I met Max at Serbian language school, and we’d agreed on a Friday to meet up the next day, which would be our first time hanging out for more than a 30 minute lunch between classes. It turned out great. We started at Republic Square, found a café off of Knez Mihailova for a relaxing afternoon smoothie, then explored some of the Kalemegdan fortress and park.
While Max was thinking about what to do, he remembered that he’d bought three cheap concert tickets six months prior. Checking the date in his email, he saw it was happening that evening. The event was an open-air, heavy metal show by local Belgrade rockers Mortal Kombat. Max asked if I wanted to go with him in a few hours. Remembering my commitment to say yes to more things, I immediately agreed. We briefly stopped back at our own places before getting dinner (at a lovely outdoor Italian place called Balkon), then hopped a cab to concert venue Belgrade Fair.
That night reinforced how summer in Belgrade felt quite different than the rest of the world at that moment.
In fact, it was probably among the first concerts of its size in Europe since mid-March. My guess is roughly 2,000 people attended. Yes, you could say we were being stupid. But then, most of the country was joining in. Essentially no one in Serbia was wearing masks, and the bars, restaurants, and streets were full with people enjoying the great weather ever since the country reopened in May. Covid hadn’t been a major issue, though there were increasing rumors that the official infection numbers were being kept artificially low to help with the election and the economy. Nevertheless, both the government and the people on the streets seemed to be choosing different tradeoffs than most places.
After an opening band whose lead singer wore a kilt (performing Scottish folk-rock in Serbian), Mortal Kombat came on stage with all band members in hazmat suits, spraying the air with disinfectant—introductory theatrics before tearing it all off and riling the crowd the fuck up. The music was solid and hardcore, the open-air setting was fantastic, the weather was perfect, the crowd was wonderful, the sound and stage were great, and Mortal Kombat were excellent performers with great energy throughout. The crowd didn’t want them to stop, and they kept going for hours. This was as strong as any rock concert I’d been to, and we had a great spot in front by the stage, just in front of the mosh pits that would frequently open up behind us.
A totally unexpected event, and I loved it.
Visiting Serbia? Check out my recommendations for what to see and do in Belgrade.