Electric Elephant, Croatia – Review

Words – Jane fitz 

Courtesy of Residentadvisor.net

“After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang down…” As the flight delay stretched longer, Conrad Idjut Boy didn’t know if he was going to miss his afternoon set at the Beach Bar. By the time he arrived, he was already a couple of hours behind, but he scraped it to soundtrack the sunset. Those lyrics, from JJ Cale’s “After Midnight,” drifting from the speakers, signalled the beginning of this year’s Electric Elephant festival, sounding like a prediction of what might come later. Yet, who knew? They had another meaning too. Because behind the decks, as he settled into his set straight off his flight, Conrad was dropping his jeans and pulling on a pair of shorts…


The Electric Elephant returned this year for another long weekend of laidback disco-backed merriment under the Croatian sun. Billed as a three-day knees-up, the fiesta was in fact warmed up on Wednesday and wound down on Monday night. (Such is the way when you mix DJs and sunshine into The Garden’s readymade party site and a two-step stumble back to your room.) Electric Elephant is less full-on festival, more extended long-weekend to the Adriatic with 1000 new friends—pasty Brits going red in the scorching heat while someone, somewhere is dropping something vaguely cosmic on an outdoor turntable.

Much of this is thanks to the setting: The tiny fishing village of Petrcane boasts very little in the way of bars and clubs, and lots in the way of tiny white cottages and Croatian families soaking up the last of the summer holidays. This weekend, the party prescription of choice for the mostly Brit crowd is sun-factor 15. San Antonio this is not. This part of the Croatian coast—backed by pine forests, distant craggy mountains and overlooking outlying islands that peak out of the misty horizon—offers a different kind of hedonism. One that bobs along to laidback beats as the sun goes down before moving over to the main stage for a bit of dub or folk, and gently breaking into something with a kick drum later on.



Friday night’s fiesta properly began when Horsemeat Disco’s effervescent Severino and James Hillard buckled down to disco business. Hair-frizzing humidity tonight had as much to do with them as the weather. Dancers jumped around a paddling pool to Linda Clifford’s “Runaway Love” as warming-up Elephantees shuffled around the main dance floor. It was only a crowd-pleasing “I Believe in Miracles” that brought the party to life. Main attraction Andrew Weatherall—surely sweating buckets in this heat under the weight of his spectacular tash—signalled his arrival with a wallop of bass, setting out his stall with Abe Duque’s “What Happened?” Slowed down, significantly mangled Chicago-style house gave way to one almighty jack. Behind the decks HMD’s Severino maniacally waved a hand towel in approval while Weatherall even afforded himself a little shuffle. The party was go.

Inside, Theo Parrish was getting to grips with Barbarella’s Discotheque. It was ’70s in appearance alone. Inside, we were huffing under the heat. Smoking inside is banned in Croatia but no one here seemed to have noticed, as Friday night partiers lit up and clambered onto ledges, tables, booths or anywhere else that could possibly be used instead of a dance floor (which by then was filling up). Parrish jumped from disco to garage to throbbing acid tracks, and soon the club was screaming. It’s loud. Really loud. It’s getting hotter too. And sweaty. It’s slightly wonky mixing, clammy dancers with dirty flip-flop feet and sticky hair going ape. And it really is LOUD.



 Saturday, the sun is beating down and it’s maybe a degree or two less than Friday. But it’s still sweaty. Locals say a storm will blow in tonight. From two miles away you can hear the dull thump of the beach bar—but it’s a day of rest after last night. Elephantees drift about, lounging on the beach bar platform that stretches out over the sea, grabbing a sunset massage, or a beer. The Unabombers evening boat party is called off early: The Argonaught—a huge sailing vessel that takes two trips a day loaded with shipmates around the islands for a boozy disco cruise—returns to shore early.

The predicted storm is blowing in fast. As Stuttgart’s Motor City Drum Ensemble lines up his first tune, it’s hard to think of a more prophetic opener—Kerri Chandler’s “Rain.” MCDE’s stripped and spacious, bass-heavy house music comes alive thanks to nature’s special effects—who needs smoke machines or lasers when, out to sea, the murky black breaks for shards of lightning, the bass swings on the back of gale-force bursts of wind. Lazy writers often talk about DJs “kicking up a storm.” Rarely do DJs get to soundtrack a real one, the needle occasionally being blown straight off the decks by random gusts.



It’s impossible to see everything at a party that boasts two outdoor stages, an indoor club and several boat parties a day. But that’s the point. Wander round, stumble on something, catch the tail end of one band, the beginning of a DJs set. Yet to invest in a boat party is to commit to four hours with one host. Or, in the case of Sunday’s Basement Boogaloo vs Downtown Sounds & External Sounds boat party, a handful of them. This was two attitude-free disco club collectives battling it out over a glass sea with plenty of beer to go round. Busy enough to go off, not too rammed to dance, as the Argonaught left harbour, Earth Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy” rolled off the speakers. It was going to be a good afternoon.

Boat parties are built on moments—one of them was catching Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much” as we skirted an island, dancing in the rigging, on the poop deck, on the bridge. All too soon Petrcane’s coast was in view, Frankie Knuckles’ “Your Love” was a final tune and someone was ringing the bell to signal it was time for everyone to walk the plank. No worries—only an hour to wait until the Lowlife crew set sail.


Back at the festival, Daniele Balldelli stopped riding in around the site on a bike for a moment to play some records—unrecognisable spacey disc to a jaded but appreciative crowd jostling on the sea platform. By now, Friday’s disco enthusiasm had given way to Sunday night’s sunbaked skin, three-night hangovers, lost money/keys/plots, new friends, tired feet, wonky smiles. On the main stage, reggae artist Natty refused to budge as sound engineers tried to usher his band offstage.

“We’re going to play another one anyway!” he threatened, breaking into a lolloping live drum and bass throb. Inside Idjut Boys crunched out into some house, buoyed by the fact that the beach bar was sounding like a terrible Costa-Del-Sol holiday cheese fest (Armand’s “U Don’t Know Me.” Anyone?). It’s the last night, officially, and no one wants to go home (or stumble around the bay to a rented apartment). The ToTheBone crew are pitched up behind the decks in Barbarella’s. The sound engineers are having such a good time they don’t want to go home either. It’s meant to end at 5. It’s gone 6 before it’s over.



Monday and the pace is slow. Half the crowd has now peeled away. If they’re not on their way to the airport, they’re snoring off three days’ excesses or have sneaked onto a couple of ad hoc boat parties. Following a live recording of ToTheBone’s radio podcast, Pavel Plastik unveils a dreamy selection of afternoon Balearica. (Or should that be Adriatica?) It might not be the Cafe Del Mar, but who wants 1,500 beery Brits cheesily clapping the sunset, when you can take your pick of a lounger and hear Jill Scott’s “It’s Love” glide out of the sound system? Is there a more good-natured, feel-good, festival than Electric Elephant? As Idjut Boy Conrad is back in his rightful spot, not rushed this time, shorts on, instructed to play music “not for dancing,” I can’t think of one.


Words /Jane Fitz


Photo credits

Vinyl dance floor – Duba (Cinedelic Records)

Ireland – Simon Conneff Barbellas discotheque – Duba (Cinedelic Records)

Speaker on the water – Derek Smith

Turntables on the water – Jo Bradbury

Crumpled flyer – Lucie Meurice


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