Reviewed: Hospitality On The Beach 2022
“You know, it takes a lot of things to make this happen. We’re in Albania! Thank you to all the Albanian friends, family and strangers who’ve welcomed us into here.”
As the sun rose for the final time of the festival, MC Lowqui’s emotionally-charged words epitomised the Hospitality On The Beach 2022 experience. We were at a Drum & Bass festival in ALBANIA! It was a moment to take a step back and reflect on what this week meant for the scene.
Earlier this month, we witnessed history in the making with the return of Hospitality on The Beach for a third instalment. Whereas previously we knew the festival for its roots in Tisno, Croatia, this year the label took the decision to move to Dhermi, Albania.
‘Discover a new Drum & Bass holiday’ was the slogan Hospital used to describe the experience, and the festival lived up to that. The whole week felt like an intrepid adventure where the D&B community travelled in force to celebrate their favourite genre of music in an unknown paradise over six days. No one knew what to expect (apart from broken bodies at the end), but that was all part of the fun.
And paradise this festival was. From the blissful billing of talent including stage takeovers from DARKMTTR, Critical, AWOL, Spearhead, Soulvent, and Marky & Friends, to immense scenery with turquoise ocean and beach parties against the setting sun. While we have experienced Hospitality on a beach before, this was a different experience for fans and a fresh challenge for the label. Did everything go smoothly? No. Did it make for a memorable experience? Absolutely!
Anyone who went to Tisno will remember it as a small site where you could walk between stages in a couple of minutes. That wasn’t the case here. Instead of being centered on one resort, D&B was taking over an entire stretch of town filled with venues, restaurants, shops and accommodation. The music was spread across four stages. During the days, there was Yacht Club (a covered terrace sticking out over the sea) and the Cove (a pebbled beach hidden in a rocky alcove). Then at night, two more stages came to life. Empire (the grand main stage feeling like some Hawaiian resort) and Splendor (the closest resemblance to Tisno’s beach stage).
The opening night was like a warm-up with it being an all Yacht Club and Cove affair. Hospitality were in control of the Cove and it was a perfect start to the week with Stay-C, Degs, Keeno, Grafix and Pola & Bryson among those playing out. Despite feeling fragile from long journeys, energy levels were high. Even the security were down for the occasion – skanking out at the side of the stage. It was the words of MC Ruthless during Grafix’s performance that set the precedent for the following days: “All in this together. One family, one sound, one vibe.”
This feeling of togetherness carried through into Thursday – especially on the boat parties. Anyone who went to Tisno will fondly remember the moments the boats created. These boats didn’t disappoint either. This time, the stage was on the outside with full viewing coverage of the scenery around. It’s hard to explain just how magical the moments at these boat parties were. Sailing across the ocean with D&B providing the soundtrack – it’s what dreams are made of, right?
One of the best aspects of these parties is the unpredictability, and the Hospitality boat featuring Grafix, Keeno, Winslow, Lens, Slay and Dynamite, with Degs onboard as a guest, was a prime example. From people swimming up to the boat and Dynamite joking we were pirates and they could join our tribe for €1000, to the boat rocking so much Degs was holding the speaker in place, to an impromptu b2b2b2b breaking out with the boat not being able to dock due to choppy waters – Hospitality boat parties always entertain.
The same could be said for the rest of Thursday with V Recordings bringing their soulful sound to Splendor and Hospitality putting on a full-label showcase mainstage. But it was Thursday night that sprung a peculiar experience when the music cut off across the whole festival – just before Andy C was due on Empire. There was a feeling the festival was over before it had begun, with Hospital’s Chris Goss on stage explaining there was an issue with the local authorities. Thankfully, the music returned and Andy C was able to do what he does best – tear up the stage.
If anything, that moment hit home how powerful music is in uniting us, as the atmosphere afterwards was electric. This rolled on into Friday, where it felt like the whole festival cranked up a notch. The unofficial theme of the day was a homage to the greats. People who’ve created history for our scene, but also the ones who inspire others to do great. AWOL’s takeover at the Cove celebrating their 30 years in the game was a testament to this with the likes of Uncle Dugs & Navigator, DJ Rap & Carasel, DJ Storm & GQ and Grooverider & Ragga Twins providing a history lesson in chest-rattling basslines.
Despite not being the busiest stage with Critical and Spearhead takeovers elsewhere, the atmosphere was unique. People skanking hard and dancing without a care, cheering along to every drop – all with a big smile on their faces. It was a nostalgic taste of the early rave days.
While that was going on, Splendor was gearing up for a beautiful moment to round off Friday’s proceedings – LSB rolling out to the rising sun. While he may not be a historic great, there aren’t many in the scene who can do liquid like LSB, and that’s why the backstage area was filled with names including LTJ Bukem, Chris Goss, Hugh Hardie, Riya, Lens, Whiney and Etherwood. Usually, the crowds at graveyard shifts are minimal, but this one was packed. Like Robert Manos said on the mic, “We’re blessed to be here” listening to LSB roll out classics (apart from ‘The View’, surprisingly).
I initially questioned LSB being on at 4:30am, but when the sun came up and the colours of the sky danced to a D&B rhythm, it was incredible. There are not many times in life you’re happy to see the sunrise at a rave, but during LSB’s set, it was a blessing. Closing the performance with his and DRS’ ‘New Day’ was the perfect way to kickstart the weekend (after a few hours kip, of course).
It’s special moments like this that continued cropping up throughout the weekend. DJs going harder than usual. Selectors drawing for tracks they hadn’t played in years. MCs wheeling tunes who don’t like rewinds. People jumping on stage for unorthodox b2bs. It felt like there was something in the air.
