Wherever Defected goes, the brand's loyal fan base will inevitably follow. But when they made the bold move to host their own festival in Croatia back in 2016, the response surpassed all expectations, and now in its third year, the festival is considered a key part of the Dalmatian Coast's musical offerings.
Advertised as 'six days of house music hedonism', the Tisno-based event brings together some of the record label's stalwarts, alongside artists from sister imprints like Classic, D-Vine and Glitterbox. The result: spontaneous back to backs, special guest sets and a mishmash of dance genres all in one idyllic location.
Taking place at The Garden site (which is also home to the likes of Love International, Suncebeat and Dekmantel Selektors), the 3000 capacity location is split up into a Main Stage, the Beach Stage and the Olive Grove, all of which is just a 15 minute walk from Tisno centre, letting you shift from sensational party atmosphere to the relaxation of a small fishing village whenever you wish.
We arrived on Thursday with every intention of taking it slow, a plan which soon got aborted following the sets from Luke Solomon and Derrick Carter, as the founders of Classic Music Recordings went full pelt as we got to grips with our surroundings. The diversity of the crowd was one of our first impressions, with house music lovers of all ages gathering together, a lot of them fully kitted out in Defected merch.
Basement Jaxx were in control of the Main Stage, which was adorned with multicoloured strip bunting above the dancefloor, all leading to a sizable disco ball. They flirted between their classics like 'Jump N Shout' to more recent tracks like PAWSA's 'The Groovy Cat', proving why after all these years in the business, they still deserve a headline slot. They were followed by the Queen and King of Defected, Sam Divine and Simon Dunmore, as the pair went B2B, effortlessly working through soulful selections, most notably 'Nobody' by David Penn.
Following a day of relaxation on the beach, Friday night kicked off with harder-edged stuff from Franky Rizardo, he unleashed 'Say What' by Gary Beck as the Main Stage started to bubble with anticipation for the next act, but due to delayed and cancelled flights, Camelphat arrived just as we headed out to Barbarella's. The twinkling open air club is one of this location's main pulls, just a short drive from Tisno, it allows you dance under the stars until day light slowly creeps back around.
The after hours club was soundtracked on the Friday by some Defected favourites, with Jess Bays and Low Steppa's impromptu B2B stealing the show. The infectious Purple Disco Machine remix of Wiess' 'Feel My Needs' filled the outdoor space, before the morning sun alerted us that the party was nearly over - not before they finished on an all-time classic, 'Finally' By Kings Of Tomorrow.
With energy left to spare at 6am, the new addition of the Beach Stage's 'Sunrise Sessions' was a welcome surprise as we headed from Barbarella's back to the site. No more than 30 people were gathered around the water as the self confessed 'spiritual house' guru Pierre Ravan smoothly took us through to 8am with grooves like Daniel Bovie & Roy Rox remix of 'Who Keeps Changing Your Mind'.
The Sunday was dominated by The Beach stage, Peggy Gou's special guest set brought in the biggest day crowd we saw all week, with those who couldn't find a spot on the dancefloor resorting to partying aboard their inflatables, bopping along to her remix of Shakedown's 'At Night'. Later that night Glitterbox took over the stage, with disco favourites Dimitri From Paris and Late Nite Tuff Guy warming us up with an abundance of edits.
It was back to Barbarella's once more as Spen & Karizma worked their magic, ploughing through bouncing house tracks alongside newly released records including the most recent on Quantize Recordings 'Up' by Jay Kutz. DJ Boring, Mele and DJ Haus took the reigns for the final two hours of the morning, smashing out high energy selections like 'Watchin Out' by Dirty Channels & Danny Russell which was matched by the behind-the-decks-chemistry the trio had.
Defected Croatia is made truly special by the family community and spirit. You can see Simon Dunmore catch up with fans near the smoothie bar, whilst DJs head into the crowd in Barbarella's for a piece of the action, next to newly found friendship groups aplenty. Croatia is one of Europe's busiest festival destinations, and has the potential to become saturated, but with all those magic moments that happen in Tisno, it's hard to imagine a festival like Defected's ever losing its sparkle.