After a two year break Hospitality on the Beach is back in the new location of Dehmi, Albania, and it’s no hyperbolic spin to say the ravers are desperately ready for its return. The much loved drum and bass festival was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 and was set to return to its previous home in Tisno on the stunning Croatian coast. The unfolding world events left ticket holders with the chance to refund or an ‘I owe you’ style ticket. We know the story well, the summer of 2021 saw the world started to open up again, restaurants, offices and shops all began to operate in varying variations of ‘the new normal’ (grab the sick bag!). However the arts industry was left to fester in its underfunded state with theatres, night clubs and festivals being forced to cancel for a second year, meaning the thousands of would-be Hospitality on the Beach crew received an email informing them of a full refund.
Later that year Hospitality revealed that in 2022 the festival would be relocating to a new site in the Albanian Riviera. “Albania!” came the cries of many a surprised punter. The revelation came as a shock to many, presumably because the Tisno site of previous years had provided such an exceptionally picturesque and beautifully intimate setting it was hard to imagine another site being able to live up to its predecessor. The message from Hospitality seemed to ring out “you just wait and see”, and with no knowledge of the Albanian festival circuit, wait we must.
As well as the new location 2022’s line-up announcement showed some major shifts in the mammoth event company’s booking strategy, with sets promised by a significantly higher proportion of artists of colour, female artists and artists belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. For us, rather than feeling like a box-ticking exercise as these actions sometimes do, the interry choices felt well researched and wholly representative of smaller pockets of the drum and bass scene. So, with the date set, a new location to explore and a fresh and diverse line-up to enjoy we were ready to rave.
Any preconceptions about Albania’s ability to rival the beauty of Tisno are instantly banished as we step off the aeroplane and onto the small, singular runway of Tirana airport and are greeted by a stunning panorama of magnificent steel coloured mountains. With our breath well and truly taken we bored our transfer to embark on our four hour journey to the coastline. A few hairy moments en’route, including; another driver swerving threateningly into us, our driver being stopped by the police and our vehicle breaking down, quickly reminded us that this year’s holiday was not swaddled in the comfortability of familiar rules and regulations. This year Hospitality On The Beach was off the beaten track, it was new and exciting and the realisation of partying through the unchartered and unexpected intrawls us. We are ready to reach the sun, the sea and the festival site.
If you’d partied at the Tsino site with Hospitality On The Beach in previous years, you’ll remember it’s contained, intimate setting where you could hop between stages quickly throughout the day. This year’s Dehmi site is a completely different vibe. Thai years festival takes over an entire area of the beach resort which includes shops, restaurants and accommodation, giving a feeling that for this glorious week the world is populated purely by like minded party-goers. The site is, of course, also home to the stages, of which this year there are four; The Yacht Club, The Cove, Splendor and The Hospitality Stage, which were hosted by the biggest events and label in the game such as, Marky & Friends, Channel One, Spearhead and Born On Road.
Pushing our late-breakfast plate slightly away, we take a deep breath of marine-fresh air as we admire the sunlight dancing in twinkling sparks across the turquoise sea- time to have a dance of our own. Leaving our stunning 5 star on-site hotel we walk down towards the Cove Stage where Kingtrix is welcoming the day with his sunny 140 set. We spend our afternoon at the daytime beach stage sipping bottles of Albanian favourite, Elbar, and listening to Channel One’s two hour set, with the UK’s famous reggae sound system perfectly echoing the sentiments of the good-time ready crowd.
The late afternoon sun continued to beat down on the festival and we decided to join the crew at the Soulvent Records boat party. Dancing on the gorgeous pirate-like vessel we embark on a glorious, although very choppy, journey of smiles and skanking, to the sounds of Pola & Bryson, Vector, Dilemma, In:Most and Visionobi below a flushed, sunsetting sky.
In our wavy state, which we’re sure was amplified by the wavy Adriatic, we head for a seafood and wine drenched diner at the popular restaurant Luciano’s before heading to the mainstage, where during the week witness the scene’s goliaths Andy C, AMC and Camo & Krooked each playing killer sets and each dropping, one of this year’s ear-worms ‘Sientelo’.
Thoroughly hungover after last nights (née this mornings) 7am hotel return, we down two cans of cola pool side and decide to head of to the Cove, which today is hoasted by the legendary drum and bass party AWOL and sun ourselves which listening to Darren Jay drop a mix of classic jungle with some fresher liquid cuts.
The week continues to bless us with set after set of stand out music, each time we reach a different stage we’re delighted by the exceptional standard of artists involved from the heavy weights to the new comers, each act gave it their all and gave us a truly memorable week. Special mention for us has to go to Riya, Skeptical and Sherrelle.
We can’t gloss over the fact there were a few bumps in the road. The festival community highlights some issues during the event, such as access to water, which the HOTB team rectified immediately. But as we sit here in Luton Airport waiting for our very, very, very delayed suitcases, we think about how if this 80 year old airport can experience hiccoughs, then HOTB in only it’s third year, are doing a sterling job. Yes, there were teething problems, as to be expected from a new site, and of course adjusting back to forgien festivals after a worldwide pandemic, but we’re treated to world class music in a stunning setting, with a beer in hand, surrounded by loving, like-minded people.
What more could you ask for? Hospitality on the Beach, see you in 2023!
Words: Whisky Kicks