You could say it was the blistering mid-30s Albanian heat sending people delirious, or you could see it as something linked to Hospital bringing D&B to unchartered territory. It was a moment, a vibe, a page for the history books, a sign of how far this small but powerful genre of music has come – and the artists were on board with the narrative.
Saturday in itself sprung some unique occurrences. Banger vs Clangers soundtracked the day with DJs stepping up and putting their productions to the judgement of a crowd armed with signs. Then at the night, you had Ivy Lab rolling out a rare liquid D&B set on the DARKMTTR stage with S.P.Y, Workforce, Skeptical and more.
But it was the celebration of D&B women that stuck out. Solah Live with Emma B on the decks at Cove, Kara supporting A.M.C on his boat party, Frenetic laying down a hectic set at Yacht Club, demonstrating why she is one of the best female selectors in D&B – this was a day celebrating the many awesome females we’ve got in this scene (even if not everyone sees it).
I’m not sure if everyone celebrated too hard on the Saturday, but by Sunday there were many tired bodies and weary heads – particularly on the boat journey to the fort party with DJ Marky, GQ, Kyrist, Children of Zeus and Charli Brix. This was an occasion to be excited about though – we were on the way to party in a historic fort as one of two fort excursions during the festival. But the heads on tables and faces in bins throwing up told a different story. To be fair, the sea was relentless, and it felt like we were on a ride at Alton Towers that went on for far too long (two hours longer than it was supposed to).
That was just the start of Sunday’s demise. When the fort appeared in the distance spirits were high, but as we walked up the hill and saw the fort party, spirits came tumbling down. The small stage was outside of the fort’s walls, no one was allowed inside, we’d missed Charli Brix’s set, Kyrist couldn’t make it – and to make things worse – the only spirit the bar served was Jägermeister. It led to a mass exodus of people jumping on coaches back to the festival before Marky & GQ had even made it up the hill. They were bemused. It was a mess.
Thankfully, they jumped straight on stage and salvaged things. As GQ said, “We’re gonna do the best with what we’ve got” – and that’s what they did. Marky pulled out his Brazilian flair, scratching the decks while spinning around, and GQ tried his best to insert life into the legs of those who stayed. There weren’t many, but to look at this with a positive – when else would you see DJ Marky in such an intimate setting?
There was a lot of frustration from ravers after the fort, but it’s worth noting the Hospital team who were there looked just as disgruntled. I’m sure Hospital had big plans for the fort, but as had already become apparent during the Thursday of the festival, there were issues arising from us being in Albania for the first time.
And that’s important to remember – this was the first HOTB in Albania. Inaugural festivals usually run into teething issues. Thankfully, it was easy to look past these annoyances when the music was so good – especially Marky & GQs nighttime set on Splendor. They promised they’d go hard to make up for earlier, and they did. SP:MC jumping on stage for an impromptu b2b with GQ, Marky closing the set by grabbing the mic and singing over his remix of Ne-Yo & Ghostface Killah’s ‘Back Like Dat’ – it was a performance putting smiles back on people’s faces.
The final day of HOTB is always an eventful one with people giving every last ounce of their energy, and this Monday was no different. With Run in The Jungle and Born On Road taking over Cove, and Splendor playing host to one final Hospitality showcase, it was an awesome final day of big wubs and bigger melodies.
But away from the festival site, something special was going down – a party on Gjipe Beach – which fans got speed boats to. These afternoon parties had been going on for a few days, but this one, in particular, invited Camo & Krooked, Etherwood, Kings of The Rollers, Harriet Jaxxon, Makoto, Lally, MC Fava, MC Daxta and Lowqui. This wasn’t just any beach party. It was located inside of a canyon, set back from a hidden beach, with a make-shift-looking stage featuring the biggest stack of speakers on either side.
It felt like a free party we’d stumbled across in amongst the bushes, and it made for a festival highlight. Whether it was Camo & Krooked going in with a throwback dancefloor set like the ones they graced Rampage 2014 and 2016 with, or Harriet Jaxxon rolling through jungle while Lowqui ventured out into the crowd with the mic to vibe with ravers – everyone in the crowd had beaming smiles. This was a friendly, family affair – the Hospitality mantra. People in the crowd giving water to Daxta while on the mic, Etherwood singing ‘Begin By Letting Go’ (something he never does), girls on the side dancing with hula-hoops – it was special.
It reminded me of the feeling of gratitude I had at Barbarella’s after-parties in Tisno when the sun came up and the crowd were still vibing at 6am. It was a pinch-yourself moment. I didn’t have as many of these moments in Albania. I particularly missed the crazy Barbarella’s b2bs that made your mouth water (Friction b2b Randall b2b S.P.Y especially). There should have been more of these in Albania with the list of names gracing the festival, but thankfully, Hospital had a surprise up their sleeve to close out the festival at Splendor – a gigantic b2b between artists including Makoto, Fred V, Etherwood, Stay-C, Viridity, Degs, Whiney, AC13, Lally and Buunshin, with Lowqui and KAZ on the mic.
It wouldn’t be HOTB without an unorthodox b2b, and the people who stayed until sunrise to see it were treated to throwback tunes, big mixes, and the occasional funny clanger. There were so many DJs on stage that even Lowqui didn’t know who was dropping what. There was even a successful marriage proposal! It was the joyous ending to a festival that has been in the hearts of many Hospitality ravers since it started in 2018. While the Albanian version of Hospitality On The Beach did have its ups and downs, you can’t ignore the fact this festival was one for the history books – one where we demonstrated just how global Drum & Bass is!
If this is enough to whet your whistle don’t forget about Hospitality Weekend In The Woods which is coming 17th and 18th September 2022! Final remaining tickets can be found here!