UNUM Festival 2023: the Albanian seaside adventure continues with another memorable edition

    This year, the harbingers of summer came as usual and brought along with them the news: summer is finally coming. And what better way to celebrate the first day of the season than on the beach, right on the shores of the Adriatic Sea at UNUM Festival? This year’s edition had the perfect timing, as it started on the 1st of June, on a sunny and warm Thursday. Ironically or not, World Children’s Day is celebrated as well on the first day of June, so I could say that in addition, this was an opportunity to release our inner child and lose ourselves in the beautiful landscapes of Shëngjin by forgetting, for a few moments, about the ordinary tasks of adult life.

    As I landed at Tirana’s airport, I was pleased to discover that the Albanian authorities had installed ePassport self-service gates which made arrival checks much easier and faster. This is a step forward and it’s good to know that from now on, in the next editions, arrival in the country will be smoother and quicker, so no more need to worry about being late at the start of the festival.

    The trip from the airport took only around 40-45 minutes in which I was able to admire some of the natural and rural landscapes that Albania has to offer, including the beautiful rocky mountains that can be seen emerging into the sea, and the Mali-Shëngjin pine forest that ends right on the beach, which also gave the name of my favorite stage – the Pine Stage. I was happy to see the latter improving even more this edition, with a new wooden floor that made our dancing experience even better as we no longer had to worry about the sand going up from our steps. Not that it was an inconvenience before either, but an extra bit of comfort is never a bad idea. The cashless system and the good Internet coverage were also elements of comfort that made our experience pleasant and stress-free.

    As in the previous editions, they kept the three stages that we were accustomed to, but our main focus remained on the Pine stage, the hidden oasis of sound and rhythm where we danced under the pine trees, enjoying the light sea breeze and the little rays of sunlight piercing the leaves above the dancefloor. This year, even nature was on our side, as it was the first edition in which it did not rain at all, so we were able to enjoy every moment to the fullest.

    Nevertheless, the lack of rain wasn’t the only premiere this year: Animal Crossing, Sunrise, Chevry, and Slapfunk had their first takeovers of the Pine Stage, and several DJs such as The Ghost, Ernesto Ferreyra, Francesco Maddelena, Dungeon Meat (Brawther and Tristan Da Cunha), Ingi Vision and many more played for the first time, and even though both Prâslea and Raresh were on the line-up for this edition, this year they didn’t play together as Prâslesh like in previous editions. Instead, the former played back-to-back with Cezar for the first time in this format at UNUM.

    The first night was dedicated to the local scene as ZONE, the Prishtinë-based club, took over the Pine Stage and mesmerised us with their magic.

    On Friday night, D’Julz, who was also one of the new faces at UNUM, captivated us with his trippy set during the night. Reiss, another debut appearance at this edition delighted our ears with dreamy and playful grooves. The Ghost playing back-to-back with Dyed Soundorom was definitely a good choice. Dyed’s housey touch blended with The Ghost’s electro sounds was exactly what was needed early in the morning as the sun was rising from the tip of the mountains.

    Raresh delivered his signature style as usual on Saturday: energetic, fast-paced, and joyful. Some of the renowned tracks from Cezar’s set recorded live for Trommel were also heard on the set that he played with Prâslea at the festival.

    On Sunday, Ernesto Ferreyra made a thrilling comeback after a brief hiatus and Sonja Moonear delivered her distinguishing electrical vibes while blending electro with techno altogether.

    Monday morning came with some unfortunate news, as Ricardo Villalobos could not attend this edition due to health reasons, but we hope he recovers soon and that we’ll have the chance to experience his magical wonders soon again. However, John Dimas’ italo-disco and electro-infused set came with a surprise, as he included one of my favorite songs from Depeche Mode in it, keeping our energy high and making it a memorable morning.

    Margaret Dygas continued the day with her charming minimal and tINI ended it wonderfully with another festival debut appearance, originally billed to play back-to-back with Doudou MD she flew a fantastic solo mission.

    The closing on Tuesday was truly memorable, undoubtedly one of the peak moments of this edition, when John Dimas back-to-back Anthea played ‘Trascendance’ [MW006] from the last record release of Data Memory Access (Giammarco Orsini & Jacopo Latini), making our feet inseparable from the dancefloor.

    Just like every edition I have attended so far, the UNUM crew has managed to exceed my expectations once again, as they have constantly improved and paid attention to the smallest details as well as the big picture, and delivered a thrilling and special experience that will surely be remembered. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

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