"This music was cultivated in London, the UK, and now it's global. We’ve got ravers here from all over the world," says MC Tonn Piper, stood surveying the enormous crowd that has gathered in front of him at Hospitality on the Beach.
It’s a sentiment that defines the weekend, now in its second year and selling out for the first time. Thousands of ravers have journeyed from all points on the globe to The Garden in Tisno, where they’ll spend the next few days immersing themselves in today’s drum n’ bass and jungle culture. Few loves compare to a DNB head’s devotion to their scene, and that shines through in the continuous good vibes that come from being on, essentially, a bass music package holiday.
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We begin on the Dubplate Style boat party, one of many seaborne dances that takes its passengers on a scenic tour across the water. Nu:Tone warms up the crowd’s sea legs with some bouncy numbers, which fall into the whisper of a snare as we turn around the first island.
Storm, our First Lady of drum n’ bass, kicks things up a notch at sunset with a tempestuous onslaught that gains her the first rewind of the night. “The next one we dedicate to the fallen soldiers,” announces MC Lowqui, and Spirit’s 'International' plays out over the sea in tribute to those the scene has recently lost.
S.P.Y follows Randall by treading the line between old school jungle and liquid, earning a sigh from the crowd for 'I’m A Junglist' as the boat draws up to the pier, then cries for one more tune when he finishes. He answers with his remix of Metrik’s 'We Got It', then five more tracks at the crowd’s insistent request.
Looking out over the bay is the Beach stage, the site’s picturesque pride and joy that keeps drawing ravers to the water’s edge throughout the weekend. It’s here that we find Inja, back with his long-time collaborator Whiney, hosting an intimate and rowdy set before running off to lead a skank out to Kings of the Rollers. The party is in full swing, and it’s hard to believe that there are four more nights after this. As Inja reminds us, "It's still only Thursday. We’ve got a long way to go yet."
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Friday marks Hospital Records’ first meet-up for women in drum n’ bass, which recreates their Women in Drum n’ Bass Facebook group in person following its launch on International Women’s Day. There’s a relaxed atmosphere as Hospital staff, DJs, and ravers sit drinking beers around a long table, chatting about the music last night and the scene at large. The hope is that events like this in the future will help women network while also inspiring each other to get involved more, either as artists or behind-the scenes.
Highlights that day include Mantra’s set, which throws a little disco into the mix before launching into Rupture’s dark growly sound, and Friction celebrating fifteen years of Shogun Records on the mainstage. But it’s at the end of the night, once some of the ravers have boarded a bus and journeyed to the after party at outdoor clubbing spot Barbarella’s, that all the excitement takes off. Croatia’s internationally renowned venue has some of the feel of a UK camping festival, with space to wander the green grounds or hang out in the chill out tent.
There’s not much time for peace though. On the floor Randall, Friction, and S.P.Y are whipping up a storm with their back-to-back, and in the midst of the frenzy all three hosts - Lowqui, SP:MC, and Linguistics - have jumped onstage to riff off each other.
Non-stop drum n’ bass for five days might sound like a lot to the uninitiated, but it’s reggae-inflected sets like this, with tunes like the popular 'Welcome To Jamrock' bootleg, that prove the genre’s variety while touching base with its soundsystem culture roots. Sun & Bass kick off Saturday with their takeover of the beach stage, where the many faces of liquid make a dreamy accompaniment for the swimmers diving from the pier.
Though the lineup has been curated by the iconic drum n’ bass holiday, it has a definitive Spearhead Records feel as we move through BCee and the label’s usual suspects Seba, LSB, DRS, and Marky. Seba delivers a typically cinematic set that languishes over hazy soundscapes and space, briefly dipping into his darker eerier sound before landing on the sublime 'Painted Skies'. BCee delivers some of the classic Spearhead releases like Netsky’s 'I Refuse' and his own 'Back To the Street', which then fades into one of many cameos from Calibre - the DJ’s DJ isn’t at this year’s festival, though he might as well be given that tracks like 'Up In Smoke' and 'City Life' make a much lauded appearance in almost every other set.
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The Exit Records boat party lands nearby and suddenly the beach is rammed full of skankers come to witness one of the scene’s favourite liquid pairings. LSB and MC DRS kick things into gear for the night, LSB emitting low end drones from the decks while DRS’s flow forces the crowd onto their feet. Robert Manos, whom DRS has taken over from, jumps back up to add his emotive croons, giving a soulful, almost romantic tinge to the dance. “Pull that shit!” DRS cries, and LSB rewinds to the start of Anile’s 'Constant Reminder', which has the crowd belting along with hands on hearts. It’s one of at least four pull ups, but we’re not mad. Each one is a tune, right up to the finish where the crowd sings word-for-word to DRS and LSB’s 'The View'.
