A few years ago some people claimed that Croatia was becoming the new Ibiza. It would've been more accurate, though, to say that Croatia was becoming the old Ibiza. It's all sunny vibes: musically, socially...and financially too. The Garden Festival, now in its sixth year, is largely responsible for the relatively recent explosion of festivals in the small village of Petrcane on the Adriatic, and there's a reason they continue to be a benchmark: Nick and Charlotte Colgan, Gail and Eddie O'Callaghan and the Futureboogie crew match the music to the climate. Disco abounds. House can be heard. But the tempo rarely gets too high. Neither does the blood pressure. We sent out one of our favourite photographers, Sophia Spring, to capture it all.
Nick & Charlotte Colgan and Gail & Eddie O'CallaghanI think this year was the best year for me. Instead of covering two weekends, we only did one but we did it from Wednesday. I think that format works really well. We've also got a great team working for us now that have worked for us, the majority of people working on the production side of things and actually the bar staff too, have all worked for us for a while so everyone knows what they're doing and it makes a hell of a lot of difference. I think the people that are here can feel that, can feel the relaxed atmosphere in us and I think it just helps with everything really. We like to think of it as a holiday with a musical backdrop, I think, more than a festival. All the artists that came stayed for a minimum of three nights and a lot stayed for the whole duration, so even on that side of things, they're mixing in with the people. Honestly? It just feels like one big family.
-- Nick Colgan
Greg WilsonThis was my fifth year at the Garden Festival and, as has been said, I've become an "almost annual resident." It's obviously a great location and I like the fact that it's retained its intimacy. When, a few years back, things got a little overcrowded, rather than taking a short-term cash in while you can approach, the promoters scaled things back the following year, making less tickets available, not more. The ethos of the Garden Festival is right. It's the brainchild of a pair of ex-pats who wanted to share their little piece of paradise with fellow music lovers. Playing the final slot on the Main Stage on the Saturday night was a real buzz. There's a special energy when you're out in the open air on a warm night, with a crowd who are vibed up rather than hyped up, good and ready to get their groove on. The boat is also great fun—can't think of many better ways for a DJ, or dancer for that matter, to spend a sunny afternoon. Big up to the rest of the crew—Matty J, Ben Terry and Eric (Rub n Tug) Duncan. Here's to 2012!
FutureboogieI was going out and DJing for the guys behind the festival for a couple of years before they started the festival. I'd actually visited the festival site when it was still rubble. They were like, "We're going to do a festival here." I was like, "Oh OK... that's interesting." Ever since then, though, it's traditionally been so good that when it gets close we're like, "Is it going to be good again? Is it going to be as good as last year? Can it be as good again?" You're kind of almost expecting there to be a bad year, but it totally delivered on all fronts again. It was really busy, great crowds, good music, no massive problems, the weather was beautiful. Really can't complain at all. Crazy P were great. And Appleblim was a highlight too, which is funny because we're based in Bristol. I don't actually get to see him play that often. He played a bunch of stuff I didn't know, and had me dancing solidly for two hours.
-- Joe 90
Soul ClapGarden Festival was the absolute opposite of Glastonbury, which we had done a couple weeks before. It was super relaxed. No pressure to be anywhere. People would just sit on the beach. I don't want to say it's not about the music, because it is—when the music is good, people are into it. But it's more about kicking back and enjoying yourself. The programming fits perfectly for us. A little bit of disco, a little bit of house, all really eclectic. Mark E was great. Electric Wire Hustle, who is on that new R&B/funk tip, were there. Their live show was amazing. It's just three guys, but they're making so much noise. They take their songs deeper, with even more spaced out pads and breakdowns. Perfect for the setting.
-- Eli Goldstein
Croatia is incredibly beautiful place to DJ. The Adriatic Sea is total magic, and this was the first and only time I've actually seen the moonset. It dropped to the horizon, grew large and distorted orange/red like the sun and then slllllip! It was gone!
Crazy PWe've done Garden every year since the second I think. Pretty much we do something every year. If we don't play live, we DJ. We're sort of stalwarts now! Garden has a family atmosphere because it's quite small and it can't—because of the size of the actual peninsula it's on—get any bigger. I think generally the crowd this year was a lot younger but really vibrant. I think that's something that's been consistent every year, the crowd might have changed, but the atmosphere is always the same. Even though it's not what you'd call a big payer, we always love to come back because it's such a great place to go. We did our first live show in two years this year. Danielle, our vocalist, was ill last year. For this to be the first one for us to come back was pretty special. We didn't know what it was going to be like on the Thursday night because we didn't know how many people would be out there for the weekend but it was really busy and the reaction was fantastic. We were really happy with that.
-- Jim Baron