Although this was the 10th edition of Sunwaves I was attending, I started getting excited for it just after Mioritmic passed by – that means way back in October. What’s the special thing about these big festivals that makes us crave for them for months?! Thinking about it, I guess it’s our thorough need to escape reality and live in a dreamy perfect world for more than a couple of hours. It’s the fact that you get disconnected — completely disconnected from your routine — no worries, no work-related stress, no dramas or fuss. You get to spend a couple of days with your dearest ones – from friends to artists, or artists that become friends – and feel you’re complete, your soul is wandering free, dancing in the sand, while listening to outstanding tracks selection 24/24 for a couple of days in a row.
Since we had to travel from Cluj-Napoca, a lovely city that’s only close to Budapest, together with my Alandala friends, we had to pack our things and leave early on Thursday morning, to make sure on Friday we’re rocking the first after party on our favorite tent from the beach. With a couple of twists & turns, 10 hours on the road spent laughing out loud, we reached Mamaia, that was already buzzing. We always promise ourselves we’ll rest after we arrive, but somehow every single time we go out after we check in. I wonder why…
When you say Mamaia… well, truth be told, no one gets very excited, unless you mention it in the same sentence with Sunwaves. Indeed it has those long white-sanded beaches, the hustle and bustle of a big city life, but you wouldn’t go there for a holiday if it wasn’t for the festival. But, thanks to Sunrise, there is something that makes us all become unofficial PRs of the resort, and makes us come back twice a year with the same enthusiasm – maybe a bit higher in May if you’d ask me. For the followers of underground music from around the world, a get-away in Mamaia for a week is a must, considering the impressive 5 days schedule, when otherworldly music is being played around the clock. The biggest challenge of the festival is picking the right time to get some rest or at least refresh yourself… you almost never choose it properly and you’re missing something really good that you’ve shouldn’t.
What makes Sunwaves experience so special?
The Romanians know how to party. Everyone is so relaxed and not stressed about a thing, and foreigners feel like they just found their home far away from home. Surrounded by artsy people and artists, you’ll find everyone more open and friendly than ever, wearing a bright smile on their faces and acting more socially than usual. You’ll end up making friends from all over the world, travelling from Switzerland, USA or Hong Kong for the Sunwaves experience and the exquisite music played here. Sunrise basically wrote chapters of clubbing history since 2007 for quite a few generations of party people, making it more than just another electronic music festival. There’s something utterly unique about partying with your feet in the sand for five days in a row, isn’t it?!
A trademark of the festival is definitely the way these guys build up a city out of the sand. It’s impressive how every year they will surprise you with the design and their attention to small details. Everything is on point, and feels like they are reading your mind with ease when it comes to tents, bars or lounge areas. Even though in the last few years I spent most of the time at the open tent from the beach (also known as “the Romanians tent”, although the line-up is far from being exclusively Romanian), I check out how all the scenes were decorated, because they always surprise you with impressive designs, crafted to complete your sound experience with mind-blowing visuals.
Since all year round we’re used to go out in the nighttime, what I like best at festivals are the daytime parties. If I had to choose one iconic element that sums up what Sunwaves is, that would be the wooden-tent on the beach. I don’t know if it’s just me, there’s something special about it. It may not have digital visuals like all the other scenes do, but they are happily replaced by the sun & the waves, that create different atmosphere depending on the moment of the day & weather, and there’s no visual projector in the world that can beat that. The lightning goes from a mysterious dark red in the nighttime, to an intimate orange when the sun rises, followed by a vivid warm light in the daytime. Combine that with crisp wooden boards, flower pots in front of the DJ booth and everyone around wearing big smiles on their faces, that is, for me, Sunwaves at its best.
Now let’s get to the best part of Sunwaves 19, I’ll do my best to express with words what others did throughout music *although they left me speechless most of the times*
Friday morning, at 5 a.m. after a 5 minute walk with my roommate, we arrived at the venue, with the innocent intention to “just check things out”. As soon as we got our bracelets, I couldn’t believe I recognised the first beats of a song we had so many memories on; Seth Troxler was playing Larry Heard presents Mr. White – The sun can’t compare. Sunwaves started properly from the very beginning.
