Europe has some of the world’s best music festivals, but they are often dominated by anglophile bands from America and the United Kingdom.
Fans often travel from across Europe to Sziget in Hungary, Frequency in Austria, Southside in Germany or other festivals to hear more or less the same Anglo bands, and they learn very little about the local music culture.
Actually, countries such as Croatia and Serbia have good festivals of their own showcasing their own bands, who deserve more attention elsewhere in Europe.
I drove with friends three hours east of Zagreb to Slavonija, where I lost my roommate Christian Wurtenberg while covering battles between Serbs and Croats in the Osijek and Vukovar areas in the early 1990s.
More than two decades later, Serb and Croat music fans come together every year to enjoy excellent bands from across the Balkans at Ferragosto Jam, one of the better small scale music festivals in Europe.
It’s set at a lake outside of Orahovica, a nice place to camp and swim to relieve the early August heat.
You don’t have to jostle with 100,000 people at Sziget or Glastonbury or wait in line for disgusting portable toilets. Croatia is generally safe without fear of theft, rape or the kind of assaults that have forced cancellation of festivals in Sweden and elsewhere. At Ferragosto Jam, you can easily get close to the stage or sit down on the ground, or you can lie in your tent by the lake and listen to the music all night.
I saw several bands from the Balkans who made me forget about what I was missing at Sziget in Budapest. My favorite acts included Jonathan, Antenat, NLV, Judette and Serbian hardcore sensations Repetitor, who of course blew out a power transformer forcing delays and also the shutdown of beer sales Friday night.
Here are some of my photos: