Set on an island oasis in the Danube, boasting 90,000 daily revellers and music-lovers from across the globe and with its own currency and passport even, I was seriously looking forward to this festival, until I realised (belatedly) that the biggest headliners were, er, Kasabian. Is this seriously the best they could do (and the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, while much better musically, hardly tipped the scales) or are times that hard in Hungary? Mind you, with Victor Orban in power, maybe that's true. Kasabian were assembled in the early noughties for the purpose of fusing classic rock with a modern sensibility. However, as befits a band named after a serial killer, they sounded noisy and uninspiring, and nothing much has changed since then. They are the proverbial poor man's stadium rock band, or rich man's pub rock band may be a better way of putting it. Either way, you get the idea.
Sziget is as close to a real village as you're going to get for a music festival. There are numerous camping sites, ranging from luxury caravans to the cheaper tents pitched almost everywhere you look. There are many kinds of exhibits, museums, a circus, plenty of social awareness themes centred on the disabled and children (because it takes a village you know) and I didn't even mention the 10 music stages or 1,000 beer tents. And in keeping with the spirit of Sziget, I stayed in a comfortable hotel in Budapest, taking a comfortable boat ride daily to the island, and returning home to a comfortable bed by the same boat. There is no sacrifice too great...
The music represented everything under the sun, which was pretty intense this year. By now, I've got some clear guidelines for going to a festival, one of which is to stay away from any acts with a mere semblance of hip/hop or rapping. Given that sound systems are rarely any good in the outdoors, unless you get very close to the speakers (in which case you won't hear anything AFTER the festival either), there is almost no chance of hearing anything the rappers say, which really defeats the whole point of rapping. What you end up with, therefore, is a man (usually) shouting at you non-stop for an hour from a stage, which for me is too much since it triggers childhood nightmares of being in the army cadets and marching up and down a yard in my oversized fatigues and boots while being screamed at by the drill sergeant.
After several days of Sziget, I struggled to name many truly memorable acts. The Kills, perhaps, Oh Wonder, oh okay then (if you're under the age of 24), to some extent the above-mentioned 2 Door Cinema Club (because the second door, I realised is the emergency exit after overdosing on bubblegum pop). Really the dance music, the (I can't think of a genre so I'll call it) world music (special mention here to Dubioza Kolektiv) are the best thing on offer here because you can just avoid any kind of judgment listening to this stuff. In the end, I enjoyed trying lots of different food, drinking a fair amount of beer "between acts", and meeting locals, knowing that I had somewhere else to go at night.
By the way, you really must visit Budapest.
So here is my Spotify Playlist: