As a Londoner, there are two words that when said together make my pulse quicken and my hands clammy with excitement: budget beer. Though drinking is subsidiary to the festival experience–especially if you’re teetotal– it’s important to point out that this is where Electric Castle in Transylvania, Romania earns its points. While non-locals may associate Transylvania with gothic fiction (namely Dracula), the only frightening aspect of modern Romania is how many pints of amber nectar you can neck for less than a fiver (approximately three and a half).
All else considered, Electric Castle is a jack-of-all-trades festival. The setting of the 15th century Bánffy Castle provides a dose of history, but is mainly appreciated by punters for its Instagram value. The rest of the site included chill-out spots, fairy light- decorated wooded areas, and a man-made beach– all of which were most enticing for the prospect of a power nap during the 24-hour festival.
The nosh revolved around typical meat offerings, but vegans desperate for an alternative to chips and salad could mosey over to the on-site Lidl, which also was great for saving a buck although you couldn’t re-enter the festival arena with your purchases.
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Judging by previous line-ups, this year’s bizarre mix of acts is very much on-brand for Electric Castle. Southampton metalcore band, Bury Tomorrow, couldn’t have been more out of place on Main Stage in an early evening slot. Their chugging guitars and angst-ridden growls might’ve gone down a storm with the gloomy backdrop that was promised, but with the sun beating down and the punters just warming up for a long night, the five-piece failed to draw a crowd.
As night drew in, Son Lux illuminated the main stage with their salvos of whirring guitars and experimental electronics before passing the baton to Mura Masa. Though it’s no secret 22-year-old producer extraordinaire Alex Crossan dabbles with many instruments, it was astounding to watch him jump from virtuoso-level slap bass to a feather-light touch on the keys. His versatility was matched in equal measure by singer Fliss, who conquered parts from the Rolodex of guest vocalists on his self- titled debut, as diverse as A$AP Rocky and Charli XCX. With back-to-back bangers, the pair put on the most gratifying set of the weekend.
From one pioneering synth act to the next, Anglo-Danish trio Off Bloom filled their hour-long set with ease, despite having significantly less material than the household names who were awarded the same amount of stage time. Front woman Mette Mortensen’s fierce charisma, along with maximalist glitchy synths, was a match made in heaven with the Hangar’s 1am slot. King of the decks, Jackmaster, then topped off the eclectic evening with energetic mixes that had the Dance Garden ripe with sweaty, intoxicated bodies.
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The next day kicked off in a similar fashion to the last, with punk rock outfit IDLES attempting to draw an early evening crowd to the Hanger. Unlike Bury Tomorrow, it wasn’t long before their incendiary, call-to-arms anthems were answered with a frenzy of mosh pits, head-bangers, and the occasional crowd surfer. As usual it was their humourous on-stage antics that pushed the set from bloody good, to unforgettable when Mark and Lee headed into the pit to lend their guitars to two unsuspecting punters. By the end of their raucous set, the Bristol-based five-piece looked to have converted every onlooker into an adrenaline-fuelled punk fan.
A mental reset was required before heading back to Main Stage where Jessie J was making her European comeback after winning the Chinese Talent show. The Londoner’s vocal gymnastics proved she was in better shape than ever, while her tongue-in-cheek jibes at everyone (including herself) kept a zealous audience on their toes. Empowering speeches, partial nudity, and guest vocals from a Romanian wunderkind topped off her show-stopping set.
Russia’s answer to Die Antwoord, Little Big, one-upped the starlet with more nudity and a frenzied crowd. Fittingly, the duo’s calling card hit ‘Big Dick’ closed the set and brought the weekend to a climax, underscoring the festival as a bizarre–but outrageously fun–experience.
Electric Castle’s variety of acts, food, and settings ensured that just about everyone was catered for and very few went home disappointed. Though the details could do with some fine-tuning, the overall experience was inarguably brilliant, especially for a young festival. Whoever said being the jack-of-all-trades was a bad thing?
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Words: Lisa Henderson
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