Love International is the successor of the original dance music Croatian festival, The Garden Festival, and seeks to build upon the decade’s worth of magic created already in the region. Garden started as a tiny little gathering of ageing ravers that had grew tired of the commercialism and rising costs in Ibiza and grew into a beautiful laid back dance festival in Tisno that was recognised and acclaimed as one of THE big dance festivals the world over. Love International had big shoes to fill this year but did so wonderfully and even rolled those shoes in Swarovski crystals for added sparkle.
After Global Gathering a few years ago where I spent most of my time avoiding gurning teenagers or stepping over the remains of a few forty year olds that hadn’t been out since 1998, I didn’t think I would ever go to a dance music festival again until I was convinced to go to Garden, now Love International (LI).
Seven days of a dance music festival sounds hardcore right? I’m the kind of girl that starts panicking if I know I have a night in a club to get through these days so if anyone was going to hesitant then it was I. LI however is the most chilled place ever, yet if hardcore is your thing then you can make it that way too. Confused? You should be. By day you can have a harmonious holiday beneath the sizzling sun with mellow vocal house being the soundtrack to your sunbathing and by dusk as the beats shift gear and introduce each balmy night beneath a canopy of stars and glitter balls, the intimate setting holds a unique energy, sound tracked by some of the world’s leading underground DJs and producers, drawing a vibrant and diverse audience from across the world to this tiny strip of heaven.
Dave Harvey, one of Love International’s founders talks about creating a family. That sounds really trite right? Well no. I’ve been three times now and each year I meet the same people and hook up with new ones, all brought together by their love of music and sunshine. These people are what I consider real friends too – not just party friends that will high five you when a beat drops with eyes as big as saucers. There are a number of festivals in Croatia – Hideout attracting a young crowd, Love attracting your late 20s-late 30s and Elephant for the over 40s – all with crossovers, but Love seems to really have a special magic that infects everyone that visits.
Love International is a new Croatian festival from the company behind Bristol’s Love Saves The Day event and Futureboogie record label. You might ask what’s so good about it except for the weather, especially when, as a British person we boast some iconic festivals. Well, for one it’s cheap – £100 (ish) for a Ryanair flight, £80 for a weeks ticket and accommodation on air bnb for around £20 a night. As for food, well think of Italian food and wine and half the price. A steak will set you back £10, wine around £8 a litre and a pizza £5. I guarantee that you will spend the same/more over 3 days at V festival or Reading in the UK. Sure I skimmed over the weather but beautiful sunshine and warm evenings make for happy people where as cold winds, wellies and people p*ssing up your tent in Glastonbury do not.
When at LI it’s as if day to day life is a million miles away. You’re in a place with like minded people of a similar age and income – the Ibiza champagne spray crowd aren’t there as the champagne is replaced with £12 prosecco – good! It’s a place where you are encouraged to wear sequins and glitter all day, where you can relax on cabanas listening to music drinking smoothies or dance on a beach stage with a litre of mai tai – whatever your tastes, it’s there for you. Being able to switch from a session to a sanctuary at will is what makes it so perfect.
The best thing (for me) about the festival are the boat parties. Even though hanging around the site is great, being on a boat is AWESOME. Every day a succession of boats go out for four hours, giving you the chance to spend quality time with your favourite DJ and like-minded friends. Boats are only around £15/£20 and sell out quickly pre festival although many people party too hard and end up selling their tickets on the day (just turn up 30 minutes before the boat). Imagine tunes starting as your float out on to the Adriatic while you pop a prosecco cork and relax on deck, pinching yourself that this sh*t is real!
For the chilled days before a big night you can grab good food anywhere in Tisno from Magnolias on the festival site itself to fantastic restaurants like Antonio’s (home made red wine), Pizza Martin or Gina’s. For a few hours you can bask in good wine and great seafood before rolling yourself in glitter and making your way to the main stage and inevitably Barbarellas
So what does happen when the sun goes down and you want to leave sophistication at the door? Well, after partying at the main stage, Olive Grove or Beach bar it’s time for Barbarellas. Taxis are queued up on site. For £15 you’ll be whisked to what seems like the middle of nowhere at Formula One style speed that only Tisno taxi drivers seem to favour. You will be forgiven for thinking you are about to enter some horror film plot as hairpin bends flash past but don’t worry as there’s good stuff at the end of it.
Barbarellas is the official festival handover club normally hosting the DJ’s that played on the main stage or boats for a night time set. It’s open air and has loads of places to sit to chill out and chat to friends. The best part of Barbarellas which opens until 6am is sunrise. The shift change from DJs as sunrise starts to take you by surprise is fantastic. The only downside is security. Pretty much every security member looks like The Rock and they are pretty obsessed with finding drugs over anything, even taking my cigarette away and smoking it to check it wasn’t cannabis. I know lots of pickpocketing can happen at Barbs too so be careful.
If you still have some energy then it’s worth heading back to the festival site to a place called Vortex. I’d avoided Vortex until this year, expecting it to be like Hells Waiting Room/where good folk go to pass out after over indulging, but you know what, it was pretty cool. Imagine loads of shaded cabanas by the sea and big name DJs playing surprise day sets – sure there are some ‘states’ but everyone is mellow and happy.
My one piece of advice with LI is to make the most of the island while you’re there. Even if you’re like me, using the festival as a chilled time with friends with a few big nights, it’s still worth tagging a few days on to see more of Croatia. Even with Tisno as your base there are still some beautiful beaches in and around that will seduce you. For more Croatian tips, see my next article.
Until next year Love International. xx