It seems like everyone wants a piece of the action in Croatia. Just one of the events joining the country's increasingly busy calendar this year is Unknown, a joint venture by Sound Channel, Field Day and The Warehouse Project. Before I'd arrived, a couple of things had marked Unknown out against the rest. First, it's hosted in a location that isn't Tisno, Zrce Beach or Fort Punta Christo—instead, it's at a large campsite and holiday area on the coast, a short distance from a large town called Rovinj. Secondly, the lineup reflected the curation style of WHP and Field Day, in that it grouped together dozens of relevant artists from across the electronic music spectrum.
Onsite, Unknown felt like it had been airlifted straight from Britain. Almost everyone there was English. The decor had all the hallmarks of a UK festival, with chill-out areas decked with hammocks and hippy-esque furnishings, not to mention a troupe dressed in animal costumes tasked with reading Rudyard Kipling to whoever would listen. There was even a UK-style biblical rainstorm on the Wednesday, which terrified one boat party with high winds and wiped out a portion of the campsite. The difference? Well, in England, you can't dance in an infinity pool under the sun, or on an island hosted by Boiler Room, or on a boat with dolphins jumping alongside.
Photo credit: Vaine Photography
In terms of the music, disco and house were particularly well-represented, but most of the artists avoided toeing any particular line. Prins Thomas played a set that was heavier than expected, offsetting congas with powerful kick drums. During "Love Cry," Four Tet rolled out massive inflatable balls over the audience. Floating Points was particularly good, starting off with lilting forest glade music before moving through powerful house tunes like Mathew Jonson's "Sunday Disco Romance." He eventually dug into his crate for vocal disco numbers that nobody knew but everybody loved. Kompakt hosted a boat party, where Michael Mayer played the whole night (in the absence of DJ Koze), running through a range of discoid house tracks tied together by a washing, fuzzy feel, like Voigt and Voigt's "Vision 03."
Every festival has a few organisational quirks. This one had a card-charging system, which meant that punters didn't have to carry any cash around (and also weren't as careful about their spending). It being the first year, there were some hiccups: the boat parties and Boiler Room gigs were announced late and quite suddenly, and the scramble for tickets, combined with unannounced dock changes, left many of us in a frenzied rush. But these minor gripes faded into the background as the weekend wore on. Croatia is swimming in festivals, but Unknown shows there's still room for newcomers on the Adriatic Coast.