HopFest – The Worst Kind of Fest

By Michael Boyle

What: HopFest 2014
Venue: Dubai
Date: 28–30 Aug ‘14
Rating: 0.5 / 5

Before we get talking about HopFest, I’d like to start by issuing an apology to you guys, the readers and also to my wonderful, weird and whacky colleagues for my absence over the summer.

It’s nothing personal – I’ve been dying to get back to writing. But my job here is to write about stuff that happens in Dubai, and during summer in Dubai, absolutely nothing and I mean NOTHING worth writing about happens. It’s too hot so anyone in their right mind avoids this place like a hooker with genital warts from July through to October. The good news is that gig season has officially kicked off, starting with HopFest last weekend and Zedd playing live next Friday. Like it or loathe it, you’ll be hearing from me a lot more the next few months.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand – HopFest.

If you didn’t Google it after reading the title of this article, you’ll probably need me to explain it. Imagine Oktoberfest in Germany (or anywhere else in the world, really). It’s like a miniature Oktoberfest, held in a giant air-conditioned tent in Dubai’s iconic Irish Village. There’s a big stage, a handful of toilets and stalls all the way around the perimeter selling weird and wonderful beers from around the world. There were Italian beers, American beers, French, German, Belgian, Czech, and then over in the corner, just to ruin the allure of the whole thing, a Fosters stall.

I went on both Thursday and Friday nights. Both nights were shit for different reasons that I’m about to explain. The first night was a disaster. I went there with 3 friends who waited till we were right outside the venue to tell me that they were leaving at 11 to attend some-dude-I’ve-never-met’s birthday party waaaayyy out in the middle of nowhere. So before I’d even bought my first beer, I knew I was going to be going home early.

I made the fatal mistake of showing up sober, and when one is sober, one can only be bumped into by a certain number of drunk people before one starts to get pissed off. There’s no arguing with it – it’s just science. I recently quit smoking so the whole withdrawal symptoms factor made things worse. I just drank through it and made it to the end of the night without punching anyone.

Friday night was a little better but still a living nightmare.

I arrived at the venue about 15 minutes before my friend did and went inside for a look around. I have NEVER seen so many people crammed into such a small space before. I didn’t bother asking security how many people were there, but put it this way – that shit would be illegal in any European or American city. It was a massive health and safety risk. I could see that wonderful big Peroni sign on the other side of the dance floor, but I just wasn’t ready to face that crowd yet. Unfortunately the stall closest to the door was Fosters, but I needed to get a buzz going if I was going to have even a remote chance of enjoying myself, so I pushed through to the bar and double-fisted 2 pints of sweet, golden Australian wife-beater back to the exit where I could breathe while waiting for my friend.

I sort of awkwardly lingered by the door and had a look around.

Three things struck me above all else from my vantage point; the smell of vomit, the smell of farts and the fact that the DJ was playing nothing but that shitty “something for everyone” music that you’d expect to hear at your granny’s 80th.

This was the first indoor venue I’d been to in Dubai where the smell of cigarette smoke didn’t overpower everything else. The high pointed ceiling and obviously pretty effective ventilation system left no smoke to mask the other smells at ground level. This was a beer fest, and I mean that in the most literal sense of the word. The bars sold absolutely nothing but beer. Beer is a farty drink, and since a lot of the crowd had been there since midday when it started, beer was also a vomitty drink. Luckily my friend showed up before the beer and farts overpowered me. We loaded up (with beer, not heroin), and braved the horde for a look around. There were plenty hot drunk girls, an obscene number of those douchebags with the too-small shirts and shitty Jedward haircuts, and for reasons unknown, a gang of about 7 vertically challenged (that’s P.C, right?) English guys.

We tried to dance and I spilled most of my beer, so we went outside to sit on a rock and breathe some fresh air. We ended up returning to that rock several times throughout the night. That outdoor area was like village of the damned. It was obviously the meeting point for people who had got pissed and ended up lost. There were a few passed out dudes, about 30 assorted guys and girls frantically texting and calling their friends, a guy pissing on a fence, and this one random Slovakian girl wearing a Snow White costume and Playboy bunny ears.

We came up with a game plan while sitting on that rock – get as drunk as possible and dance, and if we see anyone we know, enlist them so we have more bodies to go on beer runs. Easy peasy.

We met a crowd of people who seemed to know my friend. They were cool, and one of them was a particularly good looking English girl who I pulled my finest “come hither” moves on and got her number. I should probably text her at some point. There was a Palestinian guy named Mohammed in the group. He saw my “Free Gaza” wristband and kept thanking me like I’d just given him his first handjob, and although I was touched that he appreciated my support for his compatriots, I got a bit annoyed with him pointing it out to other Palestinians who passed by so that they could come over and say “DUUUUUUDE THAT’S AWESOME!” and hug me. I hug my friends and family, but I have no interest in being sneak-hugged by sweaty drunk strangers – call me old fashioned.

The shit music went on and on, then a crappy pub band came on and made some offensive noises for an hour, then the DJ came back on, this time with some of that dreadful EDM you hear in Vegas nightclubs. It was far from ideal, but at least it wasn’t the band and it actually had a beat we could dance to. We fucked around the dance floor for a few hours then made a mutual decision to go to a real club.

By the time we had finished up our beer vouchers (I don’t mean cash – the venue only accepted vouchers purchased at the main entrance) and convinced an assortment of people we didn’t know to join us, it was almost 2am.

The night was still young anywhere else in the world but, unfortunately, all Dubai clubs close at 3. We started to wrap up from that point on.

The crowd got thinner and thinner until all that was left was me, my friend, a burger stall and about a dozen hardcore pissheads throwing back a few more pints before security threw them out.

HopFest could and should have been a lot better. At one point I saw the manager of the Irish Village standing outside with a frantic look on his face, having a meeting with the head of security for the event. He had no doubt just realised that the venue was way beyond capacity. The music was shite and the prices were outrageous considering the type of event it was. Every other beer festival in the world has cool freebies and discounts. HopFest was just typically Dubai – $10 for a plastic mug of shitty, watered down, warm Australian gut rot.

I think I’m supposed to give a rating here. I give it 0.5/5, and that’s only because there were loads of hotties at it. Other than that, I wouldn’t go back even if you promised me free drinks and a shot at Beyonce at the end of the night.

Ciao for now, folks!


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