You’re currently slightly lost, on a grassy path beneath a towering wall from a three-hundred-year-old fortress, presented with the ear-splitting sub-frequencies of jungle music at something called the ‘X Bass Pit’.

Elsewhere, you’ve danced on a neon club down a tunnel, pondered why a giant giraffe should accompany dub reggae roasts and witnessed a bizarre fusion of punk and Baltic folk. This journey takes you to a heaving dance arena that resembles that weird gathering scene in the second Matrix film, the same tribal vibe but without the lame music.

If any of this sounds familiar, you could have only attended EXIT festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, an event that still exists to party a brighter future in being for a region still feeling the aftershocks of its troubled past.

EXIT is so much more than music it is partying as revolution. Joining the swarming mass of people crossing the Varadin Bridge towards the Petrovardin Fortress, you sense what this event means to people there. Serbs revel in the message of music’s power to “connect and bring people together”.

Genre boundaries are certainly destroyed across the festival’s 21 stages, not least on the Addiko Fusion Stage taking a globe-trotting approach to musical diversity introducing blinding sets from 2-tone legends The Selecter and Tarja Turunen, going it alone after her departure from Nightwish.

Celebrating 30 years of “fun punk” local heroes Atheist Rap delivers nothing out of the ordinary, by numbers punk, but do so with fervent energy and, clearly, mean a lot to the Serbian audience.

If crushing riffs are your bag, the Explosive Stage delivers the heaviest of the heavy whether it’s the cult German industrialists Das Ich, all theatrics, beats and horror synths, British working-class punk legends Peter and the Test Tube Babies delivering rousing classic punk or Haste’s speed-metal ferocity edged by death metal vocals and a hardcore edge.

Whitechapel’s explosive deathcore set lays waste to a fortress that has never seen conflict, completely brutal stuff. A band called Siberian Meat Grinder aren’t really going to disappoint but their sublime fusion of grindcore, thrash, black metal and NYC hardcore is a crushing revelation and the most fun you have while being shouted at by a man in a pig mask.

On the main stage, former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo and his band The Illegals deliver a metal masterclass of Pantera songs to a baying throng of metal fans. Paying respects to his fallen bandmates, he is clearly moved by the response, but with tracks like ‘Mouth For War’, ‘Domination’ and ‘Walk’ it was inevitable. Ignoring the fans waving Confederacy flags, this is a chance to hear the songs of the band that defined 90s metal on the flesh.

At the other end of the musical spectrum, the dance arena brings the biggest DJs in the game like Carl Cox closing opening night revelries with a perfect set as the sun comes up, while Charlotte De Witte and Peggy Gou deliver sets that prove that female DJs are pumping new life into the techno genre. Gou's set caresses summery groves to the techno template as dancers adorned feather-boas sway adding to the chilled party atmosphere.

But it’s not all top-quality. Frat-house duo The Chainsmokers successfully manage to mask the fact they aren’t really doing anything with regular fireworks and confetti streams, their bland EDM is as irritating as their bro stereotypes. Waving their arms and bouncing to a pre-recorded mash-up of shit songs infused with shit remixes of other people’s songs, they deliver the greatest con of the weekend.

Greta Van Fleet’s 70s rock pastiche is no better. Either the greatest satire band of all time or the worst modern rock band, they are a joke either way. Without a single idea of their own, the band blast through a set of discarded Led Zeppelin b-sides, prog-rock noodling and clichés. They have a track called ‘Flower Power’ and singer Josh Kiszka, in between his Roger Daltrey dance moves and Bon Scott on helium vocals, says things like ‘Far out, man' and ‘groovy' without a sense of irony. Rock isn't dead but Greta Van Fleet makes a good case for taking it to Dignitas to put us all out of our misery.

Thankfully, even this can’t diminish the aftershocks from The Cure’s opening night masterclass. Making their first trip to Serbia at a time when they are finally getting mentioned in the same breath as the all-time great, Robert Smith and co take Exit on a journey through their immense catalogue.

From the opening chimes of ‘Plainsong’, through the sumptuous sway of ‘Pictures of You’ via sad-banger ‘Lovesong’ and big hitters ‘Inbetween Days’ and ‘Just Like Heaven’, the performance is sublime, effortless and sounds incredible. Goth rock pinnacle ‘A Forest’ shows just how diverse this band is and as the set closes with ‘Disintegration’ the crowd lull into a mesmeric appreciation.

But of course, this is The Cure and they have so much more to give. A 30-minute blast of pure Cure gold kicks of with relative slower-burner ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Caterpillar’s sub folk-rock excursion but ‘The Walk’s massive electro-pop wonders kick starts a run of songs most bands can only manage one of in a career.

There is nothing more jubilant than a crowd reaction to mega-hit ‘Friday I’m In Love’, but followed by ‘Close To Me’ and Smith losing it, dancing, waving and loving every minute, to ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ it’s hard not to be moved. They end with the perfection of ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and that’s, an exercise in how to headline a festival.

There’s a reason that The Cure attracted the festival’s biggest crowd to Exit festival's biggest year yet (200,000 people hit the fortress over four days). Their set is an embedded memory in a festival that provides strange flashbacks by the dozen – was it all real? Who cares? Exit isn't about remembering, it is about living whatever is happening in that moment.