Lately, a lot of people started talking about vacation plans again. It feels like a past dream. But it reminded me of last summer. A summer, where I followed another handful hundreds of people to an island in the midst of the Adriatic Sea, chasing our favorite band and live like a dream.
Flashback. Sing oh, oh, oh
It’s August 9th, 2019, I’m setting the first step onto Obonjan, an island in front of the Croatian coastline, which transforms into Mars Island for the course of this weekend. I’m curious and I don’t really know what to expect. Following the other Islanders like a sheep I end up at the bar, grabbing my (non-alcoholic) welcome drink and soaking in the amazing view over the cozy bay and clear blue waters. This is it!
I’m ready for Mars Island, ready to live like a dream. The loudspeakers at the bar are playing Thirty Seconds to Mars – what else? It was their dream and now it’s ours. The Leto brothers have “invited” us here, promising an amazing weekend with two full-lengths concerts and fun activities throughout the day. It’s adults only. No kids, no alcohol, no drugs. Just water, sun and music. Sounds absolutely perfect.
Live like a dream. Broken but free
Early on, my husband and I bought our tickets, the first couple outing without the kids in years, for a whole weekend! We are thrilled to be part of this adventure. Thrilled and curious what to expect. Posts about previous Camp Mars in Malibu had circled to Europe, but seemed far away. This is Croatia, easy to reach.At the reception desk we get the complete information package with all possible activities, a map of the island and the lock for the tent. A 4-person tent with wooden floor and bunk beds. Including air conditioning. So far so good.
Looking around, I feel like an outsider. Everyone around me has Mars tattoos: a triad, a triangle or a song text AND is wearing branded clothes. “Am I really right her?”
The island package includes full board, so we check out the restaurant first. A nice spot overseeing the pool with huge space outside, covered by a big umbrella. Soon, I realize why.
The Croatian sun is burning merciless down on us and even walking up the minor rise from the South Camp to the restaurant area makes me sweat from all pores.
The buffet is amazing. A huge variety of fresh vegetables, salads and fruits, combined with pasta, fish and meat. Drinks can be poured from different drink stations at all times. I am pleased. Day 1 ends with a chill drink at the bar and first chats to the people around us.
All of a sudden in the sky there is a bright light. Wild and haunting
The very next morning, we wake up early to attend the 5.30 am Yoga session. Hard to describe the feeling we have – watching the sun kiss the ocean in a rose light and silently moving our bodies. The air still cool and fresh, it feels like being in another universe. Sitting on the stones, glaring at the sun slowly rising, while meditating on the beauty of life.
Later on, it´s time to swim in the ocean, board the huge pink flamingo and get a stand-up paddle to cross the clear blue waters. Stunned, we look down to the shimmering ground, while the hot Croatian sun burns our necks. Nowhere to go, nothing to do.
We meet all kinds of new people, talk about concerts and favorites songs. It´s amazing to meet all those people with different Nationalities, ages and backgrounds. All united through music, part of the worldwide Echelon family. We make new friends, share details about our real-life families and what connects us with 30STM. To many of us it’s more than music, it’s an attitude towards life.
And every moment is a lifetime. What life, whose time?
The band knows how to play the game. Jared Leto, the glittering star of the duo, plays his role brilliantly. Charming the masses, making jokes with his brother Shannon in the “meet the band” afternoon, he answers questions and acts like “the normal guy from around the corner”.
Pleased by their jokes and a lazy afternoon in the sun and full from a nice dinner, we stroll towards the amphitheater. Our fellow Marsianers have already lined up in front of the entrance, patiently waiting for sun to set into the ocean and the show to begin.
It wouldn´t be Thirty Seconds to Mars, if they hadn´t started the first concert with a fulminate explosion of drums. Shannon’s muscles tense to tear apart, while he incessantly beats his drums. The sound fills the breathtaking scenery of the semicircle shaped theater. The acoustic is brilliant, the band only a few steps away. The privacy of only 500 people gathering together, following their love to the music. It won´t take long until the crowd is a vibrating mass, lifting their feet up in the same rhythm to jump and touch the sky.
The cobble stones have buffered the heat of the day, making it even harder to breath throughout the rhythm of the beat and the lyrics of the songs, everyone screams along loudly. Jared’s voice close to everyone’s ear, the audience united in one voice. The lyrics resonating to every one of us in its own special way.
All of a sudden it is midnight. Wild and haunting
When the music falls silent, nobody is thinking about sleep. Shannon has invited to “his special part”, a drum circle in the middle of the night. We round up again, following the path to the little hill with the drum circle area. Everyone floating along by the lingering sound of the music.
We are greeted by a multitude of different sized buckets and will be handed a pair of sticks. It’s pitch-dark, only a few blue lights diving the circle into a mystic lightning. Shannon arrives with a round of exciting applause, smiling down to the ground shyly. He teaches us how to “play drums”. No one cares that we are hammering on a dozen of buckets unharmoniously, which all make the same sound. It’s his smile, which enchants us. He’s talking about childhood, acting with the audience as if we are his best friends.
We leave the area lightheartedly, looking up to the vast night sky sprinkled by millions of stars – what lasts is a deep feeling of connection. To each other, to this band and to the mystery of life.
And we were running ´til the sunrise. All we wanted
The next day passes peacefully with T-Shirt dying and stone carving, until the exciting crowd gathers together in the middle tent – the meeting point for the M&G with Jared. He lectures about life, meditation and a deep connection between people. I like, what he´s saying, even though some say, that they heard this speech before. Maybe it´s his values, maybe it´s just part of the show, whatever it is, if feels good to be “at the same side” of values for life.
The fun thing starts afterwards, when we follow our Shepard down to the beach to make a photo. All dressed in white, as this is the theme of the theme night. It´s hilarious, the light is not quite right at the first spot (I guess someone didn´t do his homework) and so the crowd is stumbling a couple of meters to the left. Jared’s taking the boat. I don´t want to be in his skin with the fierce sun raying onto his dark dyed hairs.
Later on, one online article will write, that we looked like a cult following their messiah.
“Yes, it´s a cult”, is all I can say.
This activity takes longer as anticipated, so the photo shoot with the band starts directly afterwards. A mass processing of photos with strict instructions. The photos look nice, due to their professionality, but to me it feels like posing with waxwork. Come. Smile. Go. Next. 500 times. You can slowly get a glimpse that this is real work for them.
It´s the last night we´ll ever do this. Last night to say goodbye.
It´s another night, another concert. It´s touching all of us. The strain of the first day about not knowing what will happen has fallen apart. The skin still prickles from the sun and the salty sea. Friendships have been made, the crowd is in a frisky mood. The full moon rises above the theater and coloring it in a natural light. And again, the band performs. Beats flashing through the body, the crowd is singing and dancing like there is not tomorrow.
You and me.
Live like a dream – becomes more than a phrase.
Finally, it´s not the two brothers firing up the masses and delivering a perfect show, which stays with me, it´s the moment, where Jared grabs his acoustic guitar, stripes off the Gucci gloves and starts singing. He´s very close to the audience, showing the vulnerable beauty of his voice.
It´s nearly midnight and still 35 degree Celsius under the Croatian night sky, but the moment his raw voice resounds, there is not a single person in the theater without a chill on his skin.