Top festival, top location…

With the continued rise of Outlook, Dimensions, and the emergence of a ton of other, smaller events each summer, Croatia is rapidly becoming one of the top festival destinations in the world. While it may have a long way to go to live up to its billing as the ‘new Ibiza’, this is certainly an exciting time in the home of the cravat, Dalmatians and Davor Suker.

Despite this only being its fourth year, Hideout has already established itself as one of the best of the Croatian festivals. With just over 10,000 people attending, the vibe is akin to turning up at a house party where you kind-of-but-not-really know everyone. You’ll make new friends, you’ll run into old ones, and you’ll watch at least one of your group calamitously misjudge the potency of both the Croatian pivo and the Adriatic sun. Sounds great, yeah? And I haven’t even got onto the music yet…

Zrce Beach is home to Hideout’s four stages, hosting pool parties during the day and sets from some of the best DJs in the world at night. There are also boat parties that depart from Novalja Marina each day for a three-hour rave on the waves.

After arriving late on Monday evening I venture straight to the beach to catch French house trio Apollonia, whose set comprises of everything from funky house to bumping techno, with some acid and jazz thrown in for good measure. Afterwards, Rudimental prove to be just as much fun as you'd expect and win my prize for the most unlikely mix, going straight from ‘Let's Get It On’ to TNGHT’s ‘Higher Ground’ in a set which veers wildly between genres, including classic dance, hip-hop, funk and soul anthems.

Who could follow a set like that? Well, if anybody could, then it’s DJ EZ, and sure enough he does. UK garage’s own national treasure lays down the perfect soundtrack for overdoing it on the first night. At this point it’s 6am, 30 degrees and I’m watching the sun rise over the stunning Adriatic coastline while DJ EZ smashes out garage bangers to a sea of shirtless early-morning ravers. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever bother going to a festival in the UK again...

I’ve heard huge things about Guti’s live house set, so I head over to his and tINI’s pool party on Tuesday afternoon to see it in action, and the two Desolat artists even treat us to a short back-to-back selection of funky basslines and driving house beats. Tuesday also sees the Skreamizm pool party, with deep house chart-botherer Route 94 and Skream curating exciting, varied and bass-heavy sets.

Much like the duo’s own music, Bondax’s set is difficult to pin down to any particular genre, although the midnight crowd don't seem to mind too much. The Aquarius venue is packed and swaying, with a huge surge of energy when they drop ‘Giving It All’.

In a change to the usual program at Hideout, Ten Walls opt to perform live rather than deliver a DJ set. His performance is one of my personal highlights of the week, with a breath-taking visual show to accompany his techno tunes.

It takes a certain pedigree to draw in the sort of crowd Maceo Plex manages at 6am on the Papaya stage, but with the sun rising over the adjacent islands, and in the shadow of the bungee crane, the American deep house star holds the swaying crowd in the palm of his hand.

On Wednesday I decide to hit up one of the festival’s legendary boat parties, and with three or four options each day I’m spoiled for choice. I jump on the Standard Place boat, with John Rust, Reecha and Oneman spinning reggae and UK garage tunes while MC Asbo hosts and hypes up the crowd.

Wednesday night sees two of the festival's best performances all in a row. Radio 1’s B. Traits typically deals with all things bass before Hannah Wants redefines the term “smashing it” with a baying crowd roaring with approval at every tune played, peaking with a rework of Tempa T’s ‘Next Hype’ which, as ever, turns the dancefloor into a warzone.

Hudson Mohawke is one of the UK’s hottest young producers, with a unique sound that incorporates global influences yet remains distinctly British. This manipulation and clashing of varying styles and genres is reflected in his track selection at the Numbers pool party on Thursday afternoon where he plays everything from Kanye to Disclosure to, er, Paul Simon.

So it comes to the final headliner, with chart-toppers Disclosure packing out the Papaya stage with just about every single one of the 10,000 attendees. The duo pepper their set with tracks from their critically-acclaimed debut, ‘Settle’ – including ‘When A Fire Starts To Burn’ – mixed into classic house and garage tunes which ring out across the beach as the sun rises one last time on Hideout festival 2014...

Next year is Hideout’s fifth run, and to celebrate they are planning an extra-special festival with several acts from previous years returning, as well as the excellent residents People Get Real and Sonic Emporium. Look out for ticket registration in October, because in all honesty there aren’t many festival experiences better than this. 

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Words: Paul Gibbins

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