With Roots Manuva, Little Dragon, Bonobo

Sampling the weird and wonderful delights of that newfangled beauty phenomenon – the fish pedicure – at a busy Stansted airport and Clash feels suitably relaxed and ready for a full-on three-day Euro fest. In fact, the therapeutic properties of getting your feet nibbled by fish are so good, that we find ourselves drifting off to the land of calm, unaware that our flight is about to take off.

As utter calm quickly turns into frenzied panic, the notorious inefficiency of Ryan Air means that their final call is not so final after all, and as a result, we’ve still got five queues to go. We finally board the flight and two-hours later we’ve landed in Zadar – a relatively small Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea – for Soundwave Festival 2011.

Descending upon a youth-filled Euro rave at the peak time of 11pm when you’re relatively sober is an eye-opening experience, but thankfully the scenic beauty of our surroundings makes up for any awkward sobriety. Bathed in a fantastical fluorescent glow, the forest setting is quite a sight to behold, light bouncing off the dark sea water just yards from our feet. We’re just in time to catch trip-hop stalwart Simon Green’s Bonobo who weaves his lackadaisical grooves in and out with a rhythmic murmur that momentarily placates the hyperactive crowd. Featuring the ethereal and uplifting tones of Adriana Triana, to borrow a term from the festival’s younger attendees, this is as ‘chilled’ as it gets. When the live music stops around 1am there’s a mass exodus to Barbarellas nightclub just around the corner, where on the menu tonight are Nineties hip-hop classics, spun at a breakneck speed with the requisite mash-ups in tow.

Unable to fully appreciate the picturesque surroundings of the festival site last night, with Saturday comes the chance to marvel at the rugged coastline of this pretty little fishing village. Sparkling, shallow, crystal clear waters lap the pebbled shore that is aligned with shady beach bars. Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is often likened to the Mediterranean and it’s certainly easy to see why in terms of topography and its generally laid-back mentality. After gorging ourselves on seafood at a nominal price in one of Petrcane’s many restaurants, we head over to watch Riot Jazz; a brass collective who treat us to gusty renditions of Eighties hits like ‘Tainted Love’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me’. As the sun beats down, Tiki beach bar beckons and we dip our toes in the water, knocking back Croatian tequila as we go. Current darlings Little Dragon are up next, and front woman Yukimi takes to the stage in her bold, patterned get-up, writhing around with commanding authority. Her impressive vocal range, startling Bjork-esque presence and the band’s unified electronic engineering all serve as confirmation of their rapidly rising stardom. Zero 7’s DJ set follows and hits all the right spots, mixing up Kelis with old school club classics, keeping the party momentum going. Then it’s back to the hotel for a late night swim.

Sunday, and London label Eglo Records attracts a continuous mass of sweaty revellers to the beach bar. After bumping shoulders to their thoughtful hip hop-infused set, we all flock to the main stage for Stockwell’s favourite rapper Roots Manuva. It’s packed and we can barely see a thing but luckily his amplified sound permeates through the dense crowd and soon enough everyone is bouncing along to canonical favourites ‘Dreamy Days’ and ‘Witness The Fitness’, chanting Rodney’s Brit-soaked, kitchen-sink style lyrics in unison. Battered and bruised, we head to the beach for a nightcap.

Words by April Welsh

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