As winter slowly dies away and some of the first blossoms appear on the trees, it is time to look ahead to the 2010 European Summer Festival Circuit. While many of us make our plans, book our tickets and start checking the line-ups, there is still a warm place in our hearts for the festivals of 2009. One of the biggest, and arguably the best music festival on the European circuit is Sziget, held every August in Budapest, Hungary.
About the Sziget Festival
Sziget is the Hungarian word for island (you pronounce it Ts-igget), so it’s no surprise that the Sziget festival is held on Obudai - Hajógyári Island in the middle of the Danube, and almost in the middle of the city.
For six rocking days and nights (with an extra day thrown in at the beginning for Sziget-goers to arrive, make camp and generally begin getting dusty), this island is a monster of music, with multiple music stages and all genres from mainstream to techno to world music to hip-hop. There are stalls, chill-out areas, and cool extras like Vietnamese Water Puppet shows. No wonder the hippies take their kids, this place is full of forests, places to play and things to do.
Sziget used to begin on Day 1 and end on Day 6, but after noise complaints from their neighbours, festival organisers promised to cut it down to just five days. Did this wreck the fan’s experience? No way. Now, the festival ends on Day 5 but starts on Day Zero. Sneaky!
Past performers at Sziget
Sziget is known for its fat line-ups. 2008 saw Iron Maiden, R.E.M. Babyshambles, Sex Pistols, Jamiroquai, Anti-Flag, Flogging Molly, Alanis Morissette, The Killers, The Kooks, Kaiser Chiefs, The Cribs, and Pendulum take the stages. The nineties Sziget festivals boasted everyone from Iggy Pop and David Bowie to Sonic Youth, Oasis, Suzanne Vega, Lou Reed and the Foo Fighters. The early noughties saw Sziget play host to The Prodigy (who returned in 2009 – those boys LOVE their festivals), Noir Desir, Faithless, Freestylers, Placebo, Muse, The Cure, Massive Attack, Basement Jaxx and on and on and on and on.
The 2009 Sziget Experience
The Prodigy were back, and so was Placebo. Although the 2009 European Festival Circuit was a little more lacklustre than other years, Sziget rocked as hard, if not harder than it ever had. Crowd-pleaser Lily Allen gave a good performance, despite the rumours that she was becoming disillusioned by her fame and the music industry in general. Other highlights were – as always – Fatboy Slim, Snow Patrol (giving emo love to all the weepers in the crowd) and The Ting Tings, whose upbeat catchy tunes ricocheted off the main stage.
To Camp or Not to Camp
A ticket to camp at Sziget is only a little more expensive than a regular entry, and can save a lot of drunken stumbles back to the city at night. Although the festival never really closes at night, it does quieten down after 11pm when the main stage closes, so it is possible to get some sleep in a tent. The downside is the dust (it’s EVERYWHERE thanks to a hot summer and 400,000 pairs of feet stomping all over the island) and the smell of the port-a-potties by the end of Day 3. Although camping is a great party atmosphere, there are plenty of festival-goers who prefer to stay in the nearby Sziget hostel, or treat themselves to hotel rooms and apartments in Budapest. Sometimes a shower seems way more attractive than a tent.