The 6th edition of Moondance Festival has been unique, eye opening and educational

Moondance Festival is a home-grown Croatian techno festival made with love. Croatia has been for some time now the new alternative to Ibiza as a summer festival destination with many world leading labels and brands across electronic music bringing their parties to its picturesque coastlines and stunning mainland towns and cities. Moondance is the gem of Croatian festivals which isn’t driven by a global marketing machine, it steers clear of the mainstream. It’s a techno festival for the heads, a true underground experience which is the project of a very humble man by the name of Pero Brčić who is a true example of a local legend. His name Pero FullHouse was given to him because every event he promoted was a guaranteed full house. In a brief time I managed to spend with him he explained to me his background:

“I started DJing early ’90s then promoting mid ’90s and since then I do not adhere to anything average. Even when sometimes people don’t follow, I am willing to be different in going a step forward. It’s not that easy in this environment. We are not Berlin but I am trying my best to show people new things in techno while respecting techno heritage at the same time.”

What once started out as a one-day festival for 400 people in its first year has now grown to a three-day festival attracting over 9000. One thing I can honestly say about Moondance is there is no compromise when it comes to music – Its 100% techno and a strict no VIP culture.

Moondance is held in Kamerlengo Fortress in Trogir which has recently been voted one of the world’s most beautiful island cities by National Geographic. It was quite a surreal experience making my first walk down to the fortress which was only a ten-minute stroll from where I was staying at Brown Beach House. To set the scene Trogir is a historic medieval town and harbour which is ripe with tourism situated 5km away from Split airport. It has a stunning mix of Renaissance, Baroque and Romanesque buildings surrounded by a seaside promenade lined with bars, cafes, restaurants and yachts along the harbour. Burn Energy Drink promo girls were walking up the promenade as the sun was setting handing out flyers. Tourists, locals and families were eating their evening meals, children were playing with street entertainers, archery ranges were situated outside the fortress walls and local football practice was in the background on the football field. All this with a thunderous soundtrack of the echoing basslines whirling from inside the fortress walls.

Now I hear you thinking – an open-air festival in a small tourist town at night time – what about noise laws? Not to worry. The local authorities are behind the festival and fully support it. Moondance attracts almost all of its attendees from ticket sales outside of the Split-Dalmatia county and doesn’t rely on local tourism which is exactly what the Trogir tourist board are encouraging, expanding tourism in their town. Over three nights Moondance welcomes the who’s who of techno calvary combining them with the pinnacle of homegrown talent of the Adriatic. Their previous 5 years of events already boasts headliners including Jeff Mills, Ben Sims, Dosem, Alan Fitzpatrick, Dave Clarke, Octave One, Robert Hood, Oscar Mulero, DJ Bone & Deetron as The StoryTellers and many more. This year’s 6th edition line-up was even more impressive. Unfortunately, due to flight delays I missed the opening night arriving a whole day late and much to my dismay missing KiNK Live, Eduardo de la Calle and Francesco Tristano Live. If there was a roof on the fortress I was reliably informed it would no longer be there as KiNK was on immaculate form.

I’ve debated with myself many ways of how I was going to write this review and I’m going with a choice of highlights and experiences which personally made the festival special to me. So, Friday (day two) was my starting point hosted by Berlin based Dystopian headed by Rødhåd. The festival begins 9pm and runs through to as early as 6:45am. A piece of advice the sun is back to being in full effect so make sure you bring sunglasses for the sensitive eyes in the morning. As you would expect it’s a slow burner getting started with the majority finally making their way inside the walls by midnight. On my arrival Pero was playing under his Skeptik alias with Avoid aka Vladimir Acic. Pero also played the closing set the night before under his FullHouse alias which unfortunately again I missed. He spoke to me about his two-monikers explaining:

“As a DJ Pero FullHouse I play anything between house and techno that I consider quality, hypnotic and funky. From deep house to Detroit techno. My musical roots are very diverse from early electronics to hip hop, industrial, punk, pop, rock, black music that influenced my DJ sets. I wasn’t able to express these only through one moniker. So, I have started SKEPTIK, my techno alter ego that should represent my darker, subversive side with lots of broken beats, electro and experimental influences combined with powerful 4/4 beats.”

Luckily for me Skeptik and Avoid were playing After Film festival a few days later in Sarajevo and recorded their set. You can listen to their 4 hr b2b set here. Bosnia And Herzegovina based Forrest People connected his piece to the puzzle as the fortress began to build its atmosphere. I must admit things were already pretty pounding and was only around 11:30pm which left me quite curious how the rest of the night would play out. I would like to take this moment to mention Ivan Komlinovic who stepped up next and played a superb live set. Ivan picked me up from the airport earlier in the day and filled me in about the local techno scene. He’s a very talented music writer, producer, sound designer, live performer, DJ and overall music enthusiast from Zagreb. His set was an amalgamation of acid lines, industrial undertones, Detroit influences and infection drum rhythms & groove. To label it I would call it eclectic techno – In 60 mins you could hear so many sounds and style of influence. You can watch 40 mins of his live set here.

