Artrocker caught a tan at the up and coming summer festival destination Croatia for a weekend at Soundwave Festival 2012
Photos by Dan Medhurst
Croatia: the Dalmation coast. One thousand little islands and a lot of sun. It's only been an independent state for twenty years and, perhaps, being known as part of the 'former war-torn Yugoslavia' is what has held it back as being a prime holiday destination - until recently. It's certainly not the most glamorous or romantic history in the world to sell itself on. However, the Soundcrash team has been working hard over the past couple of years to turn the close-knit Adriatic towns into prime party spots, and at this year’s Soundwave they did a pretty amazing job of it.
Getting the coach from Split to Tisno you go through miles of barren land, interspersed with tiny villages and vineyards. The heat is real heat; it turned even this, the most lanky, least likely to tan attendee into a Primark shorts, loafers and white tee wearing Brit abroad. You’ve got to get into the spirit of it.
The event took place in Croatia’s answer to Butlins, only this Butlins doesn't have indoor pools and Burger King. Unlike Butlins UK it does look out into the clearest blue, blue sea, in a natural cove surrounded by pine woods. The Pier Stage balanced on the edge of the beach and the shoreline. As far as festival locations go, it's pretty special.
We were staying in a town on the next island (the bridge to which was about the size of Camden Lock) called Jezera. Before I headed off I'd heard stories of locals hating the oncoming party goers, but the local bar owners all waved and shouted “Hello England!” to us when we walked past after one meal in their restaurant. As long as you're not peeing in their porches I think you're safe.
Onto the music and Soundwave did an amazing job at keeping the summer vibes going without resorting to the dull thud of club tunes. In the first night The Charlatans' 'Only One I Know' even got thrown into a hip-hop and house mix. Ghostpoet more than proved his stripes as the live headliner on the Friday night. The initially reserved character rapidly got into the party spirit and his band really moved into a heavyweight live performance. Originating from Mike Skinner's The Beats label, there's every chance GP could follow his trajectory. Tracks like 'Finished I Ain't' are a combination of bustling indie rock with that all important urban-edge. 'Liiines' meanwhile has managed to develop into his very own version of a terrace chant.
A variety of great acts filled up the hot hours of the weekend. Submotion Orchestra and Belleruche are two real gems of the progressive dance scene, their entrancing all-live sets being two major high points to conclude the hot hours. Soundwave's focus on acts with live instrumentation, on purpose or not, proved that you don't have to resort to prerecorded mixes or appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to go out and have a good time.
Tru Thoughts man Anchorsong came along and did a live set which suited the warm night air perfectly. Earlier, and Craig Charles brought along his funk and soul collection. “I'm not that guy from Coronation Street, I'm not that guy from Robot Wars” the latter declared. “I'm Craig Charles and I play funk and soul!” The experience of seeing Craig Charles doing a two hour set of quality 70s tunes on a boat in the middle of the sea is one I won't forget any times soon, and if you ever get the opportunity to see him, then GO! 6Music’s soul Renaissance man is a ball of infectious energy and he knows his stuff. De La Soul closed the weekend with a set that took too long to get into the good stuff, but it's De La Soul, so as soon as they break into the hits they're forgiven. The three piece are jumping and kicking into their mid forties with energetic sets which show off hip-hop as it should be; as exciting and visceral as a decent rock gig. It makes you look at the current crop of hipster hip-hop artists and sigh.
The incoming flight might have suffered from turbulence, but the weekend was plain sailing. With Croatia joining the EU next year, there's a chance that the affordability aspect – one of the country's key upsides - might disappear, but if the local, homely, small-scale nature of this event (and the untouched scenery) stays the same, the Soundcrash guys will be making sun-soaked waves for a while yet.
Early bird tickets for 2013 can be purchased now from www.soundwavecroatia.com