A Week with the Elephant in The Garden

Art & Culture
Ahh the Electric Elephant. Its something you talk about in hushed tones for fear of the wrong person finding out. Its like the promised land of festivals in this day and age. Last year R$N ventured to the Adriatic for the very first time and popped our Elephantine cherry. A festival in the loosest sense of the word, it was by all accounts; epic. It was something that went on to permeate our consciousness in the year that followed and something we couldnt put to bed. Something special happened there, deep within our musical soul and it was something we needed to repeat. 
The Garden, Tisno is the site for an ever expanding and impressive array of intimate festival affairs including Stop Making Sense, Soundwave, Suncebeat, Electric Elephant and The Garden Festival proper. With a near endless number of Croatian festivals springing up over the past few years, on our return R$N thought it high time we caught the original Adriatic festival before it was too late to say I was there. It is too late to say that, but we needed a holiday so decided to take in both The Garden and Electric Elephant Festivals along the way over a week-long period.
The story goes that Nick and Charlotte Colgan ventured to the Dalmatian coast back in 2004 and were so struck by the beauty of the Adriatic that they opened a bar in Zadar named The Garden. Drawing friends Gail and Eddie O’Callaghan out too, the four of them quickly realised the potential this rather special country had to offer as a backdrop to a festival. Moving from their original home of Petracane three years ago the Garden site now occupies one end of the sleepy seaside holiday town of Tisno, less than an hours drive from Zadar – an enchanting little place in its own right. 
Arriving on the Sunday of Garden in full swing you instantly switch down into Croatia mode.  The site proper is set around a crescent moon bay and most of the daytime action takes place down at the beach bar; a custom paved dancefloor rolling into the sea. Theres also some main stage action nestled amongst the trees where we caught some amazing-ness from Space Dimension Controller, Eric Duncan and Idjut Boys during Garden and A Love From Outer Space and the like at Electric Elephant.

The action at the main site is most firmly rooted at the beach bar. With none of the restrictions or pretension that a certain Balearic isle offers these days, dancing outdoors here gazing across the Adriatic sea with some superbly great aural delights is most definitely one of the best experiences youre probably going to have in your life period. I know this may come across as an overstatement but when you get to hear the likes of Maurice Fulton, Axel Boman, Last Waltz and Bad Passion at Garden or DJ Nature, Prosumer, DJ Rocca and Rob Mello at the Elephant with a well tended bar close by and optional lilos I think youd be hard pressed to find anywhere better to spend an afternoon.  

And then we come to the boat parties. The Argonauty Boat Parties have become pretty legendary over the years and with good reason. 200 super-friendly people, drinks on ice, amazing music, 4 hours, done. Having experienced one of the most incredible atmospheres last year aboard the A Love From Outer Space adventure we were keen to embark once again on Mr Weatherall and Mr Johnstons nautical escapade at the Elephant. It didnt disappoint. The slow mo chug + rose prosecco was the perfect antidote to Thursday afternoon in the office. Admittedly I struggled to stand up after disembarking but I was on holiday. So I am excused. Earlier in the week wed jumped on board the Wolf Music sunset boat party with Bicep and KRL which was pretty bloody special too. With thanks to Eddie and Damo for paving the way for that. The perfect sunset. We missed the now legendary Wilde Renate Boat and Secret Island party the next day, though judging by the fallout at the beach bar later this was probably a good thing for the soul. Thats what were telling ourselves anyway.

Lets just get one thing straight, the Garden site and ethos is not conducive to rushing around. Trying to see and do everything is not on the agenda. The Garden befits an attitude of just turn up and see what you see. You can be sure youll find something you like. Even if you miss your favourite artist, youll no doubt see them again pitching up somewhere else along the way or find yourself dancing next to them as the sun comes up. Such is the laidback nature of the festivals theres no ‘us and them’ with artists and DJs. There is a little backstage bit on the main stage but I very much doubt youll find anyone there. Out front is where everyone will be, as it should be.

Its also not often you mention festival and holiday in the same breath. Normally you come home exhausted, post-fiesta needing another holiday. This is not the case for The Garden/Electric Elephant/Tisno.  Along with the incredible weather, theres crystal clear waters Ive not seen outside of Asia you can dive straight into, pretty much from where youre staying. Theres great food in the town and good if basic accommodation plus a rather fine local wine and beer. There really is no pressure to do anything you dont want to and you can really dip in and out of the festival as and when you feel like. 
Barbarellas is where the nocturnal activities take place and to go to either of these festivals and not experience this club is a crime in itself. Just a ten minute cab journey from the Garden day site, its easy to draw comparisons between Barbarellas and the rose tinted view one holds of the early days of Amnesia. Its actually very hard not to. The clubs a simple affair with just the right attention to detail; coloured lights on trees, a few seating areas and a killer system. Dancing wholly outdoors all night as the likes of Horsemeat Disco, Kelvin Andrews and The Unabombers fill your ears and feet and as the sun comes up is certainly something we wont forget in a hurry. Working all year, if this is your only reward youre not going far wrong. This really is as good as things get. 
The magic of the Elephant and the Garden though is that its a pretty much a self -governing festival. Whilst theres the odd security guard around you get the feeling youre trusted to all look after each other enough, something unheard of back on this island of ours.  Basically, if youre cool theyre cool.  I could espouse the greatness of this tiny little pocket of Adriatic greatness till the cows come home but Ill start to sound like a broken record. 
The Garden and The Electric Elephant is a holiday first and foremost and an impeccably programmed pair of festivals second.  Leave any attitude firmly on these shores. Come for a week stay the whole summer.  I couldnt recommend either highly enough. To experience this festival is to have truly experienced something special in this overexposed, sped up world we live in. 

Peace, love and Adriatica.


With love and thanks to everyone who put together these two festivals and to friends old and new we danced and laughed with. See you in 2014.

www.thegardenfestival.eu  / www.electricelephant.co.uk

Download Mr Scruff’s Beach Bar Sunday 6hr set (add tisno1 to access mix)

Photos by Tim Ertl
Tim Ertl / www.timertl.com