Photo Gallery and Review: Hideout Festival 2017
XLR8R spent a week on a Croatian island for the festival’s seventh edition.
Every summer, thousands of Europeans invade Croatia’s stunning Adriatic coast in search of sunshine, beaches, crystal clear seas, and cheap cocktails. The nation’s ideal combination of breathtaking geography, historic architecture, reasonable prices, and accessibility to most major European hubs has formed Croatia into one of the ultimate summer tourist destination on the continent. Some have even gone so far as to dub the country “the new Ibiza,” and while similarities do exist, Croatia’s tumultuous history, charming local culture, delectable wine, and geographic expansiveness make the territory something all its own. This eclectic mixture has laid fertile ground for a dramatic surge in dance music-oriented destination festivals, which today count for a significant portion of all summer visitors to Croatia.
With this quick rise in demand, new event concepts continue to emerge throughout the region; however, over the past decade, a handful of veteran promoters have come to dominate the scene due to successful international marketing campaigns, financing, and consistently excellent lineups. A prime example is Hideout Festival: now in its seventh year, the growth of the weeklong event has paralleled that of the Croatian festival scene. What began as a small seaside gathering with just one venue has developed into a massive annual undertaking, complete with five open air clubs, corporate sponsors like Vodafone, more than 20,000 attendees, and over 150 artists spanning the contemporary spectrum of dance music.
Taking place on the island of Pag, a long and thin swath of land that juts out into the aqua blue waters of the Adriatic, Hideout sits only a few hours north of major tourist spots like Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik. Having previously visited these larger Croatian leisure hubs only once during the sleepy off season, I was curious to explore this new area and observe the changes brought by Hideout and the summer festival period.
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When I arrived on Monday afternoon in the harbor village of Novalja—where most attendees stay during the event—I was immediately struck not only by the gorgeous backdrop of the location but also by the apparent influence of the festival on the town’s surroundings. It seemed as though the entire village had been annexed by throngs of UK festivalgoers donned in glitter, tattoos, high waisted bikinis, and short-shorts, and Novalja’s bars, restaurants, and fast food joints were eager to oblige them. It proved to be an interesting dynamic throughout the week: while the pervasiveness of the UK crowd was at times excessive (I was told at one point that roughly 90% of Hideout attendees are British), the reality of an entire Croatian village taken over by electronic music lovers made for a convivial and energetic atmosphere that was difficult not to enjoy.
Hideout’s musical offerings had already begun when I arrived, kicking off with warm-up parties on Saturday and Sunday and a brand new offering for 2017 on Monday: the Hideout Beach Party, which featured a headlining DJ set from seasoned London duo Basement Jaxx. Tuesday marked the start of the festival’s primary program, however, and so that afternoon I headed over to Hideout’s main festival site, Zrce Beach, a lovely strand of rocky seafront located approximately 10 minutes away from the Novalja center by shuttle bus. My first stop was Papaya, one of the five beach clubs that dot Zrce’s “strip,” where Jamie Jones was hosting one of his famous Paradise parties. Richy Ahmed’s energetic streams of thumping tech house whipped the growing crowd into a frenzy, acting as ideal preparation for the Hot Creations boss himself, who once again confirmed how effective the Jamie Jones sound has become in satisfying dance floors.
Seeking a break from the energy, I headed over to Euphoria: the smallest and most unassuming venue at Zrce whose only real draw is a small stage and solid deals on drinks. I was at once drawn in by the smooth, chilled-out disco and funk of Lander, who was followed by UK-based duo Mark Caramelli and Paul Hargreaves (a.k.a. Death on the Balcony). The rising All Day I Dream contributors dropped an impressive set of punchy, disco-laced melodic house that was the perfect soundtrack to the golden hour on the Croatian beach.
After a short nap and some food, I ventured back to Zrce Beach to check Hideout’s nighttime offerings. Starting things off at the house and techno-oriented Noa, a stunning, two-level wooden club that lies over the water, was Houndstooth regular Paul Woolford. I had high expectations for the Leeds-born producer, with his last release on AUS being, in my opinion, one of the label’s best of 2016—and he absolutely exceeded them, delivering one of the best sets of the entire festival: a seamless techno-disco fusion that was deep and driving yet warm and soulful. The crowd began to expand as his set winded down, and by the time Alan Fitzpatrick stepped up to the decks, Noa was completely packed and the energy high. There was a special quality about this final performance of Tuesday night: the juxtaposition of the Drumcode mainstay’s metallic, booming techno with the tranquil beauty of a sunrise on Zrce Beach was pure magic, and an experience I certainly won’t forget.
