Festivals, Audiences, and Such

Fishing on Orfű, the one music festival I plan to attend this summer (along with its August coda, Kispál on Orfű), has people scrambling, even begging, for a place to stay, even a place to pitch a tent. I don’t know why this is. All the cabins and tent spots were sold out early on—I bought a ticket to the festival as soon as they went on sale, and already the huts and camping spaces were gone. The only place left was a camping area near the lake (which gets very hot during the day and can get soaked by rain at night, and where you don’t have a reserved spot but have to take your chances—and even this is sold out now). The hotels and bed-and-breakfast places are all filled; there’s even an online Facebook page for festival attendees looking for places, and as soon as anything comes up, it’s gone in seconds. With so many people looking for a place to stay, why aren’t there more options? I love Fishing, but people who come so far to hear the music should have a place to lie down. Those who buy a ticket to the full festival should be offered a camping spot, a cabin, or something else, even if they have to pay a little extra for it.

Last year, I pitched my tent where I wanted. At the Mini-Fishing, it wasn’t a problem; I think you were allowed to do just that. At the main Fishing, I didn’t know it wasn’t allowed, and there were people knocking (!) on my tent late that night to tell me that others had reserved that spot. (Fortunately those others hadn’t arrived yet, or else they took another open spot; since I was there only for the night, I packed up and left before dawn.) This time, I have a ticket to the open camping area near the lake. We’ll see how it goes.

And yet I can’t wait for Fishing. On the 29th, I will get to hear Cz.K. Sebő, Lázár Tesók, Felső Tízezer, and Sasa Lele; on the 30th, Felső Tízezer (on the water stage), Anna Szalai and Gergő Dorozsmai, and who knows who else; on July 1st, Noémi Barkóczi, Kaláka, Esti Kornél, and Platon Karataev, and on Saturday, Jazzékiel, Galaxisok, and maybe the tail end of Elefánt. That’s in addition to others I will stumble upon or find my way to. And then there will be the walks around the lake, late at night and early in the morning; the serendipitous experiences, and maybe bike rides too, if I bring the bike.

But I am starting to have mixed feelings about it (not Fishing in particular, but the whole concept). I think some musicians do too. For them, the festival season can be grueling: one festival, one show after another, big crowds (unless they are one of the lesser-known bands, in which case there might be just a few people listening), people surrounding you, tight schedules, no place to unwind, think, or work on the music itself. And never mind the politics of scheduling: who gets booked and who doesn’t, who gets to play which dates and which stages, and who gets invited and then dropped. I have read some stories, not about Fishing, but about other festivals. I imagine that up to a point, performing at the festivals is great fun and professionally important, and then it gets exhausting.

For an audience member, there’s the whole challenge of staying there, which is usually necessary, at least for one night, and can also be fun (for one night). On the other hand, there’s an inequality to it all; you travel hours to get there, you pay to be there, you rough it out in a tent, but you’re “just” an audience member, “just” a fan, interchangeable, disposable. No one really cares if you are there or not. Which is great, in a way; the anonymity is part of the thrill. Just being able to go listen to the music, without having to explain yourself. And if you want, you can leave, and no one will even notice. But the nobodyness is an illusion; the audience is as important as the performers and as worthy of regard. The inequality is partly false. I say “partly” because it is also circumstantially true; the performers are on stage for a reason. They have audiences for a reason.

The inequality is also exacerbated by money. The reason musicians have such a dense schedule in festival season is that they need to make as much money as possible, to give them a little bit of a financial buffer for the rest of the year. The reason festivals pack in more audience members than they can house is, again, money. So then the question becomes: is this worth the money?

With regard to Fishing on Orfű: yes and no. To hear the musicians, yes. To be in the hills, in the woods, by a lake, among other eager listeners, yes. But to travel more than five hours each way (four and a half hours from Szolnok to Pécs, and then the bus or bike ride), only to have to fend for a place to sleep, which might end up unsleepable in a big downpour (it tends to rain there, because of the microclimate), and to be there for four days—I wonder not only if it’s worth it, but if I want to be in that position any more. If I were going with friends, it would be another matter. With friends, you can laugh, figure out solutions, enjoy each other’s company. But the only people I know who go to Fishing have their own plans. I am past the age where many of my friends do this kind of thing; I don’t mind being different, and enjoy doing things alone, but something about this is starting to feel too much, not just physically, but otherwise: I’m getting a little bit ruffled up dignity-wise. So I think I will go just for one night, and then again in August. Or else find a way to stay in Pécs and commute back and forth from the festival, which also means missing a few shows. It will be good, it will be enough, and at home I can listen to the other musicians’ albums.

Update: An inexpensive, conveniently located Pécs hotel ended up being the best solution; it takes about 50 minutes to go by bus from Pécs to Orfű, and the return buses run until around 11:30 at night. I am probably going to camp at Orfű on the last night, so as not to have to rush out before the end of the Galaxisok show (and to be able to attend Jazzékiel as well). So, a bit of commuting, but otherwise three days of comfort and all the music I had been hoping to hear, and then one night under the skies.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

  • Always Different

  • Pilinszky Event (3/20/2022)



    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 April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

  • Recent Posts


  • Categories