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Serbia’s Arsenal Fest welcomes 23,000 Covid-free fans

Arsenal Fest welcomed more than 23,000 people across three days for its 11th outing, held from 24 to 26 June with no social distancing in Serbia’s industrial heartland.

All attendees for the 2021 edition of Arsenal Fest, which typically has a daily capacity of 10,000, were either fully vaccinated or required to submit a negative Covid-19 test beforehand, with promoter Long Play organising free rapid testing for all attendees in the city of Kragujevac. In total, 5,000 people took advantage of the testing facilities, with only person turned away after testing positive.

Held in a disused munitions factory in Kragujevac, the former capital of Serbia, Arsenal Fest 2021 is probably the largest European festival held since the start of the pandemic, with nearly 8,000 people a day watching international and Balkan artists including Yngwie Malmsteen (pictured), Dub FX, Dubioza kolektiv, Riblja čorba, Bajaga i Instruktori, Partibrejkers and Hladno pivo. (Two international acts who were forced to cancel, Placebo and Gogol Bordello, will instead play Arsenal Fest 2022.)

Yngwie Malmsteen at Arsenal Fest 2021

Tickets were priced at 1,500 dinars (€13) per day or 3,000 din (€26) for a three-day pass, and fans were given the option to roll over their tickets for Placebo in 2022 if they preferred.

Festival CEO Zoran Vulović Vule explains that this year’s event had the slogan ‘Strong with Music’, reflecting the huge number of people who had come together to celebrate music’s unifying power after nearly 16 months of silence.

“Given that the global music industry is just opening after a year or so of the Covid blockade, and the arrival of foreign bands was still logistically difficult, this summer Arsenal was more focused on some of the most important and influential names of regional music, with traditional space for new musicians,” continues Vule.

Promoter Long Play organised free rapid testing for all attendees in the city of Kragujevac

“Legendary Serbian bands Partibrejkers, Bajaga i Instruktori and folk-punks Brkovi played on the Arsenal’s Main Stage, while June 25th belonged to Croatian punk rockers Hladno pivo, international Balkan-ska attraction Dubioza kolektiv and Australian musician Dub FX…

“The final evenings in the unique open space of the Knežev Arsenal, a former 19th century ammunition factory, belonged to Osvajači, celebrating 30 years of their debut album, Krv i led; Orthodox Celts; and world-renowned guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen, for the first time in Serbia!”

Elsewhere, “one of greatest rock bands in the former Yugoslavia, Riblja čorba, returned with performances on 26 June in Kragujevac after an extremely difficult year during which they lost their member Miša Aleksić to Covid-19,” adds Vule.

Dates for Arsenal Fest 2022 will be announced soon.


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