I fell in love with annual house music shindig The Garden Festival in 2010. Held in an idyllic setting on the
t the combination of warm weather, laid back people, great music and welcoming locals was captivating, relaxing, energetic and mysterious all at the same time. In short, it was my ideal festival.
It was therefore understandable that feelings of ambivalence set in upon hearing the festival was moving from the village of Petrcane - the festival's home since inception - to a new site in Tisno around an hour further south along the coast.
My ambivalence proved unjustified and on arrival at the new location my spirits soared: Tisno is stunningly beautiful.
Lying on the mainland, Tisno is set on a narrow Adriatic waterway that separates it from the opposite island of Murter - to which it is connected by a short bridge. The views from the town towards Murter with yachts, boats and waterfront restaurants in the foreground to the green, hilly and rugged island terrain in the distance make for a visual backdrop that is unforgettable. Murter island itself appears iridescent as the sun moves through the sky, finally culminating at sunset into fuzzy hues of red, green and blue before fading to sea black and artificial neon that illuminates the balmy Adriatic night.
In short, the location more than lived up to expectations.
So, onto the business of the festival itself. On the practical side the new site is situated around a mile from Tisno around a rocky headland and is accessible by road or water taxi. The site has its own beach around which the main action is centred. Towards the rear of the site there is accommodation in the form of camping or holiday chalets for those with a few more Kune to spend. Tisno itself has a range of guest houses, apartments, hotels and homes from which to choose. All budgets are catered for.
The views from the town towards Murter with yachts, boats and waterfront restaurants in the foreground to the green, hilly and rugged island terrain in the distance make for a visual backdrop that is unforgettable.
The format of the festival is simple - the action takes place on the main site from mid afternoon till around one or two in the morning. There are also regular boat parties thrown throughout the day and evening. Once the site closes the party moves to an open air club where it continues until dawn: perfect.
I soon got into the action. After an afternoon drinking session in a local bar I boarded the packed Argonauty boat ready for Faith's annual house workout, and it did not disappoint. A wave of blurred and hazy energy blazed across my synapses threatening to launch my body into the deck but instead jolting me into action as the dance floor picked up and swayed as the boat left port. My unsteadiness was partially caused by the local rakija I'd been drinking and partially by my attempts to dance to the house being expertly programmed by Terry Farley, Stuart Patterson and Dave 'Clappers' Jarvis. As the evening got serious more drinks were consumed the party started to progress into a lovely form of madness: the scenery, collective reverie and in some cases, the drug induced introspection combining to make for a wonderful escape from reality.
As the evening wore on the tempo of the music built and when the warm hypnotic synths and brooding undercurrent of malevolence from Ronnie Turner's remix of The Slacksons - 'Same As It Ever Was' worked its way into my subconscious I switched to autopilot and I lost myself in house music.
Same as it ever was:
The festival continued in similar vein for the remainder of my time there. The line up was superb with the likes of Nicholas Jaar, Crazy P, Derrick Carter, Norman Jay, PBR Streetgang, Jose Padilla, Kenny Dope and Greg Wilson among others making up a stellar cast of talent who were playing lazy, soulful house, disco and funk during the day before stepping up the tempo at night.
An absolutely faultless eight days, then?
Well, not quite. Over the course of the festival weekend, from Friday through to Sunday the festival site and surrounding town became flooded with idiots. I know not from whence they came and which hole they scuttled back to. Needless to say they were all British and of the type previously found vomiting in the streets and fornicating on the beaches of such luminous European locations as Ayia Napa, Magaluf, Malia and so on.
I was alerted to their presence early on Friday morning whilst enjoying a leisurely and peaceful al fresco breakfast with my girlfriend. The general serenity was interrupted by a cackling, loud and foul mouthed scouse girl who was resplendent in the customary orange skin, high heels and bikini. Additionally she had opted to garnish this sophisticated look with a gold tooth! I though this an understated, intelligent yet extravagant way to complete the Milanese Euro-chic image she had clearly spent some time cultivating.
Over the course of the festival weekend, from Friday through to Sunday the festival site and surrounding town became flooded with idiots. I know not from whence they came and which hole they scuttled back to.
I was in the motion of rising to restore tranquility to the breakfast area - a goal that I intended to achieve by ripping out her windpipe with my bare hands and tossing it to a nearby stray cat - when she sidled off and tottered down the street, lager in hand, cackling like an insane Liverpudlian chicken.
My quarry had eluded me.
Alas! The festival was awash with her ilk: morons, loud mouths, people with tattooed 'sleeves' wearing vests and shorts pulled down below the waist to reveal.....boxer shorts! What were they doing there? Not the boxer shorts, I mean the imbeciles. I have no idea. They certainly weren't there for a house music festival, and, just as they had mysteriously appeared, by Sunday, they had left.
I wasn't complaining.
I sincerely hope this influx of sub-humanity wasn't an early sign of the direction in which Croatia is heading. Personally, I'd love Croatia to retain its status as a welcoming, relatively inexpensive and non-commercialised holiday destination without succumbing to the sort of lunacy that has infested other European countries. Change is inevitable and year by year Croatia is developing - more flights, more festivals, more tourists and more money. Who knows which way it will go?
The Garden itself came from humble and worthy beginnings and has developed over the years. The organisers will have a choice after this year's massive success - develop further and stay true to their ethos. Or, expand and look for the corporate dollar. I know which direction I'd rather see them take.
However, it must be said that overall, despite the weekend blip, the Garden is still a fantastic festival of music in a stunning location. If you don't believe me, then believe Norman Jay whose acquaintance I happened to make whilst he was staying at the same hotel. On Tuesday morning I was the only person by the hotel pool, he sauntered over and sat down nearby.
"Good gig last night Norman?" I ventured.
"Absolutely amazing!" replied the great man, "even for me...."
And who am I to argue?
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