Bansko, Bulgaria; famous for its young ski and snowboarding crowd, barbecued meat and all-electronic underground music festival, or at least is soon to be. The rather aptly named Horizon festival descended on the small village-come-resort for its debut performance: seven days and nights of parties, piste and honestly-labeled, hangover-curing horse sausages.
Ski festivals are about as trendy as high tops thought they were five years ago - look out for ski-mask chic around Shoreditch this winter. But sometimes you don’t have to be alternative, you can just be brilliant, and Horizon comes pretty close for a first-timer. The line-up is fairly low-key; with a capacity of a thousand and an absence of huge crowd pleasers, Horizon is not trying to compete with his big ski festival siblings. Keeping it simple and underground this is a festival for those who love electronic music and are game for a little adventure.
Jackmaster was a rather predictable delight, adding an energy to the medieval banquet hall-style club, situated under a hotel. Confused? So were we, but the atmosphere was better than any court knees-ups we have ever been to; shame about the lack of busty wenches though...
If any of the locals had taken a wander up to the mountains, they would indeed have been in for a rather enormous shock. The Mountain stage, which was more literally a mountain with a couple of trestle tables selling a choice of vodka, rum or beer - no chance of an extra dry dirty martini up here - with a sound system strapped to the front of a "secret hotel" playing to as many snow gear clad kids as one can fit, on a mountain.
Most of the festival-goers appeared to have skied down the mountain (we got the bus!) with live graffiti art and people standing in every available space, negotiating their dance space around discarded skis. A spontaneous snowball fight broke out between some of the music lovers during a set from Throwing Snow - you couldn’t write this stuff. We were essentially at a warehouse party, minus the walls.
KiNK was a musical highlight soundtracking the mountain mash-up with avalanche worthy beats; a set that cut through pelting rain and set the mood so high that a brief power failure later on caused barely a blink. Well, it is their first time. Judging by the shapes being cut by KiNK’s Dad, who had "dropped him off in the car," he can probably rely on a lift from his old man next year too.
Horizon is a great opportunity to do the traditional British festival; all-day drinking, making five-day-life-long buddies and dressing up in politically incorrect masks (Osama Bin Laden was a particular favourite this year!) with a twist. Whether it is having a crack at the snow sports - just try not to get stuck up a slope, not our finest moment - or trying out the local, almost dangerously cheap food, Bulgaria’s latest offering bridges the gap between high-end ski festival and the British camping classic. A Brit abroad, if you will. But one who brought an excellent selection of music and a sense of humour.
Words by Kate O'Sullivan
Photos by Scott M Salt Photography