It’s Sunday evening in the heart of Love International week and I’m on a boat. Three of the event’s main men are attempting to wrap things up on their annual Futureboogie boat party, yet obstructive forces are in the way. One of Croatia’s most aesthetically placid and picturesque stretches of water has been struck by a thunderstorm. Lightening and rain clatter around our visibly bobbling boat, the elements are closing in. On board, no one is particularly bothered by the weather. Harmony by Suzi Lane is bringing us to dock in a typically astute finale, and the vibe is euphoric to the point of dizziness.
The reassurance is that on another boat, on another day, someone else is having a similarly dream-like experience. Love International has a habit of disarming the inhibition of its attendees. Beyond the weight of the line-up that acts as something of an annual coming together of DJs and producers, many of whom stay and share in the event, Love International’s weightiest attribute is the sheer ease with which moving through the festival can result in new and widely varied experiences.
Make no mistake though, musically this was a mighty year, even by the festival’s usual high standards, with the open-air sunrise dramatics of Barbarella’s nightclub in particular, formally declared the “best nightclub in the world” by some excitable members of our entourage, providing the standout moments of the festival. DJ Harvey, a man whose set progression is something to behold, revelled in this setting for six hours of music where disco sits at the centre and psych, chug, techno, Balearic guitars and edits that stretch the club to its limits float around the edges. Lindstrom’s ever-reliable Closing Shot gets the reaction of the night, but it’s Harvey’s ability to play for this length that provides the propulsion to carry the audience through. When done properly, sets of this length allow for much greater engagement, and there isn’t really anyone better in this genre at making six hours work with such ease.
Other Barbarella’s highlights included the stomping rave of Eris Drew, the omnipresent groove of Nicolas Lutz and Craig Richards and a standout set from Call Super at the Crack Magazine night which encompassed changes in pace and style throughout before twenty minutes of flooring techno, the likes of which aren’t often deployed through this particular set of speakers. However, the sheer refreshment of being able to party in the open air, recline on a set of beds in the conveniently covered area and enjoy the sunrise, complete with the scent of the natural surrounding is what makes this club a true treasure.
Back on site, the Olive Grove stage, which seems to get better every year, makes for the best sounding area of the site, with musical wanderings down a more psychedelic path from Vladimir Ivkovic and Ivan Smaghhe being a real highlight. The ever-reliable sub-120 chug from Andrew Weatherall and Sean Johnston’s A Love From Outer Space is a booking that was always going work in the intimate green surroundings and Fantastic Man and Francis Inferno Orchestra provided a B2B rich in synth and variation that tested the limits of the Grove’s sound system.
There is more at play with this festival than the sheer gluttony of music, however, and these extra elements are as much a part of what makes Love International so enjoyable as any DJ set. The affable Adriatic town of Tisno, the boats, the abundance of seafood and the general sense of freedom, all available in such close proximity to each other, allow for an experience that often feels otherworldly. Combined with generous sunshine, and yes, even a dramatic storm or two, and it hard to imagine a more idyllic way to spend a week.