Before I begin with my reviews of individual acts, I must make a correction with regards to my festival preview article. We inappropriately called Exit “Serbia’s biggest music festival,” when really it’s one of the biggest and best music festivals in all of Europe and maybe even the world.
That’s what’s up. Please read on.
I didn’t think there could be any other way that the festival could have a better start than with The Gossip. Beth Ditto has an incredible voice that has such a commanding presence, that they were a great act to play second on the main stage and really warm things up for what was probably about 25,000 people. They began the show big with “Love Long Distance,” their first single from their most recent album, and the energy from the crowd was strong. Beth engaged in some cool banter, she sang awesomely, but the performance felt a bit lacking from what their sound can truly deliver. They ended with “Standing in the Way of Control,” which, as brilliant as it is, I couldn’t get into. The 2007 remix by Soulwax destroyed any chance of you ever liking the original ever again.
I was really looking forward to seeing TEED (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) play his “live” set. As I waited in the huddle of photographers, listening to the photography rules for TEED’s performance, he came over and rudely told the woman in charge of photography and filming that no one was allowed to film him because it was going to be “madness” and “chaos” and that there would be “loads of girls dancing on stage” that we would be a problem. She coolly reminded him that we wouldn’t be a problem, and that we kinda had to be there. What she probably meant was “you’re just here to perform and my boss is paying you.” By the way, he was also wearing his dinosaur suit (that kinda makes him look like whatever a centaur would be called if it were half-man, half-armadillo), and had kind of a bowl-job hair cut going on. All that combined with his otherwise kinda-cool British accent, just didn’t come across as cool as his music and other perfomances would indicate. And the “chaos” and “madness” amounted to four girls coming on stage to dance some rehearsed choreography about halfway into his set.
He spoke/sang into the mic as he fiddled with knobs and pushed buttons on controllers. Regardless of seeing the real “TEED” on stage prior to the show starting, his set was just boring. His programming wasn’t very interesting and his set just came across as flat. I took some photos. They came out terribly. Show was meh. I was sadly disappointed.
Sorry for the bad news cause he’s really good otherwise.
Back at the Main Stage, Sub Focus was tearing everyone a new one and the crowd was incredible. MC ID did a sub-par job freestyling over Sub Focus’ filthy drum n’ bass, but he was stellar at getting the crowd hype. At one point he had everyone crouch down and managed to get the majority of around 20,000 people to jump up at the same time, which looked amazing from the photo pit at the front of the stage. Only a couple of songs in, he dropped “Rock It,” and the place went off.
Sub Focus played drum n’ bass bangers and just consistently had people going crazy. He played a drum n’ bass remix of Deadmau5’ “Ghosts n’ Stuff,” the place went berserk, and I left while I still had a chance to get away. He was so good, and made it really hard to leave, but Sub Focus makes fairly regular stops in Toronto, and Jacques Lu Cont (who was on at the same time at the Dance Arena), has never played in Toronto to my knowledge, nor do I think he ever will.
It’s sad that he’s never been big in North America, because homeboy knows how to rock a party.
Jacques Lu Cont had the place bumping about a half-hour into his set, and I was greeted with some amazing funky house music. In fact everything he played had that kind of feel, though he took the crowd on a really cool electronic music journey. While some is his best-known work has mostly been interesting flavours of French-influenced house, he has been around for quite a while, with his first release having been in 1996.
His real name is Stuart Price and he has made tunes under the aliases Zoot Woman, Les Rhythmes Digitales, Paper Faces, Man With Guitar, Thin White Duke. He produced Madonna’s Confessions on a Dancefloor album, and did a pretty kickass remix of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside (which he ended his Exit performance with).
His stuff is always good, and he’s always reinventing himself. While I don’t often expect a great DJ set from too many producers, Jacques Lu Cont was a phenomenal DJ. He had the entire crowd of around 15,000 people dancing, didn’t play many of his more recognizable tracks (as long as I had been there), and didn’t really play anything recognizable at all.
