When Defected announced its new plans for the summer earlier this year, closing the long relationship of Defected in the House residency in Ibiza and opening a new chapter in Croatia, I was overcome with excitement. With the choice of the Garden Resort in Tisno, it was clear that something big was to be expected.
Within the clubbing scene, Croatia has been gaining momentum over the last couple of years, and I think the decision made by Defected says something for the industry: Ibiza may still be the term of reference for partying and clubbing during the summer, but this position cannot be taken for granted.
New locations and energies are beginning to emerge across Europe, separate to the Balearic powerhouse that is Ibiza. If the outcome is anything like the one experienced in Tisno, I am sure Croatia will continue to grow for many years to come.
I always find myself writing these reports for Clubber Confession a few days after the event with ambivalent feelings of both joy and sadness. In the case of Defected Croatia, these feelings are exasperated and almost overwhelming. Joy for being part of something so special, sadness for being back to reality after five days in a parallel world.
When you enter the Garden you are well aware that this is not reality. The chilled atmosphere, the beautiful landscapes, the happiness that comes from the place itself, however, are so pure that no matter how hard you try, you will fall in love with this place and forget about the outer world.
For years now, the Garden has been home to numerous festivals, with the highlight being the infamous Garden Festival which ran for ten years. The machine is a well oiled one, with a stunning location just a few minutes’ walk from the beautiful village of Tisno.
Organised around a main stage in the centre of the resort, a panoramic beach stage directly on the water, two boat parties per day and the after parties at the splendid Barbarella’s club, I particularly appreciated the atmosphere during the event. There was no VIP area or private artist lounges. We just walked around, danced, played, smiled and enjoyed the sun or a nice cocktail together as a group of old friends.
Coming to the music, the announced line-up was already a mouth-watering. When you bring together Dennis Ferrer, Roger Sanchez, Kenny Dope, Riva Starr, Basement Jaxx, just to name a few, you know already that it will be a success. But just naming these artists would not be fair to all the others that helped build a top quality house music event. Because all the things that I have described before, the atmosphere and the scenario, would not have been enough for us. We were there for the music first, and Defected delivered a calibrated event through the different nuances of house music. Soulful or techno oriented, melodic or bass pushing, deep or Chicago, funky or acid, we had it all for everyone’s taste and for any moment of the day and night.
Honestly, I had to make some hard choices. When I was on a boat party, I was missing four hours at the Festival site, when I have been to Barbarella’s for the after then I lost some artists in the early afternoon at the beach stage. It was never easy to decide what to do, but even if I tried to plan it carefully I then decided to follow the instinct (as it always happens to me).
The opening party was something, with Purple Disco Machine and FCL who introduced us to the beach stage with some funky house, quite good while the sun was giving space to the stars and the French touch of some of the tracks guided us in the first night of Decfected Croatia.
The first day only the beach stage was opened, so the dance floor was packed from the start and when Franky Rizardo and Sam Divine joined us we were all ready for the first energetic closing of the Festival. Franky decided to have quite a slow start as if he was building something special for us and once the beats started to pump we experienced a nicely composed house set, with a disco feeling from time to time, a well placed use of effects and echoes to pump up the crowd with his typical style.
In a collaboration that we would have experienced again the day after in a great b2b at the main stage, we then appreciated Sam Divine. She included some soon to be classic of the Festival like I Get Deep (DJ Le Roi feat. Roland Clark) together with a smashing selection of the finest (and sometimes deepest) tunes we could imagine, in a blended trip of house, sometimes more techy and in other phases a bit cheesy, but always enjoyable on this fantastic scenario of the beach stage.
One of the highlights of the entire Festival came immediately on the second day and it was a privilege to witness. Riva Starr wasn’t originally scheduled to play with Tube & Berger, but what a lucky coincidence. We had the pleasure to sit down with Riva for an interview that we will publish later, and where we will tell you more about his performance at the Festival, but just let me tell you now – the Italian DJ and producer was on fire. Riva connected with the crowd on another level, and made the experience of the boat party one to remember for a long, long time. Stay with us for more on Riva, his story as an artist and the performances he offered us at Defected Croatia!
On the same night, a great set by Basement Jaxx, this time in an unusual solo composition with the only Felix Buxton present. But still, he was capable of delivering powerful housey, funkey and disco beats to a crowd that went crazy when he played their classic Do Your Thing.
I am not gonna try to say which day was best, too personal and maybe not even possible since there was so many different moments in these five days that I will remember forever.