We met friends from all around the country, spent some time on the beach, and suddenly we realized it’s 10 o’clock and our friend Suciu is about to start the after party. These days, going to Sunwaves is more than just listening to perfectly crafted sets from DJs who know what they are doing, because after a while you get to meet the person behind the artist, and most of the time, you’ll appreciate them even more because you realize how much work they put in it and how dedicated they are. I am always impressed how the artists being a part of the Romanian underground scene are so humble and down-to-earth, even though they blow your mind with so much ease when they’re at the decks. This certainly goes for Suciu, the tent went full in no time, and the vibe was hard to describe. Discrete but confident, he delivered a positive set, matching perfectly with the summerish morning breeze and fresh crowd.
Without realizing when 3 hours passed by, it was time for Arapu to control the players. I swear, he did magic at the decks, performing one of his best sets, and you could tell how much he enjoyed playing by the way his eyes sparkled. He’s the kind of artist that really connects to the crowd and always keeps an eye on the people’s reaction, so he can surprise them even more. All Friday linked so remarkable, everything kept getting better and better, although you couldn’t even imagine it can get better than that. Even the weather was on our side as well.
So Sonja followed. Just by typing it I smiled instantly. That girl is crazy! She spreads joy only with her presence, but if you put the players in front of her, you’d better be ready to dance. Sonja has this intriguing and bold style of mixing & track selection; I surprised myself asking “where did that come from?” very often while listening to her.
That special afternoon was continued by Herodot, doing his usual magic at the decks and making people forget that it is even possible to feel tired at some point. The vibe was amazing and what was coming from the speakers felt like something else; he is mastering the technique of taking people on a timeless musical journey. As the night settled down, the darkness & the sound of the waves in the background made the experience even better, and the grooves went slightly in a more rapturous direction; that was exactly what the crowd expected to be delivered by Herodot.
Oh, what a time to be alive…
“Hey B… wake up. C’mon, we don’t have all day… I mean we do, but let’s spend it on the beach, not sleeping! No sleep crew, remember?!” “OK, ok, I got it… play some classic music please, I don’t wanna be moody. I’ll be ready right away…”
Eventually, waking up early was easier than ever before, knowing that Ricardo was playing. With fast steps we reached the beach and oh, the madness… As soon as we arrived I had the feeling that we transcended into another dimension. This sweet escape was highlighted by a ridiculously happy crowd, some absolutely delirious visuals (I had mixed feelings towards them: although I found them kinda freaky at first, I liked them that way but also avoided to watch them for too long), the flawless Funktion-One booming speakers & the ludic spirit of Ricardo, a feature that became in time his trademark. Not only he goes for a peculiar (yeah, i chose that word on purpose) track selection that will definitely make you fool around and enjoy yourself like never before, but he also mixes them in a teasing way that will extend the pleasure of being a part of this. From the bold and naughty French Kiss to the classic Compulsion from Depeche Mode all the happy souls present there at that moment synchronized in “putting one foot in front of the another and repeating the process”, #ifyouknowwhatimean. His b2b with Zip made me feel like I’m living a legendary moment, you know, the kind of story you’re gonna tell your kids about. *Heavy breathing* Let’s go further in my memories timeline…
Mihigh started the after party with a refreshing performance, exactly what I needed after fooling around all the morning. His DJ set was built with clean cuts and laced with delicate intricacies over a minimalist baseline. Seeing all the Midi crew & close friends like Barac and Arapu together, invisibly wired to the beats Mihigh was playing made the moment even more intense. I felt that Mihigh’s set was like a statement of his musical vision, creating a soft blending between a fine selection of unreleased artworks, including some wearing his signature, sprinkled with major releases such as Barac’s “In Oglinda” – and it was truly delightful.
The next act I witnessed was Vlad Caia & Cristi Cons, it was already Saturday afternoon. Although when thinking of them the first thing that comes to mind is the dreamy-heavenly Angels that made strong impressions last year, they were now bringing a more forceful and punchy sound which was right on point considering the daytime.
The weather was perfect so I decided to spend some time on the beach while resting on those minimalist benches with a rough look designed by a close friend of ours from Cluj-Napoca. What at that moment seemed like a good decision, it turned out in fact that Dewalta’s set was something not to miss. As I previously told you it’s never the right time to leave Sunwaves. Fortunately when Cabanne started I was in the right place. I was strongly impressed with his style since the very first time I listened to his tunes and he definitely met my expectations this time again. It was already dark when he started playing his typically subtle and beautiful minimal. Furthermore there was a dope diffused red light that made the whole experience more intense. From my point of view, this moment was one of the highlights of the festival.
