They Only Come Out At Night

Romanian music fans seem to take the country’s association with vampires seriously and only come out when it’s dark, although partnering promoters Guido Janssens and Leon Ramakers still shifted 70,000 B’Estfest tickets over a five-day period July 1-5.

The biggest crowd was the 20,000 that saw Santana July 4, which may have been more than double the number there for the start of The Charlatans, which had the main support slot.

One of the main problems in this emerging Eastern Bloc market with no history of staging festivals is introducing the idea of hanging out all day, drinking a few beers and listening to bands.

“The majority of the audience still comes out to see a particular band in Romania and has not really caught up yet with the idea of ‘the festival atmosphere,’ although we have made serious efforts to make sure that there’s lots to do,” Janssens explained after thousands poured through the gates of the Bucharest Romexpo site to see the headlining concert.

“We have learned from this experience. We started by opening at noon, then last year it was 2 p.m. and now it’s 4 p.m.”

Just before The Charlatans, which benefited from a growing crowd, The Ting Tings got an enthusiastic response from a mostly younger audience that clearly wasn’t suffering from the aforementioned Transylvanian aversion to daylight.

Janssens and Ramakers, who flew in from New York to catch the second half of this year’s event, have seen the country doesn’t have a festival with international status but there are encouraging signs that they’re doing something about it.

The most successful contemporary festival in the country is Felsziget, which the people behind Hungary’s Sziget Festival have run at Targu Mures since 2003. Its record four-day crowd is the 60,000 it got in 2007.

Janssens said there will be a serious evaluation of this year’s B’Estfest results, after which the organisers will look at further ways of improving the festival’s concept.

At this year’s ILMC, Janssens told Pollstar he’d love to get the event to the point where it regularly pulls 25,000 per day.

By bringing their Western European festival experiences and building a strong local team, Jannsens, his wife and Emag!c Entertainment partner Laura, and Ramakers (who has invested personally) have already overcome the problem of convincing the crowd that a Romania contemporary music event will actually happen as advertised. In its third year, B’Estfest also provided a platform for The Killers, Moby, Orbital, Franz Ferdinand, White Lies, Manowar, Motorhead and Klaxons.

The Balkan market has suffered a loss of consumer confidence since the unavoidable cancellation of the Depeche Mode shows, a situation made worse in Bucharest by the advertising and selling of thousands of tickets for a non-existent AC/DC show.

Previous B’estfest attractions include Faithless, Morcheeba, Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, Cypress Hill, Kaiser Chiefs, Nelly Furtado and Manu Chao.