Two festivals, two completely different vibes but nonetheless two weeks of the biggest and baddest acts, past, present and future.
Set in Fort Punta Christo and camping grounds around – just outside of Pula – both festivals took full advantage of the idyllic coastline that provided the pristine beaches and crystal clear waters; make no mistake, this was not Parklife.
So let’s kick off with the first of the two and that was Dimensions.
Dimensions was considered to be the ‘little brother’ of the now well-established Outlook which has been a mainstay on the festival calendar since Noah Ball set it up in 2008.
This being Dimensions’ third time round, Ball and co. decided to switch the format from previous years when Outlook came first, followed by Dimensions. The change turned out to be crucial for Dimensions. With the much bigger and rowdier Outlook crowd, it made sense that Dimensions should get the benefit of a immaculate, unblemished venue allowing Dimensions to showcase its more artistic and refined offering of arts, music and culture.
The delicately curated lineup offered the perfect end to a summer of festival, perfectly aware of its timing at the back end of a hectic summer schedule. This was apparent from the opening concert. Both Punta Christo festivals are now well known for their opening concerts.
Set in a 2,000 year-old Roman amphitheatre in Pula, the opening concerts bring together unique light and acoustics in a venue steeped in history that Dimensions and Outlook are writing to this day. There were no gladiators and blood-thirsty crowds here, but some of modern electronic music’s more cerebral acts and a crowd still eager to take in some of the local culture before converging on the fort and the raves within its walls. Live sets from Caribou and Darkside backed up by the classical-enthused electronica of Nils Frahm and the soulful sounds of London’s Kwabs filled this ancient wonder with eclectic, modern sounds.
By that time, most were fully settled in the campsite and at night the atmosphere that rose from the sea of tents in a glowing woodland was building. People mingled freely, language barriers were no obstacles. Friendships were forged and groups united from the first night. The festival itself quickly became almost an afterthought. The beach was the perfect foil for the campsite, day and night, with cocktails flowing and lilos floating to a hazy, relaxed soundtrack floating from two stages at either end of the shoreline.
What more could you ask for? Oh yeah, the artists and DJs that were to fill the impressive selection of stages – both intimate and epic. Choosing the highlights, like the lineup itself, required a careful and considered selection process.
The main highlight was without doubt Moodymann. The legendary Detroit DJ delivered a show the likes of which we’ve never seen. His iconic voice, so often sampled on house and techno cuts, guided the packed crowd at the Clearing through his musical journey that included tracks as varied as Pepe Bradock’s classic Deep Burnt, one or two of Moodymann’s own creations and a tribute to the late, great Isaac Hayes. At all times the Motor City man was flanked by two Foxy Brown-like ‘assistants’, who occasionally took to the decks themselves while Moodymann insisted: “I don’t wanna be your favourite DJ, I wanna be your favourite barman;” serving vodka to those on the front row, vibing to his deep and groove-laden techno jams.
His Odyssean set was followed by another highlight by way of Caribou, aka Dan Snaith’s, alter-ego Daphni. His set raised then energy levels with tracks like Double 99 and rose to euphoric crescendo with Caribou’s own Can’t Do Without You.
Blawan didn’t disappoint and Kode 9 at the Fort stage was unreal. Dubstep, grime and other bass-heavy 140 rippled through the crowd and hit levels previously unknown to man. The frequencies that some of those tracks were operating at transcended music and became mind-blowing algorhytms of low-end sorcery.
Theo Parrish was a highlight if a little frustrating. Streams of the initially packed crowd at the Void stage began to peel off to pastures new, despite the power and accuracy of the state of the art Void soundsystem – one that is sonically engineered to allow the greatest range of sound while leaving enough room so that you could talk with the people next to you without shouting or repeating yourself.
Then it was time for Nina. Probably the best stage overall was the Moat. Even when it’s knee-deep with monsoon water (i.e. on the Sunday night), it is probably the best place to experience electronic music, anywhere. The high and close walls of this moat, again packing an array of Void speakers and bass bins, are something altogether different from even the grimiest warehouse or basement clubs and the lighting used, coupled with the DJs assigned to it leave a permanent impression. Nina Kraviz was our highlight of that stage as the stunning Russian boggled people’s minds with deep and heavy techno.
The weather was out of this world. Whether scorching hot or the heavens opened, you witnessed weather never seen in England. On the last day of the festival, lightening made the night sky as bright as day, thunder drowned out the music and rain and wind lashed down; enough to kill morale in any other festival but Dimensions was different.
Despite the torrential downpour, the crowds, most of which still at the campsite bar the few brave enough to venture out to catch the likes of Canadian electronica don Kaytranada, instead rushed to the indoor shower blocks and threw makeshift raves to iPhones hooked up to Minirigs and kitted themselves out in ponchos and even bin bags waiting for a lull in the storm.
Dimensions was a slick-run, well-organised event with a genuine innovative approach to staffing and volunteering, great food options, fantastic lineup and warm and friendly ensemble of 15,000 or so Brits, Frenchies, Belgians and Croatians. Completely different to rivals in the region like Hideout and Exit, but pound-for-pound certainly better. It belongs on a par with Secret Garden Party in terms of effort in organisation, stage design, lineup and crowd, but with sun, sea and a more international feel probably trumps it.
TNT Entertainment Lloyd Wall