Panaitescu Warms Up For Sziget

Sziget booker Dan Panaitescu and the cultural management team that runs the festival have been warming up to this year’s August 8-14 gathering by staging their new Balaton Sound on the shores of what’s called "the Hungarian Sea."

The shores of Lake Balaton, central Europe’s largest inland waterway, are as near as the landlocked country gets to having "a seaside" but it’s still a very popular resort, attracting a million visitors a year including holidaymakers from Germany and all the neighbouring central European and Balkan states.

"It was the first year so it has no tradition. Every weekend throughout July there was a festival somewhere in Hungary and so I was very pleased with it," Paniatescu told Pollstar after Balaton Sound had pulled a little more than 8,000 per day, which – with the exception of Romania’s B’Estival – is around the average for the events that have started in the region in 2007.

The international acts on the July 12-15 bill included Beastie Boys, Basement Jaxx, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Eric Prydz and Roger Sanchez.

"On the Friday we had to close the gates for the first time," Panaitecu reported, after the 15th staging of Volt Festival (July 5-8) – with a beefier international line-up – had attracted crowds of close to 17,000 per day to the beautiful medieval Austro-Hungarian border town of Sopron.

The site is only about 30 miles from Vienna and 40 from Bratislava – it’s 120 from Budapest – and a steady increase in the number of visitors coming in from Austria and Slovakia would soon help it sell out on a regular basis.

Apart from this year’s bill having The Prodigy, The Roots, Coldcut, Laibach and Korn, Panaitescu believes good weather – apparently a rarity in Sopron – has also helped to up the numbers in the last two years.

"I can’t go back to mid-level artists," he explained, pointing out that most of the main acts at this year’s Volt are strong enough to headline Sziget.

Even before Balaton Sound and Volt, Budapest’s Connection Day (June 30) – an annual free event produced by Marton Brady’s Showtime – had indicated that the country might be in for a good summer outdoor season as 200,000 packed into Heroes Square to see Bryan Adams and Magdi Ruzsa, who was Hungary’s representative in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

"I have the feeling this is the best bill so far and provided the weather is good, no hurricanes and no freak storms, this should be the biggest Sziget that we’ve had," is Panaitsecu’s quietly confident prediction for this year’s festival.

The 15-year-old event staged on an island in The Danube is the old Eastern bloc’s biggest and most prestigious contemporary music festival.

The acts on this year’s line-up include The Killers, Faithless, The Chemical Brothers, Sportfreunde Stiller, Manu Chao, Gentleman & The Far East Band, Madness, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Gogol Bordello, The Good, The Bad & The Queen, The Rakes, Chris Cornell, The Hives and Razorlight.