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Bulgaria’s biggest rock festival cancelled for 2023

Bulgaria’s biggest rock festival will not take place in 2023 after organisers struggled to book “a quality music programme in the current economic climate”.

Hills of Rock (cap. 15,000) has been held since 2017 at the Rowing Base in Plovdiv, inviting 150 domestic and international rock and metal acts to perform each year.

Slipknot, Iron Maiden, Evanescence, Sabaton, Judas Priest and Disturbed are among the biggest names that have previously played at the three-day summer festival.

Promoter FEST Team announced the cancellation yesterday (15 March), weeks after it confirmed that the Sofia edition of Hills of Rock would not be held this year.

“It has proven to be a real challenge to provide a quality music programme in the current economic climate and we at the Fest Team are not prepared to sacrifice the quality of our festival,” reads a statement from the promoter.

“Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that it is best to focus our efforts on providing the necessary foundation for a stable continuity of the festival next year instead of offering you a compromise line-up this year.

“Over the last few years, together with our partners, we have dedicated all our efforts and resources to providing a first-class music festival with high-quality of programme and production and accompanying entertainment that our audiences deserve and look forward to.

“Fest Team are not prepared to sacrifice the quality of our festival”

“We have the ambition in 2024 to organise the strongest Hills of Rock Plovdiv to date. The bands that you wanted and for which we are already in negotiations are huge names – a dream of every devoted rock and metal fan, and we will share the dates with you as soon as possible.”

Hills of Rock ticketholders can request a refund or hold onto their passes for the 2024 instalment.

FEST Team have also cancelled Bulgaria’s only family music and art festival, ARTE Feastival. The three-day festival has been held since 2021 in Velingrad, welcoming 12,000 visitors each year.

“Unfortunately, despite numerous public discussions in the last two years and the support of the municipality of Velingrad and the hosts from the ARTE Hotel, the organisers do not find the necessary local and communal support for its holding. Although local businesses have direct economic and image benefits to support the long-term occurrence of such events in their territory,” reads a statement from FEST Team.

“The sharp increase in prices of hotel and other tourist services on the territory of Velingrad during the period of the festival does not help its holding, on the contrary, it makes it difficult for the audience of the festival.”

FEST Team says ticketholders should request a refund, and that it will announce a new location for the family festival soon.

In addition to Hills of Rock and ARTE Feastival, the Sofia-based full-service promoter organises Solar Summer and SPICE Music festival.


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Bulgaria gains first music showcase and conference

Bulgaria is set to gain its first music showcase and conference festival this spring.

Spike is scheduled to take place between 26-28 May in Plovdiv, one of Bulgaria’s most historic cities.

The event will welcome music business delegates from over 12 countries, including the US and Canada.

The content of the conference will cater to executives in artist booking and management, publishing, royalties, and sync licensing, digital technology workshops and equality and diversity in the music industry.

The event was founded by Boyan Robert Pinter of Bulgarian promoter Pan Harmony, who says: “The festival’s primary goal is to create learning and networking opportunities for Bulgarian artists and professionals and to introduce international delegates to Bulgaria’s music scene. This will be done in the spirit of diversity and inclusivity.

“The festival’s primary goal is to introduce international delegates to Bulgaria’s music scene”

“We are very happy that our event will finally go live. When we took our first steps, we received a lot of international support, which gave us the confidence to continue building this platform for local artists and music professionals. We are very grateful to the city of Plovdiv – EU Capital of Culture 2019 – for being our gracious host, providing us with the perfect backdrop to our activities.”

The Spike showcase will take place across several locations on Plovdiv’s main street, including the Temple Bar, Bezistenа, and Rock Bar Download. A special selection of artists will be chosen to perform at the city’s Roman Stadium, downtown, which was built in the 2nd century AD.

“There are many surprises in store for our international delegates, as we’d like to them to experience the wonderful architecture, delicious food, and the hip, laid-back vibe that Plovdiv can offer,” says Pinter.


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Bulgarian promoters organise hilltop festival Music Daze

Working around ongoing restrictions on live events, Bulgarian promoters PanHarmony and Blue Hills Events kicked off the summer with a 1,500-person concert and a three-day festival in the city of Plovdiv earlier this month.

On 5 June, at Plovdiv’s iconic ancient Roman theatre, over 1,500 people welcomed Portuguese-Cape Verdean songstress Sara Tavares (pictured below) to Bulgaria for the third time. Tavaras’ “energetic and heartfelt music proved an uplifting and life-affirming elixir after nearly a year without live shows,” say the promoters, reflecting the “emerging optimism and good summer vibes of a population that is steadily working its way out of the Covid crisis.”

Bulgaria has been on a downward trend with regards to coronavirus cases, averaging around 180 daily Covid-19 infections over the past month. Around 10% of the population of the country, which has a population of about seven million, are now fully vaccinated.

Sara Tavares performed in Plovdiv's Roman amphitheatre

The festival, Music Daze, took place from 11 to 13 June atop Bunardzhik Hill, overlooking Plovdiv. Booker Boyan Robert Pinter says it was a success, despite the stress of fluctuating international Covid-19 regulations, cancelled flights and other mishaps: “Music Daze was a difficult birth, but we desperately wanted to have international artists,” he explains. “Dealing with Covid protocols, PCR tests and quarantines in the artist’s home country proved to be quite a challenge, but one we were determined to take on.”

Artists flying into the country had to present a PCR test on arrival and immediately get a local PCR test in advance of their return flight. PCR tests were valid for up to 72 hours and organisers were able to send everyone back home with a test result in hand. “We partnered with a local lab that sent medical staff to the band’s hotels to extract the samples and deliver the negative results on time for departure,” continues Pinter. “We had it all worked out, but it was still a stressful situation.” One artist, meanwhile, drove to the festival, crossing European borders with his vaccination card in hand.

The festival line-up experienced a last-minute shake-up when 12 June headliners Asian Dub Foundation found themselves unable to make the trip to Bulgaria. Taking their place one week out from the show was Australian artist Dub FX, who travelled to Bulgaria on his birthday.

“We had it all worked out, but it was still a stressful situation”

Dub FX was meant to be accompanied by British saxophonist Mr Woodnote, but he was not allowed to board his plane despite showing negative PCR and antigen test results at London Stansted airport. “Another example of the unexpected predicaments artists and promoters face in this new reality,” comments Boyan.

The rest of the international line-up of Music Daze comprised French band Nouvelle Vague and Amsterdam-based DJ Burak Yeter, both performing on 11 June until the 11pm noise curfew.

Watch a drone video from day of Music Daze, featuring Dub FX, above.

The promoters have more shows planned at the Antique Theater later this year. Swedish band Katatonia will take the stage on 17 September, with Slovenian act Laibach performing with a full orchestra the following night, 18 September.

“These are the kind of unique experiences were are known for regionally and internationally, and we count ourselves lucky to be able to bring this level of entertainment back to local and regional fans,” says Stefan Popov of Blue Hills.


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