Rain and winds on Wednesday resulted in several boat party cancellations and a slower start to the day’s festivities, but by nightfall, things were back in full swing despite the persistent drizzle. After arriving at Zrce, I made my way over to Papaya to catch Gerd Janson’s performance, but was disappointed to find the club almost completely empty—a clear travesty when considering the skills and accomplishments of the Running Back founder, who had just played a delightful set at Panorama Bar the weekend prior. Meanwhile, at the adjacent Aquarius, popular London-based production trio Disciples pumped out one vocal tech-house banger after the next to a packed mass of fans. Back at Noa, festivalgoers quickly poured in to catch Brooklyn heavyweights The Martinez Brothers, who gave the crowd their usual vigorous combo of pulsing techno and house. Although admittedly formulaic, their set ended up being an appropriate precursor to Noa’s closing performer, Marco Carola. The Music On founder dropped three full hours of velvety techno, all the while displaying a sense of comfort and effortlessness on the decks—a poignant reminder of why this Italian DJ is widely considered a legend.
On Thursday, the glorious weather Croatian summers are known for had returned, and seeking to give my ears (and liver) a break, I decided to spend the day lounging on the beach in Novalja. With this decision, I realized one of the foremost benefits of attending a festival in this part of the world: when needing a brief hiatus from the music, there are countless activities available that can help you recharge. Whether it be a day spent on a secluded beach, a coastal hike, historic sightseeing excursions, or even a short boat trip to one of the adjacent islands, Croatia has everything you could want.
After a blissful beach day and a few drinks at a harbor cafe during sunset, I was ready again to make my way to Zrce, with my first stop being Aquarius for dubstep pioneer Skream. The prolific UK producer’s diverse and high-powered selections induced widespread rowdiness amongst the flock of dancers and set the tone for the forceful acts that followed, which included Hot Since 82, Steve Lawler, and Manchester-based tech-house export Darius Syrossian. Hoping to hear some more eclectic sounds, I rushed over to catch the end of Leon Vynehall’s performance at Noa, and the Clone and AUS artist surely delivered with a distinct and tightly woven set of tribal-house gems. Irish duo Bicep followed, showcasing a sultry brand of deep and groovy house—yet another reminder of why their FEEL MY BICEP imprint is one of the UK house scene’s best. Over at the Elrow stage at Kalypso, the original Zrce Beach club and the first to be used by Hideout in 2011, Eats Everything laid down an exhilarating blend of upbeat house and techno, the energy of which was only magnified by Elrow’s whimsical circus performers, confetti cannons, and hilariously shaped blow ups. Later, Life and Death core duo Mind Against finished things off at Noa with a polished selection of ethereal, epic techno.
Friday marked the final day of Hideout’s musical offerings, with the program starting in the late evening and going all night until 6 a.m. In celebration, Hideout organizers had invited BBC Radio 1 to broadcast live from the festival, taking over the entirety of Papaya with a slew of DJ sets and back-to-back performances from UK favorites like Dusky, Solardo, Skream, B. Traits, and Artwork. Noa once again appeared to be the go-to spot for more matured ears; highlights of the night included a superb set of jacking house from Unknown to the Unknown boss DJ Haus (Florian Kupfer’s new track ‘Post Present’ was especially moving), as well as solid performances from Glasgow favorite Jasper James, George Fitzgerald, and a miraculous closing set from Berghain / Panorama Bar regular Ryan Elliott. The final night proved to be the best of the week, both musically and vibe-wise; attendees and organizers truly let loose, which I took as an indicator of another Hideout well done.
Destination festivals are not always easy. They require planning, long hours of travel, and the additional expenses on flights, accommodations, and nourishment can be cumbersome. That being said, after spending a week at this year’s Hideout Festival, I realized the unique benefit of embarking on a destination festival trip—there is a genuine power that comes from combining two of the most mind-expanding experiences on offer: travel and music. Hideout organizers seem to have grasped this long ago. With seven years of experience now under their belts, they clearly have mastered the art of melding high quality, diverse electronic music with travel, while at the same time minimizing the aggravations that inevitably arise from this kind of experience. To any festivalgoer with wide-ranging tastes in dance music and a bout of wanderlust: Hideout should be on your radar.