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Is Croatia The New Ibiza?

UK promoters are turning the Adriatic into the best place to party, plus a guide to the best Croatian festivals.

With sunny and uncrowded beaches, quality lineups and cheap accomodations, Croatia has become the new El Dorado for ravers. Every year from the end of May to mid-September, there are not less than 15 festivals happening there, mainly organised by UK promoters. Corrupted cops, cheap drinks or just that it's a virgin territory: what makes the Adriatic Coast so appealing?

Unless you are the guy in charge of the maps infography at CNN, you probably know that Croatia is a country on the Adriatic Coast and Ibiza is a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea. If it's all about sea, sex and sun, what's the difference, you would rightly ask? Well, while Ibiza is overcrowded all summer – with hundreds flights per day of people dropping off people from around the world coming to get their annual seven days of depravity – Croatia is more laid-back and natural. As the Croatian National Tourist Board's slogan claims, it's "The Mediterranean as it Once Was." And it is!

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As Ibiza used to be in its glory days, Croatia has remained too broke to develop its coastline with a bunch of wack hotels and concrete. And because of that, politicians and officials shouldn't let Croatia join the EU – otherwise, in less than two years, maggoty real estate developers will make it look like the coasts of Southern France. (In case of you didn't know, the Southern France seaside sucks. Just google "La Grande Motte" to see).

Instead, Croatia has over 1,000 islands to explore, eight national parks with magnificent waterfalls, forests, gorges, rivers and deep blue lakes… If there was a travel guide to Heaven, honestly, it wouldn't look very different from this. And UK promoters understand this very well. A quick overview of the different Croatian summer music festival websites will let you dive in this universe of boat parties, chilling on the beach in the sun and smiling girls in swimming suits. You usually have to use an Instagram filter to get lighting this good. Haters gonna hate but for sure they've never spent a summer in the UK. Have you ever been on a British beach? No? Me neither, but I won't. Seriously, 62°F max, and you're lucky if you see sun at all during your whole trip. I don't call that vacation, and English kids don't either. They are more and more likely to spend their meager savings on a round-trip to Croatia since Ibiza sucks and has anyway become unaffordable.

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"Outsourcing" the British summer is what a couple of British guys wearing flood pants started to do few years ago. Whether it's a beachfront terrace, an old fort or an isolated creek, every time the formula works the same way: Brit promoters get some of the finest DJs (most of them from the UK) to make people dance "under a canopy of stars" in exchange for a free holiday relaxing "beneath the pines." And word of mouth does the rest, bringing the Easyjet-set to the Adriatic coasts while 832.5 miles away bling bling Russian mobsters and all the douchebags of the universe gather in Ibiza.

In fact, some observers have pointed out that Croatia is like the old Ibiza, a mix of freedom and hedonism as it used to be in the past before the business took over everything. In his recent book Ibiza Mon Amour, French philosopher and Ibiza resident Yves Michaud investigates the story of the Mediterranean island to analyze the process he calls "pleasure industrialization." For the author, the word Ibiza itself came to mean partying, music, sex, sea and pleasure – and people coming to the island expect to enjoy that specific range of experiences. Thus, like Disneyworld, a complete industry has developed on Ibiza to provide on-demand happiness and artificial joy which for the intensity matters more than the authenticity.

On the exact opposite side, authenticity is precisely what the Croatian tourist board is aiming for. And that's the clever marketing ploy here: in a more and more disillusioned and artificialized postmodern era, there is logically more and more money to be made on hipsters lost on their existential quest. Ask my sister selling homemade jewels in the Brooklyn Sunday markets! She makes more money than my dealer. And me, sadly.

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In the end, the Instagram lighting is over, is Croatia very different from Ibiza's pleasure industry? As XLR8R reported, Croatian festivals are growing fast and they have nothing to envy from their European counterparts big mess. One raver even died last year at Dimensions. Surely a youthful mistake by the promoters, whose shoulders are probably not as wide yet as the events they organize. But it shouldn't stop the Croatian festival business from growing, as the Ibiza authorities have managed to control those kind of risks (Ibiza's clubs have now their own medical teams, for instance). Looking at Pag, a Croatian island mined with clubs, there is no doubt about what the Adriatic Coast's destiny will be, even if all these party promoters aren't motivated by the same cash-machine dreams. Case in point: a few years back when things got a little overcrowded at The Garden, the organizers decided to make less tickets available instead of increasing the festival's capacity.

But whatever. Isn't it all about a bunch of drunk sunburned British guys anyway?

PLAN YOUR TRIP: A GUIDE TO CROATIAN FESTIVALS

Lighthouse Festival (May 24-26, 2013)
Taking place in Lanterna, a pristine peninsula in the Porec region, the festival takes over a vast pine-forested headland property, including different open-air arenas and two club venues (alongside some inescapable boat parties during the day). Mostly German, the programming features artists like Modeselektor, Âme, Avatism, Kollektiv Turmstrasse, Sascha and Niconé Braemer… surrounded by a bunch of exciting newcomers.

