Today marks the second day of the week-long (August 7th to 13th) Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary onHajógyári Island. With over 1,000 performances from the world’s biggest names across 60 stages, what was once a small gathering has become one of the most iconic music and arts festivals worldwide.
Our Electric Soul team is hitting the grounds this week, giving our community a backstage pass to the ins and outs of the festival (follow us!). To get you geared up, we thought we’d take a look at the festival, its history, the lineup, what to expect, and what makes it so damn special. Disclaimer: if you aren’t attending the festival, the following may instill major FOMO.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, there
was a revolutionary spirit in the air. Think the hippie movement of the 60s in
America, but a 90s European version. The once lively and government-funded
music scene in Budapest was struggling. Music lovers craved music and the
community that came with it.
Péter Müller and manager Károly Gerendai recognized the void and decided to do
something about it. With a group of friends, an extremely small budget, and big
ideas, they created Diáksziget, or Student Island Festival. Thirsty for
music, 43,000 festivalgoers attended Diáksziget in its first year.
The attendance numbers doubled the following year. The 1994 Diáksziget coincided with the 25th anniversary of Woodstock, gaining itself the nickname EuroWoodstock. Although the festivals were a hit, they weren’t turning a profit. On 1996, Pepsi signed on as a major sponsor relieving them of financial hardships and giving the festival the opportunity to book bigger names. In 1996, the festival was renamed Pepsi Sziget. But in 2002, the Pepsi was dropped and the festival name was officially changed to Sziget Festival.
In the past 27 years, Sziget has become one the world’s most glorified festivals, winning the title Best Major European Festival twice (2011 and 2014) at the European Festival Awards. Attendance numbers have reached as high as 565,000 with people traveling from over 95 countries. With performances from the likes of David Bowie, Prince, Iggy Pop, The Prodigy and more recently Avicii, Knife Party, Ellie Goulding, and The Chainsmokers, this festival has always been about bringing people of all walks of life and music tastes together to celebrate freedom and love.
Sziget Festival 2019: Love Revolution
This year’s theme is Love Revolution. Sziget has always been powered by this idea of freedom and community. Their mission is to recognize the vast diversity of the festival and celebrate all those who come together for a weeklong celebration of music and art. Referring to their festivalgoers as Szitizens, their idea is the make the festival and the island it takes place on, a ‘dream nation’ where all animosity is checked at the door. Szitizens will unofficially take the pledge of a ‘love revolution’, promising to guide all their movements by love, and embrace diversity and human dignity.
Electronic fans, you might want to take note.
While big names like Martin Garrix and Mura Masa will take the Main Stage, if you are looking for killer sets and non-stop dance parties, you’ll want to hit up the Samsung Colosseum. The 360-degree amphitheater has a lineup of underground and progressive DJs and producers dedicated to creating the most epic rager you’ve been to. From noon until sunrise every day, the dance party doesn’t stop. Blawan, Objekt, Margaret Dygas, B.Traits, wAFF, and Avalon Emerson are just some of the names that will bless you with their beats.
If EDM, trance, minimal, techno, and house are your scene, the Bacardi Arena starts late and ends early. Blasterjaxx, Jax Jones, Coone, Vini Vici, Kayzo, and Justin Mylo will be bringing those late-night vibes.
Although more dedicated to pop and rock artists, the Mastercard Stage will feature some electronic artists including Fakear, Sonny Fodera, Apashe, and DJ sets by Metrik and Danny Byrd later in the evenings. Just look for the giant red and white tent.
The Volt Stage, dedicated to up and comers from around the world, will take a step away from rock and pop towards dance and electronic as the night progresses with most evenings ending in a set by DJ Elf.
The driving force of any big festival is its lineup and Sziget has never been one to disappoint. 60 stages will host over 1000 performances, a majority of those being music with dance, theatre, performance, art, and talks weaved throughout.
The official headliners of Sziget include Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Florence and the Machine, Twenty-One Pilots, and Martin Garrix. Whether you are a pop, rock, or electronic fan, there are more than plenty of artists to fill your heart and ears with music.
Things to do
There is no shortage of fun to be had on the Island of Freedom. As you walk throughout the grounds, you’ll be able to experience art and architecture installations crafted by Szitizens from all over the world. Most created from recycled materials, you’ll be able to visit, snap pictures, and hang out in some larger than life pieces of art.
If you need a break from all the music and dancing, there are hundreds of performances you can enjoy. From magic shows to marionettes, to circus acts and fire dances, it will be virtually impossible to be bored at Sziget.
Feel like getting off the island? Join the boat party! Jump on the sightseeing boat for a tour of Budapest. With sunbeds for lounging, DJs for dancing, and snacks for snacking, you can party along the river. Drum and bass on the Danube? Yes, please.
With all the dancing, you’re bound to get hungry. The food lineup at Sziget is just as impressive as the music. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, gluten-free, lactose-free, or just have the munchies, there are endless options. Burgers, bubble waffles, BBQ, Italian, and Thai are just a few. While in Hungary, it would only make sense to try some local dishes as well. Gobble down some Lángos and ironed pie, but make sure you save some room for a tradition kürtőskalács (chimney cakes) for dessert.
Festival with a conscious
While, yes, Sziget is all about fun and games, it also operates with a purpose. Superar is an initiative, powered by Sziget that empowers youth through music. Superar knows that music breaks down walls and that through it, children can learn to be self-sufficient, respectful, and inclusive. Through choir rehearsals, instrument lessons, local and international summer camps, and attending professional performances, Superar helps over 2000 children experience the power of music and discover their own potential.
A leading principle of the Sziget’s Love Revolution is to keep the festival as green as possible while doing their part to instill the message of sustainability and environmental consciousness upon its Szitizens. The movement of green festivals has (thankfully) taken the world by storm and Sziget is pioneering the movement with a number of initiatives.
Drinks are served in reusable cups. After purchasing your first one, you can exchange it each time you grab a new drink. Cups can be traded in for tokens at the end of your day. Single-use plastic straws will not be available and reusable straw will only be provided to those who ask.
In an attempt to limit the number of plastic bottles on-site, Sziget encourages Szitizens to bring their own refillable bottle, which they can top up at one of the many free water refill stations across the grounds.
To keep the greens butt-free, portable pocket ashtrays will be distributed throughout the festival. Smokers are asked to collect their cigarettes and dispose of them when they come to the proper waste bin.
Recycling is top of mind for the festival. Their goal is to achieve a 50% recycle rate. Plenty of bins, labeled for your recycling ease, will be stationed throughout the festival. 50 volunteers will also circle the grounds collecting waste. A visual composting lab, that you can watch in action, will be turning the festival’s organic waste into humus that will aid in the recultivation of the island, post-festival. At the end of the week, camping Szitizens will be able to drop off their unwanted tents and camping gear at the donation center where Sziget volunteers will ensure they make their way to a charity organization.
Sziget campers can also opt to stay at the EcoCamping area. Powered by E.ON, this campsite, with availability for 200 Szitizens, has ECO toilets that use 85% less water, upcycled furniture, community breakfast provided by the Slow Food Bar, and eco-friendly cleaning products. Solar power energy will power the reception and bathroom facilities.
If you want to learn more about how you can live a more eco-conscious life, the Green Sziget Centre will be hosting workshops and performances. Dr. Jane Goodall, the UN Messenger of Peace and The Climate Reality Project will take the Main Stage to deliver their message and ideas on the environment and sustainability.
Sziget will also reward those who bike to the Island with free bike storage and a tune-up!
Sziget has come so far since 1993 but has been able to stay true to its message. We can’t wait to experience the epic festival and revel in all the amazing music and performances.