EXIT Festival a Success Despite Rain and Threats


This year's EXIT music festival, the biggest in the Balkans, hosted more than 150,000 people and international musicians, including White Stripes, Garbage, Ian Brown and Underworld. The event, which originally began as part of the student protest movement against the Milosevic regime, has traditionally served as a forum for drawing attention to serious social issues. This year, though, the planned message -- a commemoration of the victims of Srebrenica and other atrocities during the Balkan conflicts -- was stifled by pressure from local authorities and a bomb threat.

By Jelena Tusup for Southeast European Times in Belgrade – 25/07/05

Fans watch a band on the Balkan Fusion Stage at this year's EXIT festival. [Photos by Jelena Tusup].

Southeast Europe's biggest music festival, held from 7 July to 10 July in Novi Sad's Austro-Hungarian Petrovaradin fortress, was attended by more than 150,000 visitors, several hundred performers and more than 1,500 accredited journalists from around the world, including major media outlets such as MTV and BBC. Rainy weather did not deter fans, tens of thousands of whom stood in the mud singing "I'm Only Happy When it Rains" together with Garbage's Shirley Manson.

The performers at this year's festival included White Stripes, Underworld, Fatboy Slim, Ian Brown, Garbage, Slayer, Apocalyptica, and DJs such as Carl Cox, Felix da Housecat and former Underworld member Darren Emerson. Visitors from all over the region, as well as from Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland and other EU countries, journeyed to Novi Sad to hear a broad range of music, including speed metal, rock’n’roll, jazz, blues, world music, techno, country and classical.

Thousands of fans gathered for the four-day festival.

Officially, this was the fifth EXIT festival. However, as festival General Manager Bojan Boskovic explained, the idea goes back to the first postwar demonstrations in Serbia against Slobodan Milosevic in 1999, when tens of thousands of students protested for more than 100 days against the regime. The first "unofficial" EXIT festival was held in the summer of 2000. It lasted 100 days and marked the dawn of Milosevic's defeat.

The first organised EXIT festival was held in 2001 at Petrovaradin, gathering more than 200,000 fans. Since then, world-renowned stars such as Massive Attack, Tricky and Iggy Pop have been welcomed to Petrovaradin, as well as the world's most famous DJs.