Croatian Clubbing: Brighter Than White
It’s been thirteen years since I, and three other freshly teased house-devotees, spent a summer on Ibiza. We've always talked about revisiting the colossal clubbing experiences of the 'White Isle', but we haven’t gone back.
Along with many other UK clubbing tourists, cheaper connections to Barcelona and Berlin have swayed us in the direction of these buzzing major cities. Plus affordable Euro festivals such as Exit (Serbia) and Benicassim (Spain) have proved a more reliable weather source than their UK equivalents.
Ibiza continues as a party force - good stories are still coming back - but when you think of the typical rates for club entry and drinks (up to €60 for club entry and €15 for a drink!), it gnaws at your sense of value-for-money. And now, with the pound's lingering low comparison rates, and the hippies truly outnumbered by the euphoria-seeking hipsters that Radio One DJs will suck out from suburbia for the summer, I doubt I will ever return. The nail in the coffin for me was Manumission (once a unique venue for sexual epiphanies, flamboyant dwarves and breathtaking dance music) evolving into a kind of branded Skins playground for emotional guitar types with 'Ibiza Rocks': their new trademark indie-based event. If this is evolution then I’m ready to cut off the Balearic bloodline right here.
Promoters, DJs, agents and the purist club faithful have noticed the need for a new, cost effective destination around the Mediterranean for underground music lovers to converge for the summer.
While Barcelona's Sonar festival is a week of good times and high quality music, it takes place in a city that, in my opinion, struggles to understand electronica the other fifty one weeks of the year. And Barcelona isn't a location to offer the seaside and non-metropolitan lifestyle we enjoy so much on a holiday.
And so it has happened, simply enough, thanks to two blokes from Birmingham, and a bit of imaginative entrepreneurship in Croatia.
After holidaying around Zadar on the Adriatic coast - an area boasting vistas over an uncountable archipelago of islands - the Brummie pair, both coming from a music and promotion background in the UK, took the plunge in opening The Garden Zadar: a lounge bar set upon the city walls, offering the same laid-back environment as the famous sunrise beach bars prevalent on Ibiza.
Just a few years later, by 2005, their capabilities in hosting music-led Zadar events had been noted by nearby open-minded holiday resorts. And so twelve kilometres northwest in the quaint, and near millennium-old, fishing village of Petrcane, the owners of a large hotel showed them a dormant site on a stunning nearby peninsular. The 70s complex, overshadowed by swaying pine trees, boasted sculpted concrete walls that flowed into terrace and bar areas, plus easy beach access - albeit with rock rather than sand under your toes. If this wasn’t enough, the icing on the disco-cake came from the old circular nightclub, Barbarella's: the location reeked of old-school flannel suits, 70s bikinis, and cocktail quaffing playboys and girls getting down to the sounds of italo disco, back-in-the-day.
In 2006 The Garden Festival was born. With underground house and nu-disco firmly at its core it has put the pleasurable side of summer holiday partying back into the punters' hands. Crazy P, Henrik Schwarz, Prins Thomas, Lindstrom and Âme have all played to the two thousand capacity get-together. Furthermore the Petrcane site was Garden’s to use for the four month summer season and, as The Skinny found at first hand in July, a range of other UK and Irish promoters have taken hold for four-day ‘weekend’ line-ups.
While the two Garden Festival weekends are the location’s foundation, Soundwave (£60 four day ticket) have brought their leftfield antics to the Croatian fray with an electro, funk and jazz beat fusion to their late July spot. The Bays delivered an awesome, and entirely one-off, performance under the rustling trees to a super friendly mixture of UK, European and local revelers. Scotland was well represented too by the truly inventive dubstep, grime and somewhat archaic arcade skills of Glasgow’s rude-boy Rustie (LuckyMe), plus the Trouble DJs got in on the act making sure the sea-side dancefloor lapped up more crescendos than just the breaking waves on your bare toes.
Speaking of waves, you can ride them too. Twice-daily Argonaut boat parties set sail with a rotation of artists from the various festivals. The boat launches and returns from a stretch of restaurants barbecue-grills and bars, where a generous dinner won’t set you back more than ten pounds. With cheap air carriers offering daily services from Scotland’s Central Belt direct to Zadar, and plenty of ‘techno-taxis’ at your call throughout your stay, you have the chance to explore a beautiful part of the world where it hasn’t gone all Pete Tong, thank fuck.