When: 27-29 August 2010
Reviewed by: Tim Forrester
Photo by: Sebastian Matthes
As festival season joins the Summer in one last encore of defiance before finally admitting defeat and succumbing to the inevitable seasonal change, it always seems like those last few weekends of madness are there to remind us what it’s like to feel truly alive before the icy grip of winter forces us to stay indoors and turn the bloody heating on.
But, having spent the past 12 years lost in my own personal carnage in British clubs and festivals on that hallowed August bank holiday weekend, this year was finally the time to bypass the chaos, accept I’m now in my 30’s and opt for something a little more sophisticated than self destructive routines of times gone by.
After recently noticing most of the folk I’ve grown up with are married or having kids; thoughts of drifting into that adult world of Radio 2, organising day care and polishing the car every Sunday sends a cold shiver down my spine. So, when trying to distance myself from the excesses of my past but not wanting to lose my spark completely, it’s always comforting to find other kindred spirits who can still manage to turn down the heat without distinguishing the flame.
Luckily, the journey into the Electric Elephant festival found me amongst many like-minded souls who are also perhaps not quite ready to conform to those unwritten societal rules that tell us we’re supposed to be grown-ups by now...
After spending many a happy hour head nodding to the Unabomber’s mix albums, but shamefully not making the journey to any Electric Chair events in Manchester, the chance to attend Electric Elephant seemed like a fine way of making up for lost time.
Held in a quaint little outdoor complex, simply named ‘The Garden’, in the peaceful surroundings of Petrcane, a small fishing village on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia; the festival itself was an intimate assemblage of a small outdoor main stage, beach terrace and a seedily designed 70’s nightclub, ‘Barbarellas’ - that packs in clubbers from the early hours of the morning. It may have been one of the tiniest venues I’ve seen being used for a festival, but, to repeat an oft-used phrase, ‘it’s more to do with quality than quantity’.
By turning up mid-afternoon on the Friday to find not much going on other than people sunbathing, and greying haired blokes wandering around in T-Shirts with logos of legendary acid house nights emblazoned on the front of them, I wondered if I’d wandered into a sunny little retirement home for old-school ravers, which, given my age, I’m not far off being!
Thankfully, this was just me having a familiar bout of nitpicking at nothing, and it didn’t take long for the judgements and misconceptions to wear off. Before long, Electric Elephant was teeming with people of all ages; making the starting ingredients pour into the mix alongside the heat being turned up for the party to rise into something very tasty indeed.
I’d really wanted to kickstart the weekend by seeing Ramadanman on the main stage; that idea ended up getting quickly booted out of the window when a random offer to buy a couple of tickets to an already sold out Unabombers’ boat trip came our way. Now I’ve danced in warehouses, clubs, beaches and fields, but setting out to sea amidst a breathtaking sunset and the sounds of sweet soul music lubricating the way into inevitable revelry in accompaniment is up there with the best of them.
This was a four hour journey into a melting pot of soul and deep house, alongside memorable 80’s pop, with the occasional bassbin worrier thrown in for good measure. The combination of feeling free at sea alongside the Unabomber’s impeccable selections brewed up an unforgettable atmosphere that spilled over into constant bubbling of party effervescence that made it a moment in time I’ll keep in my heart until the day it stops beating.
Back on dry land, we wandered back to the main stage to find out what had been going on in our absence. Under the watchful gaze of a star coated night sky, the party had been letting loose to the sounds of Francois K, perhaps one of the finest DJ’s to have ever stepped into any booth over the past four decades. His time served behind the decks places him at the deep roots from which the many branches of dance music’s family tree have grown.
He energised the crowd with a flawless set, spanning cutting edge dubstep in the form of artists like Geiom, classics like Atmosfear ‘Dancing in Outer Space’, the simplistic yet effective basslines of 80’s house tracks such as KC Flight ‘Let’s Get Jazzy’; all this played amongst dub reggae, afrobeat and some utterly mind spanking modern day acid house. The combination of the soundsystem, people and the perfect outdoor dancefloor scattered with overhanging palm trees had me thinking I could have finally experienced something akin to dancing under the open rooftops of Amnesia or Ku back in the Ibizan heyday of the 1980’s.
I’ve never experienced that amount of energy from hundreds of clubbers dedicated to the music in a way that appeared to be more natural than chemically induced.
Apart from the sounds of impending doom coming from Glasgow’s Phantom Band, who perhaps didn’t quite fit the intended juxtaposition of placing an indie band at a dance festival with their gloomy, apocalyptic music, the weekend was full of many more musical thrills and deeply touching moments in time. In fact, the Phantom Band’s performance almost seemed to call in the electrical storm from across the waters that forced the outdoor part of the festival on the Saturday to come to an abrupt end.
Other musical highlights and moments came from somebody playing Kate Bush’s ‘King Of The Mountain’ just as the sun slid below the horizon, causing one of those blissful moments anybody who has seen the sun go down whilst sitting in front of Cafe Del Mar will be familiar with; Ashley
Beedle hyping the crowd into a massive sing-a-long using the power of Stevie Wonder; to Chris Duckenfield, Andrew Weatherall, The Unabombers and some bloke who looked like he could wrestle bears making Barbarella’s nightclub go completely beserk well into the early hours of each morning.
The Electric Elephant is the real deal for anybody serious about having a good time; it’s perhaps the best kept partying secret taking place in the new clubbing destinations popping up in the less travelled parts of Europe right now.
Whether you’re still young or just getting older like the rest of us, this festival is there to show us all that a love of good music, a sense of unity and a healthy attitude toward letting go on the dancefloor is a timeless ingredient for losing the burdens and strains of the outside world and being completely free, if only for a weekend...
Roll on next Summer.
More about Electric Elephant Festival.
Tickets are no longer available for this event