Sziget Festival

I’m going to keep my festival and Budapest city posts separate but they are definitely linked.

I’m so glad to be back at Sziget, the Island of Freedom, after four years!!

Day 1

I arrived at Budapest International Airport at around 2:30pm but it took a long time for the luggage to reach the belt. I bought some tasty looking snacks from the supermarket in the airport then I collected my Festival CityPass which cost €39 for 13 days in validity for free public transport and other discounts. I opted for the (free with CityPass) public bus rather than the €9 (€7 with CityPass) festival transfer. I reckon maybe it would have been worth paying even more for the other bus if it had air-conditioning! We spent a horrible hour stuck in traffic in a stuffy bus and then arrived at the festival ground melting.

The check in procedure was sadly inefficient and the crowd control was pathetic. Strangely, group tickets mean that everyone has to check in at the same time meaning that people were weaving their way past to the front frequently.

All in all it took more than two and a half hours to get from the airport to having my wristband for the festival. The timings on my app are messed up too so I thought I had missed most of Stormzy’s set and it dropped my bags at left luggage and headed straight to the main stage. Turns out I only missed a few minutes anyway!

I was here 4 years ago and things are fairly similarly laid out but it just seems more busy and the organisers don’t seem to have upgraded the systems well.

Stormzy was great and I only wished I had had time to set up my tent and get changed as I was still in my sweaty travelling clothes!!

I picked up my backpack and trekked around the festival ground for aaaages to find a tiny space for my tent but it is utterly chaos already! You’ve really got to get here early or have a group to join.

I ended up doing a full loop and came back to the only spot that I found before and passed up as unsuitable, on a hill. My neighbours are a Kiwi called Parneeta and an Indian called Udit. We chatted briefly and I changed and hit the main stage for Kendrick Lamar.

I got chatting to some Dutch uni students and an American girl and after Kendrick some of them came with me to see the Rage Against The Machine tribute band at the Budapest Park stage. Rage are my all-time favourite band so I had a fantastic time singing along and jumping around to the whole set. I was knackered afterwards so I didn’t stay for the Limp Bizket tribute but I’m sure they were great too.

It was tough to sleep in my inclined tent but I managed it well enough.

Day 2
I returned from the city at around 6pm and as I walked back onto site I thought I saw a flatter camping spot so I asked Parneeta and Udit to help me move so they could see if they wanted to join me. I packed up my stuff in a few minutes and unpegged my tent so Udit could carry it and we headed past the Colosseum back towards the main stage and found a spot near the bumper cars which is definitely not “free” exactly but I persuaded the bumper cars guys to let me squeeze my tiny tent along the line of others and yay! Home sweet home.

I headed to main stage and loved the Bonobo set.

I had a couple of beers and bumped into Prineeta at the bar (out of so many thousands of people here!) and we hung out with Udit and then we squashed into the crowd for the Gorillaz. That was a lot of fun.

We went our separate ways and I went to chill in my tent and then get changed to visit the Colosseum at 1am to see another wicked techno/electronic DJ set from Andhim. So many drunk idiots who I’m not sure were there for the music were just pushing their way through the crowd all the time. And I got groped by an Arab guy and when I told him to get off he asked if I had a boyfriend and that it didn’t matter if he wasn’t here! The cheek of it! I told him to get his hands off me and it didn’t matter if I had a boyfriend or not, I wasn’t interested. Can’t a girl just enjoy some music?!

On the way back to my tent I caught the end of the ACDC tribute band who were excellent.

Day 3

Today I met up with Helen who I made friends with in Montañita earlier this year and I hung out with her and her friend Anna for the night. We went to watch the Kooks and we were nice and close in with great atmosphere. The set was spot on.

Afterwards we were part of the Freedom Party, where 10,000 banners printed with the festival’s themes for 2018 were handed out to the crowd and then we all held them up for the cameras after a countdown.

Then we got some food before heading back to the main stage to watch Parov Stelar – what a performance! I love electro swing and we all danced around like crazy.

