Music fans flock to Albania’s beach festival despite virus

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Thousands of Virus-free international fans participate at Unum Albania's open-air music festival in Shengjin on Friday, June 4, 2021. Organizers had sold all 10,000 planned tickets with more requests to follow from people around the world trying to forget the virus restrictions and follow non-stop music for five days at the Rana e Hedhun (Thrown Sand) beach, 75 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of the capital Tirana. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

RANA E HEDHUN – The Albanian beach site had everything in one place: pine trees, sand, sea, nearby mountains and days of nonstop music.

“It’s very rare that you got all of those things together at one time,” said the director of the open-air Unum music festival, Grego O’Halloran. As an Englishman living in Ibiza, Spain — another magical beach music scene — he knows what he is talking about.

“Albania is the hidden gem of Europe," he added. "(It's) an hour, two hours, from almost all of Europe and it’s so beautiful and undiscovered.”

Organizers sold all 10,000 tickets for the June 3-7 festival featuring 50 international and local musicians, as people jumped at the chance to hear nonstop music for five days at Thrown Sand beach, 75 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of the capital, Tirana.

Organizers claimed that everyone at the festival was free of COVID-19 but offered no proof for those claims and no virus checks were apparent.

The main stage near the beach was on top of a sailboat, while another was under the pine trees close to the beach. Tattoos were not required for fans but many sported one or more. Fans came from all across Europe, even as far away as Uruguay.

Last year the festival was cancelled due to the pandemic. This year organizers found it difficult to get musicians from around the Europe due to virus restrictions, but they prevailed.

“(It's) awesome ... crazy ... insane to see so many people in one place ... (after) sitting in one room in your apartment alone in lockdown,” said German fan Katia Mueller.