SUNcéBEAT, the first ever overseas adventure by Southport Weekender, occurred in Petrcane, Croatia, August 2010. Southport Weekender has been happening for over 23 years, with a famed reputation for organising quality 'soul' weekenders. The life of Southport has grown to incorporate all kinds of music that have spawned from the Northern Soul days to the cross cultural identity of unifying music. With the advent of the end of the winter weekender, we arrive at the birth of SUNcéBEAT held in a wonderful site in emerging Croatia. It was clear to me this was to be a 'must be at' event. It's always lucky to be at the start of something and witnessing the event of SUNcéBEAT brought about a new life to the Southport Weekender family.
The festival site in Petrcane is certainly on the up due to the vision of The Garden Festival. This crew discovered the site and have held the Garden Festival there for five years. Others have flocked to this laid back, beautiful site to put on small festivals all through the summer. The Adriatic Sea, boat parties and Funktion 1 soundsystems all add for a great festival experience. The coming together of the Southport and Garden family is something I knew would be special. I was definitely lucky to witness this and I think most others had the same regard.
The line-up was devastating!! It truly showed the heavy weight league Southport Weekender represent. The years of contributing to sounds of house, soul, disco, hip hop and jazz all meant that serious heads were on the line up. The boat parties line up was UNBELIEVABLE! Larry Heard, Jazzie B and Kerri Chandler are just some of the names who were blasting out deep tunes to a captivated crowd of 200 all in shorts and hats, dancing in the sun! The site is limited to around 2000 people so the vibe is tight and if you know the Southport crowd it's going to be fun all the way and I'm sure it's one of the reasons why the locals were saying it's one of the best festivals ever held at Petrcane.
I was lucky enough to arrive a few days earlier in Croatia to explore a little bit of this lovely country and get some sun. There's loads of sun in Croatia! I arrived at Zadar, the nearest major town to Petrcane, to attend the pre-party at the Garden Bar. It was an amazing night and great way to start the festival vibe. The Garden Bar is a beautiful venue; overlooking the quay in Zadar, with Ronnie Herel and Sarah Favouritizm warming up the crowd it was hard to leave for an early night!
The Arganoughty Boat parties are amazing. It has a set up with a Funktion 1 sound system and there are areas to get shade, drink, eat and even get some respite. No one can deny the beauty of the Adriatic Sea. Boat parties occurring day and night each had their own feel. The first boat party featuring Joey Negro, Jazzanova, DJ Spinna and Sarah Favouritizm sold out in advance, obviously! This boat absolutely rocked and set the precedent for all the others. I went to the evening 'soul boat' with Ronnie Herel, Mr Thing and Terry Jones. It was a great experience for me as the close and personal nature of the boat party meant I got to meet all these three great contributors. Due to the limited capacity and lack of need for VIP you get to meet everyone, artist and festival goers all mingle on the same level. There's no beef here and all the people there were impressed and had respect for the coming together of this line up.
Hearing Southport classics from Terry, hip hop cuts and cool scratching from Mr Thing and serious gems for the man like Ronnie, made for an infectious dance floor and good times. Jazzie B was missed on this boat party but it's testament to him that he was there at the first ever SUNcéBEAT showing his love for Southport. It was great to see him there. Obviously the Kerri Chandler boat featuring Karizma, Souldynamic, and Luis Radio on Saturday was sold out too. There was no evening boat party on Saturday to ensure there was no conflict for Roy Ayers first ever gig in Croatia on the main stage that night. He had a great gig and genuinely appreciated by the crowd.
I was really pleased to be on the Sunday afternoon boat party with Larry Heard, Rub 'N' Tug, Marc Rowlands and Gavin Kendrick as that was the one I most wanted to be on most. Larry Heard is a pioneer of dance music and everyone was enamoured with his humility and great selection of tunes. With Rub 'N' Tug who smashed it and Gavin Kendrick who set the tone for an immense boat party! The Beat Boat with Eddy Meets Yannah, Phil Asher and Kev Beadle was supposed to have been awesome. We were certainly spoilt with the boat parties and the Arganoughty crew loved it too! Excellent!
