I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect much from Ultra Europe. A wary watcher of the exploding dance music scene, I hold festivals like Ultra Music Festival somewhat responsible for perhaps diluting what dance music means to its fans. Today’s shows are more about fireworks and cakes than music that makes your feet move and your heart smile. But the lure of seeing the blue waters of the Adriatic and getting the chance to tick favourites like Pretty Lights, Gramatik, Hot Since 82 off my to-see-list proved too strong to resist. Though attending Ultra Europe hasn’t altered my opinion too much, I will concede that it surprised me. In more ways than one.
Music festivals in Europe tend to be found in large open green fields, a little away from civilization just in case the debauchery that goes down – and go down it does – is a bit too much for the locals to handle. Ultra Europe had no such qualms. Just a 10-minute walk, albeit a brisk walk, from the stunning seaside promenade Riva, was the 35,000-capacity Stadion Poljud, football home of HNK Hadjuk Split. A whole freakin’ football stadium that has hosted the likes of Germany, Spain, Brazil, Switzerland. It was perhaps fitting that the final day of Ultra Europe coincided with the World Cup final. Conclusion, one of the coolest venues for a dance music festival.
Let’s face it. Most big festivals like Ultra Music Festival don’t necessarily need a killer lineup to attract fans. UMF’s promise of a bloody-good-time has fans flocking from all over the world, not just to the land of hot bods Miami but also to the historic city of Split. Agreed that Ultra Europe is no match for the marquee names and pyrotechnics of Miami but the organisers managed to do a pretty decent job of including heavyweights and crowd favourites like Carl Cox, Armin, Tiesto, Above & Beyond, Laidback Luke and Steve Aoki in a lineup that also included Pretty Lights Music fam – Pretty Lights and Gramatik with Russ Liquid on the sax, UK garage house golden boys Disclosure, hot fav Hot Since 82 alongside smooth movers like Erick Morillo, Marco Carola and Paul Kalkebrenner. The main stage, predictably, had more show than sound but the Ultra Worldwide Arena, for an earnest dance music fan, was a happy spot to camp in.
Though a bit chaotic on Day 1 – imagine happy, high, excited revellers and long queues – entry to the festival on Day 2 and Day 3 took less than two minutes from main entrance to the nearest beer stall inside. The system was easy to understand and points of sale were plenty. Though moving from one stage to another involved a bit of walking, there were plenty of volunteers to point you in the right direction. For a festival that sees over a lakh of attendees, that’s some pretty impressive handling.
Burgers the size of your face. No, I’m not exaggerating. Croatia does burgers like no other country. And for that sheer fact, Ultra Europe scores big. Let’s not forget the pizza that had fans lining up, for the simple reason that it was delish. When it came to food, Ultra Europe knew how to keep the ragers happy.
Beach party at Hvar
Island. Beach. Sun. Sand. This one was a winner even before the lineup was announced. And when it was, it didn’t disappoint. Headlined by label boss and party ringleader Diplo, moombahton pioneer Dillon Francis and the very tall party-starter Afrojack – who was spotted having breakfast on his small boat at the port in Hvar by fans earlier in the day – the closing party at the Amfora Hotel had fun and frolic written all over it. To top it all, The Sherp was there to catch a marriage proposal at the beach party. Arndt asked his girlfriend Kelcie of 10 years to marry him at what was without the best party of their lives!
(Images Courtesy: Ultra Europe Official Facebook)