Croatian music festivals inspire a smorgasbord of tasty summer clichés: boat parties, sunsets and half-naked, half-wet revellers peaking in the sunshine. Love System is the latest offering on Croatia’s still-burgeoning festival scene, with its maiden instalment presenting a panoply of UK-driven dance acts radiating deep and garage house, disco and techno across Adriatic waters.
Unfortunately this year grumbling skies and flash storms challenge stereotypical ideas of sun-kissed Croatian hedonism. But when your crowd hails predominantly from a place where poor weather is their bread and butter, you find a refreshing attitude while fists keep pumping.
Love System was created to offer discerning clubbers a chance to see acts you might not find at traditional festivals in a postcard location. The result is an underground event, set in a rocky woodland bay with a custom-built floating stage. A motley throng of predominantly British music lovers are flung from the dark recesses of London’s clubs into an intimate, if sometimes soggy, European setting.
The line-up includes the likes of Shonky (who has been touring alongside Dyed Soundorom and Dan Ghenacia under the guise of Apollonia of late), Ejeca, Finnebassen, Mario Basanov, Tom Demac, Ben Pearce, Wildkats and veteran Englishman Ralph Lawson.
The bill is also heavy on representatives from the Kumasi Music, with acts like Kreature, Matt Fear and Kolombo holding their own within the impressive house fold.
Renowned UK party crews including Bad Apple, 2020Vision, Jaunt and Micron supplemented the main event by hosting eight boat parties, allowing guests a further kind of intoxicated intimacy with their favourite beat makers.
More big gig than big festival, capped at 1,000 punters (but with about half that in attendance), festival organiser Danny Raper hoped to create something “a little different” with his first launch into the Croatian festival arena.
All first-time events experience teething problems and Love System Festival has its fair share to contend with, such as cancelled acts due to weather conditions, communication issues and general disorganisation and reshuffling.
Despite the inevitable challenges of launching a fledgling festival, the crew succeeds with their intentions, thanks to a judiciously hand-picked line-up and a unique intimacy lacking from many festivals these days, a place where DJs help with the guestlist and local families near the site sell shots of Croatian honey liqueur from their front porch.
The cold weather intensifies the warm mood; the upshot of being forced to stand shivering alongside drenched revellers while waves crash against the stage is that it makes for a solid bonding experience. There is a contagious resilience of both partygoers and DJs determined not to have their fun spoilt.
Raper describes the 2020Vision boat party as “a scene from f*cking End Of Days: ‘Get on the boat! Run! Save yourselves!’” which doesn't seem to deter the crowd from embarking the rocking vessel.
Meanwhile, over on the floating stage at the festival site, Stuart Sandeman of Wildkats begins his set under sunshine, before “the heavens let loose”.
Similarly unperturbed, Sandeman appropriates a loose piece of plastic sheeting, holding it to cover the decks and continuing his set one-handed, as festival organisers scramble to hammer down cover over the DJ booth while battling cyclonic winds.
Sandeman says: “I’d like to think it was my music that blew the roof off but [with] the wind and the rain, everything got soaked, the music cut out, but I played as long as I could.”
Things eventually clear up, the sunshine is out by the end of the week, and the boat parties and DF salvaged.
Fuelled by an inebriated camaraderie and lit up by quality house tunes, good times are inevitable. Even though it isn’t the quintessential Croatian daydream one expects, the inaugural Love System Festival won’t be quickly forgotten.
Words and photo: Sonia Taylor
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