Festival Season

Until this year, I had little idea what the Hungarian music festival season was like. Last summer, the festivals were cancelled, and the summers before that, I was in the U.S. most of the time, both teaching and visiting. This year, I am attending three music festivals here in Hungary (two just overnight, with sleeping bag and tent, and another for three days). Three festivals (in addition to standalone concerts) is quite a bit for me, even though it’s a fraction of the whole.

If you are a musician in festival season, then you might spend the whole summer performing at one festival after another, with a few other concerts in between. Lots of fun, I imagine, but also demanding: being around so many people all the time and being expected to stick around for at least part of the event. Then again, it must be a great way of joining together, reuniting, playing for new audiences and on new stages (indoors, outdoors, on the water), getting to know other musicians, and enjoying some beautiful places. Each of these festivals has a character of its own. Last night, at the Mini Fishing on Orfű, I loved how relaxed and enthusiastic the audience was, how they danced and sang to the music. I felt right at home. But let me backtrack.

The festival Fishing on Orfű (named after a Kiscsillag EP) began in 2008. It was founded primarily by András Lovasi (the lead singer of Kiscsillag) and Tamás Kálocz. It started as a three-day festival, then was extended to four days; in 2017, in honor of Lovasi’s fiftieth birthday, it was five days long, and in 2020 it was cancelled because of Covid. This year, in addition to holding the main festival in August, the organizers decided to have a mini-festival in June. Hence Mini Fishing on Orfű. Orfű is about 18 kilometers northwest of Pécs (but what an 18 kilometers! I don’t think I have ever biked such hills before). It’s next to a small lake, the Pécsi-tó.

I went just for one night (this was one of the three festivals I mentioned earlier), since I have a lot to do here in Szolnok. To get there, I brought the bike on the train, went to Budapest, then transferred to a train that went to Pécs, and bicycled from Pécs to Orfű—a rather steep climb most of the way, then downhill for the last stretch. I had a tent, sleeping bag, and backpack with me. The whole thing seemed so unlikely, and I didn’t know if I had made a mistake. But when I rolled into Orfű, the sun was setting over the little lake, people were sitting by the water, and I quickly got my bearings and found out where the festival was.

I arrived at last, set up my tent (a bit of a challenge in the dark, but I figured it out), and then headed up the hill for the 30Y concert. It had already begun, but I got to hear most of it. I had heard only a few of their songs before (online), but the music and the audience’s love took over. At certain points the band would stop playing before a song ended, and the crowd would keep on singing, not just for a few seconds, but on and on, about a thousand people, an overwhelming feeling.

Then I went on a search for the stage where Platon Karataev would be playing. I finally found it and sat down for a little bit. Their concert was to begin at 1:20 a.m.; earlier in the evening, their bassist, Laci Sallai, had a solo concert at the TRIP Terasz. They arrived at some point after midnight and began setting up. Then Zsuzsanna, Atti (her husband), and Mesi came along and joined me in the front. We were right up close to the stage. I can’t describe the concert, except to say that it swept me up, song after song, “Aphelion,” “Ocean,” “Disguise,” “Orange Nights,” “Elevator,” and many others. I was so happy and excited to be right there, hearing these songs live. It was actually the first Platon Karataev concert I had ever attended, except for the acoustic duo last August.

Then I went to sleep in the tent. I had planned to get up at the crack of dawn, bike to Pécs, and take the 7:27 train. That was completely unrealistic; I woke up around 7:00, packed up, biked (the return trip was mostly downhill but still had some steep uphill parts), and barely missed the 9:27 train. So I waited for the 11:27 one. I got home late in the afternoon; the cats were fine and happy to see me.

How great to have this to think back on.

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  1. Fishing on Orfű: Highlights and Other Lights | Take Away the Takeaway

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

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