Saturday, though, was a good mix of everything experienced at Defected Croatia. A perfectly sunny day with that beautiful windy breeze, top notch quality artists and the good vibes of a smiling crowds. I had the privilege of enjoing one of the finest track selections of housey, funky music, with some tropical clings from time to time and frequent uplifiting chords, by the man himself Kai Alce. I couldn’t help myself but to shake his hand after the set.
The story of his man is the music he plays. Kai is coming from a mixed cultural background. He has lived in New York and Detroit back when it all started, as well as making a vital contribution to building up the scene in Atlanta. Enjoying his set, and exchanging just a few words with him after watching his set during the sunset in Tisno, tells a lot about the intimate and unforgettable experience of Defected Croatia.
But there was not much time to just sit and enjoy the view, Joss Moog was about to start his set at the same beach stage. Probably the performance I have enjoyed most. So energetic, so charismatic, so unique in his style of bounching house, groovy and wild, with balanced twist, and ups and downs that made the entire set an unforgettable journey.
I must say, I regret to have left aside the performances of Simon Dunmore, Black Motion and Dennis Ferrer – if only I had the ability to split myself in two.
But I was literally kidnapped by the music, the rhythm and the style of Moog. Stunning and surprising, sometimes, track selection with a splendid ending on the notes of his 2009 Forever Pimpin’.
I was about to change and go to the Main Stage, at least to have a look, but from New York City we had the pleasure to have Joesky on the decks, why leave?
And it was a wise decision because he took us into a shocking trip with shaking bass, between soulful Detroit house tracks, more techno influenced phases, always with a raw, crunchy, funky common ground. We ended up properly blazed for the Barbarella’s after party with Sam Divine, Joesky again (what a pleasure when you find the same dj changing and revolging his set just a couple of hours later, adapting to the new scenario!) and Sandy Rivera.
Barbarella’s club in the evenings is really something special and left me longing to go back there night after night. An open-air club that is intimate, yet large enough to accommodate a decent sized crowd, really delivered in terms of atmosphere and performance.
The Funktion-One sound-system slotted perfectly into the acoustics of the roofless club, which until you turned your eyes skyward, you could easily forget that you were dancing under the stars.
But the music pushed you further and longer until the first lights of the day came up and the sun welcomed you into a new day. You turn your head and you can say to the new friend you just met… it’s a new day, we’ll have another round in this paradise called Defected Croatia. Think about this together with Finally played by Sandy himself, sang by all the people in a unique voice, and you know, and we know… and now I know ‘paradise’.
Sunday felt like a sort of celebration of the Festival itself, and it was well deserved. The only day without boat parties, the people were filling the dancefloors from the early hours with Lee Walker and Josh Butler both on fire.
One of the most vibrant moments of the Festival was by Sonny Fodera, a rising figure of Defected. On a jam-packed beach stage he dropped some of his summer hits and remixes, well known by the attendees, in a DJ set that I am sure was long awaited by many of us.
After him there was still time for the King, Roger Sanchez, who launched a series of massive tunes, mixed with the usual talent, smashing what was left of a crowd floating with the biggest smiles I have seen recently. Thundering tech-house, with many samples, quotes from the past with great house classic revisited for the occasion, with the background of a catchy and deeper groove always vigorous.
Monday was the last day for everyone. At that point you had almost crossed the path with everyone on the site, made many new friends, and shared some memories that will be with us forever. There was still time for a classy five hours b2b by the guys of Keinemusik, &Me and Adam Port, on the beach stage with a slow, bass-heavy sound, deep and relaxing, but also for some other insanely talented artists on the main stage.
I personally closed the Festival with the crafts of people like Nightmares On Wax, Julio Bashmore and Kenny Dope. Pure talent, orgasmic mixing skills and my last energy was left splattered on that ground. With more than 1000 km to drive I decided to bail on the last after party which I have been told was legendary.
The entire experience was positive also thanks to the work of the people at the bar, the technicians, the security and everyone in the staff. You can tell that the locals are used to hosting such events.
A massive thanks to the Defected crew, you guys rocked. Always a smile, always there for us. Not to mention the biggest smile of all, the one on the face of Simon Dunmore when he was walking around the site, taking a selfie with anyone asking or just sharing a beer with a complete stranger.
The success of this Festival was undeniable, but I bet it wasn’t easy some months ago to leave to safe road of Ibiza in order to find a new, unexplored path in the Balkans. It was risky, tricky and uncertain. Going back home we bring with us so many memories, so many good moments, new friends, an unforgettable experience with the old ones. More importantly, we bring back great music. So yes, the decision was the right one and the Festival a complete success. Can’t wait for next year!
Speak to me, speak to me, speak to me
Because we love house music
And on this planet it brings us together
Like a family reunion every week…