Sunwaves came into being in May 2007 on a beach on the East Coast of Romania.Since then, it has taken place twice a year for 18 editions.
When you tell people that you’re going to a festival in Romania you can expect two types of reactions. They’ll either ask you, “What the hell are you going to do there?” or they will admire you and say, “Oh, you’re going to Sunwaves!”
It’s been a few months since I started thinking about attending the festival with a friend – so as soon as the Early Bird tickets were on sale, we jumped on it. Actually, there was no hesitation as the tickets were only 70 Lei (17 euros) for, officially, 48 hours of music, but unofficially much more.
The summer edition takes place in Mamaia Nord, about 250 kilometers East from Bucharest, right on the Black Sea. After a 2.5-hour flight from Berlin, we landed in Bucharest. Then we had to transfer to on a train for another 2.5-hour ride through the country’s countryside. We finally arrived in Constanta, but we still hadn’t reached our final destination. We jumped right out of the station into a not-so-legal taxi that drove us for 30 minutes to the place. Finally, we arrived. It was a Thursday night and the weather was extremely enjoyable. 24 hours to go before we could finally enjoy our beloved Romanian sounds. We went for a walk that night on the beach to check out the venue and the installations. Technicians were still at work, and it didn’t seem like the place would be ready for another day.
Friday night, after a day of rest and a good meal, we were ready to go. On the first night “only” 2 out of the 6 stages were open. We showed up there around 1AM and we could hear the bass getting louder and louder on the way. No waiting time at the gate. We just scanned our tickets, got our wristbands, and that was it. No search, no queue… Simple as that. The first impression was directly the good one. Huge sound systems powered by Funktion One, 5 big tents and a wooden hut (though only 2 tents were open that night) and a simple yet effective scenography. We had the choice between: VincentIulian, Praslea and Petre Inspirescu; and Mahony, followed by French trio DOP, and Audiofly. Our ears guided us to VincentIulian who was building up the atmosphere. Quickly, Praslea took over for a raw, rhythmic set. At the other stage, the music was more festive and tech house oriented. We took a break on the beach at some point and at 5AM, we could see the sky clearing up slowly. It seemed as though the rising sun gave a kick to the atmosphere as the sound became more melodic; and at that point, Inspirescu had just taken over the decks. It’s pretty hard to say how long each DJ played for, as there was no precise time table. Just 3 DJs scheduled for at least 12 hours.
The higher the sun rose, the better the mood and crowd became. Inspirescu was spinning his vinyls and seemed to be in a pretty good mood, drinking directly from his bottle of rum. By 9, it was time for us to leave as our dance moves lost energy, but we could’ve sat on the beach and kept enjoying the sound since the sound system could be heard properly even from 50 metres away.
On the second night, the biggest night, we decided to go later than the day before. We found it much more enjoyable to dance when the sun was rising. It made the atmosphere completely unique. At that point, the wooden dance floor was open and Romanians were playing one after another. When we showed up, Arapu let his place to Barac who got pretty dark but the tone got brighter as the sky started to light up. As the sun rose, we could really feel that the mood of the crowd and the overall atmosphere were getting better.
Barac was followed by Cap, who completely blew our minds. It was at this point when I understood why Sunwaves was considered such a unique festival. Although I’d been partying in various places in Europe (Paris, Berlin, etc.), I’ve never felt such a strong connection between the DJ, the crowd, and the environment. Everyone had a big smile on their faces and danced like never before. Some people were dancing on bare foot in the sand. It was a rare moment – to hear such a coherent and groovy set. Finally, around 10, my legs started to ache so I went home.
We followed the same game-plan on Sunday night, and at that point you could feel that it was really Sunday: Most of the lights were out and only 2 scenes remained open. In one of the tents, Dubfire was kicking it with a straightforward mix of techno and tech house, while in the other wooden tent, all the lights were out and the floor was packed. This is where we decided, again, to spend the night. Seduced by Rhadoo’s minimal sound. I believe he’d been playing from 11pm, and his set remained dark and trippy until the sun started rising. Slowly, following the course of the sun, the mood became more positive. Just like the day before, things got groovier.
You could feel that it was the third day of the festival. Some people looked less energetic and many were resting, or even sleeping on the sand. The vibe was still there though, and the dancers kept the big smile on their face each time Rhadoo released the bass.
When we left that morning, we weren’t sure how much longer the scene was going to last. Would we be able to come back one last time? Part of the installations were already being dismantled and some of the bars were closing down. Nevertheless, we came back. Monday night, just a few hours before leaving Mamaia, we returned to Kazeboo Beach for a final dance.
Behind the decks, Herodot and Gescu were dropping the final tracks of the festival. There were perhaps about 300 people left on site. Everything was shut down except for the wooden floor and its bar. No more security, no more toilets. The sky looked threatening as lightning bolts began flashing in the sky, but that didn’t stop people from dancing. After more than 72 hours of music, the festival still felt extremely special. After 2 hours, we left. Shortly after that, it started raining.
The most impressive thing yet, for me, was that nothing about this festival seemed to have been planned. When the festival began, some of the floors were unfinished and at some point, some of the bars were out of drinks. There were no trash bins, and after 3 days, bags were piled up by the toilets. Though none of these things would be expected at a French music festival, I didn’t see anything go wrong at any point. No angry people fighting, not an ounce of tension in the air. To sum it all up, one guy at Sunwaves said to my friend, “If you are here, I know it is because you listen to good music,” and I believe that this is what makes the vibe so special. Every person who attended the festival was there for the music, and because they loved the DJs who were playing. You wouldn’t have seen a single person waving their country’s flag or screaming, “Ole! Ole!” every 5 minutes. To sum it all up, I believe Sunwaves gives you a glimpse at what you would expect a good party to be like.