Finding Podgorica: Rain, Rave & Electronic Beats Festival

by Sara · 16.09.2013 · Escapism · 2 comments

A couple of days ago I was invited to join a short trip to Podgor­ica to see the Elec­tronic Beats Fest­ival by Telekom, fea­tur­ing Retro Stef­son, Mount Kim­bie and Dis­clos­ure live on stage. It was a really excit­ing trip, for Montenegro has never been exactly on any route I took. Of course I jumped on the chance to see a new coun­try, new cul­tures and a new city to discover.

But — alas. Not much dis­cov­er­ing was done. Find­ing any points of interest in Montenegros cap­ital Podgor­ica has proven to be a rather dif­fi­cult chal­lenge. Not because Podgor­ica is not inter­est­ing, it’s just not inter­est­ing on first sight… or pretty. Unlike other, at least some­what undam­aged European met­ro­poles, Podgor­ica was really over­burdened with WWII. The city was com­pletely rebuilt and indus­tri­al­ized after more than 70 bomb­ing attacks through­out the course of the war. All of this is still show­ing, even 50 years later: the East­ern European pearl you expec­ted, Podgor­ica is not. Not Prague, not Bud­apest, not even Zagreb or Sara­jevo. And: Podgor­ica is small. So while you’re eas­ily through with a visit in one day, walk­ing from land­mark to land­mark (includ­ing a weird pink colored villa and the Amer­ican Embassy with its lush green yard), you’ll prob­ably not come back for another round.

All that said: Podgor­ica is charm­ing in its own weird ways. From its many bridges you can view the pic­tur­esque land­scapes of moun­tains, forests and very lush greens, all mixed up with old Soviet archi­tec­ture and indus­tri­al­ized apart­ment blocks. We only had one day to spend in the city before mov­ing back into that hor­rible air­plane that brought us from Vienna (worst. flight. ever). We asked our tour guide about what young people did in Podgor­ica, to which we were recom­men­ded “the coolest bar in town” called, funny enough, Ber­lin. But young people are young people every­where, and the whole city was excited for the EB Fest­ival that was to take place that even­ing. Heavy rains star­ted down­pour­ing on us dur­ing our city tour and were to con­tinue through­out the night. I was already in pain: the fest­ival was sup­posed to be open air. I had not pre­pared for this. My socks were wet. Well, that’s Podgor­ica for you, I thought.

And yet– I was curi­ous. I hadn’t met many people in the few hours of my visit so I did not have an idea then of what young people were listen­ing to here. Balkan beats? Would they even know the new dance music her­oes of the West­ern European clubs, Dis­clos­ure, or the art­ful, shoegazy-tunes of Mount Kim­bie? Would they know how to appre­ci­ate it? I guess exper­i­en­cing a fest­ival was as close as I was ever going to get to Montenegros youth. Our tour guide hat already pre­pared me: every­one was com­ing tonight. Podgor­ica is rarely blessed with big musical events, so everyone’s under­stand­ably psyched up about the show.

After an expans­ive but not expens­ive din­ner (Montenegro is really afford­able… well, unless you get scammed, like typ­ic­ally we do) we headed out to the fest­ival site. A few already good spir­ited people had gathered in front of the stage before the first act, Retro Stef­son, came up. It wasn’t super crowded but the young people defied the rain and kept on dan­cing to the bub­bly dance tunes of the Icelandic big band. I was really sur­prised; not only by the great music but also by the people. They were actu­ally hav­ing a lot of fun. This I rarely ever see any­more in Ber­lin, at least not in such a hol­istic way.

By the time Mount Kim­bie were on stage the whole venue was packed and people were dan­cing enthu­si­ast­ic­ally. I was hon­estly super stunned: not only was the music appre­ci­ated (I’d say Mount Kim­bie is not easy to digest for every­one), it was honored by dan­cing people who actu­ally had fun. And let me tell you some­thing: these Podgor­icians ser­i­ously know how to bounce. Smil­ing boys and girls every­where, drinks filled up in an instant, people jump­ing and wil­ing out, and all of that while half the Adri­atic sea was being spilled onto all of us. A good atmo­sphere like that is con­ta­gious. I was instantly bored by my cam­era. All I wanted was to dance. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way in a reg­u­lar Ber­lin club. There’s no need to com­pare Ber­lin to Podgor­ica, but I sup­pose that only one big event every other month leads to more and more hon­est enthu­si­asm. I loved every minute of the fest­ival, music­ally as well as culturally.

I talked to some kids about the show and why they liked it so much, got into a con­ver­sa­tion about why I wasn’t dan­cing (I was try­ing to pro­tect my cam­era from the rain by put­ting it under my soaked through shirt, which turned out to be a really shit idea), gen­er­ally got in touch with some inter­est­ing people who even took long trips to see their favor­ite bands. When Dis­clos­ure finally came up, people went bezerk. Like, they flipped the fuck out. Every song was devoured with so much pas­sion. Every­one knew the lyr­ics to all their songs, too. People were now soak­ing wet, tak­ing off their shirts, dan­cing wildly without any hes­it­a­tion. It was the most beau­ti­ful thing. And those Montenegrin kids.. they are gor­geous! Their laughs and their dances, without any pre­ten­tious­ness, com­bined with that fierce energy… I’m sure I’ll remem­ber to think about what music can mean to people when its exper­i­enced in a truly spe­cial way. I’m not sure if the amount of big events we’re spoiled with here has made us a bit jaded or if those Podgor­icians are just gen­er­ally the bet­ter party mon­sters, but either way: nice way to meet a people, and what an awe­some night (that unfor­tu­nately had to end at about 1 AM in the morn­ing due to strict curfews).

After the fest­ival had left such a big impres­sion I was back on good terms with the city and went for another walk around the old town. It doesn’t look that old, which is kinda sad, but every now and then one can indeed find a few pretty things, monu­ments, parks or inter­est­ing shops. Podgor­ica might not neces­sar­ily be the coolest place on Earth, but it’s nice enough. Many have recom­men­ded leav­ing Podgor­ica (or using it as homebase for daytrips) to visit the coast and the nearby national parks and moun­tains as to get the best out of a stay in Montenegros cap­ital. I think that’s the least one can do to give the place a fair chance to prove itself.

Thanks to my fel­lows Mia, Dominik, Ronny, Reznik and Cordula for a cool and crazy trip, and of course to Elec­tronic Beats for hav­ing us over there.

One comment
  1. Together with Chisinau it may be the most mod­est of European cap­it­als… but good food and drinks are cheap, the loc­als are great and they love to party.
    Four unusual city sights: the Par­tizan monu­ment on Gor­ica hill behind the sta­dium, the bomb monu­ment in the city centre, the weird former Otto­man bath­house stuck under­neath one of the bridges (pop­u­lar for grafitti) and the amaz­ing bru­tal­ist con­crete Cath­olic Church just north of the centre. Check it out at http://​www​.podgor​ica​.inyour​pocket​.com.

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