Filip Xavi followed taking it a bit filthier and grotty early on before weaving in some more whirling and enchanted melodies which was music to my ears and suited the environment perfectly. After a few drinks and introductions to the Moondance team were complete it was then time for Monoloc Live, Rødhåd and Radio Slave to take the reins. From the Moment Monoloc began there was a change in mood and atmosphere, a reset to the evening you could say. He created moments of eeriness within the fortress walls with melodies taking you though a soaring soundscape that momentarily made you forget about the kick-drums about to inadvertently slap you back across your face. Rødhåd to put it in simple terms was a big “Fuck Yeah” I’m loving this. It’s a case of head down, suck it up and go for it. Nothing short of the deep, powerful and melancholic techno you would expect. Radio Slave sealed the deal to end the night. The Rekids boss powered through to sunrise to which I was thankful I brought my sunglasses. However, it’s the little unique moments you get with Moondance Festival which add to the musical experience. Climbing through the fortress towers, the 6th edition birthday cake which was delicious, zero attitude or animosity anywhere you walked. Friendly security, fast service at the bar. It was all on point, with still one night left.

Saturday night and Berlin called again – this time with the powerhouse, or should I say power plant, by the name of Tresor and their Detroit counterpart K-Hand who is very aptly named ‘The first lady of Detroit’. However, Tresor resident Handmade delivered a clinically pumping, deep and dub techno vinyl only set. Perhaps the best warm up set I have heard in years. It was seamless and masterfully constructed. The art of a warm up DJ was on show and meticulously done amalgamating Detroit beats with jacking stabs of Chicago influence amidst deep and winding acid lines. Does vinyl really sound better I asked myself? In this instance yes, it most definitely did. This could also be partly down to the new Allen & Heath Xone 96 mixer which the festival premiered for the region, one of only two prototype’s came to Moondance Festival and was also featured at their Music workshop at Trogir Town Hall.

As previously mentioned. The first lady of Detroit, K-Hand arrived midway through Handmade’s set and sat at the side of the stage in a reserved manor, you could see she is a respectful lady, waiting patiently for Handmade’s final track to play out before taking over. I only needed to reach the first drop of her opening track to know I was going to absolutely love this set. She paved a journey through dark, twisting, melodic, pounding grittiness that makes you smile, with a presence so elegantly animated, sipping a glass of red wine and smiling all the way. If you were looking for a lesson in Detroit techno this was a PhD. The finest set I’ve heard in a while creating absolute scenes down on the fortress floor. Following K-HAND was Buenos Aires export Jonas Kopp who has since relocated to Berlin and picked up by Tresor had a tough act to follow and my first opinion was he lost a little soul early on but quickly reverted to some entrancing breakdowns you could get lost in. Jonas believes his music can bring people together on a higher level: connected through art. And this is exactly what Moondance Festival is about.

Unfortunately, I had a long day travelling the next day so didn’t stay for the closing set by The Analogue Cops Live. I apologise guys. And I extend that to all the other DJ’s and live acts who did not get a mention because you all contributed to an event I can honestly say has been so unique, eye opening and educational. In reflection speaking with Pero he told me:

“Just when I thought that Moondance can’t get any better than last year, it turns out I was wrong. I am always very critical to myself and together with my DJ history I want to control all stages of developing Moondance. From initial ideas, thinking of consistent line-ups to booking artists, to promotion and production of the event. It’s an event that is supposed to be a heaven for DJs to express their self best to an audience. The past 6 editions say to me my stubbornness has made good results. It’s not about hype, fashion, Facebook likes. It’s just about good music and different experience than other events. I want to make an atmosphere to hypnotise people with music.”

Filip Grljević who is the Moondance Festival project manager further added: “For me, the most important part of everything is that the festival again made our guests happy and amazed as much as we were, without even the smallest incident over 3 festival days with only positivity and love in the air. Some of the best artists this genre has to offer rocked through the venue and I can’t wait for next year”

I have one final mention to Brown Beach House who made my short stay so comfortable and relaxing. I was greeted with banter at my late arrival, a glass a Champagne to cool me down in the 35 degree heat. I was welcomed with an invitation to their hotel pool party before I made my merry way down to Moondance and was informed the buffet breakfast will most likely be served by the time I’ve made my return around 6am. The rooms were luxurious and styled with class, waiters/waitresses were politely on hand around the pool to serve cocktails and if you wanted a change of scenery from the pool there is a small pebble beach across the road where you can take in the picturesque Trogir scenery. Spa treatments are available and a gym, dinner was served 7:30pm to the minute with an excellent choice of backing music – The legendary ‘The Rolling Stones’.

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Decoded Magazine Director and Operations Manager of Decoded Magazine Radio.

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