Once again, the Electric Sloth team ventured out to Eastern Europe to discover some of the the finest summer music festivals on the planet. While the United States boasts some of the largest name-brand events in the world, there is an extraordinary amount of untapped potential for events in the former Eastern Bloc. This time around, we decided to branch out from some of the events that US audiences might know and went straight for two of the finest summer festivals Eastern Europe had to offer- Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary and Defected Croatia in Tisno, Croatia. Sziget is an absolute monster of an event boasting 400,000 attendees, 20 stages for music of all sorts from dozens of countries, and an entire island in the Danube River they call “The Island of Freedom.” Defected, by comparison, is a 10,000 person event with three stages on land, endless boat parties, beautiful beaches and coastline next to stages, and all the house, techno, and disco you could possibly imagine. We were able to spend two full days at each festival, and while we wish we could have stayed at both for longer, we’ll give you our finest moments from our latest jaunt overseas and why you should absolutely make the trip to these events.

Sziget Festival

Sziget Mainstage and Mastercard Tent

The ride to Sziget from our hotel in the center of Budapest was simple and exciting. It was pretty clear that at the stop we got on, we were one of two or three groups in the train that were dressed for a festival, but but the time we got to the last stop, we were essentially sardines packed in a Soviet-era train with glitter and body paint. Once we got off, we crossed a bridge over the Danube covered in rainbow streamers and positive messages into “The Island of Freedom.” It was hard for me to grasp the size of this event in its entirety just from the entrance, but it really is a ginormous f*cking island with 20 stages and more activities than you could possibly imagine. For reference, the main stage was reminiscent of the Coachella Main Stage by size alone, but I genuinely think there was a better effort on the front of sound systems in Budapest than Indio.

Day 1:

Day 1 started off with an unbelievable performance from Franz Ferdinand on the main stage. They went through all their classic tracks and had an undeniable stage presence for such an early set (relative to the 24 hour shenanigans that Sziget boasts), but this is nothing new for their team; keep it up, gentlemen! Soon after, we were surprised by a UN-funded appearance of Doctor Jane Goodall who spoke about the importance of her research with primates and why we have to save their environments. It was not only inspiring but impactful to hear such an esteemed scientist discuss her work on an unconventional platform. Needless to say, the crowd went wild. After that, we ventured out into the world of Sziget to see what secrets the island forest had for us. The first thing we came across was a reggae stage with twenty foot tall puppets being controlled by people in the crowd; I recall a monkey in a red jacket with coattails, an antelope with gala dress, and a gentleman with a Fez! Soon after, we stumbled upon a “Living Statue Competition” in which dozens of street performers were competing to be the best, well, living statues they could be (I personally liked the Gandhi one). After that, we saw a 3D printed Bauhaus tucked into the trees that was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus movement, which was delightful. Luckily for us, they were parked right next to a stage where we watched a woman spin in circles for twenty minutes to a crowd of more than fifty people. While I’m not entirely sure of the purpose, I loved the general absurdity of the whole situation. Continuing along our walk, we were met with a giant Durex-sponsored tower rising out of the trees called the “G Spot.” Amazing marketing guys, really. The next stage we came across was called the Samsung Coliseum which was in fact a coliseum in a field with an amazing speaker setup, excellent lighting production, and a stacked house music lineup for days. Walking towards our intended destination, we came across an Abba cover band on the Youtube Music stage and experienced one of the greatest singalongs of all time. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world because everyone knows the words to “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” and Budapest was a true testament to that. We only briefly stopped by because we were on a mission to experience Elrow, world-renown electronic music event producers, hosting one of the massive tents on the island with artists like Paco Osuna headlining. What we were met with was something of a cross between a circus tent, an Ibiza nightclub, and a Chinese New Year celebration. I mention the last one because the whole theme was “Elrow New Year” and was designed after that- there were giant egg rolls, pandas, Chinese pagodas, and Chinese signs everywhere. They really went all out on crafting an experience for this stage and not only was the energy extraordinary until 6am, but their production did not wind down at all. There was an abundance of confetti and streamers until curtain call. Day one exploring was well-spent, and we knew that since we figured out the layout, day two was going to be insane.