Now the daytime’s liquid vibes scale way up to the other end of the genre. We’re spoilt for choice between Randall’s five hour set, DJ Marky on the beach, and Noisia on the main stage, each keeping the festival amped with a spectrum of bone rattling belters.
Saturn is visible in the sky overhead at the main stage, adding to the sci-fi feel of Noisia’s blistering set. You can almost hear dubstep wobbles in the bass as it brings dancers to a screeching halt, before building up again into drums like a ticking clock. “Ouch!” yells Navigator from the Olive Grove, where he’s accompanying Randall with ragga lyrics. Our selector consistently picks the crowd up and then throws them back down again, the sleepy saxophone of Alex Reece’s 'Pulp Fiction' piercing through Dillinja’s 'Hard Noize' before we descend into rattly jungle.
We’re well into the heavier end of things when Marky shows up on the beach, where he gets things going with Serum’s 'Black Metal' - it’s a tune that has made several appearances over the weekend, and here it is again but cranked right up to the max. Evidently it was a good night.
All is quiet on the Sunday afternoon, with the main sign of life being down on the beach, where punters float around the bay in yellow rubber rings (careful to avoid the dreaded sea urchins). Kotu’s take on 'Everybody Loves The Sunshine' drifts out of the Olive Grove, while Diffrent Music’s Dexta plays with Chris Perspective by the sea. The mood is calm and contemplative, until searing strings cut through and all on the beach find themselves flinging their arms up to a bootleg of Madonna’s 'Vogue'.
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“I was born by the river,” goes Sam Cooke’s cry from the mainstage, announcing Hype’s arrival as his listeners take their positions on the floor. There’s a flavour of Marvin Gaye’s 'Let’s Get It On' amongst the bass that gives way to the jubilant trumpets in Break’s 'Last Goodbye', then a sudden cut to the definitive foot stomper Shy FX’s 'Original Nuttah'.
MC GQ demands a pull up on the mic, of course. "I used to watch him when I was 15 scratching, I wanted to be like him,” he points at Hype, his icon from Hackney that many others on the dancefloor have also grown up listening to.
Ravers flood to the main stage for the start of Andy C. It feels like the whole festival is here, and stragglers on the edge of the crowd clamber onto benches and brick walls to get a good look at The Executioner. There’s barely a letup from the weaponry shot out from the decks, skipping merrily from drop to drop with a dizzying array of samples and throwbacks through drum n’ bass’s catalogue.
There’s Shy FX’s 'Balaclava', Pendulum’s 'Tarantula', and hints of piano from Omni Trio’s 'Renegade Snares' patter over Andy C’s remix of Major Lazer’s 'Get Free'. “I think I’m having a heart attack!” screams one dancer, in a rare moment of respite from the three hour workout. As MC Tonn Piper remarks, there’s no time to think - the only thing to do is feel the music.
"We've got the best music genre in the world,” he tells the crowd, who concur by pausing and holding their lighters aloft. “This is not EDM. This is jungle and DNB. Our music is from the heart."
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The next generation of heads to carry the drum n’ bass baton reveal themselves on the Monday. DJ Something Something, who won the DJ contest that ran through the weekend on the Cuckoo’s Nest, plays her victory set in the Olive Grove and slips in a brand new track from the rising producer Just Eden.
Later, at the Hospital staff boat party, spirits are already high as the label’s office DJs ping pong between Hype, Calibre, and that 'Vogue' bootleg, when a raver grabs the mic and tempts fate with the line “Let’s capsize this boat”.
Dancers at the front look ecstatic at this off-the-cuff appearance from the emerging MC Reico Vibes. It’s typical of a weekend where the barriers between DJs and fans have felt relatively small, everyone bumping into each other in the rave no matter their place within it.
The Hospital staff must have got a taste for the decks,. They’re back on it with a surprise back-to-back once the boat lands by the beach, partying on well past the festival’s original midnight curfew. It’s raining, just like the closing set last year that finished early due to a storm.
This time Serum and Inja’s 'Blow Them Away' blasts out in defiance and keeps the ravers going unperturbed, some of whom have swum out to the pier for one last jump around in their swimsuits. One artist after the other jumps up in a growing medley of all the DJs and MCs who have graced the stage this weekend.
We could go on forever, until at last MC Carasel announces the final tune - Urbandawn’s take on The Beatles’ 'Come Together', one that has travelled with us all through the festival as a reminder of just how much music, in all its variety, drum n’ bass manages to gobble up.
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Words: Becca Inglis
Photography: David Sloley
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