Buda’s Kolorádó Festival: an Adventure Close to Home

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Now that summer’s almost upon us, my thoughts turn to festivals. Hungary has a surprising number to offer, from the mega-event that is Sziget to far smaller gatherings all over the country. This year, Kolorádó in the Buda hills, which happens between June 19-22, has caught my eye.

Femi Kuti

Thursday’s line-up is headlined by experimental electronic musician Yves Tumor. The American singer-songwriter Kurt Vile and his band The Violators take care of Friday. African Femi Kuti, son of the mighty Fela and a great performer in his own right, tops the bill on Saturday. There are no events on the Sunday.

The rest of each day’s line-up is filled with acts from Hungary and all over the world you would really have to be a serious music fan to have heard of. I certainly haven’t.  

That doesn’t bother me at all. I like the idea of following my significant other “through secret paths between hidden venues in the forest”, as the Kolorádó website puts it, especially as Hungarian summers are usually hot and dry. In the United Kingdom, you’d probably be sucked into a morass of mud.

But I really love the idea of being able to go to a festival and be tucked up in a nice clean bed in Budapest by midnight or so. If, like me, you loathe camping and have no idea how to put up a tent, Kolorádó’s location is a major plus.  

I shouldn’t give the wrong impression of Kolorádó here. You can also stay in a yurt, a cool-looking cabin or the nearby Petneházy Hotel, which looks great. Although the hotel is only 15 minutes away from the festival site, there are shuttle buses for the truly indolent among us.  

I got it into my head that Kolorádó acquired its name out of some kind of Hungarian love of the American Dream. In this case, I thought what was being celebrated was a dream of hippy mecca Denver, Colorado.

Mythical State

The truth is more mundane. Some of the organizers – like-minded Hungarian restaurateurs, students, journalists, DJs and the like – were involved in a now defunct club called Kolor. The first Kolorádó festival evolved out of that, back in 2016.

Still, I like the idea that Kolorádó is a mythical state that appears in the Buda hills once every year. A hipster Brigadoon, if you will.

Gábor Manek Csete and János Vértes Benjámin, two of the founders and managers of Kolorádó, give me some background about the festival.  

“We wanted to create a festival that catered to our local scene and was of the same quality as some of the festivals we love outside of Hungary,” they told me.

“We felt there was a need for it, both personally and in our community. Although we can see now that we were right, it’s still a happy surprise each year as more and more people show up, loving what we create. This is truly a labor of love, and we’re just happy and grateful that our audience is so receptive to our vision. We come out of each festival inspired and full of ideas for the following year.”  

Funded by ticket sales, food and drink sold at the festival and the support of a handful of sponsors, Kolorádó’s mission is to “offer an exciting, eclectic, and diverse line-up that represents the international and growing local scenes. Our audience is made up of people who have diverse interests and we love that Kolorádó is a place where everyone can come together and enjoy music from various genres,” they say.

“One of the things we enjoy most is seeing punks, ravers, artists, and so on representing and appreciating each other’s subcultures. We also hope to create an environment that reflects that kind of world we want to live in: tolerant, accepting, safe, colorful, and inspiring.”

Bearing Fruit

This vision seems to be bearing fruit. Csete and Bénjamin told me that “two of the things people love most about Kolorádó are the line-up and the atmosphere. They appreciate being able to come together each year and experience exciting world-class acts in a beautiful environment. We’re also happy to hear that many find the festival very inclusive. You can be who you are, see acts that may never have performed in Hungary and also get to know the artists and musicians of our local cultural scene.”

This is particularly appealing to those who are curious about the Hungarian music scene but don’t really know where to start. Or don’t fancy schlepping out to some club or bar on the off chance and end up watching something terrible.

Although Kolorádó is in its fourth year, it’s notoriously difficult to establish a festival with real longevity. For every Glastonbury, Lollapalooza or Sziget, there are countless festivals that have fallen by the wayside.

Csete and Bénjamin hope that Kolorádó will continue to grow and attract more people from neighboring countries and around the world. I’d think they’re in with a fighting chance.  

Because, as they say, “We believe we have something really great here and want to share that with as many people as we can. At the same time, this is a local and community-focused festival, so we want to maintain that same special atmosphere that was born at the first Kolorádó and has only grown stronger each year. We always work hard to bring acts who will excite and inspire our audience and give our local artists the encouragement to stay dedicated to their creative pursuits.”

Find out more about Kolorádó at www.kolorado.hu or koloradofesztival on Facebook.

Lena Willikens at Kolorádó 2018.

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