Day 2

Marginally well-rested and sore from our 19 mile trek (oh yes, 19 miles) from the day prior, we were ready to experience Sziget in its fullest capacity. Day two had a slightly more comfortable travel arrangement in terms of how packed the train was, but it still had that Soviet charm. Day 2 for us fell on a Friday so we got the weekend ticket holders in addition to the festival crowd we had seen the day prior, but the energy was right for the evening. We were intent on finding a circus tent we had heard about the first day, but upon our entrance we saw a marching band silently walking the other direction and knew we had to see what that was about. We followed this steampunk band through trees, food booths, and crowds for about ten minutes until they randomly broke out into song and dance on a main street within the event. They quickly amassed a crowd of over 200 people and led a street parade throughout the event; again with the perfectly absurd. We wandered off soon after and found the circus we had been hearing about. We were expecting that of a small tent and some bleachers, but this really was an entire circus experience. We watched acrobats flying across the stage for over an hour and were absolutely delighted by every moment of it; Coachella, take note. After that, we found our way to the MasterCard Stage to see Yeasayer who has been absolutely killing the festival circuit in the US since their debut album, and they’ve only gotten better. It was a real treat to hear “Ambling Alp” live for the first time since that album came out in 2015. Once they closed up, we picked up a couple beers and went to the main stage to see what the hype with Martin Garrix was about. Full disclosure, Mr.Garrix makes music that I haven’t listened to since I was a freshman in high school, but I wanted to see what his production and stage presence was like in the context of people who really love what he does, and Europeans really love what he does. It was pretty apparent that he is the modern rockstar and certainly found a way to rock the one-man show to a crowd of 50k+ in Budapest. While I thought that the music was repetitive, his transitions were well-buttoned, the energy was palpable, and between the lasers, visuals, confetti, and brief stints on the microphone, his production was spectacular. Up next, was UK house legend John Digweed in the Samsung Coliseum. This was dark, moving, and perfect. John Digweed’s ability as a long-standing DJ was painfully apparent as he nailed every transition and played the audience with each track selection. He was by far the best house appearance I had seen at Sziget by a long shot, sorry Paco Osuna. After JD hopped off the decks, we were in desperate need of some bass music. Luckily, 808-classic Hucci was playing the largest tent in the festival, and did not disappoint. Even though he killed his set, it only made us hungrier for heavier music. Apashe took the decks next and while he did provide the people with a sufficient amount of filth, he snuck in a few harder house remixes that just didn’t quite hit the mark. It was nice to see a recognizable name live, but there wasn’t enough continuity in his set for it to be in the top artists for the weekend. The next set, however, was the best set from the entire weekend hands down. Bevild, a Budapest native and long-time bass producer, took the stage for a few hundred people in the largest tent at the festival at 4:30am and decided to absolutely decimate the remainder of attendees. I have absolutely nothing but positive things to say about this artist; he really tapped into the kind of energy, tracks, mixing, and stage presence that’s getting such incredible attention by the bass community, and I think he is going to be MASSIVE in this genre. He just dropped heavy after heavy after heavy and created what was, in addition to the best set out of the two days, the best crowd. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen people riding the rails at a dubstep show while the sun was coming up, and he absolutely deserved it. Keep an eye on Bevild because this is only the start of where he’ll be. At roughly 6:30am when the set was over, we started walking back to catch a train home, but were quickly side tracked by a bar bumping “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the last attendees of the night’s festivities. It was here that we witnessed a man dressed in a full bee costume (tights included) sobbing at the sunrise and immediately break out into an air guitar solo when prompted by Freddie Mercury. The last track of the night was a bittersweet farewell supported by The Cranberries’ famous track, “Zombie.” Everyone was singing at the top of their lungs and begrudgingly finishing their last call. Soon after, we got on our train and bid farewell to the Pearl of The Danube.