Electric Elephant 2014 – A Reflection
It’s 7 am, our heads are muddled and we’re crammed into a taxi speeding away from Barbarella’s discotheque back towards the sleepy town of Tisno. The sun is only just up and the sky is brightening from deep to pale blue. Tonight we’ve seen Chez Damier working the open air dancefloor with a heady blend of 909s and pianos, and we’ve watched the sun come up with DJ Rahaan healing our souls with disco.
“Close To Me” by the Cure comes on the car radio and all my friends in the back urge the driver to crank it up and then break into song. I’m sitting in the front watching the sea coming into view.
Yep. We’re back at Electric Elephant. And we’ve missed it.
I’ve said this before but one of the most important things, probably the most important thing, about a party is the people and the people are Elephant’s strongest asset. It’s almost fair to say that Electric Elephant is as much a community as it is a festival. I’m not just being trite either. Everyone who goes builds up a fierce loyalty to the place. Everyone looks forward to it all year (yes there’s probably someone right now updating everyone on Facebook as to how many sleeps there are to go till next time). Every year we go we meet more people who become firm friends.
Don’t worry; I’m not going to gush for the whole of this. Just stick with me.
So the Festival was originally based in the small town of Petrčane but two years ago the organisers of this and Garden Festival (which both take place in the same location on consecutive weekends) were booted out of their venue at the last minute leaving them to find a new spot in the space of a few weeks. Proper “Challenge Annake” style. But they pulled it off and the new location in Tisno is about as perfect as you can get.
Tisno is a sleepy little town on the Dalmatian coast that is half on the mainland and half on the island of Murter, with a bridge linking the two halves. It’s a village of holiday apartments, terracotta roofed houses, seafood restaurants and pines trees. As you approach the town from any direction you drive along the undulating Adriatic coastline. And it’s a truly beautiful stretch of coast. The hills are covered in dusty shrubs and olive trees and the limestone bones of country poke through here and there. It used to be a fishing village but now it mainly earns its keep through tourism. During the Soviet era this whole area was a big holiday destination for the entire eastern block and you can see why. You can still see the odd elderly Croatian woman sweeping a porch, with their black headscarfs and permanently nonplussed looks on their faces. As if someone’s forgotten to tell them that it’s not the 19th century anymore.
The festival all takes place in an old holiday complex about 15 minutes walk from the town. During the day all of the action takes place at the Beach Bar with DJs playing blissed out music to people floating around on lilos. As the evening progresses the beach towels are removed from the dancefloor and the place comes to life. A little way away from the waters edge is the main stage, which wraps up at about 1am.
Once the festival site winds down everyone piles into the shuttle bus to Barbarella’s which is just about the best club I’ve ever been to in my life. It’s open air, it has an amazing sound system and you can dance your troubles away until the sun comes up. I’ve never been to Ibiza but the first time I went to Barbs (yep that’s what the regulars call it) I listened to some aging raver bang on about how it was just like Amnesia 20 years ago for what felt like 20 years. I didn’t begrudge him though one bit.
One of the most important aspects of the festival, though, are the boat parties. Twice a day the Argonaughty sails out into the Adriatic with it's cargo of lunatics and the feeling on there is strangely intense. Everyone really lets loose. The boat doesn’t even really go anywhere, it just pootles out into the bay and chugs around a bit before heading back four hours later, but that’s not the point. This year I had the pleasure to watch Rahaan and Luke Unabomber on the Electric Chair boat and also Louis Finch, Jake Manders and Chris Duckenfield on the Idiots Are Winning voyage. They all smashed it out of the park.
This year I felt that the music erred a little too much towards disco, and I think a lot of the people playing felt like they had to go down that road just because of where they were playing. I know that sounds stupid to say, especially when you’ve got the likes of Derrick May, Motorcity Drum Ensemble, Justin Robertson, Thunder et al playing, but over the course of the 4 days I found myself yearning for a solid kick drum more than once. (The afore mentioned did all make up for this however).
The whole “British festival in Croatia” thing has become ubiquitous and to be fair it is a little weird. On the one hand it seems strange for hoards of brits to up sticks and head to another country to rave together surrounded predominantly by other brits. But, on the other hand it’s bringing those hoards of people to this beautiful and friendly country and, from speaking to people there I know people don’t just come for the festival. They come for the sea, for the best seafood imaginable, for the the old Croatian men with massive bellies and tiny speedos. It's been 7 years now that Electric Elephant has been happenig with cheap drinks, big smiles, great music and promoters promoting for the love. We know that this kind of environment never lasts so let's enjoy it while it does.