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Club Review

Reviewed: Hospitality On The Beach 2019

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Since the moment Hospital Records’ founders Tony Coleman AKA London Elektricity and his partner in crime Chris Goss announced that a follow up to Hospitality On The Beach 2018 was on the cards, there had been a heavy blanket of anticipation draped over the thousands of drum and bass heads worldwide who’d bumped the 2019 sequel to the top of their priority list. Time dragged like a herd of elephants slogging it across dry plantations in search of water as the festival guests prepared for another experience of a lifetime.

With the wait finally over, loyal drum and bass lovers from all corners of the earth flew to sunny Croatia to stand and stomp united in their love for the soul-stirring beats about to roll out from the Funktion One’s planted around the stunning Garden Resort, at the after party palace Barbarella’s Discotheque and racked on the consciously pulsating party ship docked at the resort pier.

The Setting

It’s midday, the cicadas buzz loudly in the shrubs, the sun is an absolute scorcher and dnb heaven is in our radius. Situated a short walk up a dusty track off the main road running through Tisno village, the idyllic Garden Resort waits as the smiling Hospitality soldiers pour in welcomed by friendly box office and security staff. Looking across to one another with excitable glints in their eyes, the arrivals march eagerly towards the echoing bass they’ve travelled from so far to absorb. Many stop for nothing and no one, following the giant arrow leading straight to the Beach Stage where Med Schools’ Sweetpea and MC Conrad roll out warm, summer grooves out to beautiful, love-struck faces glistening under the heat waves. Others head through the Magnolia restaurant, enveloped by the aromas of delicious stone baked pizza with the festivals entertainment providers House Of Dinosaur hosting the Cuckoo’s Nest DJ contest a few steps away giving a lucky dnb selector the chance to win a set at the gorgeous Olive Grove stage later in the week.

Positioned just beyond the restaurant and at the heart of the resort is The Garden main stage, surrounded from top to bottom by a colossal lighting rig with a shuffling spot in front big enough for the whole Hospitality army. The sound of tropical birds singing chorally up in the trees merges with the excitable cheers of those enjoying the nuns and superheroes battling it out for the HOTB 2019 title right beside the bustling food court. Diners are spoilt for choice here with stalls specialising in gourmet burgers and ribs for the meat scoffing masses, along with scrumptious Asian and vegan meals including gluten-free options for those looking for something a little lighter and healthier.

Score to this resort for its effort to have all diners considered: 10/10.

Next, along the trail of discovery, we pass the Hospital merchandise shop where you could even grab a free haircut with your giant branded rubber ring or stylish Hawaiian Hospital T-shirt – a thoughtful touch. Coming to The Olive Grove stage which is tucked away amongst a myriad of Mediterranean fruit and nut trees, there are vines dangling from the lighting rafters and cosy little wooden teepee’s scattered around its fringes which later become hot spots for anyone needing to recharge their raving batteries.

The Argonaught
Photo by: Natasha Rhodes

As we head away from The Grove and out towards The Beach stage we are blessed with an unrivalled view; a breathtakingly beautiful, shimmering cove nestled within the Croatian hills and overlooking the unbelievably tranquil, Adriatic Sea from which the authentic battle style Hospital ship flies its poignant ‘Spread Love’ flag. It bobs gently at the end of the pier waiting in earnest for the guests and staff needed to give life to the craziest boat parties ever to set sail this side of the equator. Trust me when I say this spectacular place of gathering truly is one-of-a-kind. Treat yourself at the cocktail bar with an exotic blend and wander down the steps that lead into the cove as you are engulfed by the hearts of beautiful people enjoying the music and sunshine either laid up on the beach, drifting en masse on the giant Hospitality flotilla, getting bendy with a free daily yoga session under the veranda, wading or snorkelling through the crystal clear waters, shuffling their bums in the light pebbly beach stones or dancing along the shore and heading towards the stage to show love to the DJ’s sharing their vibes with the beach hoards rocking out against this delightfully picturesque backdrop.

The variety of sold out on-site accommodation options including camping, glamping, retro air streams and apartments are situated around the resort boundaries, and if cutlery rattling in your kitchen drawers from thunder strength bass isn’t something that’s going to bother you then make sure you book early for next years’ antics. Nearby Hotel Borovnik in Tisno town is an ideal base if you’d like to rest away from the hustle and bustle, with many local Air B & B’s also available. The resort offers useful information and lost property points, has a convenient cash point, taxi rank, supply shop and first aid tent with experienced staff at the ready for anyone bearing minor wounds from too much excitement. My observations confirm that not the wounded, nor the broken limbed and crutch dependant Hospital subservient community were deterred from being a part of the HOTB 2019 story at this unforgettable time in the labels’ iconic history.

