Conceptually, what's not to love about the idea of a festival perched 850 meters high amongst the Bulgarian Rhodopes Mountain range? Better if you get back to me on that one... Meadows in the Mountains really sets the expectations high, with the wild location being the reason many people choose to attend. Luckily it's not all hype; the views are genuinely breathtaking, and the weather does comfortably sit just above 30 – which is lucky, because if the journey to Sofia isn't long enough, the connection then from the airport to the festival site stretches on way into the early hours.
Comprised of only 3 main stages, my immediate concern was that I'd grow sick of them by the first day. However a meticulously curated lineup really removed that possibility – with such a broad selection of acts, each one complimenting but not resembling the last, hours could be spent at a stage with little regret about having stayed still. Eradication of festival FOMO.
One complaint would be that the sunrise stage, which poised DJs high above the crowd in a birds-nest type platform, played almost entirely cosmic house and techno – albeit of a high standard with Shanti Celeste and Youandewan reeling off unsurprisingly killer sets, but nonetheless repetitive by the time Sunday came and it was still four to the floor pounding out. The highlight was the woodlands stage which, during the day, provided a cool shelter to accompany anything from African grooves to Latin Cumbia, merging into darker, pacier electronica in the evening.
Notable mention also goes to Alice Pheobe Lou, whose dreamy South-African twanged vocals captivated the mainstage audience in states of both frantic thrashing and mellow swaying. Backed simply at times by her guitar, and at others by the previous band who had formed a bit of a spontaneous accompaniment. It was this sense of informality, yet impressiveness, that shone for Meadows – not trying to do too much, but rather focusing in on fewer, more crucial details, and doing them really well.
Words: Julian Caldwell
Photography: Phoebe Cavell-Taylor