Zrce Beach, Croatia
26 June - 1 July
By this point it’s hardly a secret just how gorgeous the sunny shores of Croatia are, nor the breadth of programming available from across club culture. Every summer, thousands of revellers from across the continent descend on Croatia’s sparkling beaches in pursuit of their favourite musical niche to go with a suntan.
One of the largest of these coastal raves is Hideout, now in its seventh year, operating in the more mainstream echelons yet satisfying some wide-ranging tastes. Festival goers choose one of five superclubs arranged in a horseshoe along the glittering Zrće beach, with complementary line-ups curated for each.
On arrival, we headed into the nearby town of Novalja to soak up the building excitement and gawp at the sun over the bay. People mingled along the promenade, sharing 2L bottles of cheap beer and plastic vases of fluorescent cocktails. It felt like only Hideout punters occupied the town. Our driver pretty much confirmed this, telling us that he, like most locals, works there for the summer season before returning to the cities.
Later that evening on Zrće, the beach already awash with punters getting cosy near the seafront, we began our festival in earnest. We headed to Papaya, the most renowned of the clubs on the beach, where we found David Rodigan energetically belying his 65 years and whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Major Lazer followed, bringing out confetti cannons and their dancehall-EDM. On a slightly deeper tip, Paul Woolford reached back into some classic electro over at Noa – Zrće’s newest addition that juts out onto the water.
Heidi’s Jackathon brought us back to life the next morning, with Jasper James B2B Denis Sulta. Later Heidi would also close out what looked to be the week’s strongest line-up, though a prolonged storm meant it was peculiarly muted. Gerd Janson played to an empty dancefloor among the downpours while DJ Koze was replaced last-minute by Tiga due to illness. The Martinez Brothers did manage to ram out Noa while DJ Yoda’s loose interpretation of a classic hip-hop set had Euphoria bouncing.
After a Boat Party headed by Artwork the following afternoon, Papaya was once again where we were drawn after nightfall, this time bursting at the seams. AJ Tracey’s star continues to rise: the crowd here eagerly shouted his bars back at him before Kurupt FM brought their usual mix of jokes and garage bangers. They in turn, gave way to Stormzy.
Waiting for him to come on stage there was the palpable energy shift that tends to accompany genuine superstars. You could see how the adulation suits him. The crowd chanted his name, and it was warming to see the smile spread across his face. The enthusiasm never wavered: from Cold to Cigarettes and Kush, everyone knew the words. By the time the unmistakable notes of XTC’s Functions On The Low came rolling through the speakers it was pandemonium. We walked away feeling we had caught the festival’s standout moment.
For the last night at Hideout the pool parties were pushed back for 12 hours of straight hedonism. In its final throes it took on a new intensity, people taking advantage of last chances to huff laughing gas and knock inflatables about. We clambered to the back of Papaya for the last time and watched Dusky’s soaring set elevate the mood, before Skream (playing for the second time that night) B2B Solardo plunged the dancefloor deeper again, in an impressive push and pull with the dancefloor’s dynamic.
We left the party in full swing, with the sun rising over the beach. The juxtaposition of setting and party felt weird: the Day-Glo hue of the outfits and relentless tech-house thump somehow counter to this rugged gateway to the Mediterranean. That said, when people are having this much fun, who are we to argue?