Since its birth back in 1996, Hospital Records has become more than just a record label. From the promotional staff working passionately behind the scenes, to the array of talented artists gleaming across its roster and its vastly growing number of worldwide supporters, the label and its Hospitality branded events have brought dnb fans and professionals across the industry together and has developed into a strong community harbouring a positive energy impenetrable to any outside forces that should ever try to extinguish its connection to the people. Here at The Garden Resort, Hospitality On The Beach 2019 symbolises everything the label has become and more. Let’s take a look at why…

Kick-Off

From the minute we arrived until the minute we left, the drum and bass energy layered between the resorts’ three enticingly scheduled stages had us cowered and captivated beyond our physical and emotional control. The quality sounds of Hospital artists including the labels’ newly appointed Rinse FM resident DJ Lens, and the heavily energetic flavours of Inja and his Fully Fuelled Flex kicked off The Garden madness in style – boy were we ready for this. The Beach stage system had the Med School crew blasting out their rhythms which reverberated across the cove until midnight featuring Sweetpea and A.Fruit joined by MC Conrad, Dispatch Recordings head honcho Ant TC1 and Kyrist with a powerful display of rough and ready beats paired with the recognisable sound of multi-talented LX One, finishing off beautifully with everybody memorised together by the earth-uniting tones of Etherwood with Ruthless.

Whilst looking out from The Beach stage, The Hospital party ship glistened around her edges as brightly as she glistened from within as she cruised majestically out toward the seemingly untouched islands surrounding the cove, her heart powered by our trusty bass technicians on rotation all week with serial spinners Friction, Turno and Flowidus manning the maiden voyage and warping almost every slat on the deck with the lively Linguistics.

On The Garden main stage London Elektricity dished up a mixed liquid bag along with some tougher cuts, also welcoming a surprise guest up on stage; his young son and star of the future AKA The Secretary General, who sweetly sang along to his own vocal on a gorgeous, brand new track completely un-phased by the thousands of bobbing heads before him. What followed from Danny Byrd was nothing short of wizardry comprised of an hour of destructive, chainsaw shredding drops whilst light beams emanated down from the top rafters of the stage resembling a scene from Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Carasel MC effortlessly took charge of the crowd as always and masterfully injected Danny’s absurdly filthy set with his positively golden energy to bring an unimaginably fresh dimension to this memorable collaboration.

Meanwhile at The Beach stage Bop tore it up deep like a bad man together with Ruthless. Keeno took us on a techy dnb trip complemented by the smooth vocals of Robert Manos with heads in every nook and cranny on in the cove bouncing along on a serious groove train before Whiney jumped in with Inja who, after spreading some thoughtful advice to the crowd to keep their phones away from their heads and from frying their brains, delivers a sizzling performance including fantastic live version of their superb collaborative release ‘Flashlight’ which received several welcome plays during our five days in heaven.

DJ Zinc‘s spectacular five hour ‘Trust Me I Was There’ journey of the brain shaking old school sounds which shaped his career included tracks like ‘Lion Dance’ by The Moody Boys (Funky Zulu Remix) and the spirit-lifting ‘Move Your Body’ by Xpansions, with anyone wandering off to grab a Hospital brew being pulled back like a lead marble flying from a giant slingshot. Zinc skimmed blissfully from late 80’s acid house grooves over to 90’s jungle rhythms and invited every raver at The Olive Grove stage to jump into his time machine as he enabled us to relive emotional moments from our past and offer some serious education to those too young to remember.

More Fire

After a series of explosive opening sessions across the resort stages; a combination of world-class, root rupturing music intertwined with more positivity than Snow White could ever spread whilst running through a spring meadow, the bass heads unified for the week along with the DJ’s supplying the tune fuel were just getting started and – sleep or no sleep – it was time to race on and continue pounding our hooves into the ground with gratitude.

