Zrce Beach, Croatia
added: 4 Jul 2012
// gig date: 26 Jun 2012
reviewer: Alasdair Byers
Hideout Festival - Croatia - 26th June - July 2nd.
On June 26th to 3rd July Music-News travelled to Croatia to review Hideout Festival. Headlined this year by Annie Mac, Ricardo Villalobos, Skrillex and Benga amongst others, the event is rapidly gathering a rep among the music elite as One To Watch.
Launched 2011, Hideout was one of the first festivals in history to make it into the Guardian's top European Festivals list in its opening year. For 2012, the festival has grown from 2,000 to 8,000 people, with all tickets sold out over 2 months ahead of the event. More impressive still, Hideout has shied away from massive social media campaigns - most of this growth was based on word-of-mouth and music-blogs. The net result of all this turned out to be a festival with amongst other things, a fantastic, friendly and to-a-man music-savvy crowd. We headed down to the island of Pag to check it out.
The first thing that hits you about Hideout (apart from the awesome 40-degree heat, 24/7) is the unique layout. The Festival is set on Zrce Beach, a self-styled 'Mini-Ibiza'. Four superclubs dominate the half-kilometre stretch of beach: Kalypso, Aquarius 1, Aquarius 2 and Papaya. Each boasts a combination of multiple rooms, massive outdoor areas and, in Aquarius 1, Aquarius 2 and Papaya's case, large outdoor pools. In between these are a number of smaller venues with local DJs playing house and local bartenders serving cut-rate cocktail jugs.
Hideout's format is straightforward: During the day there are Boat Parties (Pre-booking before you fly out is essential) or Pool Parties at the main clubs from 2pm. Around 7-8pm there's a lull at Zrce Beach for changeovers - a good time to head down the beach and get into it with cocktail jugs or catch one of the many buses for the 10 minute journey back to Novalja for a cheap dinner or beers at a local bar on the seafront. Come 10pm its back to Zrce, where with DJ booths moved away from the pool and onto the massive main stages, sunburned and sobered-up DJs back from boat parties or town and 8,000 well-heated clubbers now wearing T-shirts and in the market for a session, the games begin. Following each night, there's also a semi-unofficial after party that sparks up at one or more of the venues - most often Kalypso down the end of the beach. Head down around 7am and keep struggling through before catching a nap on the beach at 9am. (Don't hang about though, by 11am you're going to know all about the heat...)
--The Boat Parties--
Zrce Beach layout aside, Hideout's distinguishing mark amongst the thousands of European festivals it competes with are its Boat Parties. With over 16 across the 5 main days of the event, the parties operate a simple system, Promoters from the UK's biggest nights hire a selection of ferries, load them with Bass, Booze and Bikinis and sail off into the sunset. On board, the atmosphere is anarchic. Drinks throughout are well priced and, on the Jaunt boat party Music-News was on, the pitch of the music was perfect. After a morning on the beach, watch the sun go down amongst 200 clubbers with pounding house vibrating through 9 foot high speakers strapped to the guard rails.
"It's an unreal experience" says DJ Oli Hackett. "The whole thing is so laid back as well. Everyone just turns up - promoters, DJs, festival crowd, and we all get absolutely, equally on it. It's Immense! Hideout has that vibe. It's a good scene here. We'll definitely be back"
10pm, getting dark and the boat works its way back to the harbour at Novalja. Quick few cans and a slice of Pizza sat on Novalja harbour and its back on the bus to Zrce.
--The Pool Parties--
It's definitely worth checking out at least one of the many boat parties, but for most of the week, it's likely you'll be hitting the Pool parties. These happen at the the pool-venues, Aquarius 1, Aquarius 2 and Papaya. During the day stages are erected over the pool, with DJs playing for the most part laid-back grooves in-fitting with the spectacular beach views surrounding the raised pool areas. For those of you (this writer included) for whom the word 'festival' is usually synonymous with muddy clubbers raving in wellies and hoodies, the site of 800 tanned dancers, in beach shorts and bikinis, bouncing along to the likes of Nina Kravitz and Seth Troxler in a DJ booth mere feet above the water will make you glad you rolled out of bed before lunch, no matter how long the after party went on the night before. "Of all the venues I've played, this place just has it" says DJ Geddes. "I mean, the venues here: it's a club, it's a pool, it's a festival stage, it's all together, its on a beach, within yards of the other clubs. And it's so hot!"
