Gwen Angood caught sets from John Morales, Rich Medina, Doc Martin, Marcellus Pittman and more at The Garden site in Tisno.
Date published: 8th Aug 2017
Image: Suncebeat (credit: Colin W)
The destination of choice this summer for many UK festival goers is a place where fighting to put up a tent in torrential rain ahead of spending your weekend wading through a waist-high mud bath is most certainly not on the agenda. Instead, packing a beach towel, your finest festival swimwear and heading over to Croatia is an attractive alternative for those who seek to enjoy a top-quality festival with a summer sunshine holiday mixed into the experience.
Festival goers in Tisno are spoiled for choice as the 7-week season kicks off each year and thousands flock to the mainland and associated islands for fun in the sun. However, one festival stands out as representing much more than just a summer holiday. Suncebeat, now in its eighth year, can be described as a huge spiritual gathering of wonderful souls from around the globe, getting together to celebrate music in a very special way.
The crowd at Suncebeat is probably one of the most diverse you will find at a dance music festival this summer – passionate music lovers attend with their young families, along with groups of friends, couples and even a significant contingent of single travellers, who feel that once they arrive, they are part of an extended family.
The setting is equally as beautiful as the people - adorned with fig and olive trees, The Garden site in Tisno has been fashioned into discreet areas to relax, roam and dance to your heart’s content. Wondering down to the Beach Stage on the opening day of the festival is something that really blew us away. First impressions were outstanding, from the quality of the sound and the selection of the music to the friendly, relaxed atmosphere around the bay, as people floated out into the clear blue sea.
Others danced and greeted friends who had just arrived. It was obvious that the people would make this festival. We were greeted by many friendly festival-goers, some were Suncebeat veterans, making us feel instantly welcome. You can’t help but be touched by this warmth and inclusivity – it made the first day for us. Equally excited to see many familiar faces and firm friends, the opening day ended up being a phenomenal frenzy of laughs, cocktails and dancing until sunrise.
As darkness fell upon The Garden on the opening night, the atmosphere on the Beach Stage started to evolve. Akin to something from the deep wrapping itself around us all, Davide Fioresse’s set provided a cocktail of alluring, enchanting beats. A particularly captivating set with a deeper edge it was amazing to see Davide embrace the driving, jacking side of house; something he felt very comfortable with delivering. As the beats roared out of the Funktion-One, we chanted in unison to the familiar lyrics of 'My Beat' by Blaze. The energy was intense, making it feel like a peak-time headlining set.
As the lights dazzled across the clear waters out to sea, Souldynamic continued into the night with an amazing set of deep tracks to begin, moving on to an uplifting, soulful selection. The Italian Duo, and firm Suncebeat favourites had us moving on the Beach Stage, with Ronnie Herel providing some sexy sounding vibrations from the Olive Grove.
The following day was dominated by the Def Mix Boat Party. This intimate gathering on board a traditional Croatian fishing vessel was absolutely out of this world. Probably the hottest day of the week so far, we enjoyed an ice-cold prosecco and some stunning scenery during the naughty warm-up sets courtesy of the legendary Doc Martin. As Camephat’s 'Cola' stirred things up on the deck, the track that’s taken Ibiza by storm this summer sure did take things up a notch or two out on the Adriatic Sea.
Another stand out track during the first couple of hours was Quentin Harris’s Reproduction of 'Sick' by Rame & Bonora. As the sun soared high above us, we got right down to the naughty beats as we sailed across the stunning turquoise sea. Doc Martin played such a personalised set to the house-loving revellers on board, responding to their enthusiasm with some deep, infusing rhythms – it was impossible to sit still. Doc was here to crank the crowd up, little by little, by sneaking in that trademark chunky Def Mix sound into an array of soulful, uplifting moments. He played the mind-blowing 1994 classic 'Love and Happiness' by India – a Strictly Rhythm gem and an all-time favourite. With a huge smile on his face, Doc was clearly embracing the boat party vibe.
What happened next with Hector Romero was probably one of our favourite music moments ever witnessed. It’s really hard to find the words to describe the feeling emanated by Hector as he delivered this set, not only putting his heart and soul into the delivery, but involving every individual around him on the boat on such a personal level. The intensity, depth, elation and unity on board that boat, thanks to Hector Romero - was off the scale. The sound of Rhemi’s 'Live Life Free' had the whole clan clapping in unison, jumping, jacking and feeling ecstatic. Not thinking this could be topped, Romero drops the Eric Kupper Chapel Dub of SuSu Bobbien’s 'Keep It To Myself' – causing time to stand still, catapulting us all right into the moment.
