As a location for a festival, The Garden Tisno in Croatia is hard to beat. A small resort looks out onto a pristine bay and several islands dotting the coast. Nearby you'll find a beach, several bars and two stages. During the day, crickets whip up a racket in the baking heat while attendees seek shade or head down to the bay, the glassy water revealing small fish and sea urchins. The speakers, lights and stage rigging are left outside overnight during the festival (and quite possibly the whole summer), so low are the chances of rain.
Stop Making Sense is the smallest of all the festivals that take place at Tisno—others include SunceBeat, Soundwave and the granddaddy of them all, Garden—which lends it a certain cosy charm. About 1000 people turned out this year, which for me was just about perfect. There were no queues for drinks or bathrooms, and the crowd quickly became tight-knit, with different groups of friends intermingling as the weekend wore on. The modest lineup removed the curse of larger festivals—too much choice—with hardly any significant clashes across four days and most DJs playing twice.
Photo credit: anomalousvisuals.co.uk
Each day, two boat parties set out from the bay towards the Adriatic sea, returning four hours later with an elated cargo. Most of the action took place back on land at the Beach Bar and Wood Stage, or Barbarellas, a nearby nightclub that carries on until 6 AM. John Talabot headlined the first night at the Beach Bar, with a typically on-point set that wove through house, disco, acid and soul. The festival then decamped en masse to Barbarellas, with London party crew Love Fever taking over. In addition to residents A&A, San Soda and Session Victim were on hand to work through a selection of quality house and disco records.
On Friday the Aus crew hosted the Beach Bar. First up was label boss Will Saul, then Midland, both of whom explored the deeper recesses of house. Appleblim was the wild card, and though the crowd thinned noticeably for his set—in one of the few clashes of the festival, his second hour collided with the start of Prins Thomas's over at the Woods Stage—those who stayed were rewarded with a selection that veered through deep house, vintage jungle and, best of all, dBridge's beastly new cut on R&S, "Move Way." Meanwhile, Thomas was pushing a selection of epic prog disco, eventualy ending his set with an edit of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" (always a reliable closer). Over at Barbarellas, T. Williams kept it bouncy, throwing in a couple of mid-'00s classics like Claude VonStroke's "Who's Afraid Of Detroit."
Photo credit: anomalousvisuals.co.uk
Of all the boat parties at SMS, it was the Aus showcase on Saturday that really stood out. In the days following, it attained a near-mythical status—one person I spoke to said it was so good he openly wept. Though I didn't make it aboard, the sight of the boat pulling into shore, with 70 pairs of arms aloft, singing along to Fleetwood Mac ("Dreams" again) suggested it was a pretty special experience. "Best gig of my live," Saul later gushed on Twitter. The good vibes poured off the boat and into the Beach Bar, where Sub Club duo Harri & Domenic soundtracked the sunset to the approval of the festival's sizeable Glaswegian contingent, before Prins Thomas returned for a second performance.
On Sunday, Dixon and Kristian Beyer from Âme were onboard for the Innervisions boat party (unsurprisingly, both pulled off the nautical look with ease). Though it didn't seem to reach the heights of the Aus event, it was still hugely enjoyable, with Innervisions' trademark blend of melody and chunky basslines occasionally punctuated by the sound of a prosecco bottle popping.
Back at the beach bar, Mano Le Tough played deep vocal house records, before Dixon and Âme settled in for a six-hour session at Barbarellas. As the sun rose behind the hills, people sought shade beneath nearby pine trees, lounging on rocks in a kind of pleasant afterparty glow, capping off one of the most effortlessly enjoyable festival weekends you could hope to have.