Summers in Europe have no shortage of music festivals. From the UK to Bulgaria, you’ll be hard pressed not to find a festival that caters to your taste. However, in recent years many of these festivals have become stale and predictable. Enter Romania and the Untold Festival. In it’s first year Untold brought together some of the biggest names in music from around the world. David Guetta, Avicii, Armin Van Buren, Adam Beyer, Fatman Scoop, DJ Premier, and Tom Odell to name a few.
Untold Festival is positioned to become a fixture in the Euro music festival scene. Although new, they showed an immense understanding of the pros and cons music festivals present and were able to mitigate the cons in a way I’ve never seen a new festival pull off. All in all, excellent work. From pioneering musicians to an up and coming destination in Cluj Napoca, Untold needs to be on your festival tour schedule for 2016.
Embracing Organization and Speed
I’ve never been a huge fan of camp out music festivals. Tomorrow land, Coachella, and VFest are a few I attended in the past. Although each had its appeal, I found them overcrowded and hard to navigate. Untold certainly took cues from the bigger festivals and modified their approach. The best thing they did was choose Cluj Napoca as their location and modified the festival to fit the city.
Cluj isn’t a particularly large city. Easy to walk from venue to venue or from your hotel. This especially will appeal to those not incline to stay in student dorms. I stayed in the center of Cluj at Hotel Agape. Barely a 20 minute walk to the main stage. If I needed to get their QUICK I grabbed a cab. 5 minutes and about $3. With that said, Untold had eight official stages. So the distance varied a bit but not much. From the center, between 1 minute and 20 mins walking.
Entry was relatively fast and without issue. Of course you couldn’t bring in your own drinks and all bags are checked. With the stages spaced out and performances going 24/7 the crowds were spaced out but easy to find if you desired. It should also be noted that Untold provided plenty of hammocks and bean bag chairs for guest. Untold was actually held in a park so guest also had the option to just layout in the grass.
Affordable and Quality Festival Food Fare
When I noticed them confiscating drinks at the entrances I immediately became worried about the potential price gouging. Well my fears were unfounded. Not only were the food and drinks affordable, but efficient. Untold used a “debit” card system. No cash involved. You preload a card and pay with that at all concession stands on site. This made lines fast and efficient. No mistakes with change or over payments.
The quality of food offered and prices was outstanding. Comparable to what you would get outside the festival which is something I’ve never seen. A decent meal would cost you around $3-5. A drink is around 2-3 depending on what you’re drinking. When you take cash out of the equation things move a lot faster.
Also concessions were spread around each stage including a dedicated food strip where guest could hang out and grab a bite. Concessions was certainly a highlight as a stickler for logistics as I am. Also the cleanup was fast. Usually the main stage finale led to a food/drink rush which was chaos but the cleanup crews stayed on top of it and cleared trash fast.
An Inspiring Crowd Dynamic
A crowd makes the festival for me. Like many festivals in Europe, Untold skewed young. Mid-teens to early 20’s. But this wasn’t really a typical festival crowd. They weren’t getting trashed. They weren’t being rude. They weren’t complaining when things went wrong. They were just having fun. This may be because Romania hasn’t seen a festival of this caliber before.
It’s increasingly inspiring to see so many young Romanians that know the words to some obscure musicians work and loudly displayed their knowledge. A crowd that gets into the artist only makes for an even more immersive experience. Kudos to the Untold crowd for not only representing their country well but their age group also.
Setting the standard for Artist Lineups
What can I say about this RIDICULOUS lineup? Just outstanding. The fact that Untold put this lineup together shows how dedicated they are to ensuring this event has a bright future. I won’t focus on the big names. That story can easily be found from their press teams. I want to highlight the smaller acts and performers that brought character to Untold. I’ll start with the Untold MC Fatman Scoop.
Fatman Scoop is a legend in hip hop. He’s created hits for some of the world’s biggest artist. But what people forget about him is he’s a hell of a hype man. He kept the crowd bouncing from start to finish between acts all weekend. Anyone walking away without a smile on their face from that main stage has issues. Next up is Tom Odell
Tom Odell was unknown to me. But what I do appreciate is a great musician. And that’s what Tom is. Back by a stellar band, Tom performed an outstanding set from his piano and reminded the young crowd what true musical talent is. I mean no disrespect to EDM artist but we need more people who actually play instruments. So what happens when an opener upstages a headliner?
Avicii was opened for by a duo named Cazzette. Their set KILLED his. I mean these guy put on a show and understood how to control the crowd. By watching these two acts back to back you could clearly see the difference. Where one gauged the crowd’s reaction and mood while the other seemed to have an Iphone on shuffle. If you like house or EDM give Cazzette a spin. And I’ll close with a rant.
Wu Tang Clan has lost a loyal fan. I made my final decision to attend because they were announced. I’ve been a Wu Tang fan 1993 with Protect Ya Neck, so when I get a chance to see them live I take it. A few days before Untold they canceled. I don’t care what the reason was. This has become the norm for them. This is the THIRD time I planned to see them and they canceled. Kudos to the Untold organizers for offering refunds for anyone that bought tickets to see Wu Tang Clan. I did get my hip hop fix.
Jeru the Damaja and DJ Premier performed back to back and ripped the house down. Much appreciated for their commitment to fans and actually interacting with the crowd before, during, and after the show. This is how legends become legends. By being dedicated to fans. Untold made a great choice bringing the Gang Starr Foundation to Romania.
A Newcomer becomes a Front Runner
The Untold Festival offered fans great value and an experience like few others. Although I found a bit of the design “Tomorrowlandish”, they did an excellent job at developing their own identity. Untold is distinctly Romanian. Inexpensive, Fun, and Innovative. 2016 will be jammed packed so get ready to grab those tickets. If this year was an indication of things to come then get ready for some huge names in music.
Special thanks to Untold Festival, Hotel Agape, Wizz Air, Absolut, and the city of Cluj for bringing me back to Romania to cover this festival. Like a home coming and great to see people discovering and supporting Transylvania.