With the Shogun Audio selectors holding the reins for a whole day at The Garden main stage, unless you were lucky enough to witness the magic on the Dispatch Recordings boat party with Ant TC1, Kyrist, Sweetpea, LX One and T>I who rocked up on a speedboat minutes before his set, this would be one highly satisfying skanking station. Leading from the ever murky depths of Data 3 towards the emotive warmth of Pola & Bryson with vocal Jedi Visionobi, our bass buds were happily tantalized. Throwing GLXY, Benny L, Friction, Spectrasoul and Alix Perez into the cauldron with dashes of AD, SP:MC, Texas and Linguistics created a weapon more destructive than the Death Star, absolutely annihilating our senses in a whirlwind of vein saturating drum and bass. And it didn’t stop there. The Korsakov crew made sure of this as Indika, Medika, Unglued, Kasra b2b Enei b2b Halogenix and Noisia stepped up one after the other to hurl meteor sized bass boulders deep into the crowd as they begged relentlessly for more fire – and more they got when, as expected, Whiney and Kyrist crushed the living daylights out of the lot of us with their seismic back to back selections. And if you were smart you’d have darted between stages; to witness the DJ’s favourite Randall presenting a five hour, old school master class at The Olive Grove hosted by the familiar sound of AD and unexpected guests Inja, Navigator and Tonn Piper, and also The Beach Stage for a taste of sunshine with Nu:Logic, Fabio and the one and only DJ Marky accompanied by the voices of Fava, Ruthless and GQ as they resounded across a scenic, dusky cove whilst a pair of fun-loving friends giggled on the top row raining giant bubbles from their plastic guns down onto the smiling, sweaty shufflers beneath them.

The mayhem continued as the sprawling masses shared extraordinary musical moments with the likes of DJ Hype and GQ who delivered an earth-shattering fusion of old school favourites and new school tech monsters out to The Garden stage posse, with creativity running high as the veteran commenced with a soulful intro of ‘Change Is Gonna Come’ by Otis Redding that the whole arena chanted along to whilst waving their arms in the air and reaching for the sky. Logistics followed with the uplifting beauty you would expect from this legend in the making, filling the hearts of everyone standing before him with more love than a troop of cupid clones on a mission to heal the world.

Photo by: Natasha Rhodes

Then, the minute so many of us had been waiting for had arrived. Andy C – ‘The Executor’ stepped up with the aptly matched Tonn Piper to what felt like every single person at the festival either getting sweaty in the thick of it, hanging from lighting rig frames, jumping at the back on shelter seating trying not to hit their heads on the roofs, going nuts in the breeze around the stage perimeter or flailing their arms up around in the front row screaming in a frenzy at the top of their lungs. His impeccable selection of classics merged with inspiriting vocal delights and bursting with nasty drops at every turn is the formula that has won this mixing genius millions of fans worldwide. Set highlight: Bad Company ‘Planet Dust’ double dropped with Metrik ‘We Got It’ Feat. Rothwell (S.P.Y Remix). Fire in the hole!

More action on The Beach stage included the progressive, rolling rumbles of Jubei with Lowqui, the heavy loads of Skeptical with SP:MC and the fluttering sounds of DBridge with GQ, whilst Hybrid Minds pumped out a memorable five hours of beautiful drum and bass at The Olive Grove alongside Tempza, also featuring sensational live vocals from Charlotte Haining; a frequent visitor to the duo’s stage act.

The After Parties

Tucked away out in the Croatian countryside about a 20 minute coach trip from Tisno village, the home of the Hospitality after party – Barbarella’s Discotheque – is as exotic and inviting as it sounds. The huge outdoor arena boasts a sound system fit for an audio obsessed king and is illuminated by colour rich, crowd tracing lights which hang from a monstrous space station sized rig and point straight towards the biggest shiny disco ball in existence.

Photo by: Natasha Rhodes

The word ‘HOSPITALITY’ towers over us in shade-morphing, giant capital letters glaring out towards the robotic rhythm slaves piling in from the conveyor belt of shuttles that seemed to just keep on coming. Whether perched against the small fairy light decorated trees taking it all in or shaking tail feathers out on the floor and under the gold draping tinsel, it was impossible not to feel like we were in a rave oasis teeming with rare wildlife – that wildlife being the best in the business on epic, back to back rotations.

The first nights’ Royal Rumble saw Benny L, T>I and Whiney stirring up the stage with absurdly dirty vibrations lifted by the inspiring echoes of Carasel, followed up by a super spicy Kings Of The Rollers and Inja sandwich with Serum, Bladerunner and Voltage delivering deathly poison in bassline form out to their loyal victims. Friction, Randall and S.P.Y came next with a clever blend of their individual styles, administering a massacre of lava hot firebombs alongside AD before Doc Scott initiated the perfect wind down starting with ‘Between The Lines’ by Voltage to steer us smoothly into dawn.

