Fort Pula Christa Pula, Croatia
A lot was expected of Dimensions Festival as soon as its line up was announced. Framed by the intriguing tagline of ‘underground music in an abandoned fort’ and its affiliation with the hugely successful Outlook Festival, its sunny Croatian shores was scheduled to welcome such luminaries as Carl Craig, Theo Parrish, Nico Jaar, Moodymann, flanked by the experimenters (Levon Vincent, Surgeon, Floating Points, Mala and Shackleton) and the party boys (Joy Orbison, Loefah, George Fitzgerald, Boddika and Huxley).
What distinctly separated Dimensions from its sister festival Outlook was that this was its inaugural year; there was something excitingly untouched and magical about it, a chance for everyone involved to make a lasting imprint into the psyche of global music festivals. Arriving at the campsite, it was clear in no uncertain terms that a festival had taken place here not a couple of days earlier. Outlook-related trash lay strewn everywhere, but this did not seem to bother us fresh campers. After all, this same campsite came equipped with purpose built toilets and showers for local holiday-makers during non-festival season (spotting a young Croatian family braving their daily business was not an uncommon sight).
In fact it was the campsite’s location that elevated Dimensions into a league of its own. The extraordinary Fort Punta Christo was one thing, but the daytime downtime took place on a beautiful pebbly beach; a world away from the traditional muddy field fare that is all too common with British festivals. Whilst the idea of squelching around in wellies for three days may be novel for some, the convenience of only packing a pair of flip flops was not lost on me.
And so to the music. Things started off sprightly the day before acts were scheduled to arrive, with two sets of beach parties at either end of the bay, a nice warm up for the following night, and what was to unquestionably be the showcase night of the entire festival. Featuring performances from Nico Jaar, Little Dragon, Mount Kimbie, Four Tet, Joy Orbison, Benji B, Mala, Floating Points and Dusky to name a few, it appeared difficult to see how all, or even half would be seen.
This proved to be a problem that arose quickly in the mind of many a festival-goer, as large queues snaked around the fort-area around which most of the stages were based. We made the decision to catch a bit of Scuba in The Moat arena, a fantastic complex that, with its stone walls stretching high and long, created a wall of impenetrable sound below the open-air night sky perfectly suited to Paul Rose’s brand of booming techno and bouncy house. Moving into the Fort itself, we witnessed George Fitzgerald and then Dark Sky impart their usual bass-indebted grime and house, before
witnessing what was without doubt the highlight of the night; the Eglo Records Showcase at Outside the Fort. We strolled in at the beginning of Floating Points’ set with moderately high expectations (his Shadows EP last year was a masterpiece in webbing together endless genres). Sure enough, we were treated to a wide and varied track selection, ranging from funk to disco via classic house, all mixed masterfully with a spectacular light show to boot.
Friday night was similarly jam-packed with must-see artists, so we plummed for the Mungos Arena where we bore witness to the Hessle Audio vs Swamp81 show with the age-old team of Ben UFO, Pearson Sound, Loefah and Boddika, accompanied by the insistent mutterings of host, Chunky. The pick of the bunch, by some distance, was Ben UFO whose brand of tech house went down a storm despite eschewing the need to inject a banger every now and then, as is standard fare for more run-of-the-mill DJs. Instead, his expertise for track selection came to the fore, with a well-versed and deep knowledge of house and techno married together in such a way to create something wholly unique and special.
The final day in the Fort was remarkably short of big names when compared to the previous two nights of hectic decision making. With notable acts thin on the ground, we returned to the moat to watch a disco-infused two hour set from Norwegian don Todd Terje (it kicked off when he dropped Inspector Norse), but the real killers for Saturday night were the irrepressible duo Theo Parrish and Moodymann at Outside the Fort. Both long-term legends of the dance game, they both expounded the most wide-varied set one could hope for, especially Moodymann, whose sultry drawl that accompanied his smooth jams made what had turned into a sunrise street party on the other side of the arena’s fence, all the more memorable. The magic was there for all to see.
Word: Lev Harris
Photos: Adrian Choa