The start of the Croatian festival run is getting closer and closer, we're just weeks away from blazing sun, massive electronic line ups and parties on the Adriatic sea for the almighty boat voyages, making now the perfect time to get the low down on the country's hot spots.
When it comes to pivotal turning points in clubbing history, Damo Jones had his foot in the door early on. Fifteen years ago he co-founded Liverpool's Chibuku alongside his friends, and he has been working on a wide variety of music projects ever since.
Where do you stay in Tisno when you're there and why?
Usually in an apartment either close to or on the festival site itself. Personally I prefer being a little bit away from the action if a timely power nap is needed. Tisno has got loads of really nice places to stay, from lovely villas and the luxurious Shikar tents on site, to people mooring off the coast on yachts (the lucky sods!)
What makes Croatia so special?
I am biased but it really is a beautiful place; the coastline is idyllic, from Dubrovnik in the south to beyond Pula in the north. Croatian people are really friendly, and it feels like an exciting time for the country and everyone living there.
Also, I think there is a sense of youth in Croatia, an abundance of energy; it feels new and fresh and dynamic. Obviously the weather is pretty good, too - the summers are sizzling! And of course the festival and music scene is now really burgeoning – there are so many great events to choose from now.
Where are your favourite places to eat?
This place in Murter, on the island side of Tisno, is truly amazing: http://konoba-boba.hr Amazing is an overused and ubiquitous word these days, but it applies here in abundance.
There are great steakhouses and lots of good pizza places in Tisno too, but Konoba Boba is by far my favourite place. I only went there for the first time last year, and I am definitely going back this year. They have really good seafood, great wines, and brilliant service. Their bread and butter is outstanding too, if you like that sort of thing.
And the best places to drink before hitting the festivals?
Sipping a cold beer and watching the sun go down by the Beach Bar at The Garden Festival is always pretty special. Tisno has got some good watering holes, some with Euro-trash Karaoke, mainly dotted around the back streets on the island side of the town. Also some people just chill by the water with their drinks and take it all in, then get stuck in to the festival.
What do you think will be the musical highlight in Croatia this year?
The Garden Festival is going to have many highlights! Personally I think DJ Harvey closing the festival, playing the last ever set in Barbarella’s, will be very special. That will be emotional for everyone as it is the final chance to say goodbye after a decade of Gardens.
Being the original festival in the Adriatic region, it looks like a lot of old friends and faces are coming to see it off in style from all over the world. Also I am very excited to see Seth Troxler returning, plus Greg Wilson and Craig Richards will be ace. Up in Pula, George Clinton at Dimensions will be incredible, and I am really looking forward to seeing Kate Tempest at Outlook.
If you're travelling by water taxi or renting a boat to get around, where would you recommend visiting?
Tisno is close to the Kornati Islands, they are beautiful and a nice bit of escapism from the festival if you need a breather. Also there are water taxis all around Tisno, both taking people to and from the site, to Barbarella’s and other places nearby.
The water in Croatia is so pellucid too, like it has just been poured from a gigantic Evian bottle – you have to dive in for a swim, and it is arguably nature’s best hangover cure. Just watch out for the pesky, prickly sea urchins as you paddle.
For someone about to come to Croatia for the first time, what are the three things they must do before their time is up?
This is a tough one. First up – go to either, or both, of the Dimensions and Outlook opening concerts in Pula, and of course check out the actual festivals too. It is an incredible setting, a 2000-year old Roman Amphitheatre by the sea. If you want a jaw-dropping environment for live music as the sun goes down, go there.
Second – visit one of Croatia’s many islands; Hvar, Vis, Brac, Kolocep, Dugi Otok are all lovely in different ways. Kolocep is probably my favourite, about an hour from Dubrovnik by ferry. There are no cars there, maybe one bar, one hotel and a tiny shop on this sliver of land. It is so peaceful there, with a horizontally languid pace of life.
Third – it has to be Barbarella’s. This is the now famous open air club which is an essential part of any Garden Festival experience; it is magical being there at night through to dawn as the sun comes up. It’s like having a rave in someone’s garden, with Funktion One sound, lots of very happy people and bloody belting great music.
What’s the country's greatest hidden secret?
The cherry brandy is good. Well, okay this is not that hidden, but the Plitvice National Park is breath-taking, about a two hour drive from Tisno.
And finally, what one bit of advice would you give someone hitting Croatia for the first time?
Definitely travel around. Take in one or more of the festivals, but also explore some of the country too, book a few days off and take in some of it at a leisurely pace. After this year’s Garden Festival, you will need the rest! Croatia is a truly beautiful place.
For more on Croatia including festival line ups and tickets, head here.