The atmosphere and sense of unity lovingly wrapped around us by the KOR, Run and Hospital families at Barbarella’s across the three nights of after parties, including the beautiful moment with Etherwood taking the mic from DEGS to announce that his back to back buddies London Elektricity and Logistics were the reason he got into drum and bass in the first place, plus the immense, final showdown of Grafix b2b Unglued b2b Krakota featuring the humble and heart-warming motivations of Fava will stay with us all forever. As each after party experience came to an end, we hopped like tiny, fragile birds onto the refreshingly air-conditioned shuttle with what little energy we had left. Elated and completely fulfilled, it was time to rest and reflect as we headed for retreat gazing out to a glorious, cinematic sunrise.

Women Of Drum & Bass
Photo by: Natasha Rhodes

Time Out with Sweetpea, Mantra and DJ Storm

After a lovely group lunch at the Magnolia restaurant for the Women Of Drum & Bass Meet Up female DJ’s and festival goers enjoying each others’ company and talking about music, I was lucky enough to spend a little time with three hardworking females on the scene; Clinic Talents’ Sweetpea, Rupture event founder Mantra and Metalheadz co-founder DJ Storm for a chat about their love for the music and their experiences in the industry. Here’s what they had to say:

When was the drum and bass spark ignited in your hearts?

Sweetpea: A Bunch Of Cuts VS Hospitality with SP:MC on the mic at Sun & Bass 2009. The music was Calibre-like tunes rolling all night long at Ambra Night. You know the very first feeling when you actually fall in love with good drum and bass? Yep, I felt it right there!

Mantra: I was 14 and it was at Stratford Recs in 1998, I think it was One Nation. My older brother was a massive jungle head, Kool FM was always on in the house. I was very young but had managed to sneak into some garage nights which I did like, but there was a performance aspect to it; getting dressed up in little skirts and heels, there was a role you had to play. When I went to my first dnb rave, all of that was gone. I was in tracksuit bottoms and Reebok classics and a top in a corner dancing all night. I never quite felt that freedom with garage as much as I love it. Having that totally hedonistic, letting loose feeling and totally losing yourself in the music surrounded by big sound was when I never looked back. Jungle drum and bass all the way.

DJ Storm: For me, the love began in about ’88. My friend had come back down from Sheffield, I had been living in London at Oxford training to be a radiographer and she had discovered this thing called ‘raving’. She’d been on a boat party and had a great time. I was classically trained and was like ‘that kind of music, oh no, no, no’. She just bombarded me and I think by the time I had got to Rage to see Grooverider at Heaven that was it. It just changed my life in one night.

The three of you were involved in hosting an event in London recently called EQ50. Tell us about that?

Mantra: EQ50 started off the back of doing a Red Bull Music ‘Normal Not Novelty’ drum and bass take over. It went really well and we thought it would be nice to continue it in some way. The whole ethos is to support and promote more women into drum and bass and hopefully for it to have a knock-on effect throughout the whole industry so that promoters realise that when they are curating their line ups they need to be thinking about equality in all its forms, not just gender but in terms of race as well. It’s not difficult to do and the effort is minimal, but if everyone just put a little effort into it, it would have a huge effect. The next event is on July 26th at Fabric in London from 7-10pm and we’ll have Nikki Ellis from Hospital Records with us doing a workshop about social media.

DJ Storm: The thing about EQ50 was that it was really relaxed; like we were in someone’s front room and we’d just got a load of girls together who wanted to be in this thing and have a cup of tea and a chin wag. There were some good workshops and we were very honest. We’re not going to sugar coat it for you. I think we have to point out the pitfalls and the sexism that can come to you and how you handle that. Now, sometimes there’s a point where you have to stand up and say no. But a lot of the time, for the small stuff I really won’t sweat and I won’t give it room because I’m here doing my thing, I have proved a point and you shouldn’t judge me for being a woman. You should judge me for being a DJ.

Sweetpea: In about five years time it won’t be an issue. Like the whole ‘Normal Not Novelty’ where we take things in through our eyes and we accept what we see. If we start to see women on line ups constantly it becomes the norm, so I think for the new generation coming through it’s going to be normal. It isn’t going to be seen as being such a big deal to be a woman because you are a DJ and it’s all about the music.

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to the drum and bass artists of the future?

Sweetpea: Always do what you’re doing because you love it and not for any other reason. And be individual too, we’ve got a whole scene of the same stuff. Please, do something different.

Mantra: Question why you are doing what you are doing in the first place because if you’re doing it for your love and belief in the music and your sound rather than chasing to be popular and all the online noise going on around it which I think, unfortunately, does make a difference then maybe you need to question yourself. Keep that essence true and it will motivate you and give you longevity.

DJ Storm: If you feel you have something to really offer the scene then you need to find a way to get heard.