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Love System (May 29 - June 3, 2013)
Located in Petrcane, a small village about 10km north of Zadar, the festival is awaits 1,000 partygoers for four days of music including Bicep, Midland, Finnebassen, Ejeca and Shonky.

Echo Festival (June 6 - 9, 2013)
This intimate techno festival showcases best underground artists and emerging talent such as Delano Smith, Christopher Rau, Magda and John Roberts, to name but a few.

For (June 21-23, 2013)
Croatia isn't all about music nerds throwing raves on deserted beaches – it's also a growing destination with major players investing there, and the label heads from Modular Recordings are among them. Named after the ancient moniker of the island of Hvar, For mixes live acts and DJs with quite impressive headliners: Nicolas Jaar, 2 Many Dj's, James Blake, James Murphy, Tame Impala.

Hideout (July 3-5, 2013)
Hideout is part of the heavy artillery of the Croatian festival scene. They take over the island of Pag's douchebag clubs bringing a huge lineup of hottest and finest DJs like Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones, Julio Bashmore, Four Tet, and Dixon.

The Garden (July 3-10, 2013)
The Garden are pioneers, who were among the first to see the the potential of Croatia. Loyal to their initial ethos, they also decided to restrain the festival capacity when things started to grow exponentially. Instead, the location hosts various other festivals all over the month (Electric Elephant, Soundwave, Suncébeat, Stop Making Sense… See below).

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Electric Elephant (July 11-15, 2013)
Electric Elephant  welcomes very respectable headliners such as Detroit techno legend Carl Craig,  Godfather of House Music Frankie Knuckles and British heroes like Andrew Weatherall and Mr. Scruff. Who said Electropedia?

Ultra Europe (July 12-14, 2013)
The little brother of Miami's Ultra Festival brings EDM superstars to the Adriatic Coast. Afrojack, Avicii, Carl Cox, Armin Van Buuren, Jamie Jones… they are all here. The only question is: will the crowd be as fancy as the Miami one is? More explicitly: will be there American people in the crowd?

Soundwave (July 18-22, 2013)
Beats, electronica or hip-hop: this one is all about guys wearing caps, camel or khaki pants and tshirts saying hip-hop was better before. MF DOOM, Bonobo, DJ Shadow and Alice Russell satisfy this temporary society of "beats" connoisseurs and weed smokers.

Suncébeat (July 24 - 30, 2013)
Their Funktion One sound system resonates to the soul, funky and house beats distilled by expert DJs like Moodyman, Joe Claussel, Gilles Peterson, Kerri Chandler and more! And for sure, there will be a guy in the crowd whooping at every track the guy behind the decks will play.

Stop Making Sense (August 1-4, 2013)
SMS bringsthe cream of the crop to The Garden's magical secluded bay. Dixon, Radio Slave, San Soda, Session Victim and more will exceptionally take off their shirts to stir the crowd. Actually, if they can just DJ, that would be good enough.

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Barrakud (August 10-17, 2013)
During 8 days and 7 nights, Barrakud will make you forget the economic crisis, the unemployment rates and global warming, as a bunch of kids come from all over the Europe to listen to Paul Kalbrenner, Marcel Dettmann, Kenny Larkin and Ellen Allien… unless a new oil shock forces everyone to watch it at home on Boiler Room instead.

Sonus (August 21-25, 2013)
The German guys from Time Warp might be tired of throwing huge raves in dark hangars. They already successfully exported their savoir faire to Holland and Italy; this time they are heading to Pag. They are taking with them Ricardo Villalobos, Loco Dice, Seth Troxler and Magda. Those studio tans are brutal – hopefully they won't forget the sunscreen.

Outlook (August 29 - September 2, 2013)
Outlook proclaims itself the largest bass music festival, whether it be house, techno, dubstep, reggae, dub, hip-hop, garage or grime. Looking at the lineup (Mala in Cuba, Bonobo, Kode 9, Boddika, Rustie, XXYYXX), a question pops to mind: will there be girls in the crowd?

Dimensions (September 5-9, 2013)
Held at Fort Punta Christo, Dimensions is Outlook festival brother, which basically means its bookers work two weeks in the summer and spend the rest of the year emailing talented artists from the comfy spacious lofts they bought with the money they made in Croatia. I want to be one of these people.

Unknown (September 10-14, 2013)
Do you know the kind of people who go in vacations in the middle of the month of September? They say summer is too hot anyway, the beaches are crowded with a bunch of gross and loud people, there is traffic on the roads… blah blah. Well, they have their festival in Rovinj, Croatia at the end of the season called Unknown complete with "forest lodges," "bespoke design projects," and a lineup that includes The Horrors and Factory Floor, Waze & Odyssey, Disclosure, Jessie Ware and Julio Bashmore. Kind of like Boiler Room goes camping.

Antoine likes sun, sea and sex. Oh yeah, and music. He's also free this summer. (Hint hint, Croatian Tourist Board) - @AdePointZero