David Morales was up next on the boat, with one of the finest sets we’ve heard from him to date, he was also so close to the crowd, clearly enjoying the more intimate setting. The Knuckles & Kupper Tribute mix of 'Waiting On You' by Ultra Nate & Michelle Williams hit the spot, with David’s current favourite, his own re-work of Debbie Jacobs’ “Don’t You Want My Love” causing the whole vessel to shake. If there was a roof, it would have been off. He poured everything into this set, visibly emotional towards the end as he cried with the crowd.
On the Saturday, the Saturday Night Fever disco night at Barbarellas was quite simply stunning. Hustle’s James Morgan opened proceedings by getting straight into it with some tantalising tracks, as the glitter-clad disco enthusiasts turned up to dance under the huge illuminated disco ball dominating the star-lit outdoor discotheque. As the space filled up with sparkly party people, the tunes and the moves started to get loose. People were singing their hearts out, the wine was flowing and some serious funk was pumping out across the floor. Handing over to John Morales, the pair enjoyed a mesmerising moment in control of the sound together before James wound up his set for the night.
As the sound of 'Space Cowboy' by Jamiroquai erupted out of the system, John was clearly here to unite everyone and really get us involved with this set. Taking us on a ride with some of the finest disco sounds, we enjoyed the likes of Takka Boom’s 'Wastin My Love' and Chicago’s 'Street Player'– the fashion and style in which these tracks were selected was, smooth, intricate and carefully laid out to enhance the elements of bass, strings and piano.
Danny Krivit (yes, this line-up was ridiculous) had been enjoying the scenes for some time, taking over from John, he whipped the whole place up with some MFSB and Roy Ayers – the crowd by now was pulsating in appreciation of the first-class show unfolding in front of us. The Body & Soul shared his trademark New York style sound, infused with disco elements and Afrobeat vibes.
Just in time for Louie Vega’s closing set – something extremely spiritual to witness as sunrise progressed. Consisting warm vibrations and some distinct tribal undertones, Louie took the whole thing up to another level. The sound continued to build throughout, elevating almost at pace with the sun, with his remix of 'Bourgie Bourgie' being the pinnacle track for us.
It took us a while to recover the following day having been dancing for over 18 hours, however we had no regrets as it was impossible to wipe the smile off our faces despite the weary limbs and aching feet. The remainder of the festival followed in exactly the same fashion – a marathon of dancing, smiling, glitter and sparkle.
Patrick Scott was over in the Olive Grove providing a serving of some deep, dark jacking sounds as darkness fell; this was just the thing to get us excited ahead of our boat session. Having witnessed such a spectacular at Barbarellas, we could not wait to get stuck in with John Morales and Danny Krivit once again, not to mention Rahaan and Rich Medina.
Out on the top deck team Krivit/Morales were once again on fire – and the ultimate highlight of the festival occurred. Pulling in to dock up at The Garden upon our return, John Morales kept playing. The opening string section of Hardsoul ft. Hon Hardy’s 'Back Together' filled the air, when as if by magic, everyone on board embraced each other and sang their hearts out along with John. This was a spine-tingling, awe-inspiring moment. We will never forget that feeling. They had to gently peel us off the boat. We could have continued for days in this very special, happy place.
Mother Nature certainly played her part in Marcellus Pittman’s Detroit set on the penultimate night, providing a background scene of lightning bolts and a wonderfully spooky coloured sky. As the winds picked up, we popped open a prosecco and decided to stay for as long as possible. However, as the bubbles hit, so did the storm – and we ran for cover.
Following a short sabbatical, the music continued after the rain, with Peggy Gou playing one of the most innovative sets of the festival. Not put off by the weather, Peggy gave SunceBeat a different edge. Excited about her Warehouse Project appearances in the autumn, it was great to have this opportunity to witness a close-up and personal set from her in such spectacular surroundings.
We felt she was a festival game-changer in the fact that she showcased a different edge of house – perhaps a little more edgy and daring than many would attempt. Pulling it off perfectly, the electro vibes with added European sounds were a really immersing feature – as was the journey across many interesting genres, from techno to acid house, along with sounds of far eastern influence.
As expected, the final sets at The Garden site were some of the most magical. Rich Medina took control of the Beach Stage as we got our second (well, sixth or seventh) wind, working through more classic house and disco alongside some surprises like Wham's 'Everything She Wants'. DJ Spen and Paul Trouble Anderson delivered the final set of the festival, and impromptu back to back which featured groovers like 'The Energy (Feel The Vibe)' by The Astro Trax Team and Michael Jackson's 'Rock With You' as the sun began to rise over the trees.
It was a suitably spectacular, euphoric finish to what had been a week of utter musical enjoyment, felt by first timers and veteran Suncebeaters alike. Anyone who has visited The Garden will know how special the location is, and anyone at Suncebeat 8 will know how perfectly suited the line up was to the idyllic spot on the Adriatic Coast.