Paradise Found: Love International 2018

Love International blessed the beautiful, sun-kissed garden town of Tisno for it’s 3rd helping of hedonistic antics at the end of June, and the team have solidly improved on an already stellar reputation with a festival that leaves little to be desired. After going for just the weekend portion of the week-long festival last year, I had to go back for the full week to fuel my cravings for the Love Int vibe that is unlike any festival I have ever been to. Arriving on the Wednesday to a cloudy Split did not kick the week off to the best of starts with some despondent looks around the dinner table, but as the peach tinted Sun faded in the distance it took with it any clouds of apprehension amongst fezzie-goers.

As I descended upon the Beach Stage on its opening night I was taken aback by the settings; the dance floor raucous and effervescent, suspended over an ever-shimmering sea. Over the week at this picturesque festival, this would become a defining contrast; a laissez faire week where you can dip in and out of the party at your own leisure soaking up the sun and more soothing house and soul selections by day before nightfall when the dancefloors across the three stages would slowly enliven until reaching fever pitch.

Beach stage at night – Credit: Khris Cowley, Here and Now

The festival is an intimate affair small in size but oozing  panache in the production of the stages and the musical offerings. I’d known it was a family affair but was bowled over by the prevalence of festival goers donning the family and friends bands; it seemed for many a holiday reunion with old pals. With Love’s exceptional ability to pull together some of the world best DJs, it makes for a truly unique, exceptional experience watching masters of their craft drive swirls of crowds into ecstasy.

Amongst the best sets I saw myself the usual names crop-up (Four Tet, Hunee, and Ben UFO back to back with Craig Richards). Four Tet headlined the Garden stage and wowed with his virtuoso djing. His unruly Sunday set seamlessly blended numerous genres quite effortlessly. The most memorable moment was when an instrumental of Dizzee Rascal’s Brand New Day cropped up, catching the crowd off-guard, unprepared for the havoc that naturally unfolded afterwards. Four Tet’s edit of Neli Furtado’s Afraid was met by applaud from the crowd and a couple next to me even broke into a surprisingly on point salsa.

Bradley Zero’s’ four hour daytime slot at the Beach Stage was particularly enjoyable as I cooled down from the previous night’s hangover, his soulful house selection was the perfect remedy. He played 4 Hero’s Hold it Down which was an especially revitalising moment. Then towards the end he dropped Chaos in the CBD’s Observe one of my favourite house tracks as I lay on an inflatable buoyed up by the superb atmosphere.

Spotting a few of my favourite DJs for brief encounters in the crowd made respective days all that more special. A boogie at Barbarella’s with Gerd Janson, handshakes with a beaming Hunee and a chat with Kieran Hebden as he sized up the crowd the night before his set at the Garden stage all left an indelible impression on me about the  atmosphere the team have been able to cultivate at Love Int.

Synonymous with the Love vibe is being able to take a number of different paths to end up at the same location, and like anything the journey there is what makes it. The same is true for the transport to Barbarellas where you can take the party bus filled with fuelled up characters from all over the world debating how England’s teams too young to win the World Cup (sigh) or for the more refined individual the speed boat, which I only managed to get once but do highly recommend.

Another unique aspect of many European festivals are the boat parties which tend to be a particularly raucous affair at Love. Our party of choice this year was the Disco Knights boat party hosted by Craig Richards and Anthony Mansfield on Saturday evening. With the attendees popping Prosecco like Centre court at Wimbledon the boozy, bouji crowd and the sun-soaked evening set a great atmosphere for Richards and Mansfield to captain ship and they were more than happy to oblige. Richards played the second half of the set which was eased in with minimal groovers to begin with and naturally veered towards more disco house bangers at the end. One of his last song was a Hot Chip edit of Donna Summer’s Sunset People which set the hype on the boat to unreal levels. Even at the end of the set when the boat had docked and the electronic curtains seemed to have closed on the set, Richards enticed the partygoers with one more song, reloading and reworking it each time making it impossible to leave. With one foot off the boat the crowd kept rushing back onto the boat; the seduction of the set simmered into the evening and stepping off was no longer a viable option.

Aside from the core captivations of Love International, the real mastery of the festival comes down to the in-between moments which amplify the experience ten fold. Of these the sunrise sessions on the beach and the after-chills at Vortex Beach bar need be mentioned. The Monday Sunrise Session compromising of a Craig Richards dub set blended into the paradisiacal setting and mood and acted as an elixir of rejuvenation for the night before. If you do make it to Love Int in 2019, be sure to check out Vortex which seemed to be the go to spot for after chills for those left unsatisfied by the Barberella bedlam.

As the festival scene in Croatia has morphed into one of the most active in the region the Love International team has kept and ear to the ground with a deft blend of the acts throughout the week which means if in need of a cooldown from the marathon party you won’t feel too aggrieved. On the penultimate day as I sat around a dinner table with friends at one of the seafront restaurants lining the rolling Tisno coastline we could hardly imagine a better way to bow out a special week.

If you like the sound of what you hear, be sure to check out the super early bird pre-sale for 2019s edition below:

Words by Zahaib Hussain & Alex Ikhinmwin

Feature Image by Khris Cowley for Here & Now (