Perched on the side of the Adriatic sea, I watched as my friend began suspiciously treading water beside two sunburnt Brits in boxers aboard a fisherman’s boat. Give it a couple of minutes and all four of us are perched on the rickety vessel, complete with a rusty fish-gutting knife beside my foot. Our two new sailor friends had yet to sleep after their 48-hour stint of debauchery, and were now found to be summoning a nearby girl on a lilo to carry a beer tray from the shore to our newly-acquired lair. Turns out the boat wasn’t theirs, but the property of a rather too timid Croatian man who eventually swam over and politely chucked us out (after letting us finish our round of drinks).
Soundwave is a weird and wonderful place. Five days of elongated hedonistic activities sprawled across The Garden Tisno’s private bay, dotted with mini tipis, kitch pod houses, glinting mirror balls and like-minded sun worshipers can only really amount to good things. By like-minded, we’re talking pretty much anyone who enjoys feel-good music set beside crystal waters; ranging from lost-grads with nothing to do but spend the drips of their student loan on face paint and garishly large pink cocktails, young 20-somethings running away from Vancouver where their friends are all supposedly “gettin’ hitched”, an oil-rig working Scotsman who came prepared with whisky in a tartan hip-flask, or a group of Norfolk hippies who’d campervaned their way over at a max speed of 50mph.
Festivals are renowned for drawing in people in their best form; the majority of us have been working or studying up until this moment to finally shower ourselves in glitter and cheap vodka. But there’s something at Soundwave that is unlike any other festival; it could be likened to a concoction of Benicassim’s sun-dazed, intoxicated Brits alongside the intimacy and chilled minds of End of the Road punters. The community spirit is unrivaled, and communication goes much further than a quick shout of appreciation regarding someone’s headgear, although that definitely did happen – toy-like Croatian sailor hats were cropping up around the site at an alarming rate over the five days. There’s something about wearing a sailor’s hat at a boat party that gives you a glint of invincibility.
The festival’s intimacy of around 4,000 punters meant bumping into your new friends throughout the elongated weekend was inevitable; Tisno itself isn’t much larger than a small British seaside town, and the festival atmosphere continued right into the restaurants, apartment blocks and seashores. Speaking to our landlady and several taxi drivers, it appears the locals are some of the very few around Europe that are incredibly grateful for the influx of young Brits abroad.
Musically, Soundwave is in fact under the same hands as those of Outlook and Dimensions; despite this, the festival most definitely has it’s own vision and an atmosphere separate from the other Croatian names. The line up is particularly diverse, not really focusing on one specific genre or theme unless you can label ‘feel-good party chill vibes’ as one, in a way that sounds less lame than the way I’ve just labeled it. Basically, anything electronic, hip hop, afrobeat, down tempo, jazz, jungle or house that sounds fit to play in a hidden Croatian cove works here.
The festival kicked off their first night with the king of feel-good music, Mr Scruff. Renowned for his long-length DJ sets, Scruff performed five hours of tunes complete with his trademark cartoon blob men flashing up on the screens. Apparently that wasn’t enough for either himself or us, as we found ourselves eager for round two the following morning (1pm) on the famous Soundwave Argonaughty boat, for a 3-hour journey of Mr Scruff antics, appropriately ending the set with his much-loved single ‘Fish’.
Other highlights of the 5-days included a ridiculously good performance from the ever-pumped Gentleman’s Dub Club, with crowd-pleasers like ‘High Grade’ and ‘Emergency’ meaning not one person was still or without a grin throughout the one hour set. The beach stage saw a host of talent ranging from Chunky providing deep bass lines, to Eliphino bringing an eclectic mix of everything from garage to R&B, across to people dancing on ground and in the sea alike. A personal favourite was Mr Thing playing over at Barbarella’s on the Sunday, who whipped out numerous 90’s hip-hop and grime tunes that got everyone bouncing until the early hours. Set at the idyllic open-air nightclub, just 10 minutes by coach or taxi from the festival site, the after parties were carried out on 3 out of the 5 nights, complete with palm trees, cocktails and outdoor beds for those in need of a power nap to get them through til 6am.
Soundwave came to a pretty abrupt end with the assistance of a mother of a storm that kicked in just minutes before Fat Freddy’s Drop were set to play. The golf-ball sized rain drops didn’t seem to put a dampener on the evening and we found ourselves partying with other sodden people in a toilet cabin for half the duration, before sprinting to the on-site restaurant in perfect time for an impromptu performance by Riot Jazz, now performing their third set of the festival; saxophones and trumpets are undoubtedly the best cure to shivering, disillusioned girls in bikinis.
The music is most definitely just the beginning to the paradise of Soundwave; it’s relaxed and free atmosphere means that, unlike super-sized festivals, running from stage to stage is unheard of, which suits the 35 degrees heat perfectly. The beauty of having an array of lesser-known acts is something that really makes Soundwave unlike it’s other competitors, and truly adds to the community spirit that runs throughout the bay. Croatia is an unbelievably beautiful place; only 2 hours away by plane, and with extremely large pizzas costing as low as £4, there’s really nothing bad to say about this place. With no expectations of the festival before going, I came home with the biggest post-festival blues imaginable. Definitely worth paying a visit if you fancy going back to basics of enjoying music with good company in a picturesque location.