Between Rock And A Hard Place
Exit Festival (Serbia) manager Bojan Boscovic doesn’t want to talk to the media about the NME coverage of his "political" falling out with Bjork because he’s more than a little miffed that he’s struggling to get his views across accurately.
He said he certainly didn’t cancel the Icelandic star’s appearance at this year’s festival and says she’s still welcome to play it.
"Right now I’m getting it from both sides," he told Pollstar March 9, the morning after the Serbian government collapsed because – in the words of its leader – it can’t "function" anymore.
"Over here, the papers are saying Bjork was thrown off Exit for political reasons, while some of the Serbian papers are questioning why we booked her in the first place," Boscovic said.
The British weekly music mag has been running stories saying Boscovic said it’d be better if the Icelandic singing star doesn’t play the July 10-13 festival if she’s going to continue making pro-Kosovo independence statements similar to the ones she recently made in Japan.
"Maybe a Serb attended my [Tokyo] concert and called home, and therefore the concert in Novi Sad was canceled," Bjork told Iceland’s Morgunbladid, which sparked NME into action.
Boscovic says his point of view isn’t really about political opinions and freedom of speech, but more of a bid to avoid what could literally turn out to be an explosive situation.
He admits e-mailing Bjork’s management and saying he hopes she "does not relate to Kosovo on other concerts here in Europe, nor in her interviews, because if she does we need to cancel the concert."
But he insists he is only doing his best to avoid her making what could be regarded as inflammatory comments on what’s already a political powder keg.
"With thousands of people on the festival site it only takes one extremist or fanatic to do something really stupid. Then we are faced with a tragedy probably much worse than what happened when those fans died at Roskilde," Boscovic said.
"I have to consider crowd safety. I don’t want us to have a disaster on our hands."
Given the current situation, it is doubtful she’ll show up for Exit.
Bjork’s management looks to have understood Boscovic’s argument, telling the NME: "The coverage of dedicating her song ‘Declare Independence’ to Kosovo at two recent shows in Japan was so widely covered in print and online media that the festival had no option but to cancel her performance. We will replace this event with another show in due course."
Boscovic’s comments about needing to cancel the act if she continues to dedicate one of her songs to Kosovo may have some people figuring him as a hardline nationalist, but a closer examination of the Exit ethos suggests the festival’s political standpoint is at the other end of the spectrum.
Exit has always supported closer ties with western Europe and has played something of an ambassadorial role in the sense that 20 percent of last year’s 50,000-person sellout crowd came from the U.K.
In November it won the U.K. Virtualfestivals.com site’s vote for best European festival, the first time the award was given, and a year earlier BBC World News spent 850 words detailing the Novi Sad festival’s success.
Boscovic is also concerned that the press reaction to his note to Bjork’s management could misrepresent the festival’s beliefs and attitudes to the degree that it could unfairly damage the reputation Exit has spent seven years nurturing.
This year’s festival has already confirmed Ministry, Gogol Bordello, The Hives, Nightwish and Sex Pistols.