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Sonus Festival review: beat-heavy beach festival throws a ten year bash

Sonus Festival (Sonus Festival)
Sonus Festival (Sonus Festival)

In recent years, Croatia has begun rivalling more established party destinations across Europe, playing host to a plethora of festivals including Hideout, Love International and Dimensions. And in the country’s picturesque Novalja – a seaside town on the north west coast of the island of Pag –Sonus Festival played host to one of this summer’s standout events. Now a staple of the country’s festival calendar, it returned for its tenth edition on August 20-24.

Over the last decade, big names such as Peggy Gou, Black Coffee and Solomon have all graced the turntables at Zrće Beach. This year was no different, with a line-up full of dance music legends including Cocoon label boss Sven Väth, Italian selector Marco Carola, legendary US DJ Seth Troxler, and popular New York production duo The Martinez Brothers.

Marco Carola (Sonus Festival)
Marco Carola (Sonus Festival)

Music On label boss Marco Carola proved the main draw of the festival’s first night, taking over the iconic Papaya stage with his Napolitano take on techno. The construction beams over Zrće Beach like some sort of mega-satellite, and his bumper two-and-a-half-hour set featured a zany light display.

Aquarius Stage (Sonus Festival)
Aquarius Stage (Sonus Festival)

There was also much to appreciate for party-goers with heavier tastes – veteran Italian DJ Sam Paganini topped the bill for first night at Aquarius, the stage tasked with bringing the darker strains of dance to eager partiers, while ARTBAT, Dax J and Indria Paganotto pumped high-octane beats throughout the rest of the weekend.

Papaya Stage (Sonus Festival)
Papaya Stage (Sonus Festival)

Taking on the Papaya stage the following day, London-born DJ and producer Pawsa was rapidly followed by The Martinez Brothers — with each act’s set transitioning perfectly from one another, both sharing a similar brand of two-step house music.

Night quickly turns to day at Sonus, with headline DJs ringing in the tunes until the sun comes up. With the intense heat of daytime on Pag Island, the blazing conditions are perfect for raucous boat parties, and the festival enlisted the likes of Vintage Culture, Lilly Palmer and PAN-POT to take the sounds of Sonus out onto open waters. It was a welcome departure from the, at times, unbearable heat dawning over Croatia.

Sonus Festival (Sonus Festival)
Sonus Festival (Sonus Festival)

Providing another standout, Joseph Capriati’s sunrise set - between 7 and 9 am - was one to remember, with the Italian DJ blasting tunes including Da Hool’s universal Nineties classic Meet Her at the Loveparade, to roars and whistles from the crowd. The party then spilled out into the clear waters of the island as the heat ramped up.

Word has clearly spread throughot Europe, and many of the groups I encountered came from far and wide, from Slovenia to Italy – although naturally fun-loving Brits were out in force. It makes sense; that bit cheaper than other, more established spots like Ibiza and Mykonos, it shares a similar party feel, and comes with a line-up filled with unmissable house and techno.