I’ve written a few articles about the live music events I’ve attended while traversing Europe, notably Amon Amarth and Kvelertak in Prague, Street Mode Festival in Thessaloniki and the numerous events I saw in Bucharest; this entry is about my first proper festival in Romania, ArtMania Festival.
This whole adventure started on the Thursday, I decided to head to Sibiu a day early as I couldn’t find transport to get me there early enough on the Friday. I found there was a train at 16:38 so I got to the main station by 16:00, I had more than enough time to wait in line; or so I thought. I stood in line, watching the clock tick away, kept thinking I would be on time, until I actually got to the front of the queue. I spoke with the vendor and got my ticket, with only seconds to spare, luckily I knew which platform I was departing from so I literally ran to catch it, only just succeeding. As I was crammed into the very back of the carriage, the conductor checked my first ticket first and immediately I knew there was a problem. I had boarded the wrong train, in my broken Romanian I was able to tell him I was going to Sibiu and I understood this was a train to Sibiu, but as I had waited so long in the line I had been given a ticket for the next train, the one that departs at 17:45 and thankfully there was another passenger who was able to properly translate for me and we all came to an agreement that I would disembark in the next big station and wait until my train arrived, I got off at Ploesti Vest and found a spot to wait.
I only had to wait an hour, but in that station it felt like forever, people literally stopped and stared at me! Luckily, I was able to catch the proper train and I made my way to Sibiu, this time with no other incidents; well no other incidents until I got to Sibiu. Once I arrived in the city, I checked into my hostel and after settling in, the power went off. It seems that due to the amount of power being rerouted for the festival, it caused a power outage in the eastern side of the city, so I took a little walk around to make the most of the dark; after the power came back on, I headed to bed.
The next day I woke up to a message from a friend of mine, he said he was on his way to Sibiu to join me at the festival, with that news I got dressed and went out to meet everyone. The first person I found was my housemate Lexa, and as she’d only just arrived in the city we went out for lunch. Before any of the acts began, I went to a lecture on musical instruments presented by Warduna’s Eilif Gundersen. He spoke about a few traditional Norwegian instruments; the flute, the Lur and the Bukkehorn. They were originally used as a device to scare animals away or communicate across mountains; now they’re used as instruments though so we got to hear some of those sounds and how Wardruna use them in their songs. Truly fascinating, and even more so when I saw them play as I was able to pinpoint each instrument from the lecture.
Apart from Wardruna I was also able to see Fjort, Architects, and Dream Theater on the Friday. The first act didn’t really make a connection with me, the music was fine but I was busy chatting with friends which included another Transylvania Hostel Alumni, Cristi, so didn’t give them my full attention. Wardruna were up next and they were absolutely awesome, a blend of traditional instruments, chanting and folklore. The British metalcore band Architects put on an incredible show and the headliners Dream Theater were just as I expected, a cacophony of guitars, keys, drums and a ton of distortion; they really showed their prog chops in this show. After all that chaos, I went back to the hostel so I was well rested for the Saturday’s events.
I woke up early on Saturday and as the festival didn’t really start until mid-afternoon, I pottered around the city and out of pure coincidence I found another stage hidden in the small square where I got to watch an extra few acts perform; Maru, a singer/guitarist who put on a nice relaxing set; Gramofone, a band clearly inspired by indie rock; and an acoustic set from Coma, who I’ve actually seen before, but as it was an acoustic set I enjoyed it so much more. Shortly after that little warm-up, I went to the main stage to see the drone stylings of Mobius, who were decent but I wouldn’t see again, drone isn’t really my choice of music; Alcest, a French shoegaze band who were devastatingly brilliant; Norwegian alt-rock band Madrugada, and headliners Opeth who really brought their prog/death metal blend to Sibiu. Opeth were really my highlight of the weekend, and after their set I found out there was another friend of mine, Rada, in the city. So by the end of the weekend there were four members of Transylvania Hostel all hanging out in Sibiu!
We all stuck around for a couple of drinks and then said our goodbyes. On the Sunday morning, Lexa and I hung around the city and found out that one of her friends was part of the organization of the festival and so we were promised a ride home back to Bucharest. We had lunch and then hit the road. It took a lot longer than expected as there was a lot of traffic and police cordons so we spent about 6 hours on the road and got back to the capital late in the evening.
I had an absolutely fantastic weekend, it didn’t get off to the best start but definitely got better as the weekend went on, was an incredible middle and ecstatic end, maybe there’s a reason it’s called ArtMania!