Sweetpea, Mantra & DJ Storm
Photo by: Natasha Rhodes

The HOTB 2019 Lowdown

So let’s get a couple of negatives out of the way so we can focus on the hoard of positives. One thing I will say is I think more effort needs to be made by everyone attending to keep The Garden Resort as clean as possible. There are bins around but maybe there could be more. Anyone throwing plastic cups or cigarette butts overboard at a boat party needs to be escorted from the festival grounds, or thrown overboard and told to swim home. An example needs to be set to take care of the beautiful environment we have the privilege of utilising to have our fun.

The need to replenish the stylish, plastic cocktail glasses with more by opening new packet after new packet, (each with what looked to be around 100 glasses inside), could have been eliminated by employing staff to go around collecting the used ones to use again, or perhaps by introducing a one cup per person system that they keep attached to themselves with a clip and chord that gets refilled when they come back to the bar. Just an idea.

The one episode of negative behaviour I witnessed, a heated moment between two lads at The Beach stage, was quickly extinguished by SP:MC who announced that their scrap wouldn’t be tolerated and set a great example of the positivity the festival promotes, jumping off of the stage and into the middle of them both to diffuse the situation with some friendly banter man hugs. Bravo.

Photo by: Natasha Rhodes

It was great to see so many bass heads wearing earplugs to protect their ears. A tinnitus sufferer myself, I cannot stress the importance of looking after your hearing boys and girls, and they come in all sorts of bright designs too so you can still be trendy. It is cool to be smart!

Hospitality On The Beach 2019 has been, without a doubt, the most intimate festival I have ever attended. Imagine being at Creamfields and chilling at the bar with your favourite DJ. It isn’t going to happen and security would be on you like a light if you tried to smooth talk your way into the V.I.P area to do so. Here, I recall seeing so many artists wandering around shaking hands talking to and showing respect to the die-hard drum and bass fans who had made the effort and chosen to save their pennies to afford to be at the event. Randall, Carasel, Sweetpea, London Elektricity, I even saw Krakota rocking out in the back row at The Garden stage jumping around without a care in the world enjoying the music.

Dave Sloley AKA Kamino, Hospital promotions team hero and one of the labels’ Rinse FM residents, could be seen running around making sure artists and attendees were happy and problem free. He also stepped up on the Magnolia stage to share his love for UK garage, putting on quite the performance with his back to back partner Tee Vish. The men behind all this magic, Chris Goss and London Elektricity, also graced Magnolia with an impromptu back to back session of soul, jazz, funk and obscure electronic, offering an insight into their roots and hosting beautifully to the diners before them whilst cracking jokes and demanding cheers for long lost artists close to their hearts. Those who approached for photos and to greet them were welcomed with open arms and we wouldn’t expect any less from these two humble, drum and bass icons. It was a joy to see.

In drum and bass, there are no divides. Pretentiousness does not exist. Our people feel comfortable enough to dance around naked letting it all hang free on the last day in honour of the music. There was no VIP area; our favourite artists shared the bars, the restaurant, the dance floors and the toilets with their supporters. This is one of the beauties of the genre and why so many people enjoy it and choose to support it. Props to the MC who I heard chanting out to the main stage massive on my way to the ladies “This is DNB, this is not EDM”. This couldn’t be more accurate.

Photo by: Natasha Rhodes

Those hardcore enough to make it to the very last set on the last night were not only treated to the most spectacular back to back to back, longer than scheduled session featuring Lens, Whiney, Urbandawn and Krakota to name a few, we also shared an emotional moment as Urbandawn dropped the final missile ; his own track ‘Come Together’ Feat. Tyson Kelly. Dubbed by so many as the tune of the festival with more plays than any other during the five-day extravaganza, it really is a corker!

Comparable only to the drum and bass festival of your dreams that you would only ever see in your dreams. This is that festival…and it takes place in real life! It was superbly organised, the security were diligent and present but peaceful and distant at the same time. The sense of unity experienced between the people from all over the world who had come together in celebration of the music they love was just incredible. Some had travelled from France and Germany, with their mobile homes in tow and bicycles to ride back to camp every night, with others coming from as far away as California and New Zealand to take away these irreplaceable, unmatched, life long memories.

So the moral of this story is… If you love drum and bass and don’t want to miss having the time of your life, poke yourself in the eye and repeat after me… ‘I am going to Hospitality On The Beach 2020 and booking my ticket at first release. If I went before, I am going again. If I missed it before, I will never miss it again’.

Tickets have gone on sale for HOTB2020 and as they become available you can get them or sign up for priority access here

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