Based in the area of Bánffy Castle, an architectural monument near the city, from July 18 – 22 the landscape turned into a bonfire of lights, attractions and – of course – music. So without any big prior knowledge of what this festival actually represents, me and my friend (aka photographer) went straight into exciting territory. Luckily we got first-hand information.
‘We believe that Electric Castle is a full-festival experience’, Andi Vanca, head of the event’s communications explained to us. ‘People should explore all stages to get to know new things. We do not want to have just a series of concerts – we want to offer activities, arts, technology – all in this extraordinary historic place.’
Done as told: two of the nine stages, different food stands and lounges where located directly next to the left parts of the old castle. Inside of it art-exhibitions and live music sets were part of the daily program. Side fact we got told on day 1: people nearby believe the ruins are haunted by a ghost – a woman. Legend says she appears on some taken photographs if one look close enough (I did not try to find out because boy would have run for the hills if he’d seen ghost lady behind his back).
One rave after another
As known from other festivals, the days are consisting of partying all day and night long, so locations like the Booha Mansion or The Beach were pumping some drum and base, house and electronic beats from early on. Speaking about Electronic Beats: Some of you might know the collective running under that name by the German company Telekom. Their mission is to bring up stages to different countries so they can allow local acts of the area to show their talent and bond with the audience. They did a stop on Electronic Castle as well to present fresh techno from Romania-based artists on the festival’s local stage. And the audience was more than down for it. One rave after another.
If your feet were under too much fire and your body was screaming for some carbs (or proteins) the whole festival area was offering chill-out spots and food areas. Many food areas. No matter if you’re into gourmet burgers, Asian style or sweet doughnuts – the organizers will not allow starving. A favorite spot of mine was the food truck with traditional Romanian kitchen. Plus: the festival crew ensures every year that many local brands from the city have the opportunity to sell their food or drinks to the crowd.
Every corner of the castle’s landscape had hidden places to discover, like the lovely Cidre-Garden or Silent Stage (powered by discounter Lidl, seriously!). A few steps away from the main stage a tent with a circus group was located as a show act, next to it you could take a ride on the Festival wheel. All bright and filled with colors – each day turned into a mesmerizing dawn which got filled by night with thousands of lights.
As for the line-up? Besides many DJ’s mostly located in the electronic field, there were some bigger names rooting for the main stage: Jamaican reggae-singer Damian Marley or British producer/musician Mura Masa took a big audience. Like on so many festivals, even the Electric Castle could sadly not manage to put up a 50/50 male and female line-up. Still some powerhouse women took the largest stage during the five days of party: Swedish-duo Icona Pop blasted their heavy electro-pop tunes, while Britain’s top alternative bands Wolf Alice and London Grammar (both led by fantastic front women) put on some heavier sounds. Also from Britain but more R’n’B and soul-driven by now: singer and songwriter Jessie J. She performed on the closing night and might brought the most heart-melting moment on stage when performing one of her songs spontaneously with a 10-year-old girl from the audience. Girl power at its best!
It might seem like the girls had the biggest audiences during Electric Castle, but the gender gap still did not lose my mind. Luckily we get to know the people from Telekom Electronic Beats closer to talk about equality in their country.
‘I work here as a woman in Romania’s media field and I am glad to have the chance to promote female acts and equality’, Oana Turturică, part of the editorial team, explains:
‘When I was younger I wanted to become a DJ at a radio station – but at that time the big boss did not want to have a women for the position. In other fields they wanted them to get undressed and show skin. I did not want it. Now I am on the other side and am able to help other women to bring their music to the people.’
‘We try to change the male domination in the electronic music field here in Romania’, Andrei Racovițan tells me. He is also part of the Telekom Electronic Beats team. ‘We try to write as much as possible about women in the music field so they can get a platform.’
Which such intentions we must believe that change is coming and gender balance will happen in future. Of course there is still a long way to go – but a revolution always starts in the underground and it seems like that is going on there.
If one would ask for a look-alike festival to create an own imagination of Electric Castle, the MELT! Festival would definitely come to mind. The area was filled with branding, but due to the reduced size compared to Ferropolis it does not feel that much like a commercialized event. Anyway, branding is needed so the organizers have the opportunity to serve something good for the audience – and that happened without doubt.
So if you are up for a bright festival experience with a full party program – go to Cluj. It is worth it. Once you there, you should consider to take one day off to visit the city centre, it is more than beautiful. At this point we would like to thank Oana, Andrei, Cristina and Katerina from Telekom Electronic Beats Romania for their support and warm welcoming. Our driver Bogdan (aka Bobo) for making sure we always get safe to the festival and back and Anika and Maxi from the German team, who both made this great journey possible in the first place. Love you all!