Within touching distance of Zrće Beach and the deep blue Adriatic Sea, Sonus Festival spends five days and nights absorbing the searing heat of Croatia's coast and the pulsing beat of European techno. What comes out the other side is one of the summer's most distinctive festival destinations.
We caught up with Max Nowak, the project manager, to get the inside perspective on things Sonus and Novalja.
How would you sum up Sonus Festival for anyone who's never been before?
The first ever edition was in 2011, with the goal to establish a great quality dance sound in Croatia, with the best parties and the best music. Zrće Beach was full of EDM back in the day, so Sonus aimed to bring a totally different sound, with partners like Next Wave, Cocoon Ibiza, Sunwaves and Minus, and artists like Richie Hawtin, Sven Väth, Cassy Rhadoo, Binh and many others.
Cosmopop has been doing Sonus for four years now. The founders asked us to come alongside them to help develop the Sonus vision, and we brought more of a Time Warp style to the clubs of Zrće Beach. That's the headline, in a way, that it's a Summertime version of Time Warp – we have a clear focus on techno, and a lot of the same artists will come with us to party in the sun.
At Sonus, we focus on techno and house. It's not that you can see techno on one stage, and EDM on another. No compromise in sound – it's one kind of music, and we stay with what we know people love, and what we do best. Our slogan sums it up very well: "In Sound We Trust."
What is the local area like?
Novalja and the island of Pag are really amazing. Being able to explore and enjoy the countryside is something really different to a lot of festival locations, and a lot of holiday destinations too. Especially the beautiful blue sea, and the beaches around the island are really stunning.
Does each of the clubs have its own character?
Yeah, absolutely. We try to use the club venues in a slightly different way, with programming and atmosphere. Kalypso is, let's say, the 'natural club' with trees directly in the dance floor and a lot of wood used in the construction of the club. Papaya is one of the best clubs in the world, and really has its own personality with the design of the stage and so many palm trees inside the club. At Aquarius, where the club's architecture makes the club into a cauldron, it's the perfect place for real heard techno: Len Faki's set was a really special party there last year.
And what about afterparties?
Of course – one will be happening after the first 2-3 days, then we have a really long afterparty after the last day. After our first year, people really started talking about the afterparties! It's hard to describe why, but the after-hours party right at the end of Sonus is really special. You have to be there to understand. The crowd seems to focus its last energies and gets really crazy, and the lineup is always great. Sonus ends on Thursday and so on Friday morning, it's the afterparty – it goes on and on and on. It's an indescribable atmosphere.
How has the festival changed in the last few years?
In 2013, we started with two clubs, Papaya club and Kalypso club. In our second year, we added Aquarius and now we also have one boat party per day instead of only two in 2013. The clubs themselves keep on improving with small things each year, and now there is a new walkway on the beach and more palm trees around too.
In terms of the main headliners, we have a pretty consistent lineup each year. There is a lot of talent that stands for the Sonus sound, and we have them each year, but at the same time we also programme new artists each year. This goes for headliners as well as newcomers and local talent from the Ex-Yu region.
The great thing is that it's a really really international festival, with people coming from Germany, the UK, France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and many other places. More and more people are making the trip from the USA, Australia and more countries from around the world too, so it's still growing. The crowd at Sonus is always amazing, and the festival always has a very emotional atmosphere. Every nation brings its own flavour.
Can you describe a perfect day at Sonus?
I would get up and go relax on the beach for a while, just like any great holiday; in the afternoon, start to make my way to the clubs. The clubs are open-air so you can dance under the sun. Then there's a bit of a break, so you can freshen up, grab some great local food for dinner, then party into the night under the stars and dance until sunrise. I think that's maybe even the best thing about Sonus – that it's both a festival and a holiday, combined into one.
Sonus Festival 2016 takes place from 21-25 August, on the island of Pag, Croatia. Tickets and a range of accommodation options are available here, and more information on the festival can be found on the Sonus Festival 2016 guide.
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