Playing in the A38 MasterCard arena was JP Cooper and we arrived in time for his two best tracks and sang our hearts out. His performance was great to watch and he seems like such a lovely man. His song Passport Home was dedicated to the band, the festival staff and the crowd as he said people seem to him like passports that help you get to where you are supposed to be in life and he only realised that when he lost his passport a couple of years ago as he was about to fly home.

We sat on the grass outside the A38 arena for a few minutes and then suddenly some costumed drummers marched into the crowd and there were sparks ans fireworks and flames everywhere. They marched right at us so we had to move back out of the way. It was so cool!

At 9:30pm Lana del Rey took to the main stage and the crowd was insane. I’m not really sure that her music was upbeat enough to headline on Friday night but she was certainly an amazing live singer.

We didn’t stay for the whole set as it was just too hot, dusty and busy. Instead we went for a dance in the Colosseum and then went to see The Him DJ’ing in the Bacardi Arena. The visuals were incredible.

We stopped once more at a lively outdoor stage and bar before I walked Helen and Anna to the exit. I went back towards my tent and the Rammstein tribute band was on so I caught a couple of their best tracks before I went to sleep.

Day 4

The festival ground is getting crazy busy now but the costumes are getting funnier – the more themes the better. I met Lisa and then we grabbed some food and then beers before seeing Lianne la Havas on the main stage. I hadn’t ever heard of her but she is an absolute star. So cute and humble. And even nervous to be on the main stage. She reminded me a little of Adele with her attitude.

Then we had the flag party. Lot of people had brought flags of their nationality but the scouts also handed out 10,000 Sziget flags and as the clock struck zero we all waved them and danced along to the Sziget party song.

Then it Bastille on the main stage! That was great. Lisa and I found a really good spot to stand and enjoy the show.

The queues for food were too long to get anything except cans of beer before Mumford and Sons but Lisa and I stood around the other side of the main stage so that we could dash straight to the circus show after.

Mumford were pretty good but the set was actually not as good as Bastille unless you were a mega fan.

We struggled for a while to find the circus as the signs on the island are terrible and then we missed the show as you’ve got to get there about 40 minutes before it starts, but it’s on every night so I’ll try again as it sounds great. Lisa and I sat on an outdoor stage chatting to two Israeli guys for a while and then I walked Lisa to the entrance. The Tribute Stage was playing 80s glam rock tonight which sounded ok but I chose to do battle with the ants in my tent instead.

Day 5
Lisa and I arrived in time to do some serious drinking before our first band came on.

We went to see Kaleo, an Icelandic band who are absolutely great live and are one of Lisa’s favourite bands. We made it pretty close to the front without it being too crowded!!

We skipped the Liam Gallagher set and sat getting drunk on wine in the fab wine garden between my tent and the main stage. The bartender was great and kept giving me free wine!

Then Dua Lipa came on the main stage and we raved at the back until it was almost time for one of the interesting performances near to the main stage.

We sat on the grass to wait for the aerial cinema performance called As The World Tipped. While we were waiting we got chatting to some guys near us and James had been at the 2014 Sziget like me. Man that was a good year and it was nice to relive it with someone who was here.

As The World Tipped is aerial theatre. It’s fascinating, emotive and memorable. The show is about the failure of the Copenhagen agreement and how this could have disastrous consequences for the environment. The show opens with a fairly chaotic scene at the Extinction Office with a man reading out a sharply increasing list of animals going extinct. The stack for him to read out just keeps getting higher and higher, all the while there are voice clips from global leaders playing and then the world starts to tip as the accord falls apart, with some countries not agreeing to the texts and then all the texts being taken off the table of discussion. As the world reaches tipping point, so does the stage – a crane begins to lift the back of the stage and it tilts forward with furniture, paperwork and people falling all over the place. Five actors remain, harnessed to the top of the stage as it becomes fully vertical and then a film projection begins and the actors are hit by all sorts of calamities. It’s really engaging and very different. The message about climate change and the evidence isn’t anything new but it’s the way it is presented that is qwerky and powerful.

