It almost sounds like a memory I’ve created – Heidi Vogel singing the words Fontella Bass burned in to our souls ten years ago – as The Cinematic Orchestra flooded the Dalmatian sky at sunset with music that may have been created for just such a moment. We turned to each other, crying and singing and hugging, vowing to remember and to return.
Soundwave Festival in Croatia (there’s one of the same name in Australia I cannot vouch for unless you like Limp Bizkit and Marilyn Manson), has become something of an annual pilgrimage for the artists, DJs, labels and supporters who make up a chunk of the UK’s eclectic independent music scene. It is run by the same team behind Outlook Festival (Soundcrash and New Bohemia), so at first I was tentative about getting involved having heard horror stories of gurning 18 year olds tagging up an idyllic Croatian fishing village and peeing on the church a few years ago. Outlook has since moved to a more appropriate location in a disused fort, and Soundwave has emerged as a festival for lovers of live music.
I’m the kind of girl whose ideal festival involves being able to go home at night (after refusing to drink anything all day in a bid to avoid the toilets), food you can’t smell frying from the end of the three hundred strong queue, and preferably not staring at a giant screen watching “chart toppers” like Example (whose music I’ve still never heard), jumping about to a PA 10 miles away. I have been known to turn down free tickets to Glastonbury, and at the Guardian-readers-dream-fest Big Chill I camped in the middle of the sobbing and distraught Mika fan club as a security measure (they refused to leave their glitter encrusted tents for the entire festival because he didn’t show up).
Soundwave is definitely better than spending the day in a damp field. I arrived at the village at night and headed to the local restaurant to find my friends who were sitting outside tucking in to giant plates of fresh seafood. I’d heard it was a rocky beach so I was expecting Brighton, sewage and all. I woke up to a white hot, pond flat, turquoise clear scene from a movie. Even my friends who can’t swim were straight in the sea when they realised the rocks on the bottom were smooth (like an enormous tiled swimming pool).
The tiny festival site was 15 minutes walk around the bay and I won’t lie, it takes a moment to adjust to seeing people you usually see in Dalston wandering around swim wear casual (super awkward hello hugs on the first day). I asked the veterans for the guided tour of the site and it took 5 minutes; main stage, club, beach stage, all right next to each other. It was like I went on holiday with my friends to Croatia and my iTunes came to life and started performing (apart from Ja Rule, thank god).
When I got the call to put together another line up this year I was ecstatic. I called my artist friends and asked if they would like to go on holiday and get paid for it – luckily for me they said yes. We’re throwing a beach party on the Saturday afternoon, with Ghostpoet, Eric Lau and Eska DJing in the sunshine right by the sea. The next day we’ll be on the main stage in the afternoon, Tawiah with her amazing full live band, Tanya Auclair (and her amazing one man band), Szjerdene with a paired down intimate live set, Oddisee performing his debut album, Tranqill trying to deliver his gritty realism with an enormous sunshine induced grin on his face, and Anna Meredith – my wildcard – the first electronic musician I’ve been this excited about since I first saw Fly Lo at his first London show.
That’s just the PMOI parties, over 5 days there are over 50 acts. I’m particularly excited about seeing De La Soul, Fink, Eska, Dele Sosimi’s Fela tribute (the band probably need a whole plane to themselves), Kwes, Kutmah, and following Olugbenga from Metronomy around whispering “I love your band” then hiding. I might even venture on a boat party this year, though considering I got travel sick on a punt on the river in Cambridge last year it’s probably not a good idea. Those with sea legs claim the boat parties are the heart of Soundwave Festival, but I have the feeling this years most memorable moment will come when the whole site sings “Me, Myself and I” as the sun goes down.
FAQs Soundwave are probably not being asked but we are.
- There is no guestlist, flights will not be cheaper nearer the time, deciding in early July you want to come is not an option, the festival will be sold out. Book your travel (there are lots of options), tickets and accommodation as soon as you can – rooms in Tisno start at €15 – cheaper than a fancy tent.
- Croatian people are pretty cool with multicultural folk. We found them to be incredibly friendly and kind, maybe a little curious but not in a bad way. We cannot say the same about Poland.
- Plenty of Croatian people speak English (and probably loads of other European languages). Those that don’t speak the international language of point and shout.
- Do not bring drugs with you or buy them when you get there (that includes weed). Croatian people do not play, you will go to jail.
- The toilets at the festival are clean, but if you’re funny about hygiene your villa will probably be close enough to go back to.
- Bring mosquito repellant and bite cream – try to avoid too much sugar the week before you arrive to minimize your tastiness.
- The food is good if you like seafood, red meat or pizza (it’s opposite Italy). If you are vegetarian or vegan you may want to bring a few supplies or head to a supermarket on arrival.
- This is the last year Croatia will use the Kuna before joining the Euro which will means your money won’t go as far so make the most of it. It’s not super cheap but it’s definitely a lot cheaper than London. If you don’t drink budget £15 a day (if you do drink budget for alcohol and potentially having to get a new passport/ phone/ losing all your money etc).
- There is no need to bring heels, your most limited edition kicks or your best imported calf skin leather cape. You do need rubber flip flops for the beach (rocks), but you don’t need to hire a stylist, it’s not Field Day Festival.
You can find all the other info you need at soundwavecroatia.com – see you there.