Hajógyári Island, Budapest, Hungary
7 - 13 August
Since 1993, Sziget has made a name for itself as a music and culture festival of a magnitude few can match – a peer of Coachella or Glastonbury not only in size and scale, but also in breadth and depth of experience. This year’s edition had plenty to live up to – last year’s turnout broke records in every direction. Yet despite the sprawling nature of the festival, which takes place on an island in the heart of Budapest, Sziget 2019 was a surprisingly intimate affair.
Enthusiasm was in no short supply, and around half a million visitors traipsed across the island under the hazy late-summer sun and Hungarian heat. The mainstage lineup was geared to please, with headliners like The National, Foo Fighters and The 1975. For some, the festival peaked early – Ed Sheeran’s much-anticipated debut show in Hungary capped Sziget’s first night to an audience so deep that it reportedly took an hour just to leave the festival site. Still, the crowd continued with a devoted turnout to fan favourites like James Blake, IAMDDB, and Tove Lo.
Guernsey’s Mura Masa proved to be a standout, owing as much to his own talent to his collaborators – the multi-instrumentalist brought out vocalist Fliss, whose athleticism and charisma got the crowd on their feet during the mid-afternoon set. Elsewhere, a slinking Olly Alexander led the crowd in a post-Pride victory lap during Years & Years’ showcase.
Like most festivals of its size, Sziget sells an experience: long days spent outdoors, A-List acts and an international crowd. Like most festivals of all sizes, the same people rake in the big money, with Florence and The Machine being the only headliner that wasn’t a group of white dudes. At an on-site press conference, CEO Támás Kádár promised major structural changes to the festival between this year and next; one can only hope that an intentional push for a more inclusive palette of artists comes soon thereafter.
At the same time, it’ll be interesting to see what these structural changes mean for the continent’s Coachella: With a broad programme that covered not just music but arts and performance as well, Sziget did what large-scale festivals do best. It built a temporary community, one founded on celebration and goodwill to one another. Regardless of what happens in 2020, I hope drag queen Fez Faanana’s words still ring true. “Be kind to each other,” she said as she wrapped up burlesque troupe Briefs’ stunning show. “And share your drugs”.