What do you get when you strip back the modern day festival of the pomp and trimmings, when you boldly cut through the obfuscating smog of aesthetic concerns, fiscal limitations and lasers?
We reach perhaps, an unexpected conclusion for those naysaying, nostalgia laden “born in the wrong decade” sorts of people, who get off linking those videos from 90s raves and club nights, whining about the state of the modern music scene and donning their parents’ clothes. Luckily for all of us, the visionary Dekmantel crew fashioned a fantastically pure and original festival with Selectors, standing tall and proud as an exemplar to the rest of those trying to start or curate a festival of their own.
At first it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what sets Selectors apart from other festivals. It’s all too easy to focus entirely on the music and the DJs but honestly that wouldn’t be doing Thomas Martojo and Casper Tielrooij justice if we were to only speak about the songs played and the DJs that played them.
Selectors is a deviant breath of fresh air from the cash cow style of festival that we are so used to seeing in the world today. At these festivals there is little feeling of a community connection or joint enthralment between visitors. This is a direct consequence of being made to feel like you are being made to spend; it sterilises the atmosphere and a rift is created between the consumer and the provider.
With the success of the Amsterdam flagship festival, the temptation to ride that momentum and throw bigger and more audacious festivals must have been quite staggering for the Dekmantel crew. It was refreshingly clear to see that Selectors wasn’t made with dollar signs in mind. Acts weren’t booked to maximise ticket sales and the venue wasn’t chosen to maximise capacity. It’s one of the main reasons why Selectors is such a beautiful thing, Dekmantel threw their hearts into this festival and created one big party for their crew, friends, favourite DJs and those lucky 1500 souls who have happened upon the beautiful town of Tisno.
It was clear from the first impressions that the crew have sat down and thought things through: what elements make a great party, what the major pitfalls of other festivals are and what elements can be stripped away and jettisoned. The capacity, the music, the venue and the people all amassed in one confluent and streamlined experience that has not only given rise to many magical musical memories, but also many new unlikely intercontinental friendships born out of a shared love for music, experienced in a totally relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Picture Selectors as a distillation. The perfectly purified product of the best that today’s music festival scene has to offer. While the focus is dedicated to the music identity of the festival, particular attention has been attributed to the ways in which that very music is consumed. Function 1 sound systems adorned each of the main stages providing their classically accurate and powerful sound. The lighting was tastefully conducted and didn’t seek to overindulge in lasers or pyrotechnics; rather, the moonlit Selectors is soaked in a deep reddish glow with occasional punctuation from a thick enveloping mist from the smoke machines. The simplicity and clarity of the festival is one of its greatest assets. An unspoilt and uncomplicated aural playground in which to run amok with your mates.
The night before the festival was set to begin gave us a preview of what we were to expect from the rest of the five days. An unannounced, unofficial pre-party on the pier provided a winning mixture of nationalities and personalities headed by an all star b2b including Tako, Abel, Young Marco, Vakula and the formidable Dekmantel Soundsystem playing records into the starlit night.
We caught the party bug early on from raucous antics supported by welcoming smiles from the Dekmantel crew. The blurred lines between the festival organisers and the festival goers allowed for an intimate personal connection to form between everyone involved. It’s totally immersive, the DJs aren’t some far distant entity that’s detached from everybody else, they’re on the bench next to you feeling the effects of the night before in exactly the same ways because everyone is on the same relaxed and easy-going level. The Black Madonna relaxes on the beach whilst Palms Trax gently nurses his hangover on an inflatable, meanwhile San Proper is inviting people to dinner, running around chatting and loving the company of a thousand strangers.
Each morning, fuzzy heads were aurally caressed by the daytime selectors who looked after the Garden’s sleepy inhabitants. Bodies and minds were cleansed of the impurities and debauchery leftover from the night before in the waves while the music from the pier stage radiated around the beach. The momentum gradually built as the sun eased off until the rapturous return of the daytime boat party injected a contagious energy back into the resort, announced by the clamour of a foghorn and reigniting the party for another fantastic night.
Stand out sets of the festival included, but were definitely not limited to, Daniele Baldelli, Pender Street Steppers and The Black Madonna, worth a special mention for her persistently jubilant personality and ridiculously tight technique behind the wheels throwing immense parties both on dry land and at sea. Her boat party with Mike Servito was one of the more ludicrous moments of the weekend with an entirely electrified atmosphere, drenched in the glow of Croatian sunset. She had the entire crowd eating from her palm by the end of her set. Orpheu the Wizard also killed it with a tantalising set of percussive and melodic mastery, mixed to absolute perfection with complex blends spanning minutes and minutes of bliss. It is really hard to single out specific sets from the festival though as the music was of insanely high calibre throughout.
The festival was, on the whole, an overwhelmingly positive experience although there were (as to be expected with any new festival) some teething problems. The highly anticipated four hr set from Hunee with I-F and Helena Hauff to follow was marred by unforeseen circumstances. The knock on effect of Antal’s late arrival and the captive crowd on the pier lead to the party remaining on the pier stage rather than migrating over to the larger, more adequately equipped beachside. The soundsystem at the pier – while sufficient for daytime relaxation and smaller crowds – couldn’t supply accurately detailed sound over the longer distance, which resulted in some frequency distortion and a muddyish sound.
Minor teething problems though, that Dekmantel will no doubt be looking at with the same analytical, introspective eye that that has lead them to become the goliaths of music entertainment that they are today. Casper and Thomas’ thirst for self-improvement keep propelling them constantly to reach new heights and Selectors is most certainly a jewel in that crown.
The initial disappointment quickly subsided when we were subjected to some of the finest programming of the festival over at the Voodoo stage. Tako kicked off affairs and was followed by Bariş K’s blend of abstruse and eastern downtempo music. The rock star Rahaan then confidently blew away the crowd with unsurpassed stage presence and a fantastically selected set of high energy house. This fantastic night of music was closed in spectacular fashion by the master Gilb’r with a starry eyed Hunee onlooking with admiration as the crowd bucked and swayed in total unison to his off-the-wall selections. If you love music and feel at all disillusioned with the state of the festival scene today, give Selectors a try and thank us next year.
Listen to 150 music highlights we tracked down over the weekend.
Big collective shout out to everybody we met out in Tisno that made a fantastic festival even better by their presence. And shout out to the 24hr Cicada liveset providing the deep ambient murmur in the background. Thanks also to all of you who helped out with the IDs – Chudi, The Toms, Max, Francesco, Mateusz, Toby, Arnold, Will, Joe, Cal and Baby G.