They say truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes the stories you hear from Meadows are exactly that. Ask anyone who has been up to Polkovnik Serafimovo in Bulgaria’s Rhodopes and they will give you anecdotal evidence of a heady, intoxicating place, placed plum in the middle of a scarcely believable landscape. Bullshit? Take a look at the photos.
Getting on the plane in the early hours of the morning of the June 8th, the atmosphere on board was one of palpable excitement, laced with a stomach churning nervousness for many - it was election day.
Early morning yips turned to joyous celebration (let’s be honest, most festival crowds are a liberal bunch), setting the tone for the start of the festival.
The festival has been expanded, now including another wonky little stage nestled deep in the forest, just beyond a wooden dragon built into the hillside, looking out onto the mountains opposite. The festival makes sure all the wood used to create stages, structures and installations is local, and efforts are made to offset travel generated carbon emissions through their work with the Eden Reforestation Projects. It’s all part of an ethos fundamental to the festival, demonstrated by having a compost only toilet policy, as well as having no plastic cups on site - we all have tin cups strapped to our waist for the weekend. Whether you subscribe to it or not, it’s hard not to admire the effort that goes into this aspect of the festival. Only a few years ago, most of the materials to build the festival was shifted up the mountains using donkeys and carts. Detractors may say ‘that’s so fucking hipster’. Realists respect the organisers determination to overcome what must be a logistical nightmare, so much of which is at the mercy of the weather. Mercifully, it did hold out, despite consistent reports to the contrary. Perhaps a mischievous Michael Fish had been at the controls again.
As the sun began to fall on Friday night, we watched on as a choir of local ‘babas’ dressed in full traditional garb, alongside Kukeri dancers gave the mountain a blessing of sorts accompanied by the local mayor. It’s a surreal scene, and as far from any UK festival you can imagine - Boomtown, Secret Garden Party, No.6, Wilderness….trust us, they don’t compare.
Kicking off our first ‘full’ night, we hit up the sunrise stage to see Shanti Celeste set Meadows ’17 on its way. As full of spacey ambience as it was full of thundering rollers, she played until the early morning light started to rise out of the mountains. Elsewhere Brian Not Brian and Youandewan played lengthy sets through the night to the delight of those in the crowd.
Irish selector Saoirse brought in arguably the best Sunday morning of the festival delving deep into her collection. Another of our highlights came from Slovenian techno royalty in the form of Valentino Kanzyani. He’s not often in the UK, so seeing him behind the decks here was a right treat.
At this point we realise we’ve only really detailed night time happenings here, and it would be crude not to mention some of the acts that make sunny days up on the mountain so special. South African Singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou joined us live for an electric and outspoken performance.
However hard we and others had tried to distance ourselves from the Westminster cesspit, politics did come into this particular set, however it was done with an eloquence that makes you once again question the Punch and Judy bullshit that takes place in the commons on a daily basis. We digress….
Over from Switzerland to perform in the Meadows for the first time was Kalabrese. We’d heard a lot about the man, and were told not to miss him. And for good to reason. His selections were sublime and the perfect way to round off the festival on Sunday.
Meadows is no longer a secret, that’s undeniable. However, despite the ‘you weren’t here when…’ crowd, it’s lost none of its wondrous charm as it hit its 2000 person capacity. Despite selling out for the first time, it’s a far reach to suggest it’s even close to ‘selling out’.
Follow Meadows In The Mountains on Facebook HERE. Photography courtesy of Aronimus Guy and Jack Pasco.