The site in Petrcane has three dancing areas: The Main Stage, The Beach Bar and Barbarella's discotheque. All are decked with Funktion 1 sound systems and the lighting around the site creates a very warm and inviting ambience. With the warmth of the climate and beautiful starry night combined with the crowd it was like being at Southport in the sun! I got to see seven shooting stars that night whilst dancing to 'Nights Over Egypt' by The Jones Girls. Pretty special! I also have to add that the lighting and sound guys who knew of SUNcéBEAT are also the crew from Southport Weekender who made a special effort to be in Petrcane all season to ensure the sound and light was banging for the first one. Indeed it was electric!
The bands on the bill included Roy Ayers, Bah Samba, Jose James and Leroy Hutson. Watching these greatly musical and soulful acts outside in the warm air sipping cocktails is definitely a winner! On Friday Leroy Hutson was set to play on Friday but to the amazement of all some rain came! In all my times visiting Croatia in the summer I've never seen a drop of rain and on the first night it came, obviously to the horror of the promoters! As all the equipment is outside the festival had to wait a while before cranking up the sound although Leroy Hutson still performed at the Barbarellas club. The main concern came if Roy Ayers couldn't play his gig. But for me I knew that the rain was a bit of a freak. I knew the sun would come out strong again and on Saturday, the life of SUNcéBEAT really came alive, with Sarah Favouritizm who, incidentally became one of DJ's of choice at the festival, really got the international crowd going in the afternoon. Suddenly, with everyone chilling on the lounges looking at the beautiful sky, no one cared about the expectations of the weather and focused how on nice a place it is. By Sunday everyone, including the promoters, realised this was the birth of something special.
Roy Ayers had a magical gig and certainly may well perform again at SUNcéBEAT. Bah Samba played with him and played their own gig before Roy, it was sensational and featured stunning vocals from Tasita D'Mour. Jose James also had a great gig showing wonderful vocals and great musicianship from the backline. Big shout to the drummer!
The Beach Stage is pretty special with Gavin Kendrick, Souldynamic, Kev Beadle, Phil Asher, Theo Parrish all playing on Friday and Mark Stone, Rub 'n' Tug, DJ Spinna and Eddy Meets Yannah on Saturday and to finish with Mark Rowlands, DJ Magic Jay, DJ Dekky, Luis Radio and Ame all playing on Sunday made for a magical experience. The Beach Bar is by the sea and you get some of the most beautiful sunsets there. Big shout to Dean Smith who made an impromptu performance on Monday playing a nine hour set through the day to the sunset playing 'Last Rhythm' by Last Rhythm as the sun went down much to the appreciation of the Southport crowd. It was a surprise for many for something to be going on Monday but the Garden Family know exactly what to do to for a glorious send off. I DO like Mondays in Petrcane.
The Barbarellas Discotheque was free to get into, a generous offering which meant more people could be at a part of the first SUNcéBEAT. Great names like Jazzanova, Joey Negro, Theo Parrish, Rub 'N' Tug, DJ Spinna, Phil Asher, Sarah Favouritizm, Luis Radio, Karizma and a performance from Sean McCabe to replace Ron Trent were all well received. Other great DJ performances from Terry Jones, Kev Beadle, Mr Thing, Ronnie Herel, Karizma, Larry Heard and Kerri Chandler on the Main Stage lifted the atmosphere and took this festival to another level. With a selection of deep house, funk, hip hop, soul, jazz, rare groove, disco and other classic tracks played ensured everyone at SUNcéBEAT were well impressed!
There were some great moments at SUNcéBEAT. Everyone was happy to be there and recognised the effort the Southport Weekender family had made to create this, there were even a few tears of joy. The food was great too and watching the sunset in Zadar by the sea organ was pretty special! The support from The Garden Family was also exceptional. It created an event that everyone wanted to make sure worked. The first one is always tricky and it's natural for the Southport family to be working on improving #1 as they're professional but judging from the results it's going to be hard to top. One thing is for sure SUNcéBEAT 2 will attract festival goers from all over the world and not just the UK, if tickets are limited to 2000 you'd better get in there quick if you want to go.