Aquarius 1, Aquarius 2 and Papaya all neighbour each other, with Kalypso being just a couple hundred yards walk down the beach. The beach itself is brilliantly lit up at night by chill out teepees, Hideout Logos erected on the rocks behind the clubs and a colourful bungee jump crane on one end. Hundreds of clubbers mill around on the floodlit sand. Each place has its own vibe. Papaya is the biggest of the venues, although each fit comfortably in the 2000+ mark. A huge main stage blasts into a main pit, flanked by 2 bars, with 2 further bars in different rooms further back. Next door, Aquarius 2 offers the only inside area on the beach, a massive semi-circular room fronted by an enormous raised booth and bars either side. Aquarius 1 has the biggest pool area, which at night is drained and makes for an excellent pit for 2500 people to slam it to Four Tet, Caribou, Skrillex or anyone else that played across the week there. On the end of the beach Kalypso is an altogether different vibe. A raised stage on the beach faces another stage for clubbers, a veranda, a kind of bar complex, and brilliantly, a collection of 15 foot high towers that you clamber up via ladder, assisted by heavily packed together drunken strangers. A good 4,000 people made it here (probably not all onto the towers....) for Subtrkt's incredible Sunday set. One comment often heard at the bars of each of these venues was the sound: each club packed a whopping sound system, making shaking until 9 am each day feel easy. Additionally, each of the venues is open plan and almost entirely open-air. That, the proximity of the clubs, and the fact that at 8,000 people, itís still quite a petite festival, means the dreaded losing-your-mates experience here was always quickly rectified.
Hideout seems to have hit a magic spot here. To start with, the pool parties and the beach location seemed to have attracted an enormous supply of insanely beautiful people out of their hiding in the UK. Secondly, a subtle marketing strategy and heavy reliance / franchising with established UK clubnights and crowds mean there was a lack of lads-on-tour, of lost A-level leavers, and white-hippie dreadlock-sporting chai drinkers. The entire crowd was made up of a 22-32 group of music-savvy characters, mostly Brits, hailing largely from London, Leeds and Manchester.
Hideout's Accommodation is spread between a campsite, Novaljya, and neighbouring towns. The festival campsite holds several hundred, located around 7 minutes bus ride from Zrce and ten minutes from Novalja. The prime location for accommodation is Novalja itself, a town about 4km from the beach, boasting its own beach front of bars and restaurants, and for most, the main point-of-contact during the day for food, supplies and the boat party leaving points. Other towns all sit in a 25km radius, notably the city of Pag. Although it sounds disjointed, the focal point of Novalja and the purchasable wristbands that allow week-long access to the buses that run every 20 minutes, 24 hours a day, bring the community together. Hideout and their travel partners Collegium co-ordinate all queries (as well as airport transfers) through the Hideout website before and at pop-up booths during the festival. We'd recommend getting a group of 4-7 and booking well in advance- like March - to secure accommodation in downtown Novalja. Music-Press stayed in the campsite. Close to the action, equipped with 3 bars, regular buses and a beach with crystal clear water, the site had a lot going for it. However, the day-and-night 40 degree heat was totally inescapable, as was the almost total lack of shade - and not ideal after 14 hours of clubbing on a diet of beer. It's worth shelling out a little extra for an apartment with air-con.
So many. Probably the final Sunday: Papaya's pool party with Nina Kravitz and Seth Troxler, followed by Simian Mobile Disco in Aquarius 1, followed by Ricardo Villalobos playing Papaya with the sun rising, then eventually draining any remaining cash and energy reserves in the VIP of Kalypso at 9am on the Monday. What a place!
Croatia currency is the Kuna. At the time of writing it was roughly 9 Kuna to the 1 GBP.
Despite it being a club-based festival, drinks prices are pretty reasonable - beers are typically around £3, spirit mixers about £3.50 and head down to the Zrce beach bars and jugs of potent cocktails start around £9.
Accommodation varies hugely. Book well in advance and you can pay around £200 for an apartment for the week - prices will rise quickly though so commit early. The cheapest way to go is camping at around £95 for the week, but given the lack of ability to store food or drink, it'd work out cheaper to stay in an apartment.
Hideout and Partners Collegium co-ordinate all airport transfers through their site. If booking early, it might be worth trying your own research on accommodation but by far the cheapest ticket in town for transport are the official arrangements. Make sure you book everything - it all sells out fast and given the towns are stretched to capacity as is, 'Winging-it' for transport or accommodation is a big risk.
A blinder. sun, sea, tanned people and tech house. 10/10
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