Bánffy Castle, Romania
18 - 22 July
What do Jessie J, Cancer Bats, and Russian “rave band” Little Big have in common? Very little, except they all played at Electric Castle Festival, just outside of Cluj-Napoca in Romania, over the weekend.
The festival’s eclectic, scattered line-up included everything from DJs to pop music to punk and everything in between, and on first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was at best a little unfocused. But any doubts about the diversity of the line-up were quickly shattered by the realisation that they all had one thing in common: every act just wanted to give people the absolute best time they possibly could. And the festival, which ran for a full 24 hours every night, had very much the same intention.
Electric Castle takes places on the grounds of Bánffy Castle and is focused on atmosphere: with dedicated chill-out spots with hammocks, wooded areas for people to wander through, a lake and a man-made beach, there was more than enough to do for those who might have gotten a little tired of partying through the night every night. While festival-goers were promised rain, mud and lightning every single day, with many preparing for the worst, the sun held up – giving everyone a chance to make the most of the amenities.
And while those things are as important as the music when you have to spend four days on a festival site in the middle of nowhere, they’re far from all that Electric Castle has to offer. That at first confusing diversity is integral to why the line-up works: while you can see more well-known British acts like The Horrors, IDLES or Jessie J, or Canadian ones like Cancer Bats, you can also experience music that you mightn’t at another festival. On Friday Romanian hip-hop band Subcarpați took over the main stage with their blend of rap and Romanian folk music, while their heavier songs united the crowd (even those who didn’t quite understand what was going on). On Sunday night in the Hangar, Russian band Little Big brought their ridiculous mix of satirical songs, Die Antwoord-esque sounds and unstoppable energy to make the crowd dance, wave their middle fingers around and scream “my dick is very big”. It was ridiculous, but above all, it was fun – the most important thing for any festival, but something Electric Castle prioritised.
Some of the more niche, heavier acts like IDLES and Bury Tomorrow only drew in smaller crowds, but it didn’t matter – on Friday Bury Tomorrow’s lead singer thanked “all 55 of you” for their attendance, and fans went in as hard as they would wear the stage absolutely full. It might have seemed like a mistake to place those heavier bands alongside so many electronic and pop acts, but it somehow just worked. Jessie J’s headlining set on Sunday night perhaps unsurprisingly was a people pleaser, filling up the entire main area and drawing people away from anything else that was, unfortunately, happening at the same time. Electric Castle delivered everything it promised and more: it was diverse, chill, and a whole lot of fun, but if a “24 hour festival on the grounds of a Transylvanian castle with beers for less than £2” isn’t enough to convince you that the journey is worth it next year, not much will.