Destination Ultra: Sven Väth kicks off the week with a crate full of vinyl
The Dalmatian Coast is as idyllic as you’d expect. Along the shoreline, a stone’s throw away from Poljud Stadium and the home of Ultra Europe, lies Giraffe Palm Beach Club, the site of the festival’s opening party tucked away on the Croatian cliffs. A long stretch of dance floor and VIP cabanas, the club prides itself on its vantage point and Funktion-One sound system. It has little need for extravagant lighting or faux-ambience. Palms line the water’s edge, two cages house Ultra’s Angels, and at the center of it all, Sven Väth.
Known as Papa Sven to his legion of diehard disciples, his career has been a long and illustrious one. A fixture in the techno scene and one of the genre’s first real stars, the German composer was a certifiable pop legend in his home country before he founded two clubs and the Cocoon brand. In an era where there’s actually debate about “push play” DJs, Väth is a purist in the greatest sense of the word.
He conveys a calming presence behind the decks. Older than most of today’s DJs, his face is weathered from the lifestyle yet continues to glow much the same way Carl Cox’s does. There’s a casual confidence to his performance: a nonchalance that extends out into the bustling crowd. Behind Sven, three massive crates house an impressive array of vinyls — a small portion of his vast collection. He furrows his brow and digs through them, pausing for a moment on an unidentifiable EP. He begins to slide the vinyl out of its sleeve before hastily shoving it back into one crate and moving to the next one. A decision that may seem strange to your average EDM DJ — who more often than not pre-plan their sets and their fans’ experiences with pyrotechnics — Sven makes his selection purely on “feel.” Watching him perform, it is obvious he has an unmistakable mystique and a connection to the crowd that is the sign of a true DJ — something that has definitely been lost in the EDM era.
His selection, like many of the tracks he showcased during his 4 hour set, is something otherworldly. A swirling tech house floor-filler with soft disco edges that drives its point home with a stacked 808 kick. He continues in much the same way for the next few hours, teetering on the edge of Berlin-inspired techno as he stoically digs through his finely curated crates. Dusting off each new choice before gently placing them on his Technics turntables, Vath moves with purpose, slowly dropping the needle into place as he lets another 16 bar loop adjust the night’s groove.
Understanding the locale, the crowd, and the purpose of his performance, Papa Sven keeps things light and dance-focused. The cool breeze off the Adriatic Sea serves as the perfect compliment to a dream-like first day in Split.
It’s the perfect start to what will surely be an incredible 6 day stretch of electronic music on the Dalmatian Coast. Now if only we could read the restaurant menus.