Well, EXIT 2012 is officially over. Many attendees might still be recouping this Monday afternoon, but the festival is officially done. Novi Sad can be rid of its drunken, drugged masses until next summer. However, I didn’t go. I’ve never been to EXIT in the 2.5 years I’ve lived in Serbia so far.
Now, in 2010 I would have gone to EXIT for one artist really – The Chemical Brothers. They are part of my playlist when I write on my novel-in-progress. I’ve always loved TCB. However, I was forewarned that the sound can be quite shit, and since I love them so much, I shouldn’t see them live for the first time at EXIT. Okay… makes sense. David Guetta would have been nice to see, too. However, he flaked out and didn’t show. Bad Guetta! The rest of the lineup was just “meh” to me. Nothing to definitely write home about. So we (boyfriend and I) decided to opt out of EXIT 2010 and spend the money elsewhere – which would be a trip to Sokobanja the following month.
Now I had been told by many Serbs I’d met that EXIT was nice, but that every year it was getting worse and worse. The explanations for this varied from too many foreigners, shitty lineups, and the entire EXIT Fest being nothing but an excuse for drug and alcohol sales which have climbed drastically over the last couple years.
Now, let me give a brief history of EXIT in general.
The festival began in 2000 as a student protest against the Milošević regime. During its 13 years of existence, it has developed into one of the best European music festivals, but also as an organization with a powerful social platform. Exit has been visited by over two million people in more than 60 countries worldwide. CNN, The New York Times, and many others have on numerous occasions proclaimed EXIT amongst the top 10 world festival destinations. EXIT Festival (Wikipedia)
Being against Milošević is okay. I liked that about EXIT when I first heard about it. One thing you’ll realize if you pay attention to events and happenings in Serbia is that almost everything is backed with a political position. Even the music festivals. However, since 2000 the purpose of EXIT obviously changed. Milošević is not an issue. This doesn’t mean the Festival doesn’t have a political agenda. Enter EXIT 2011.
EXIT 2011 sported an okay lineup. Only artist I was interested in seeing was Jamiroquai, maybe Groove Armada and Deadmau5. Other than that, nothing really made me giddy to take the trek up north for 4 days and deal with drunk and drugged crowds predominantly full of egotistical and rude foreigners. The cost was definitely ludicrous, too. The statistics after the Fest proved that less and less locals are attending EXIT and it’s predominantly just foreigners.
But one thing made EXIT 2011 different for me and many other Serbs and Serbian supporters. One band made the difference. Now, I’m not bashing the band. Never listened to a single song of theirs. However, it’s how they were promoted. The ground The Freelancers were advertised as being a band from Kosova. Not cool. At all. Such things are big no-no here. Example: There is a flag shop here in Belgrade. Great quality of flags, too. They have a saying that they will make any flag you want except two: Nazi flag and Republic of Kosova flag. Logical! It’s like Ford’s saying “You can have it in any color as long as it’s black.”
Now, I tried to find an official lineup from EXIT for 2011. But they are non-existent anymore on the ‘net. I obviously found lots of information about The Frelancers. Supposedly, they tried to keep their origin under wraps, and sang in English only. Honestly, I wasn’t there, and I only remember seeing a few advertisements for EXIT 2011 that opening admitted and said they were from “Republic of Kosova.” It is even against the law here to show maps of Serbia excluding the sacred southern province. So why in the world would EXIT promote their location as Republic of Kosova? Every website for The Freelancers opening admits they are from the “Republic of Kosova” from their Facebook page, their official website, and even two articles about the band from two different sources (Kosovo 2.0 and PRI’s The World).
EXIT is known for its strong political ties to pro-Western ideologies and pro-EU stance. While I try to stay away from supporting organizations and events that are pro-EU/pro-Western, I’m not naive to think it’s possible to avoid them all. It’s just too hard. But I will never support anything that sees Kosovo i Metohija as the Republic of Kosova. It’ll never happen.
At the time of the EXIT 2011 I was still teaching English regularly. I asked my students how they felt about this and whether it would affect their decision to attend or not. It was about 60/40. About 60% of my students, when they found out, were disappointed with EXIT’s organizers and said they’d have a hard time attending EXIT no matter who the performers were. The other 40% said that they didn’t care about them promoting the band as from Kosova and/or didn’t care about EXIT in general.
So, if you ask me whether I’m going to EXIT in 2013 or any year after, the answer will 99% be No. Unless serious changes happen with EXIT, I have no intention of giving my money to anything they support. That even means backing out of seeing one of my favorite electronic bands, The Prodigy in Sept (2012) because EXIT is promoting them. Just can’t do it.
And aside from the promotion of The Freelancers’ “origin” I just cannot support something that openly promotes such reckless use of alcohol and drugs, among many other things I just can’t agree with.
Does supporting a band from the “Republic of Kosova” affect whether you’ll attend EXIT or not? Why is that your decision?