The Garden Festival hosted at Petrcane in Croatia is indeed becoming a hot place to check out on the festival circuit these days. Having received plenty of media praise and wonderful whisperings from those who have flocked to this lovely site, The Garden Festival is still in full bloom projecting a serene and glowing vibe. I went to the 2009 edition and indeed had a fantastic time. I had to come back to reclaim some of the magic that The Garden Festival has to offer.
The world is changing these days. It's changing so fast that we can easily miss what's really going on. The expectations we once had are changing. Money isn't so readily available. It's hard time for promoters, clubs and festivals. There's so much going on it's hard to know what to do. The Garden Festival has grown through word of mouth. The first Garden Festival attracted around 300 people. Five years on The Garden Festival is a two week event! The people that make the Garden have attracted some great "old skool" heads to the place that keeps it fresh and progressive. It's great to see so many DJ's and artists having just as a good time as the punters. It's one of the best places to relax, mingle and have good times. The setting is superb and the like-minded festival goers make for the best crowd. The boat parties, the heavenly sea, great food and friendly Croatian people make The Garden Festival like no other. There are so many festivals these days that the competition is rife but if you know about this place you're guaranteed loads of sunshine and serious fun, two essential ingredients for any happy life in these difficult times.
Having come straight from Glastonbury and its vast long history to a new emerging festival that is tiny in comparison is a quality way to chill. Other artists, DJ's and festival folk had the same idea and the site in Croatia provided the right dose to still keep "vibing" or a quality time to come down. The artist line up was seriously cool. It's interesting in fact as for those coming for the line up, they know the quality, as for those who are arriving from word of mouth it's more about what you've heard from friends at previous years. Some only know Ibiza. The atmosphere is different to what Ibiza is like now. In fact The Garden Festival is more like how Ibiza used to be. The promoters of the festival are aware of how precious that is so have limited the capacity to 2500 for both weekends and respect the beauty of Petrcane. There is a respect for the locals and the site is benefiting through new trade. All these elements create a special atmosphere that is welcoming and respectful as well as natural and open. It creates a wealthy experience that many won't forget.
There's so much going on over the two weeks, like any good festival, you can't see everything. I missed the "The Hang The DJ" boat party featuring Revenge, Kazeem, PBR Streetgang and Andy Lemay on Friday evening of the first weekend and was supposed to have been legendary. All the artists got plenty of chances to play, whether on the boats, Barbarellas discotheque, The Beach Bar or the Main Stage, this means that festival goers always get change to catch their favourite/must see act.
The sounds systems are Funktion 1 so the sound is excellent, you can get quality sound that doesn't affect your ears, as long as it isn't too loud! There were some great acts on Friday. 2020 Soundsystem, Qool DJ Marv, Dean Smith, Felix Dickinson, Below, Filthy Dukes, Crazy P, Mulletover, Jamie Jones, Basics and more. It's a mix of established and upcoming artists which made for opportune creativity and a great chance as a DJ to provide the tunes for an attentive audience in a wonderful setting.
It was great to see Ole Smokey on the line up giving us a master class in classic gems. Soul Jazz Soundsystem, Horse Meat Disco, Rob Da Bank, Subclub, Christophe, Tensnake all set the tone for Saturday and an amazing set by Rub N Tug to finish Saturday night off at the beach bar. Heavyweight!
The bands play on the main stage. I saw some great acts this year. It was great to hear some quality UK hip hop by Ty; he provided great entertainment and gave a hungry hip hop crowd just what they needed. Breakestra followed and with Jurassic 5 member Chali 2na and the awesome Afrodyete for me ignited the flame for 2010 and the festival was on! Greg Wilson played a blinder of a set to finish the main stage on Sunday. Futureboogie who's growing presence and considerable contribution to The Garden Festival highlights 'new disco' at its best and their infectious groove and personalities give so much to The Garden.
What's great about The Garden is that through the week there's always stuff going on. There's laid back pulse still pumping whether on the beach or the club. You can always escape to The Garden Bar in Zadar. I was so pleased I went back there as last year we all arrived there from the epic Norman Jay boat party. Zadar is a really special place and The Garden Bar is legendary. It was lovely to watch the sunset by the sea organ again. Bliss! It's so easy to stay in Petrcane but there was space for me to see some of Croatia. I went to Plitvicka, a truly beautiful national park. Stunning! Next time I go back I'm off to Hava for sure!
The food offered in Petrcane is awesome and at a reasonable price. If you love fish you have to go there. There are bakeries for the budget traveller all serving good portions too. I have to give a shout to Villa Lisica run by Noah Ball, Carl and Anita. Noah Ball's contribution to the site at Petrcane is significant. Showing great entrepreneurial spirit his latest venture in Villa Lisica is a wonderfully located restaurant that has one of the best atmospheres available. Great music, nice food and good service. His festival 'Soundwave' takes place in the same location as The Garden and has sold out! Well done! A mention to Cafe Moro for their great sounds from Smokey and wonderful staff but the best fish plate served goes to Marco Polo. Great food guys!
The 2nd weekend was even better than the first. With such a varied selection of excellent music from Bonobo, Adam Regan, No Fakin, Ilija Rudman, Jimpster, Kelvin Brown, Shurikan, Florian Keller, Ame, Dixon, Bobby Beige, Henrik Schwarz and a heavyweight set from Mr Scruff it created a wonderful weekend. Awesome live acts too with Mayer Hawthorne, Hercules Love Affair and The Phenomenal Handclap band provided excellent entertainment.
The boat parties are definitely where it's at though. They are absolutely amazing!! Running twice a day with such great DJ's, beautiful sea and intimate atmosphere it's pretty difficult to have a bad time. I had to check the Basics vs Below to show some local support as I'm from Leeds. I couldn't miss the Norman Jay boat party and the man himself was later heard saying "the best ever boat party" and it's true it was electric! Bonobo said the same thing for the Webfoot boat party and for me was one of the best Sunday afternoons I've ever had. But possibly the best one was on the Monday after the event. Alas for me I left on Monday but because I know The Garden crew now you know that this would have been the highlight of the whole two weekends! It's great way to say "till next year". I have big respect to the cabin crew for all their hard work!
The Garden 2010 was quieter than last year for whatever reason. However the magic of the Garden remained defiant. The beautiful sunsets, great atmosphere and wonderful people continue to bring life to The Garden. It's hard to beat dancing in your shorts and swimming in the Adriatic sea. You make friends for life, for example, I stayed with the Fun and Floor crew from Switzerland who I met last year and have since become true friends. There's something pretty special about the connections here.
There were challenges this year. The economy, The World Cup, nature and it's mystery, bands pulling out, Croatian airlines going on strike, yet it didn't deter the desire for us party people to have a good time. The Adriatic is a beauty for sure and the site is a special place... probably why there's an abundance of the other festivals running there over the course of the summer from heavyweight promoters like Southport's Suncebeat, The Electric Elephant and one from the Fabric crew. The venue is on the up.
The Garden Festival has always been the best one for the heads as it's the original. I think the challenges this year have allowed a new seed to shoot through the garden which is always a good thing if you're growing. The Garden is back in 2011 but it's go back to its roots by running for just one weekend. I felt privileged to go back as the first time it was "wow", the second time it felt more like family so I know I'll have to go see my brothers and sisters again. Thank you for such a good time!