Meadows In The Mountains – Bulgaria, June 2016

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It has become clear that festival culture has become a copy-and-paste cycle of headliner after headliner doing the circuit. Hitting the festival scene now is simply a box-ticking, Instagram-focused must-do. The millennial generation has become a cohort of proud trendsetters, all individually wanting to find the next cool thing before the masses. But how do we differentiate the truly noteworthy trends? Cue boutique festivals.

For now, and until the point where the circle of marketing dictates that independent festivals are no longer a trend, magic is still found aplenty in the outskirts. Far outside of London and the UK, true music discoverers are venturing out to conquer authentic and unspoiled boutique festivals for themselves, and that’s the key rule here – venturing afar to find something sacred to the individual. Cue Meadows In The Mountains.

If you crave true wonder and chill, then you have to consider visiting Meadows In The Mountains. Unmatched by any festival setting, the experience of trekking up the Rhodopian mountain range in the heart of southern Bulgaria near the Greek border, overlooking the rolling valley-village of Polkovnik Serafimovo, is absolutely second to none. If you’ve not heard of Meadows In The Mountains until now, thank God. The essential magic of it is the fact that it is still unknown and hence, kept sacred. It is a sanctuary for true musical spirits who return to seek genuine inspiration and relaxation, an open venue for anyone to share their acoustic talents, an oasis of calm.

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The great thing about MITM is that you don’t have to chase the line-up; there is no need. It is perfectly catered to your needs and the needs of the mountains. Daytime artists such as Jess McAllister, A House In The Trees and violinist-supremo Marques Toliver provided the perfect ambient chill we’d been hoping to find. Sat back against hay bales with a beer in hand, we were quite literally on cloud nine as the sun made its way slowly over the main stage, soaking us in goodness as we were serenaded. As the night came over us, the music morphed into the perfect serving of twilight techno, with DJs Albrecht Wassersleben and Anna Wall providing the pounding mountain beats into the early sunrise hours across the weekend.

The sunrise itself is its own wonder. You catch some sleep from 2am-5am and head back up the mountain for 5.30am to catch a space by the last of the bonfires. That electric blue sky starts to wash overhead and the crowds get bigger at the Sunrise Stage, aptly named for its breathtaking view over the village valley and rolling hills. When the mist starts to clear across the tips of the forest, the scene is everything you’d want it to be. A smoky sunrise unlike any other accompanied by the songbirds of Bulgaria and the house vibes of the DJ. You can see pictures of this moment all over social media, but it’s truly something unique to behold that Instagram will never come close to capturing.

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Independent market traders and vegetarian food stalls kept the majority of attendees happy, the local homemade cheese and tomato on toast at 4.45am was a personal favourite. Bar a few more meat-feeding pop-ups and some more drinks bars, there was something for everyone and all totally in-keeping with the free-spirited and organic vibe of the festival and its loyal followers. The ethos of MITM is focused on supporting new and unsigned talent, something that London-based collective, The Rising Sun, expanded upon during their first experience with the event. Formed of a group of artists and friends that live and create music together in a southeast London pub, The Rising Sun set up a recording studio in the village for artists to come and spontaneously collaborate with each other on fresh mountain-inspired material.

“We’re very lucky, it’s the perfect setting here. For us to bring our studio to the village and collaborate with all the other artists here on a spontaneous project, that is something that really works well with the MITM ethos and what’s going on, so we really feel it’s a great match. Plus you get an added bonus of looking around and all you see is fucking sick landscapes, complete and utter inspiration, there’s no writer’s block out here.” (Sam, The Rising Sun)

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The original concept was the talk of the village, and after getting crew access to visit the studio, we realised that this festival isn’t just about the crowds’ fulfillment, but equally that of the artists.

“This is the first time we’ve written out here but from now on we’re going to try and make this a permanent residence. We want to buy a house and turn it into a studio and have it as base out here, and continue to work with MITM each year. This idea of a studio in a festival context is something we’re considering to take further; going to festivals and having a platform where artists can come in and jam together. You get these really interesting and totally original sessions of completely different artists combining their musical styles together and we want to be the ones accommodating that” (Sam, The Rising Sun). “As a collective, we all work at our best when we work together and that’s something we want to take forward to other artists; to basically always be collaborating and working with other people because that’s when you produce your best material.” (Byfyn, The Rising Sun)

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The same can be said for every other festival-goer at MITM. Friends are made in an instant here; the relaxation and freedom of the environment gives people the confidence to collaborate with each other over music, peace and love. As a result (that you don’t get at festivals in the UK) large groups of companions from all across Europe are formed, producing their best memories and unique friendships.

I would consider MITM more of a pilgrimage where the music is the backdrop; it enriches the experience of this beautiful set-up as a whole. Whether it’s down to worshipping the sunrise with a chant, indulging in yoga classes or camping the night away in tree houses, your inner hippie comes to life. With no queues for anything, even the toilets, it was a case of waiting to see where the difficulties were, but we never found them. Everything is impeccably run and the music genre transitions from day to night were seamless.

I hear that MITM doesn’t plan to get much larger than it is now in order to retain its beautiful and exclusive identity. So, to save on saturating yourself with the rest of London in hijacked fields across the home counties, and with only 1500 Meadows In The Mountains tickets to grab, you will want to make this your summer 2017 priority purchase, and fast.

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NOTES

The Rising Sun Collective will be launching their mix tape in July at The Rising Sun pub in East London. Stay tuned for more information from their socials.

 

Words and Photography by Rebecca Knight

Tags

culture, Meadows in the Mountains, Music, review,