"I work in an office 50 weeks a year. I work, and I gym. That's why I come to Croatia for one week and just think: fuck it!"
A man the size of an industrial fridge has DJ Mag's face squashed against an impressively sweaty pec as he yells in his ear. Confession over, he picks up a bottle of Belvedere from the VIP bar and squeezes back into the crowd of slippery bodies. Since its inception in 2011, Hideout Festival has rotated from a small underground gathering of some 2000 or so people to one of the most hyped festivals on the planet.
The Croatian game-changer is a place of contradiction. Tickets for the 2014 instalment sold out in just 48 hours, eight months before the first boat party left the dock. It boasts some 24 boat parties, stages active 19 hours a day for four days and one of the hardest hitting Brit-heavy line-ups on earth. Yet it remains locked at just 12,000 people, all of them crammed into four super-clubs on Zrce Beach — ‘East Europe’s Ibiza’.
The pressure-cooker intensity is tangible. We’re currently at Heidi’s Jackathon Pool Party. Gone are the laid-back, half full, sleepy sun-lounger and bucket-of-beer vibes of Hideout '12 and '13. Every inch of floor, pool, roof, railing, chair, back of chair, tree is Instagram-level saturated with a sea of muscles, tattoos, bikinis, sun lotion and sex. The music itself is no longer lounge-fodder either. Hideout is a one-dimensional beast.
Full speed, full volume, max-colour mixes, drops, builds are in place at every packed pool, every bursting boat. The crowd themselves are equally super-heated. The fashion is Mr Motivator Does Ink, the general dress policy is ‘don’t’. The result can be mixed for festival-goers accustomed to downtime, fields, sleep and not wearing full make-up on the beach, but Hideout’s magic lies in this crazed, pouting, fist-pumping, hyper-British-summer atmosphere, somewhere between Feed the Machine and How Hard Can You Relax?
The maddening heat and crazed vibe doesn’t end on the dancefloor either. The artists, the backstages, are missing that professional, occasionally tired atmosphere of many-a-lesser event. Here MK darts around attempting to hide from mostly-naked, mostly-enhanced Croatian girls that have snuck backstage, Heidi pouts to iPhones creeping over the booth, Friction and Linguistics spray the crowd with champagne and hand out bottles of vodka and Jager from their rider to outstretched arms (“Make sure you share now!”), PBR Streetgang conclude their set with Tom of the duo diving into the crowd wearing a gold glittering cloak and holding a plastic T-Rex.
More surprisingly still, famously quiet Duke Dumont takes to the stage and grabs a mic: “Make some noise Hideout!”. Barriers surge and Brit-house smashes the Adriatic air. Apollonia smiled during their DJ set, famously static MK was jumping around, furiously shoulder popping while 5,000 sweaty, sexy clubbers categorically lost their shit and found it all over again as the sun went down and the temperature on the floor began to rise.
“You know, you can learn a lot more about electronic music on the dancefloor than behind the decks,” reflects Cassy backstage shortly after a pitch-perfect sundown tech workout in Aquarius
It’s the last night of Hideout. Already we’ve seen Bondax scream with energy as hot red lights and wonderfully camp house upgrades drench the crowd, we’ve seen Justin Martin create a Mexican wave of fist-pumps by dropping a perfectly timed Tiga Vs Audion remix of 'Let’s Go Dancing', we’ve seen Ben Pearce take things techy, Apollonia take things playful and Rudimental refusing to take anything seriously, and now we’re out at sea and all awash as Huxley, Jaymo & Andy George swap headphones, rum and deck-time in furious succession. DJ Mag ends up at a crazed pre-drinks with two Slovenians who insist on driving us down to Zrce beach after half a bottle of vodka at about 130mph. Backstage, MK approaches us.
“God, dude — Is it only 4am?” Hideout. The intensity, the sunburnt sex. There's nothing quite like it.