After this sobering performance Lisa and I hit the wine garden again and then went to the Colosseum for some techno before working our way around on a club crawl starting at Magic Mirror which hosts a lot of LBGT events and had some male dancers when we arrived. We also went to the Unicum (Hungarian version of Jaegermeister) Ruin Bar which is such a good sing-along and dance.

At some point we found ourselves at the Jack Daniels bar having a great 90s nu-metal sing-along to Limp Bizket, Green Day and so many other great tracks of our youth.

After that Lisa went back to the city and I headed to my tent.

Day 6

I came back earlier than usual from the city so I could go around and see what island live has to offer this year. It’s fantastic again and you really don’t need to leave for the whole week, there is just so much choice.

My first destination was the beach and it was predictably PACKED! There is a wide shared area where hundreds of people go to chill and sleep through the day. There is also a large tent and there were about 70 people having a yoga session and there are some tents to the side as well where workshops run every day. There’s one this year with Tibetan spiritual healing and another appears to be spinning clay pots.

I had seen something interesting on the programme and I went to the Death Cafe. It’s a global movement started in 2011 and is now in 51 countries with over 5,000 cafés having been held so far. It’s not a therapy group, it’s more philosophical and is based around open conversations on a given topic to do with death and mortality. It was quite interesting but the session was very small. We were discussing humour and death but it felt a little stilted with the group that small but definitely worth a look.

I spent some time chilling at the beach then I went on a walk around the whole island for the rest of the afternoon and visited almost all of the places that could stamp my Szitizen passport. The art zone was really nice and I sat there in the shade for a while.

I saw the living statue competition entries getting their group photo. Incredible stuff!

I got some food and moved to the main arena to catch some of the Shawn Mendes set before I go to A38 for Goo Goo Dolls. Oh my god he is even better live than on his releases!! And so so cute! No wonder there’s about 50 people holding up posters for him.

I wish I could stay until the end but there’s no way I’m ending up far back for the next set.

So I was almost at the barrier for the Goo Goo Dolls and I absolutely loved it. They played less of their first two albums than I hoped but of course they ended with Iris and two things happened: the crowd sang in unison louder than I’ve ever heard before, and also I cried. Haha. It’s my favourite song of all time and it was magical seeing it live.

I didn’t really feel like watching Kygo (who I also love) after that experience but I’m sat in my favourite haunt – the wine garden at the back of the main stage arena listening to the Kygo set now. It’s great, so loud, wicked live. Would be nice to have a group to go and dance right in the crowd because I love EDM, but I am also happy sitting as my feet are sore after so many days walking and dancing on the hard earth. Tough choices. Wow Stormzy seems so long ago!

The acoustic version of Firestone was absolutely incredible, his vocal range is beautiful.

Day 7

I made my way to the Jászai Mari port to catch the Sziget boat back to the island. I thought it would round off my experience as I hadn’t ever done it before but honestly, it was a waste of time and took much longer than the metro/train. As the boat arrived, the sky over the back of the boat looked black and the wind was whipping up the water. Once we got through security the weather changed and there was a mini tornado on the island, with tree branches falling and the dust screaming across the paths. It felt as though the barriers were going to take off. It was actually a relief when the storm hit because the wind died down.

I went to get changed and rediscovered my poncho in my backpack!! Woohoo.

Another Aussie mate, Sasha from back in Estonia, has been persuaded to come to the festival tonight so I’ve been arranging where to meet him and some other Aussies. They had all taken shelter in the A38 tent in the downpour and when he came to meet me at the wine village they got separated. Nevermind I suppose. We went back to the A38 stage to watch Børns and then made our way into the muddy crowd to watch the Arctic Monkeys!

Maybe it was where we were standing but I don’t think they sounded as amazing as I had hoped, but it was still good. Then we went back to the A38 stage to watch Zara Larsson before heading out into the city to visit ruin bars.

That was my Sziget 2018. I’ll be back again next year hopefully!

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