Has Croatia still got that old school vibe?

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Argonaughty Boat Party

Argonaughty Boat Party

In 2013, 20% of all European festival-goers travelled to Croatia. This Eastern European country is now becoming the buzz destination for the party crowd. With over twenty large scale festivals on their calendar, there’s plenty going on – but is there something more that’s attracting the masses… Are reports that they possess the elusive Old School Vibe, something many have claimed is missing from the UK festival scene, true? And if so, is this the reason why an increasing number of  people are choosing this destination for their fun? 

Ahhh, the Old School Vibe. That most rare of qualities. Those of you reading this article that experienced the UK’s Festival scene in the 1980s and 1990s will no doubt be nodding your heads in a hypnotic remembrance of those special times. It’s a certain atmosphere borne out of a freedom for expression, not just the ability to gulp down a couple of party specials without security wanting to go through your pocket fluff. Sadly, in this country, it became a cliché to talk to a stranger a la Human Traffic, and an increasingly aware nanny state has curtailed the liberty of the party goer. Hell, you can’t even smoke a cigarette in a festival tent these days.

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Croatia has a number of festivals that are starting to get noticed by the world’s party press and people. Take The Garden Festival for instance, which started out as a loose affiliation of like-minded individuals intent on having fun and pumping out good tunes, which has grown into a more serious event. This sounds like the sort of story you’d hear in the UK back in the early days of the festival scene. This event, one of Croatia’s most highly rated festivals, actually cut the number of tickets on sale for their 2011 party in Petrcane – showing that the promoters put quality over quantity and pride their atmosphere as the most important facet of their party.

With this kind of ethos driving the festival scene in Croatia, is it any wonder the Old School Vibe is present? Throw a ton of different European nationalities into the mix and you start to see how you need to have an open and progressive attitude to get on and enjoy yourself at these events. When lots of different people come together it ceases to be about status symbols that are present within your tribe and more about who you are and what you bring to the table.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the Vibe is present at Croatian festivals is the fact that there’s a lot less control at their festivals. The rigorous security and health and safety measures that have to be employed at all UK events can sometimes be a little cloying. In Croatia there’s the freedom to pull mad stunts like climbing up on stuff and waving your hands in the air like you’re trying to direct all of Europe’s air traffic at once, whilst in the UK you’re more than likely to get told off for simply boosting a girl on your shoulders. Of course, there’s a dark side to this with shady characters frequenting some events, but ultimately this edge of danger adds to the frisson, as after all freedom is freedom for all – that’s what makes it freedom.

There’s also the question of intern behind festivals. Whilst the music industry used to enjoy charging £15 for a CD back in the early 1990s, Grand Theft Auto V made more money than the industry as a whole in 2013. Over the past decade an increasing number of artist management labels have seen their revenues drop and now view festivals as a cash cow, charging organisers and promoters extortionate fees for acts, which in turn have to be passed on to the punters.

As a result of this money-making mindset events are also stacked with food stalls, beer tents and all manner of traders trying to sell you something – space that perhaps in a freer time could have been filled with story-tellers or magicians, masters of showmanship and expression helping you get into that creative head space. Events are less costly in Croatia for a number of reasons – this ultimately means that people have more money to enjoy themselves and there’s less pressure on the event to endlessly sell to their attendees.

There’s a cycle that every party paradise goes through – look at Ibiza, back in the day people were fire-walking on Mescaline on the beach and now it’s like a bad out-take from Geordie Shore. As sure as night follows day there will come a time when Croatia is full up with fake Louis Vuitton clutch bags of orange individuals who are more concerned about their image and what type of shoes you’re wearing that who you are in that ineffable moment. Go now, experience this haven whilst you still can, because believe you me, if you’re hearing about it now in the press then so is everyone else and the secret is out – so if you’re thinking of going to Croatia in 2014, here are some of our suggestions…

Outlook (Early September)

If you like your bass-heavy dance events then the Outlook festival is one place where you can cut shapes in the beautiful sunset. Located in a picturesque slice of Croatian coastline just outside the town of Pula, no matter what kind of sound you’re into, from Dubstep through to traditional Ragga there’s enough speaker-shaking rumble here to keep even the most original dread entertained. Held in the ruins of a fort and a 2000 year old arena, to say this event is a spectacle to be seen would be an understatement. More

Electric Elephant (Mid July)

Want some classic House beats and big love flavours? Then Electric Elephant could be the event for you. Another event that uses the sun-soaked beach-land of Croatia to cradle party heads and dance freaks, this festival is often compared to the way Ibiza used to be, with a mix of House, Disco and Balearic beats on the bill. Expect boat parties, nightclubs and a slice of the big love –  this is one for the disco demons and divas. More

Dimensions (Late August)

Oft described in the music press as Outlook’s little brother, Dimensions offers a more diverse menu of beat based delights featuring Deep House, hard and fast Techno and a good slice of wub with more than a few Dubstep DJs. The event is held in the same Pula location as Outlook and those with the stomachs to last a couple of weeks of partying can buy special combined tickets for both events. More

Hideout (Late June)

The aptly named Hideout is tucked away in Zrce on the Island of Pag. It quickly gained notoriety after making the Guardian’s list of the best European Festivals in 2011, its debut year. Musically, you can expect some of the top names in the beats, breaks and bass industry who’ll put on a spectacular show for you on a site that includes four nightclubs and two pools. Even with space for 10,000 attendees this event sells out early and is renowned for its big crowds. More

Soundwave (Mid July)

The Soundwave festival is another event that allows you to get up close and personal with some of the world’s greatest tune spinning talent with their legendary Argonaughty boat parties. Set against the backdrop of the Garden in Tisno this intimate boutique styled affair has a reputation for playing the very best in break based dance including Hip Hop, Reggae and Funk. More

Stop Making Sense (Late July)

Anarchy and awesome music combine to create an atmosphere of pure love and respect at Stop Making Sense, another festival that uses the famous Garden site at Tisno. This is one of the most eclectic events in the Croatian calendar combining a number of different musical styles with everything from Acid Jazz through to classic Funk creating what the organisers describe as an audio journey through the past, present and future of sound. One for the serious music heads who like to definitely have a bit of an education with a party that goes beyond the bang. More

Suncebeat (Late July)

Suncebeat is the Croatian spiritual cousin of the famous Southport Weekender – so if you like this event in the UK then you’re going to love this crazy sun soaked banquet of beats. This magical party takes place on the Dalmatian coast bringing you a ton of good weather, sandy beaches and boat parties. A good looking venue that brings you a ton of even better looking people – this is one for those who love to be seen whilst on the scene. More

Unknown (Mid September)

This relative new-comer to the field adds a sterling selection of bands and art installations to an event that’s held in a site unique to the festival in Rovinj. Created by the same team who’ve put together Hideout this is a definite one to watch for the future and is only set to grow. With a line up that comes in as big as the promoter’s ambitions, if you want a slice of real alongside your rave this is an excellent choice. More

The Garden Festival (Early July)

We couldn’t put together a list of Croatian festivals without including The Garden Festival, one of the pioneers of the scene. This classy event introduced the whole concept of boat party based frolics together with a heavy brand of Dance based indulgence. Running across a full seven days, this certainly isn’t one for the feint-hearted packing a fine mix of House, Disco, Soul and Funk into its fun and eclectic line-up. More