It’s that time of the year when spring blossoms in its full beauty and our clubhead minds start making plans for the summer festivals. As usual, for many of us the opening season means a trip to Mamaia at the already iconic Sunwaves Festival, now at its 27th edition.
Iconic? 🤔 Well, considering the impact it had on the underground electronic music scene for the past decade and a half (SW1 took place in 2007 with a tiny 5000 people attendance), you can heartly say that.
There’s no DJ in this world who enjoys playing a bit of minimal house in his sets and who doesn’t (secretly) have a Sunwaves booking on his bucket list. New subgenres were born on the friendly beaches of the Black Sea, life lasting friendships were built in the backstage, millions of neurons were forever lost on the Sunwaves dancefloors, cults were born under the “Când intră Rhadoo?” tagline, tens of speakers died of exhaustion at the after-after-after parties, long after the festival’s official closing hour.
No longer that 10 years ago things were different at Sunwaves: smaller stages, shorter lineups condensed in only 3 days & nights, that “everyone knows everybody” feeling, the disapointment when the DJ made the last transition to the closing track, usually on a Tuesday morning when DJs like Herodot played for no more than 100 people….
Call us nostalgic, but we really miss the wooden shack aka “în cort la românași”, the empty beach, the super packed small shack where clubheads gathered to protect themselves from the freezing breeze with a few Jaeger shots and an impromptu Rhadoo vs Ricardo Villalobos b2b, the pure house grooves hidden inside Zip’s record bag on a Sunday afternoon.
Isis Salvaterra, the mastermind behind toi.toi, a booking agency and event organizer based in London, with artists like Herodot, Dan Andrei or Sammy Dee in their roster, recalls the Sunwaves memories from 10 years ago: What made me fall in love with SW 10 years ago, among many aspects, was the fact that it always felt so intimate, it is not the kind of festival you must go on a mission for, its rather simple, you can always find your friends / see everyone.
Ellen Triek, who used to work in the past for Waking Life festival as an artist manager and also attended several major electronic music festivals in Europe in the past 15 years was also on the Sunwaves beach 10 years ago: it was a combination of several things that made me fall in love with Sunwaves. But mostly: being on a beach in the sun at the beginning of May, dancing for daaaays on high quality music & sound.
Like all things capitalist, offer needs to meet demand. From 5K to 50K participants, from 4 days to 7 days of non-stop music. Marco Carola eating a pizza behind the decks after a 24 hour record set, tINI and Bill Patrick playing for 36 hours straight (just enough for me to go to sleep, eat something, come back to their stage, then again go to sleep and eat something to discover that they were still playing in front of a bigger crowd). The feeling of an intimate gathering disolved into the essential logistics of a now firmly established festival. Yet, music wise, Sunwaves expanded to make room for more.
Music evolves and with it we should to. We must keep it musically challenging in line with diversity and the natural course of development at the same time we keep our beautiful base and history, which, in that aspect, Sunwaves does really well. It’s about knowing where we come from as much as that defines where we go forward. Isis goes straight to the point, as the music professional who grew up with the scene.
Still, there are things that we all miss from previous years. Ellen has the same feeling: There used to be a wooden kind of schack on the beach. The sun entered trough the slits of the wood, now replaced with a big non organic tent. I prefer the wooden shack but I guess it’s not possible anymore with the amount of people attending now. But a smaller capacity stage has more charm in my opinion.
One thing is for sure: Sunwaves will always have something special against other similar festivals. It draws its energy from the local scene, an energy you cannot find anywhere else but in Romania. It is quite incredible for a country to have such a developed scene if you consider they were the latest ones to join the development of this musical movement. Beautiful to see., says Isis. Down to the dancefloor, it’s the extended sets, the overall Romanian energy & vibe and… the palinka :), as Ellen likes to say.
In its 16 years of existence, Sunwaves turned into a landmark that stands as a proof for one of the most influential sounds in recent years. I hate tagging music and ROminimal is on top of my hate list. Yet, as many fellow ROmanians do, I am proud of the local scene, of what Sunwaves did (and continues to do) for this subculture. From its early years of inception, when it was all about dark patterns stripped to their bare essentials, to the more melodic stuff that recently came out of the modular-powered studios, Sunwaves followed the path of the Romanian undergrounds. It contributes to this culture as a meeting point for sounds, ideas and soon-to-become-friends creative minds.
I feel good when Italians ask me on a random European dancefloor where I am from, to immediatly reply with “Ah, Sunwaves, Raresh, Pedro” instead of Nadia Comăneci or Gică Hagi. Sunwaves outgrew its name to a respected level (the lineup of this year’s 1st of May edition is impressive) and at the same time it made room for a boutique festival that maybe some day will bring back that intimate feeling some of us miss from 10 years ago.
We leave you eagearly waiting for the 1st of May with some music: one track that brings back the best Sunwaves memories, as chosen by our guests today 👇
Isis: too many to list but this one shows how intimate a festival stage can feel, very unique to SW in fact, this energy with my fav queen
Ellen: Damn, only one? Euhm… Gemini – Ca