels like it’s ending far too soon. As EXIT 2022 enters its fourth and final night, there is a sense that there is still so much to see and explore, but as we know, nothing lasts forever.
Tonight’s most prominent act is Brazil’s metal powerhouse Sepultura. May heaven forsake anyone still nursing a Saturday hangover when they launch into opening number ‘Arise’, as blistering, searing guitar tangents jostle with screamo and crunching vocals that owe something to Thursday’s opening act Napalm Death. Drum patterns are the key to Sepultura’s music, with Eloy Casagrande’s work pivoting from Latin to prog, depending on the moment.
And yet, their message is clear: some bands aim to be subtle, but Sepultura enjoy the their direct attitude. For a high-profile Brazilian act, they are perfectly ready to speak out against the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro, and frontman Derrick Green regularly takes the time to address progressive ideas tonight between songs. It is in keeping with the radical traditions of EXIT, which was founded upon progressive social politics in the aftermath of the fall of communism in the former Yugoslavia. EXIT’s booking policy to this day deserves credit for giving such a sizeable platform to bands like Sepultura, when too many major festivals still baulk at the idea of embracing metal acts. The festival enjoys operating at the fringes, and it ought to be celebrated for it.
Following them on the Main Stage is a heavy rock act of a totally different stripe. Eurovision fans may recall that Finland’s 2021 entry was something of a standout, and Blind Channel keep the ball rolling over a year later with a rousing performance. They describe their music as “violent pop”, which is understandable: this is pent-up angst in sonic form. This is a spirited set that harkens back to the early years of this century, and the EXIT crowd continues to rave, even after three extremely late nights.
It seems only right that a native Serbian artist should round out proceedings, and Konstrakta rises to the challenge admirably. The moniker of vocalist Ana Duric, she can claim to being Amy Winehouse’s last ever opening act, having played with her at a Belgrade gig back in 2011, but tonight she is emblazoned with her own star power.
Arguably the most prominent Serbian act on the bill, this is a stellar techno-pop performance that encourages an impressively communal experience. Her standout hit ‘In Corpore Sano’ is enthusiastically received, a response perhaps boosted by the song’s sly critique of the Serbian healthcare system. Konstrakta holds down the same stage space as Calvin Harris and Nick Cave before her – and she deserves it.
If there is a lesson to learn from EXIT Festival, it is that this a place where music from every community is invited, welcomed and treated equally, and the result is a festival with an atmosphere all of its own. Bravo.