From the crew that brought you the Southport Weekender for over 20 years, Liverpool Disco Festival and it’s new imprint SPW day festival in Finsbury Park, sees them back at Croatia for their successful eighth year with SUNceBeat. Even though I didn’t visit the previous years events the buzz and energy was always apparent from the crowd and social media hysteria during the week-long event.

This year’s line-up that was definitely for the music connoisseur’s ear, with carefully selected boat parties making for an enhanced musical week. DJ’s evenly spread out amongst the various boats, at Barbarellas and stages erected around the gardens allowed everyone to see their favourite at some point.

The Maiden Voyage boat party set the tone as DJ Lil Stevie rocked up classics with current deep house fillers, which made for oohs and ahhs amongst the boat ravers. Souldynamic and Luis Radio the deep rhythms as to sun set over the picturesque Adriatic Sea. Karizma kept it classical with a little bit of Baltimore magic, saving the best for next few days but gave us a little taster of what to expect as the Argonaughty came into dock.

Thursday highlight was the beautiful, emotional and fitting musical memorial/tribute by DJs to Owen Money, Claire Tomlinson and Peter Glass (OCP); whom all were dedicated SUNceBeat/SPW goers who all sadly lost their lives to terminal cancer. Also a big highlight in the olive grove was the South Africa sessions introduced by Jonny Miller. Jazzuelle, Miller, Shimza and Anane Vega all brought the Afro house heat but Black Motion really stole the show with syncopated drumming and more energy than could be handled.

One of the highlights was the unforgettable South Africa part deux, Cabeau Present The Adriatic Journey. I was all aboard the Argonaughty again, but vibes for this session was meandering between ridiculous and crazy, which is not surprising by the line-up. Souldynamic kicked off the vibes with some Kwaito-style deep beats; show-stopper Helen Ting from Hong Kong had everyone in a frenzy! A tough act to follow but managed it well Jazzuelle set up nicely for another scene-stealer Manoo, had everyone’s hands in the air. Up close and personal Black Motion delivered for a second time with energy even more intense than the night before. There wasn’t a dry body left on that boat including them.

Making my way down to Barbarellas in the wee hours I knew what I was expecting to hear from DJ’s Spinna, Karizma and Spen, but was pleasantly surprised by the uplifting set form Josh Milan beforehand. Usually the singer/songwriter/musician is happily penning away soulful works with elements of jazz, but pulled off a more than house competent set. Two Baltimoreans and a Brooklynite had me up all night until daybreak, yes Spen, Karizma and Spinna had that magic going on at Barbarellas. From Nightmares on Wax to Motown mash-ups it was done effortlessly. That Spen/Karizma combo though – need I say more?

A pleasant surprise was down in in the olive grove’s hip hop soul night. Brooklyn-born Ge-ology is an individualist who played with abstract forms as he mixed and cut for the dance floor. A fitting lead-up to the back-to-back special with Rich Medina and DJ Spinna later on. All the hits of the eighties through to the noughties got pulled out of the record bag. Uproar as LL Cool J’s Mama Says Knock You Out got cut into Missy Elliot’s, Work It. It was a gravel pit but it didn’t stop a sporty few taking the chance to do a spot of breaking.

Thunderstorms on the penultimate night didn’t dampen spirits and the show went on and was all worth it to see live performance by Detroit’s Amp Fiddler. A single red light, mic, keyboard and technician made for a rather intimate setting for the full olive grove stage. Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly and more hit tracks oozed effortlessly in this solo performance. Jamie 3:26 brought the tempo up two notches deep and soulful to play out the night.

Amongst the crass commercialism of many a festival home and abroad, SUNceBeat maintains its ethos of good quality music that doesn’t necessarily appeal to the masses but that’s not what it’s about. Creating a music festival loved by the crowd and delivering, instead of being spoon-fed is the magic here and it works. Sun, the Adriatic Sea, beautiful coastline of Croatia just enhances the week-long magic.

Written by Sandra Swaybe-Barrett

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Review |  SUNcéBeat 8 – Tisno, Croatia