Echo Festival, Croatia
Breaking into the increasingly full party that is the Croatian Festival market is starting to look like a hot task for promoters. On the one side, Ultra, Umagine and world’s-smallest-super-festival Hideout are starting to enter into the obligatory arms race: crowds, stages growing year on year and Headliners more famous than God beginning to land on the pebble beaches. On the other side, the wealth of new festivals and Croatia’s increasingly slick logistics operation are giving festival goers ever more choice – with many festivals taking place at established sites like Petricane, Tisno and Punta Radman.
Echo Festival has attempted to sidestep both these challenges. Rather than modelling themselves on all things Croatian: boats, site-shares and big names, they’ve followed the way of the ski-festival market and built a festival out of an entire resort. Based in the the hiking-holiday apartment village of Kanegra, the northernmost point of Croatia, some 600 people descended onto a forested beach just a few kilometres away from Slovenia last week for 4 days of new festival.
Echo’s overwhelming strength is it’s location. Several hundred holiday apartments sit in forest surrounding a large clearing, in which sits a very slick main stage. Stagger through another break of trees past some I Can’t Believe It’s Not Brighton visuals and you emerge at a small stretch of beach, at the front of which is a petite but equally well equipped second stage. The beauty of this cannot be overstated – there is no bus, there is no entry queue, there is no allocated VIP / standard / biohazard accommodation ranking, there is pre-drinks overlooking the festival, then there is the festival. Better still, unlike ski-resorts – Croatia’s weather meant that pre-drinks were unanimously based on balconies, all of which sat side by side – giving the place an instantly friendly vibe.
Like Khloe Kardashian, was big in an odd looking way, but still seemed to work. Headliners Magda, Fred P, DBridge and XXXY topped a similarly mixed amalgamation of emerging London nights and individual artists. Thematically: well, there wasn’t one – genre wise or even programming wise, particularly on the beach stage which managed to oscillate between disco, slices of garage and deep house set to set from midday onward. Credit here is due to the artists particularly on the beach stage: who remained consistent to a crowd that were often undecided between sunbathing and fist pumping, often managing both in 30 minute rotations.
The majority of Brit foreign-festival promoters like to sell the event as a holiday as much as an electronic pilgrimage and Echo delivered here: the typical routine beginning at midday down the beach with DJs starting, before goers returned to apartments for increasingly block-wide drinks at any particular balcony that had stolen enough chairs then rolling back to a mainstage around 11pm. The question is: was it too much of a holiday? The crowd here were fantastically friendly. A mixture of recent grads, a few devoted followers of the DJs and an injection of mainland Europeans comprised an outfit instantly at home with balcony hopping, aftergather-hosting and booze sharing. But the lack of consistency or build in the programming led to much of the festival starting to feel like that half-full house party. Full of great people, but a steady-burner.