Fishing on Orfű: Day 1 (June 29, 2022)

I bounded out the door around 9:30, took a delayed train to Budapest, missed my Pécs connection, did a post office errand and had a Vietnamese lunch, took the next train, got to Pécs, went running around (sweating from the heat and the day) in search of an ATM machine, having realized that I had to pay the hostel in cash, found one, ran to the hostel, checked in and dropped off my bags (I have a tiny private room for four days, perfect under these circumstances), caught the jam-packed festival bus, and rode up into the hills and down to Orfű with some fifty jovial, excited people. Then went through the ticket check, got my festival pass, and headed up to the “A tűzhöz közel” (“Near the Fire”) stage to hear my first concert of the festival, which will stand out among them all.

Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly gave a solo Cz.K. Sebő/capsule boy concert: the words “dreamy, melancholic, joyous” are only tangents, since the music has so many interesting elements and is so moving at the same time. It brings up new thoughts, new emotions. Sebő seemed fully in his element. And there, in the forest shade and early evening, the large audience was wrapped (rapt) in these songs and sounds. They had classical influences (one of them was slightly Arvo Pärt-like, and in others I heard hints of baroque music); they alternated between Hungarian and English and a language of their own. They have a feeling of exploration; I don’t know whether any improvising was going on in the moment, but they keep searching and diving and returning.

After this, I heard two terrific concerts: Lázár Tesók and Felső Tízezer. The Lázár Tesók crowd was a little bit too rowdy for the music, singing drunkenly along and out of tune, but it was all in good fun, and people were having a great time. There was love in the air.

In between this and Felső Tízezer, I walked down to the lake. Lightning was flashing in the distance. Here you can see ducks passing by.

And the Felső Tízezer show was punchy and beautiful. They played old and new songs, including some of my favorites. The audience knew the songs and was involved in every moment of them. During ”Semmi pánik 2” we were all anticipating the ”pont pont pont”—it was a great moment, with fingers flying in the air.

After that, I caught just the final two minutes of the band Kaukázus, enough to make me curious to hear them again. I also heard a minute or two of Vad Fruttik, but not enough to tell me whether I want to hear more.

The evening’s rollickings were far from over! From here, I went down to the bus stop, hoping to catch a festival bus back to Pécs, but not realizing that the next one wouldn’t be until 1 a.m. A lot of others were waiting for a bus too, or for something or other. It felt a little like a Waiting for Godot situation. The trolley came along and people (including me) got on it, some of us for no reason whatsoever. Some people were riding it to another part of town, but the rest of us had gotten on just to board something or other. So I rode it around the lake.

Not having had dinner, I returned to the festival for fish and chips, walked around a little, and then headed back to the bus stop, where a large group of hopefuls had again assembled. This time, it was close to 1 a.m., and the bus did indeed arrive.

It’s good to have a room to return to after all this, even a bare-bones one. To be able to sleep, and then relax in the morning and type out memories of the previous day. Today I am keeping it short and sweet: going just for a few afternoon hours to hear Felső Tízezer and then Balaton on the water stage, followed by Szalai Anna and Dorozsmai Gergő (together) at the “fireside” stage, then coming back to the hotel to tune in to Continental Subway. That may seem odd: tuning in to a radio show from a music festival! But I regretted missing it last week—David Dichelle played Galaxisok’s “Ez a nyár,” among many other interesting things—and this way I can pace myself. Tomorrow will be quite a full evening, with Middlemist Red (whom I have never heard before), Barkóczi Noémi, Kaláka, maybe another band or two, and then Platon Karataev. And then Saturday will include a saxophone concert, Elefánt, some unexpected things, and finally Galaxisok, the last show I will hear before heading back into Pécs, getting some sleep, and then, the next morning, returning to Szolnok (where I will regather my wits and pack for the U.S.).

What makes Fishing on Orfű different from other festivals? The wonderful music (well, that’s to be found at other festivals too, but my Orfű memories stand out so far); the hills, lake, and greenery (lots of shade, lots of tall conifers); the good cheer; the people of many ages; the knowledge that we’re here for the music; and a spirit of adventure, among other things. As I have mentioned before, lodging (and even camping) here can be tricky; you have to know the options and plan well in advance. Yesterday I released my camping ticket through Ticketswap (at the original price); someone bought it within ten minutes. I was happy to know that one more person was now able to set up a tent. As for my hostel room, it’s quiet, comfortable, and secure (and just a few steps away from the buses and trains). Now it’s time to leave it behind and head off to the festival again.

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

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