We enjoyed it so much that although the plan was to go and rest a bit we thought it’s better to go with the flow and continue the Sunwavexperience with Dan Andrei’s music. Definitely not a bad idea. He managed to make us forget that we were dancing from early in the morning by bringing a vibrant act and sexy hat drops. Happiness was all around.
Eventually we decided to get some well-deserved rest and be back in time to catch some of the [a:rpia:r] magic. The fabled trio never disappoints being the perfect expression of how music brings people together. [a:rpia:r] crafted a really special set, not as groovy as usual, at least during the time I was there. But honestly I enjoyed it much more this way.
Sometimes it’s not about the way music moves your body, but how it moves you on the inside and where it leads you. It felt like an intensely intimate and personal experience. The relationship that the records created together was otherworldly.
I wanted to keep that feeling for a while so after [a:rpia:r] I only returned on the beach in the afternoon when another artist that charmed us back in Cluj was scheduled: Cap. I find Cap very contrasting: on one side his body language is very reserved, always wearing his poker face, subtly checking the crowd from time to time, but on the other side he delivers such bright and breezy sets that will make your face sore from so much smiling and you’re not gonna be able to stand still for a second. At one point I remember me & my friends were running out of drinks but none of us wanted to go to the bar so we wouldn’t miss anything. Hats off to Cap, he knows how to keep the crowd moving.
The most charismatic duo followed, commonly known as Praslesh, blending perfectly after what Cap delivered. Do I really need to describe it?! They never fail to pass on their recipe of happiness in simplicity. Always playful, always enjoying themselves while playing, they are the most natural artists I’ve ever met.
The darkness settled and I’m not talking only about the night. It’s all fun and games until the delirious part of the Sunwaves starts and that’s usually Sunday evening. Basically, Ion Ludwig’s set got us more spaced out than Neil Armstrong. I personally enjoy being surprised by sick, creepy and unpredictable tracks because it gets you out of the comfort zone and blows your mind. I’ve heard Ludwig playing before but not in the same manner. He certainly found the right place to try this and the crowd was overexcited for being a part of it.
…. Cezar followed and that’s when the high-quality speakers had to prove themselves, revealing all the intricacies of the minimal sound. The overall sound was heavy, the BPM went lower, but those who listen to this kind of music for a long time and understand its fine lines enjoyed it to the fullest. The music felt like opening a trapdoor to a subterranean labyrinth tempting you to get lost.
I think over the last years the question “When does Rhadoo start?” became the unofficial motto of the festival. And honestly even though during those days we lived so many highlights and there were so many times the music left us speechless and amazed, when Rhadoo did start playing (with a beautiful sunrise in the background, like it wasn’t perfect enough) he took everything to a whole different level. I was fascinated by its wizardry. His mixing technique is more drawn out than at any other artists I’ve listened to. It’s impossible to describe in words how that morning felt like.
I missed out Dubtil and Kozo, but I couldn’t stay upset for too long: the best was yet to come. You know as soon as you see that beret hat behind the DJ booth that in the next few hours you’ll be mesmerized. The one and only Petre Inspirescu who added a pinch of classical avant-garde at this unforgettable soundscape. Beauty in its purest form. I couldn’t not notice how the nature obeyed in no time getting aligned with his latest release: the rain was coming. Although it’s nice when the weather is sunny, the rain makes you more sensitive and gives you stormy feelings, gathering the crowd there for the music. The hours he spent at the decks made for a fascinating listen, one filled with catharsis and inspiration, being so grateful to be a part of it.
When thinking of Priku, I associate him with high-quality sound. I don’t know if it’s only me, but he tends to play space as though it were another instrument. He blended a variety of moments in such unique matter making people forget about the storming weather.
Being so cold I went back to the room to warm up a bit, but fell asleep contrary to my will. The crew woke us up at 8 am with their smilewaves faces telling us how beautifully Barac & Gescu closed the festival. Damn it.
Long story short, Sunwaves gets better and better from one edition to the other and I find it a trendsetter for the Romanian underground music scene’s future developments. I personally don’t attend it for Marco Carola or Loco Dice although I’m sure they had fun as well #nooffence. What I like best is that Sunwaves offers that perfect blending between sets crafted to have fun and enjoy yourself and performances that challenge you to go in an introspective journey and leave a mark on you; that and the relaxed vibe, happy people, fruitful conversations, salty air and all the memories you gather. Much love for the people who did a tremendous work in creating something so beautiful and for those who support it and are a part of it every year.
See you next time!
written by Bianca Iulia
photos by Bianca Iulia & Ogarev