Stop Making Sense
Iâ€™m going to Split. Through customs a sign says: have you forgotten anything? I want to declare that I have, to my shame, forgotten more than I care to remember. I spend the flight trying to remember some of the things that I have forgotten until eventually I am distracted by the Dalmatian coast. It is beautiful. Like a childâ€™s drawing of a coastline, all squiggly and bobbly with inlets and bays, yachts and mountains, yellow edges, green hills, more than blue sea. From the air it looks like some kind of perfection.
I am in Petracane, a small village, nestled somewhere in a bay on that coastline. We came by coach on a highway across a rocky wasteland at exactly 100 kph. An night here there are six billion stars on display, if you stare for long enough you will see them all.
The Stop Making Sense festival site is on a promontory, on the left side, looking out to sea, of a small bay. The site is small, very small, or boutique as it is fashionably called, maybe 1000 capacity max. So this is a very different kind of festival experience – no tent, no rain jacket, no boots. A festival with no boots? Yes it is possible. Artists and guests are installed in various small hotels and apartments dotted around the bay, the organisers in the laidback, cool Villa Liscia. The atmosphere is intimate, friendly, very calm. The weather is perfect, warm enough to swim in the sea and sit in the sun, but not hot enough to be sweaty and burning. Petracane is a fishing and farming village, people have been fishing and farming here for at least 900 years. There are a few cafes, a bread shop, people selling vegetables at the side of the road, a bus stop and a little harbour, and those holiday houses and apartments, dotted along the rocky coastline. There is no hint of fancy, poncy, stupid city values. A really expensive handbag and big shades mean nothing here. Iâ€™m just going for a little swim before my set. Really, this is the life.
Itâ€™s time, and today I am official warm-up man. First set is round the back of the Tiki bar, in the booth build next to the little lighthouse.
On two sides there is just the sea, in front of me the dancefloor. For the techies, all the systems are Function One. For the non techies, that is a good thing with lots of bass and clear, clean sound.
Because itâ€™s early (I play 13:00 to 16:00), thereâ€™s more lounging than dancing so itâ€™s reggae, dubstep, slo-mo disco and Balearic, sunny music for snoozy people. I could play here all day, easily. I think this booth beats the one on Sa Trincha in Ibiza for the best location ever, with the added advantage of an adjacent wooden dancefloor. This is some kind of DJ heaven.
After this set there is another on the main stage, again warming things up, then back down to the beach, whisky and coke in hand (I said I wouldnâ€™t drink today but it didnâ€™t work out thanks to some friendly intervention) for Radioclit. They really work it with their Afro disco bass drop stylings as the sun falls into the sea in slow motion.
Alfred Hitchcock declared that nearby Zadar had the most beautiful sunset in the world and, well, with the clear water and all those islands and rocks for the lights to bounce off he did have a point. Again, I donâ€™t want to burst the Ibiza myth bubble, but this really is spectacular. A shame perhaps that the Radioclit boys donâ€™t make more of the moment, but the crowd do.
As the orange dips into the water more and more people jump into the sea and swim out to meet it. They congregate about 200m out, safe together, aware once in the water, expending energy, that swimming into the sunset is as beautiful and futile as chasing rainbows. As the last slither dips behind the islands there is a cheer from the dancefloor and the Icarus-like swimmers give up their quest and return one by one, to carry on dancing. This is certainly some kind of beautiful and I am already thinking about my return and booking a sunset slot for next year.
The night is all about Barbarellaâ€™s, an Italo disco style club, built in the 70s.
It is perhaps the most perfectly formed small club anywhere in the world, all swirls and circles in concrete and orange and brown, like a dream of lost times, like the inside and outside of a seashell or a human ear. Ghosts of wannabe Bryan Ferry playboys float around the dancefloor humming love is the drug until they bump into the stage, a later addition but built with some sympathy, next to the concrete DJ booth.
To the right a door leads to the inside coil, you follow a curling corridor, like walking into the ear, for more club perfection. An area with stools for standing and meeting people, then the bar, then, still on the curve round the central circular dancefloor, two rows of booths, already filled with more Kodachrome faded ghosts of local big shots and gangsters from another time, arms round that eveningâ€™s honeys, nodding appreciatively to the latest hit from Italy.
Slowly the club fills with festival-goers and locals from 2010, less stylish but perhaps more enthusiastic. Then, boom, itâ€™s darker, the club is sliced by lasers, the beats crank up past 140bpm and I am pinned against the brown vinyl seat, hands clinging to the formica table, kind of hypnotised, half-cut and drifting tired.
Then I am walking up Put V to Pirat Apartments, fitful sleep, van journey through the mountains and the sun rise to Split and the inevitable airport lounge.
I realise I have forgotten to mention Django Djangoâ€™s alternative dub pop; The Very Best, who we renamed The Quite Good because it was DJs and singers, not the full Afro-beat live experience we expected and Jack from Friendly Fires and his most excellent choice in house music.
And the stars. Did I tell you about the moon and the stars?