Unknown Festival: Croatia, 10-14/08/13
The collaboration of the creators of Hideout, The Warehouse Project and Field Day, meant that Unknown Festival provided a welcomed variety compared to the more genre focused festivals, such as Dimensions. Whether it be Deep House, or Minimalist Techno, Unknown catered to every musical taste.
Jessie Ware kicked things off on the Main Stage, playing a set including her main tunes from ‘Running’, to ‘Wildest Moments’. Despite the beginning of a massive storm breaking out towards the end of her set, this didn’t prevent Jessie and her fans sticking it through. The mood wasn’t dampened, as even Jessie herself ventured out into the rain. The music was forced to stop as the storm hit its peak, however Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (T.E.E.D.) both finished off the main stage whilst rekindling the festival spirit left off by Jessie Ware. Their last set ever, they did not disappoint playing their number one hits, such as ‘Garden’, along with original mixes. Surrounded by confetti, they left a final telling mark on a successful career.
Further into the festival, the Main Stage also saw the likes of SBTRKT, Four Tet, Django Django, and Disclosure. Typical of SBTRKT’s sound, the DJ set provided an upbeat dancey feel that was felt throughout the camp. Disclosure’s Live set on the other hand added familiarity, which sent electricity through the crowd. Full of teasers, and smooth transitions to some of their older tunes such as ‘Boiling’ and ‘Control’, their act finished with the sweet sound of ‘Latch’. Disclosure certainly prepped the Festival for a whole night of dancing.
The unit 44 Fire and Brimstone stage paled in insignificance when compared to the grander Main Stage. However, performances from Waze & Odyssey altered that, showcasing a more Pop and lyrical side to the festival. The Mad Ferret Stage on the other hand fell into the shadows, tucked away into the forest area, without a dynamic enough line up. So much so, it was mostly empty, whilst festivalers were drawn more to the Moroccan Medina area, where a tiny stage played out classic R’n’B and Hip Hop tunes. This was a pleasant middle ground between the heavy bass from all around. The Pool Stage also provided a good middle ground, with full bars, restaurants and entrance, all enclosed by the sounds of the likes of Nina Kraviz. You could even say it was the epicenter of all activity.
The Forest stage seemed like home to everyone at Unknown, open until 6AM. The stage saw the likes of AME, Dixon and Joy Orbison. Jamie XX, arguably one of the biggest headliners, was long awaited. It transpired that his set took a darker turn as he delved into a deeper House sound than he usually plays. Unless a die-hard fan, his set didn’t suit all palettes. Nevertheless this stage stood out and fostered the right vibe for the setting. It had everything from socializing space, with bars at the back, relaxed observing on the sides and room for more enthusiastic fans in the centre to dance. The Boiler Room once again did not disappoint, offering an exclusive Island scene, with headliner performances from Django Django and Jackmaster over two days. A late arrival from fabric resident Craig Richards did not spoil the show, in tune with the festivals ethos of variety.
Whilst not the fault of the organizers, the weather did often lower the festival atmosphere. The low budget tents that were available to rent for a deposit, gave little shelter against the down pours and most were swept away and flooded. People went as far as to go home after only the first day. However, a refugee centre, ready with blankets and pillows, was organised, as well as the help from travel companies to get accommodation in town. The festival did it’s best to help as many tent-less people as possible. Sadly, with other established Croatian Festivals taking the spotlight throughout the summer, Unknown didn’t have a great choice of dates. When the sky finally did clear, the hot sun and clear water of the beach made up for any issues that arose. A few other small criticisms; there was an apparent lack of simple amenities such as being able to take tap water into the main site. Although it was said to be due to the sites license policy, it wasn’t ideal given the great heat. As is often the case in Non-EU countries, issues with licensing mean water bottles are not allowed into the arena which is something taken for granted at English Festivals where the sun and heat isn’t as bad. Also, the music started too early, during the full sun of the afternoon. Festivalers were less likely to want to move from the beach to go see more unknown artists. Then as the time came for the main headliners, their sets were often too short, some even only playing for an hour.
The overall festival feel of Unknown could have been divided into two different personas. By day, there was a lack of community feel and fun that often make a festival. With the option to rent 2-4* Accommodation right next to the festival, it often felt more like a resort. Moreover, the food served from a restaurant, and not getting any little quirky foodie stalls, removed any festival vibe. However, at night, the festival spirit came alive. Other than the great music, there were several atmospheric “chill out” zones, such as the Moroccan medina. There you could find everything from hammocks, teepees, to a shisha bar. It’s a shame the two weren’t more intertwined. It is natural to compare unknown to it’s Croatian siblings, however in their first year it succeeded in both grabbing some huge acts as well as selling out. Unknown definitely has begun to establish an identity of it’s own.