Here’s an insight to the rapidly growing ‘largest mid-sized festival in the world’.
I was invited to go over and be a part of the madness, from behind the scenes!
Getting to Balaton isn’t really as daunting as we thought it to be. A comfortable hour-long train ride from Budapest was the PERFECT warm up simply because it was a train full of ravers as excited as us. We had seen pictures of the festival and done a bit of research but, we had no idea what we were in for. We threw on our ‘We Own The Night’ tees, slung on the SLR and boarded the expedition. Most kids on the train could not believe that we flew all the way from India for BalatonSound, but having been to Ultra, Electric Zoo, EDC and Together As One in the US, we were itching to know what an open air festival in Central Europe would be like. Just to give you a fair warning, we were DEFINITELY not disappointed!
Zamardi is a quaint little town. It has rows of cute little houses and a lazy demure that would induce one to just lay back in his hammock and sip on a Dreher (local beer). Its picturesque Lake Balaton is like a backdrop in a postcard with crystal clear water and green hills in the distance. Well, it was BalatonSound time though and here’s what the scene really was – the cute little houses had kids pelting out bangers through large boom boxes inside and the hammocks were replaced with kegs of beer and large posters which would probably be used over the day at one of the various stages in the festival. Rows and rows of tents were pitched in the camping grounds with kids recovering from the night before and girls wrapped in comforters wondering where they ended up passing out post the madness. This, friends is what happens when you let loose thousands of kids in a small town – shit hits the fan, but in a cool way of course.
During the 2 minute walk from the entrance to the Press Office, we were stopped by at least 15 people just thrilled to see a couple of brown kids (Indians) in the their dream world of bright sunshine, colorful stages, crystal blue water and fantastic sounds. “You guys seriously came all the way to Balaton to party?”, “We most definitely have to get a picture with you”, “Do you really know all these DJs or are you here to steal our ladies?” and the best of them all “Bro, your set last night just blew my mind”. Well, there aren’t too many valid responses to most of these, but we were glad to take pictures with everyone because it genuinely was a very happy/friendly vibe.
While walking down the lakeside, it was hard to look straight and reach the destination. Our first glimpse was the Volkswagen Fitness Centre – an open bar with an array of cool neon colored cars on the beach and a floating stage in the distance. Ravers in board shorts were walking across the water to a stage in the lake and the volleyball court in the water was another favorite. We loved the bright ‘Havaianas Beach’ which was dotted with colorful bean bags, hanging flip flops and a larger than life sign of the brand running across. The Finlandia Lounge Bar extended into the water, where the wide array of Vodka cocktails is just what we needed to start the madness that awaited us. We couldn’t resist the Jager Bar right next door for a frozen shot of our favorite ‘deer blood’ to calm the nerves in the heat. Bungee jumping off a crane post a few drinks? We passed. With so much more to see, we were running out of time. We headed straight to MasterCard VIP lounge above the Main Stage to get a PayPass and scan our cards for a couple of large, golden, chilled, satisfying pales of Heineken.
Afrojack was up at 19:30. We maneuvered through the crowd to get to the photo pit just before his first track – Partysquad vs. Afrojack – Amsterdam. The first beat dropped, all hell broke loose. A few feet straight ahead was the sensational Dutch producer and a few feet behind, a mental crowd throwing everything they could in the air- hands, shirts, beer, sunglasses, bikini tops – WOW!
Thumper after thumper, he was in no mood to slow down. Sadly, we had to leave the pit after the first three tracks but the rush continued all the way to the back in the VIP viewing area. Rounds of shots were generously offered to all at the bar and the sound of champagne bottles popping seemed to somehow match the beats that had us all in a frenzy. This was just the first act of the night for us. The set ended at 21:00, but the sun was still shining bright!
For the next hour FREELUSION Interactive Dj/Vj show complimented a beautiful sunset and the perfect break for ravers to get back and refill their glasses. Unlike some other festivals that only have stalls serving pizza by the slice or crepes, Balaton Sound had a Mexican restaurant serving everything from burritos to frogs’ legs and snails. Furthermore, 14 wine bars, sausage stands and 30 pubs were strewn around to serve the guests! Enough of the trivia, now back to the Main Stage.
The one and only Armin van Buuren was up next to bring the energy back! He isn’t the world’s best DJ for no reason! The mixture of emotions that creeped from the sound to the crowd was what made it all worth it. As we like to say, a set should be a journey, well; this one was one hell of a trip. It winded from absolutely mind altering bangers to the euphoria without notice. A hilly ride up to Not Giving Up On Love from Sound of The Drums with the largest gathering that evening was simply surreal – just because This Is What It Feels Like.
Just as the last track ended at 23:00, everyone zoomed to the Party Arena to get a good spot for Nervo. We were the lucky few to calmly walk in and head backstage. When you’ve jetted thousands of miles away to another country that speaks a language that you don’t know, it’s only music that brings everyone together. Not just music, a specific song does and Nervo opened their set with it. It’s called, Like Home.
The twins conjured some magical mixes and seamless transitions. The indoor stage had next level lights – beams cutting through heart-shaped confetti several feet around shaped The Way We See the World. But at the end of the night, it’s the smiling faces and heart-shaped hands in the air that reassure the artists on stage that their sorcery had Something to Believe In.
Just as the girls were getting done, we noticed someone walking out of the shadows. As soon as the crowd got a glimpse, the roar that erupted definitely overpowered the track being played. That’s right, it was The Spaceman – DJ Hardwell! Hammering the place down in signature style, he didn’t wait too long to drop Never Say Goodbye as his sixth track. Mid set, something magical happened – we heard Ivan Gough vs. Steve Bleas & Stevie Mink vs. Hard Rock Sofa & Swanky Tunes vs. Tiesto & Quintino & R3hab vs. Avicii & Nicky Romero – Boom vs. Here We Go vs. Chasing Summers vs. I Could Be The One (Hardwell vs. Thomas Gold Edit). Honestly, we were patiently waiting for a massive masher like this one over the past 7 hours or so. What went down after that track is something we really don’t think we can share out here but there are recollections of Bassjackers vs. Icona Pop – I Don’t Care vs. Crackin (Hardwell Summer 2013 Mashup), Zedd feat. Foxes – Clarity (W&W Bootleg) and of course, JUMPER! He took our signature #powerup to another level and ensured that his set was a complete #thumper till 3 AM, but Balaton Sound wasn’t ready to give up that easily on us.
First the giant banana-shaped balloons rolled onto stage, after which the bottles of champagne appeared. Complete silence caused due to a crowd recovering from Hardwell’s pelting was disrupted by the words “So Young… So High“. The duo ducking under the stage jumped up with the first beat call themselves DADA LIFE. Though it was close to 4AM and we were at it hard for over 12 hours, the word exhaustion mysteriously had erased itself from our mental dictionaries. The artists’ distinct style and quivering bass line was the healthiest breakfast available. Fist pumps through the sea of people and sudden glimpses of kisses flying towards the stage magnetically attracted the shutterbugs. We watched the visuals on a tiny screen being controlled by the VJ backstage and laughed our pants out watching the DJs douse the red hot girl in the front row with champagne.
As we stepped out of the tent post the madness from an exit in the back, we saw the first flush of morning. Sitting on the deck by the lake, listening to some soulful house playing on a stage behind us that we sadly can’t remember the name of, we saw the sun rising on Lake Balaton. Beautiful would be an understatement and insane would probably be too much. Sitting with new-found friends and reminiscing the old times, an intense conversation in silence left us with an experience that we will never be able to forget. Thank you Balaton Sound for letting us join you on this wonderful effort to bring people together in a location to which no other festival can compare.