A Perfect Pair... Croatia Rocks Launches On Pag's Zrce Beach
When done correctly, live music should move you. That's the reason us music fans spend what little money we have for the opportunity to stand in a crowded, overheated venue and pay double the normal price for cheap beer. However, when you’re there, and the artist is playing with emotion and tenacity and the moment becomes special, you appreciate how unique that feeling is.
Similarly, when you go on holiday you hope for those moments of pure joy and temporarily forget the nags of daily life - you aspire for rare moments where it no longer matters how dehydrated your bank account is or how much work will be waiting for you when it’s over, it doesn’t matter. That's why the recent trend of combining those two things, holiday spots and music festivals - makes perfect sense as they are a match made in heaven.
A new arrival on the scene is Croatia Rocks, the newest addition to the Ibiza Rocks family which has been doing its thing on the famous Spanish island for ten years now. The concept is ideal for music fans who like their EDM as a condiment rather than the main course. Recently, if you were attending a music festival on a warm island, be prepared for an electronic music bonanza without a guitar to be seen. Ibiza Rocks and Croatia Rocks aim to provide a more balanced menu. Croatia Rocks’ setting is the island of Pag, notorious for the 24-hour party atmosphere on Zrce Beach. The setup is gorgeous, 20 meters up from the beach, a breeze that smells of salt water and a youngster’s vomit. Kidding aside- the Croatian islands are truly paradise.
Getting the Kinks Out
As with all new ventures, things don’t always go to plan. Although headlined by one of the best big rock acts in their prime, The Vaccines, it seems that it wasn’t possible to recruit enough bands (15 by my count in total, over 4 days) to fulfill the ‘rock’ musical objective as more than half of the acts were DJs- not necessarily a bad thing, just a different atmosphere. During the day as the temperature soared above 40C, the pool parties and boat parties were accompanied by some great DJs. At night it seemed to be the designated ‘band’ sessions, which included big acts like Jungle, Years & Years, Shura, and Bulletproof Bomb that all made their rock presence felt. However, if your differentiator is you are a ‘rock’ festival, it would be nice to have some of the bands play during the day as well.
The staff at Croatia Rocks clearly haven’t worked a festival previously or just didn’t give a damn. The beer wasn’t available until after midnight on the first night, the staff were generally rude, unhelpful, or just confused. General logistics and getting important information (ex: what time do the Vaccines come on?) was nearly impossible. I guess they need to work out the kinks. I’m not sure if it was due to the lack of information or if the festival goers didn’t realize that most bands don’t start a set until after midnight, but the venue didn’t fill up until 11 PM or so- which is a shame because some incredible acts were on earlier to a sparse crowd.
Best in Class
The most important thing at a music festival is the actual music, and luckily that was fantastic. I’ll concentrate on the Monday night acts of Anushka, Bulletproof Bomb, and the Vaccines because they were our best in class from the festival.
As mentioned before, the Vaccines have been around the scene for a bit now with three successful albums and they consistently deliver exceptionally strong performances, regardless of the venue. For many bands, after selling out the O2, they may not feel obliged to bring their full energy and intensity to a remote and smaller venue in Croatia. Fortunately, the Vaccines are pros and they played a mixture of tracks from their three albums with fantastic energy (especially since it was 40C!) and sound. Every time I see the Vaccines live I come away impressed with just how good of a band they are.
A perfect contrast to the ‘men’ that are the Vaccines, Bulletproof Bomb look like they just left their parent’s garage. Barely able to buy cigarettes - this quintet are the epitome of the energy of new indie rock should sound and feel like like. The riffs explode from their guitars, each song attempting a different angle on a sound that is pulsating with talent and energy. It is immediately evident why such a new and young band is getting prominent gigs at festivals this summer, they are the real deal and the future is very bright for the lads.
One act that really stood out to me, was the duo, Anushka. I knew relatively little about them outside of Gilles Peterson having gave them his stamp of approval. What is immediately evident is that Anushka are different - they look different, they sound different, they possess a totally unique sound and occupy their own place. Max Wheeler is the producer and is on the mixer and laptop, Victoria Port sings with a jazzy flourish that demands your attention. Their influences are present in their songs, from jazzy melodies to Ella Fitzgerald-esque vocals - Max’s tracks are punchy and will make you subconsciously start moving on the dance floor. They are a very different sound, with catchy hooks and lyrics that will stick with you, but won’t transcend too far into pop, Anushka are something to behold and enjoy. (Stay tuned - Subba Culcha’s interview with Anushka will be published shortly- we couldn’t get enough.)
Personally, the pairing of music and and a destination holiday are made perfect when you are able to see new acts like Anushka and Bulletproof Bomb blossom in front of your eyes. Keep a look out for Croatia Rocks 2016, hopefully they'll have the beer working on day 1 next year.
To find out more about Croatia Rocks click here.
Words & pictures by Dave Polonsky