It's not uncommon that the end of a festival draws a certain relief: missed sleep can be caught up on, the liver given time to recover, and legs pained from dancing and walking are finally rested. Not so with Croatia's Love International Festival which, within just two editions, has attained a vibe unparalleled in the festival calendar. The sheer friendliness and exuberance displayed by the audience here have a restorative quality for the soul, one that, despite tiredness, makes it incredibly difficult to say goodbye. Must we really wait for a whole year to again have a time as good as that?
The spiritual descendent of The Garden Festival which bowed out in 2015, Love International has firmly stamped its own identity on proceedings this year, with organisers identifying key cabals to rope in and host individual boat parties and club sessions. As a result they have drawn both likeminded players and their audiences to form a party crowd that gels together incredibly well. Never at any time do things feel cliquey, as though you're separated or excluded from any of these groups. There are no VIP areas save for the dancefloors where each of the mostly 25 to 45 year olds in attendance are treated as such.
Balearic hippies, bearded gay men, dreadlocked unicorns, romantic married couples, gangs of clubbing best mates and random visitors to the Balkans taking a curious detour from their backpacking are all welcomed into the mix. They are swept up into a glorious, unified throng that's in great superiority to its individual parts.
From the first sounds played on Thursday afternoon to the following Thursday's early hours, the music barely stops. And it's never not good. If that sounds impossible then you'll just have to see it for yourself because, alongside the special audience the festival draws, Love International's big winning ticket is its music and programming.
Balearic dons like Kelvin Andrews, James Holroyd as Begin, Lexx and Balearic Mike hold epic sunrises in the palms of their hands from dawn's earliest light until midday, afternoons ebb and flow in a gradual crescendo to evenings which see three tantalisingly-billed stages vying for your attention. Boat parties, which at the event's peak run at four a day, transport revellers into an instant good time. And that's even before you consider the attraction of Barbarellas, the outdoor club a short coach ride away that's frequently mentioned among the best spaces of its kind in the world. There, the raving takes on an extra special dimension as partygoers transition from darkest, star-filled night to daylight swathed this year in the million reflections emitting from a huge discoball that hangs overhead. Under these lights some of the very best underground house and disco DJs bring their A game. Read on for the seven biggest moments of the festival...