Picture this: you’re strolling along an idyllic seafront, calm waves gently lap against your ankles in pure transparency as the sticky Mediterranean climate breathes a contrastingly fresh breeze across your face. Brightly coloured square buildings line the streets with rows of orange brick roofs, these buildings garishly inhabited by shops, restaurants and apartments for tourists. The sun is setting across the sea, crimson and lilac clouds hang streaked by the brightest yellow. The tangerine sun melts slowly down towards the sea where it is distinguished, leaving behind the most beautiful sky man has ever seen. And through this the sound of heavy dub lingers in the distance, summoning you across the bay to the Soundwave festival site.
Soundwave Croatia took place between the 22nd and 24th July 2011 on the beautiful Petrcane peninsula in Zadar, Croatia. Hailed by London Lite as ‘basically The Big Chill on sea’ (www.soundwavecroatia.com), Soundwave is the brainchild of perfection by events companies Soundcrash and New Bohemia. Recognised for their effortlessly alternative and downright brilliant line-ups and DJs, the two combine to bring Croatia an assortment of the best dub step, jazz, electronic and reggae, with sets often uniting all of the above genres.
A far cry from the mud slopes of Glastonbury, the festival site itself is a thing to behold. With its intimate capacity, one stage is a mere hop skip and a boogy away from the other. By day, the well used festival site known as The Garden is a peaceful abyss. Set on a wooded peninsula surrounded by the warm Adriatic sea, festival goers can lounge in their tanned bikini bodies, watch the waves and the world go by, supping on sweet Somersby’s cider. There is beach volleyball for the more active visitor, or the sought after boat parties that sail along the coast, playing host to some of the festival’s DJs. Sound checking echoes across the beach as the acts warm up for a 1pm start, allowing the hungover to gracefully recover before partying again.
By night, the site takes on a more magical appearance. The trees are illuminated in blue, green, red and purple whilst their trunks are wound with sparkling fairy lights. On entering the site, dancing is suddenly a pre-requisite, and you feel the need to throw some shapes whilst travelling to your desired destination. This often results in some interesting new dance techniques. To your right is a collection of sea front bars; a tropical themed tiki bar, a wine bar for an optimum view of the sunset and the beach bar stage – a purpose built dance floor which suspends over the beach. Here you can bob around to some hard core dub step, club style lights flashing across the sea for braver ravers to try their moves on the slippery stone beach.
Towards the far end of the festival site is a catering area with simplistic offerings of burgers, chicken and chips. Options of wraps and salads are also available however turned out to be the messiest thing ever to be consumed during a live set. Attempting to enjoy a band while your food disintegrates in your hand is not the most enjoyable experience. However the surrounding village of Petrcane offers a vast range of very cheap Italian (!) food for most tastes and requirements.
The main attraction of the site is of course the main stage. During the opening night this stage saw the delights of Roots Manuva and Bonobo, personal favourites on Friday and Sunday evening. Bonobo’s chilled soundscape wrapped itself around the space like a cloud of purple smoke, enveloping the audience and keeping them thoroughly capsulated. Live flute and clarinet floated loftily over murky bass notes and catchy rhythms, enhancing the richness of the audio experience. Roots Manuva’s legend status was evident as he got the whole garden singing along to his monumentous deep and poetic lyrics.
Earlier on the Friday the stage was graced by Brighton based singer/songwriter Andreya Triana. Her voice like honey, melting effortlessly across her exquisite vocal range. Andreya ran through favourites A Town Called Obselete and Lost Where I Belong, a song soulfully describing the hardships of a struggling singer, from her recent album of the same name. She then rounded off the performance with an acapella version of Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics. Using her stunning voice in instrumental harmony to great applause, Andreya grinned along with the audience, both parties feeling as if they’ve experienced something uniquely special.
Saturday was kicked off by the limitless Riot Jazz, a jazz band fully equipped with Sousamaphone, a brass instrument that winds around the players body as if he is attempting to play an attacking snake. Riot jazz belted out covers of The Human League and Marvin Gaye, getting every member of the audience crazy dancing. As the expert MC shouted over thunderous brass rhythms, the audience responded with further hip twisting, head nodding and foot tapping.
The ethereal Little Dragon topped the bill on Saturday night, an utterly spine tingling set. Front woman Yukimi Nagano‘s sugary tones delicately decorate the captivating electronic backdrop as she commands the stage, energetically crashing out rhythms with her hands on the gigantuous lit up drum kit. The violet and fuchsia lighting, echoing melodies and glittering percussion turns this performance into something otherworldly. Perfect accompaniment to a perfect setting. If you like good music in beautiful surroundings, I would thoroughly suggest a trip to Soundwave in summer 2012. It won’t disappoint.