Escapism is important to us all in this day and age. As the world becomes more and stressful and bleak, we cling to moments of release like a child to a comfort blanket, at times having to be torn away or weaned off them by reality's overbearing grip.
Although we can usually find some form of release by way of a dark room and some decent speakers at a local club, the world also becoming ever smaller and homogenised. It seems like we now have to go to further and further reaches to really feel like we've detached ourselves from WiFi, daily tragedies and an infuriatingly temperate climate.
With the price of a plane ticket to the other side of the world sometimes matching the price of a return train to the other side of Britain it can take something pretty unique to really feel like you've escaped, detached and broken free from our ever increasingly dystopian society.
Enter Meadows in the Mountains, a festival located on the Rhodopes mountain tops in the town of Polkovnik Serafimovo: hidden deep in the winding, undulating roads of rural Bulgaria, eighty miles from the nearest airport, 10 miles to the nearest supermarket and a million miles from the nearest politician lying through their teeth, it is the perfect place to lose yourself, really and truly.
Everything about the event is genuinely unique, which, at a time when there are literally more festivals than you could physically attend in a year, is really saying something. I’ve been attending muddy fields both in England and abroad for over ten years now and have never seen, heard or felt the way that I have at Meadows.
In terms of accommodation you can choose to stay in one of the many beautifully weathered village houses, each looked over by its very own smiling and effusive local, or camp in the breathless heights of the mountain itself and wake up to sweeping forestry every morning.
In terms of the site itself, all the superlatives that raw nature evokes rush at you from the moment you step onto what feels like the top of the world. The turquoise of the sky looks more vivid than the waters of an Indian Ocean island, the deep, dark green mountain ranges sine wave before your eyes and peel off into the smoky distance, and that’s just the daytime. Wait ‘till night and the many little details of the site slowly creep out of the woodlands like mischievous sprites. The stages lit up in blues, purples, reds and greens, layered in sticks, twigs and leaves. White lights littered every slope, nook and cranny, every bar, stall and even toilet seemed to grow out of the very forest it was surrounded by. At times it looked more like a Midsummer's Night Dream production than a party: ethereal, mythical and unreal. However, don’t dare imagine for a second that it didn’t hit as hard as any rave you’ve ever been to.
Although you may not have heard of many of the artists, that doesn’t mean they were any less special than the carbon copy lists you see week in week out at any of the more well known British or European line ups. Sets from DJ’s like Amber Shells, Ed Word, Anna Wall and Bruno Schmidt were as good as any I’ve seen all year, act’s like Jack Tyson Charles, Subculture Sage and Strangelove played the kind of vibrant yet intimate performances that you would see from any top headliner today and then there was the closing and extremely special set from Last Japan that kind of blew the circuits of everyone watching and blurred reality even harder.
The one thing that seemed even crazier about the whole thing was that even on top of a literal mountain the systems were fiercer, clearer and boomed louder than a lot of others I’ve heard in my time. Wherever you were standing once you climbed the peak the bass rattled through your chest, and at many times ended up vibrating the floors of the nearby portaloos and bars. I don’t know though, I may have just been tripping at that point.
With a crowd of only roughly 1,300, by the end of the festival you recognised many faces, made many friends and had strengthened every friendship to an almost unbreakable point through the unforgettable shared experience. Looking round the attendees, it felt like everyone was really in it to lose themselves, with much of the crowd getting into the spirit of things by dressing like feral, rainbow coloured yet somehow beautiful shamans, hippies, animals and everything in between.
If great music, scenic landscapes, good looking people and pounding systems aren’t your bag, then I don’t know, maybe try getting into stamps or something, like genuinely what more do you want? No, but seriously, there was even more to it than even that. Remarkable moments were strewn throughout the weekend, from the traditional Bulgarian dancing before the burning of a huge looming effigy, to the way the sun exploded above the clouds like a swirling, guiding force every sunrise, from the champagne bar playing garage classics, to a huge wooden pirate boat holding every topic wavy conversation imaginable, I lost count how many times I was left in a stupor.
By the time it came to Monday morning, I saw the mountain breathe, felt the system pound it’s heartbeat and as I trudged down it’s winding slopes. I left a bit of me up there still dancing and drenched in the early morning sunshine. As I said, it’s pretty hard to find an experience that is legitimately different, unique or that can evoke a feeling of the new and untouched these days. Meadows in the Mountains is this, it carries on past that point into something else, something wild.
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