180,000 music lovers stormed the fortress of Petrovaradin in Novi Sad, Serbia, over the weekend for the first proper dance after 18 months of near silence in Europe, when EXIT Festival finally got to celebrate its 20th anniversary, July 8-11.
4-day tickets were also sold out almost a week before the event started, “proving the huge need for events and a pent up energy from music fans,” according to today’s statement from the promoters, who welcomed between 42,000 and 48,000 guests on site per day.
50% of the 4-day ticket holders came from abroad, despite the hassle travel has become across the European continent – further proof of people’s need for social gatherings and human connection.
The lineup included international headline acts like David Guetta, Charlotte de Witte, Nina Kraviz, Paul Kalkbrenner, Solomun, Amelie Lens, Maceo Plex, Robin Schulz, Asaf Avidan, Satori, Meduza, Paul van Dyk, DJ Topic, Artbat, Sheck Wes, Sabaton and countless more.
They performed across the festivals 14 fully fledged stages – and many more zones – which are spread out across the moats and planes of Petrovaradin Fortress in such a manner as to cancel out any audio bleed.
Many artists exclaimed their delight at being back on stage in front of a proper audience. “Turn on the lights, let me see the people; I miss people,” said Amira Medunjanin from the Visa Fusion stage, wiping tears from her eyes.
Amelie Lens plastered her Instagram with photos and videos, including posts like “So, this happened last night!” Also on Instagram, Charlotte de Witte posted “This felt so, so good!”. DJ Snake simply said “We are back!” during his main stage set.
Other highlights included Nina Kraviz, who heroically stepped in when three headliners of EXIT’s infamous Dance Arena had to cancel last minute. The fans showed their gratitude by not ceasing to chant her name for three encores.
The honor of closing the festival at the Arena was bestowed upon Solomun (& Friends), who played a massive five-hour set until 10 a.m. on Monday morning.
EXIT founder & CEO Dusan Kovacevic said, he “knew this year’s event was more than just a festival, it was a movement of people, ready to do whatever it takes to keep human connections at the forefront of our existence.
“Festivals are generally made to promote values worth living for and we are determined to prove that festivals can be organized safely even during a pandemic. That’s why we have worked tirelessly to create a best practice model on how to do it. Besides our own event, we also hope that EXIT will be encouragement to all our international festival colleagues, the ‘Festival Family’, that it is possible for all of us.”
Besides programming the event, the biggest challenge of 2021 were the ever-changing regulations due to Covid 19. EXIT worked closely with the Serbian authorities and health organizations to create a protocol that was both acceptable legally and also realistic to follow for the fans.
Visitors were allowed to enter the event either with proof of immunity (vaccination or antigens from a past infection), or a negative test (either before entering the country, or at the test zone set up by the festival). The “Safe Events Serbia” safety protocol, in accordance with the latest scientific research, was created to make summer festivals in Serbia the safest gathering places in the country. Early statistics show just that, with less than a dozen positive cases from approx. 14.000 tests done at the festival’s pre-entry test zone.
“A festival is only as strong as its fanbase and during there four days we had a gathering of probably the most passionate festival fans in Europe and beyond! The ones that didn’t mind coming despite all uncertainties, cancellations and travel, PCR tests and other obstacles. They felt the same superstrong need we had all this time – a need for us to be together no matter what, united as one by power of music and life,” Kovacevic concluded.
Watch this space for our exclusive video interview with the EXIT founder and CEO later this week!