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Sziget booker Dan Panaitescu passes

Industry figures have paid tribute to the festival's popular international booking manager, who was killed in a car accident on Friday

By Jon Chapple on 18 Jul 2016

Dan Panaitescu, Sziget, Alain Dodeler

Panaitescu backstage at Sziget

image © Alain Dodeler

Dan Panaitescu, head of international booking at Sziget festival promoter Sziget Cultural Management, has been killed in a car crash.

Panaitescu, a longtime ILMC member who also served as chief booker for Sziget sister events Volt, Balaton Sound and Strand Festival, had been with Sziget (established in 1993) from the outset, and was instrumental in its transformation from a small, regional Hungarian event to a festival widely considered among Europe’s best.

In a statement, Sziget paid tribute to an “acknowledged professional, a great colleague, our friend and a caring father to two children” and said its team were “speechless” at the news. “Dan was the one who booked all those great artists to all of our festivals,” it wrote, adding that it “can thank him for the best line-up award at the European Festival Awards” in January.

Glastonbury booker and The Great Escape co-founder Martin Elbourne tells IQ he’ll have fond memories of seeing Panaitescu at Eurosonic Noorderslag each year, describing him as a shy but “incredibly nice” man and a driving force behind one of the “most important festivals in Europe”.

“He always had an open ear and a shoulder if you needed him between booking bands and dealing with agents and managers… No words can describe this huge loss”

Christof Huber, OpenAir St Gallen booker and general secretary of Yourope, says Panaitescu was known for his “professional, very human and straight way” and that “no words can describe this huge loss”.

“He was a great colleague who was there if you needed him, and he was never afraid to argue if he felt he was right,” says Huber, speaking on behalf on the Yourope board. “You could discuss things with him for many hours, and he always had an open ear and a shoulder if you needed him between booking bands and dealing with agents and managers.”

Fruzsina Szép, Lollapalooza Berlin festival director and former programme director of Sziget, adds: “Working with Dan for so many years at Sziget, I realised that he was always passionate about his work for the European festival scene. We have been checking out bands at Eurosonic [Noorderslag] for so many years together and discussing the changes in the music sector and the world around us for hours with a couple of glasses of pálinka or red wine.

“He was a personality that nobody can ever forget. His place in the international festival family will be there forever.”

“In a subtle but solid way he made everything around him calm and pleasant. Just his presence in the crowd made a difference”

“There was something very special in Dan,” says Helen Sildna of Tallinn Music Week. “He always something reassuring in his presence; in his quiet, but completely genuine, honest and no-fuss manner he was somebody who you could trust. In a subtle but solid way he made everything around him calm and pleasant. Just his presence in the crowd made a difference.

“I don’t know anyone quite like him. He was a very unique member of the music industry circuit. Completely devoted, detailed and trustworthy. One of the people to have a long meaningful conversation with. We will miss him dearly.”

Panaitescu was born in 1955 and trained as an economist, before becoming a roadie and later tour manager for Hungarian artists. He died on Friday 15 July.

“We have always envied him for not getting older, but we never ever thought that he would not get old,” said a statement from Sziget. “We have received condolences from musicians, managements, agencies and bookers from all over the world.

“The whole festival industry is grieving.”


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