With a strong focus on local artists, this festival is bringing a deeper strain of dance music to one of Italy's most scenic regions.
Locals talk a big game about being on "Italian time," which means never rushing and letting things happen when they happen. Showing up at the scheduled start with my city sensibilities, I waited nearly an hour before I could find a bar ready to serve. I seemed to be the only person concerned about that. Part of the reason for the delayed setup was that the venues changed each day—Polifonic wanted to give you a mini-tour of Puglia. The second night upped the ante from two stages to three at Masseria del Turco, a grand venue overlooking the coast with a perfect view of sunrise. Sunday's events took you to Le Palme Beach Club in Monopoli, where you could walk right up to the sea and still hear Dekmantel Soundsystem.
The festival definitely catered to locals. Punters who traveled to the event didn't have many options in the way of central accommodation, and The Pop-Up Hotel was only convenient for the first night as it sat among the idyllic olive trees on the grounds of Masseria Eccellenza. Nor were there any convenient taxi services. Those who didn't rent a car were stuck if they wanted to explore the area, let alone safely travel to and from the sites. Even people familiar with the area admitted that finding the venues was tricky, as Google Maps leaves a lot to be desired in such quiet parts.
The lineup featured lots of local and rising talent, letting Italians set the mood each night. Alfredo Mazzilli opened Friday with a vibey set at Masseria Eccellenza's smaller stage, Magic Wood, leading the way for a darker ride picked up by Dona AKA DJ Plant Texture and Dino Sabatini. (Full disclosure: Resident Advisor ran the Magic Wood and Sunrise stages on Friday and Saturday respectively.) The whole venue felt intimate, like you were invited to a fancy house party by a well-off, but not flashy, local business owner. Clark Cvk, Futuro Tropicale and O.Bee set the Garden stage up for success with groovy house, perfect for the breezy summer evening. Back at Magic Wood, Z.i.p.p.o. clashed with a name you could hear muttered around the grounds all night—John Talabot—but his dynamic house tunes stuck out over Talabot's steady and smooth selections. Gerd Janson closed out a characteristically joyous performance with a killer one-two punch, going from his remix of Krystal Klear's "Neutron Dance" into DJ Koze's "Pick Up." Magic Wood continued on later than scheduled, with Freddy K and Phase Fatale giving the early morning heads higher BPMs and techno tones.
Saturday saw lots of lineup shuffling after bizarre travel delays across Europe forced a handful of DJs to cancel. Highly anticipated Main Stage names such as Elena Colombi and Carl Craig were no longer able to perform, so Kornél Kovács, Hiver and Jay Medvedeva filled in the gaps with extended sets. These felt like a blessing in disguise, as the DJs had more room to take the crowd for a ride. Judging from people's reactions, you would have never known the night's headliner was missing.
Upstairs at Masseria del Turco, Sunrise and Valley Terraces brought two different moods. The latter dished out pulsing techno via Samantha, while the former delivered dance tracks to make you burst with joy. Fireworks erupted over Tama Sumo's wicked set at Sunrise (Lakuti was another casualty of the flight cancellations), which featured Sirens Of Lesbos' "Erytrea Nèdègé (Saho)" and had the crowd primed to make it till dawn. Earlier in the night, Mike Tansella Jr. handed over the decks to Yanik Park with the Robin S classic "Show Me Love," guaranteeing that smiles were plastered on everyone's faces for the rest of the night. After Tama Sumo, Park stepped up again to fill the shoes—and then some—of Job Jobse, who nobly gave up the single remaining seat on the last flight out to his travel buddy Hunee. The Rush Hour star seemed to personally instigate the sunrise with the warmth of his set, confidently powering through three bright hours that climaxed with Marlena Shaw's stunner "Touch Me In The Morning."
By Sunday, a day at the beach was necessary. The remaining battlers earned those luxurious loungers at the chic Monopoli beach club, letting the well-suited disco and soul tunes wash over them. Mano Le Tough closed out the festival, continuing the sunny grooves as the beach club's usual members trickled out, before diving into deeper fare for the final hours. At one point, he dropped DJ Koze's edit of "Operator" by Låpsley, and I immediately ran away from a conversation straight to the dance floor. We should all be so lucky to get moments like that.