I had no idea what most of his tracks were and it was fantastic. There was nothing predictable about his set, and he covered everything from house, to electro, tech-house, techno, and everything in between. Tragically, regardless of how awesome his set was, Avicii was up next and that’s what everyone started chanting as soon as Jacques Lu Cont was finished. Poor Jacques. He was so freaking good.
The crowd sang the melody of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, while Avicii was escorted up the stairs and past us. He took the stage to the sound of approximately 20,000 people chanting his name.
Last year, Deadmau5 played the same timeslot on the opening day, and maybe only had about half the amount of people. Usually, the first day of the festival has the lowest turn-out, but the compound that is the Dance Arena was completely rammed from end-to-end. He wore a snap-back cap backwards and looked like Leonardo Di Caprio from his days as an 80s family sit-com actor. But his set absolutely destroyed the place and he himself couldn’t stop moving from the tunes he was playing.
He set an awesome tone for his performance with the melodic classical intro of “Clubbed to Death” by Rob Duggan, a song from The Matrix soundtrack, but it was a dope break-beat version full of thick basslines. And the crowd roared.
He eventually got into a really varied set that was brilliantly programmed. He threw down a good combination of a few of his own tracks (Avicii and Tim Berg), such as “Alcoholic,” “Bromance,” and his remix of the classic Cassius tune “Feelings for You,” along with your usual festival bangers like “Otherside” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Mark Knight remix of Florence and the Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love.”
The crowd was into it the entire time, and he played enough unrecognizable stuff to give him that extra credibility as a good DJ. While it was a typical set from him, it was nevertheless great, and once again refreshing to see a big producer who is more than a human jukebox and actually knows how to properly DJ.
The low point, funnily enough was when he dropped “The Veldt” by Deadmau5. It killed the buzz in the crowd a bit, and he let it run way too long. But the sun continued to rise and he quickly got everyone back with a good buildup to “Levels,” and as expected, the place erupted. Every single person within the fortress walls sang along. It really was one of those times where you got a good feeling.
After Avicii, Felix Da Housecat had big shoes to fill. But it was Felix Da Housecat, and he’s awesome, and therefore that was not a problem. Those who chose to stay received the pleasure of another amazing DJ set.
Felix Da Housecat has been around forever, has always stayed relevant by reinventing himself, and is just awesome. The sun was up, he stuck to mostly tech-house, but brought us back a few years with some mid-90s electro bangers lightly sprinkled with his own biggie “Silver Screen Shower Scene.”
He also brought the crowd back for a proper education in house by mashing up classics like the vocals of “The Bomb” by The Bucketheads (“The second most-popular game that we played as children was house…”) with Hatiras’ remix of “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer, while he had something else going on a third deck. Awesome.
I left to eat pizza and made a quick stop at a smaller side-stage.
A friend and I took a small break at the “Urban Bug” stage, the official stage of the magazine of the same name. Locals played whatever they wanted to people who had no expectation of what they were going to hear, and were totally good with that. It was small (maybe 70 person capacity), and down a very easily missed path, which was a detour from the path to the Dance Arena. It was fantastic though, and reminded me that what makes this festival really great is the hidden treasures on the smaller stages, and what an adventure it is just walking around the Petrovaradin Fortress.
A DJ from Belgrade named DJ Kibz dropped an incredible chill house track, with some sort of African vocals and a touch of tribal drumming. And there was no place I would have rather been in the world than eating Serbian-style pizza and sitting on the side of the hill listening to him play that track. There were only about 20 people there, but the majority were dancing and everyone clapped for him when he was done.
I went back to the Dance Arena to catch more of Brodinski, who was really good, but we were spent and it was time to go home. Good techno. Go see him when he’s in your hood!
Stay tuned for more reviews on:
Hercules and Love Affair
Netsky & Dynamite MC
Sneaky Sound System
And whatever other awesomeness I find.