After a surprisingly hot summer in the UK, the now annual excursion to coastline of Croatia was not necessarily a sun-scouting mission, as perhaps previous years had proven to be. It was, however, a purpose planned pursuit of musical contentment and indulgence, with a beach thrown in for good measure. To put on an event (or two) in early September, considering the current saturation of new-found festivals, could be seen as a risk, however, with a line-up that would make even the most accomplished promoter quiver and venue to match, this years Dimensions Festival stands as one of the more prominent in the Adriatic region.
Rolling on from its older, dub hungry brother Outlook, of the same location, Dimensions takes place, for the most part, within the confines of a 19th century armoured fort, situated in Pula, between Forzana and Stinjan. Considering that it’s only the festivals second year, you’d be surprised and contented at the high level of organisation, both in terms of management and general vibe, maintained by the brilliant team responsible.
As a whole, the actual innards of each stage didn’t require much more than a few carefully placed lighting rigs to fully conjure an appropriate atmosphere, the structure itself is on such a magnificent scale that a lot of the aesthetic work is already set in place. That is not to say, however, that the time and effort that had obviously gone in to ‘Dimensionising’ the various walkways and purchasing stalls, was not something to be in awe of.
With a vast selection of artists and stage hosts, plucked from a global palette of the very best in dance music, the highlight reel of such an event could probably be shown for the duration of the two and half hour flight home… Unfortunately we weren’t unable to attend the opening amphitheatre concert and we’re still pretty teary about it all.
Unlike some festivals I’ve frequented in recent years, the Beach Stage provided a suitable backdrop to the day’s activities (mainly lying and frying) with an eclectic range of hip, trip and house that could easily be danced or lounged to. An eight-hour takeover at the hands of Mr. Scruff & Friends with Floating Points and Kelvin Brown proved to be a high point of the beach bill, with an RC Drone, at points, hovering above to capture the action on video (an appropriate concept that will no doubt become prevalent at many a future festival).
The Clearing stage, located between beach and fort, played host to the majority of notable live performances on show at this years Dimensions. Veterans Lonnie Liston Smith and Tony Allen both executed otherworldly lessons in rhythm, with Mount Kimbie, WIFE, Andrew Ashong and Mala in Cuba stunning the crowds, whilst the JETS pairing of Machinedrum and Jimmy Edgar aptly exhibited what it now means to play ‘live’. All an excitable accompaniment to an otherwise deck dominated weekend display.
A place like no other on the European festival circuit, the Fort Arena 1 is a stage that, when dealt with correctly, can become a cauldron of stridency that feels like the war it was intended for never ended. The likes of Move D, Dixon, Boddika and Skudge all smashed the place to pieces accordingly throughout the weekend.
If the Fort Arena didn’t prove to provide quite enough bashment, or you had an eardrum or two to spare, The Moat anchored a premium selection of techno over the weekend that could have made even Berghain blush. Inevitably, diesel-powered 4×4 was its soundtrack: hardware operations from Karenn, Livity Sound, Dense & Pika and The Analogue Cops, gritty UK material, highbrow crate-digging, and efficient German styles. The more ranging sets came from the likes of Surgeon who traversed the Junglist sounds of Special Request and the fearsome grooves of Glimpse’s ‘True South’ with ease. Levon Vincent played beatless speech recordings for what seemed like fifteen minutes whilst closing this stage, sending droves of people to the exit in search of a dance. But not long after, once the chin-stroking was done, the crowd began to filter back in for a final half-hour of him at his uncompromising best.
At the far end of the Festival Map sits a now iconic facet of Dimensions and Outlook Festival: the Mungo’s Arena. Showcasing acts that would rest comfortably on the Outlook bill, Mungo’s gave way to the capable hands of Exit Records, Exodus and Staunch, as well as a memorable Cherry Brandy infused onslaught from Peverelist and Kowton.
It was at the smaller stages that you’d often find yourself in a state of ‘oneness’ with the whole experience. The intimacy of both Noah’s Ballroom and The Courtyard, which, whilst looking like they could crumble quicker than the chins of the people propped up against them, also allowed for a warm reverberation of sound frequencies, an often unattainable feature at many a field based festival. Along similar lines, The Dungeon’s circular structure added another dimension of sound below ground, more comparable perhaps to a club layout back in blighty …only the walls are straight medieval, mate.
The stellar programming at Dimensions was perhaps exemplified best Outside The Fort and a cast of potential headliners occupied the majority of the bill over the course of each night, all resonating warmly through the insane Void stacks. Notable sequences included Eglo’s Alex Nut, Dego, Andres and Floating Points; Deviation’s Benji B, Moxie, Gerd Janson and Omar S and the much-awaited 3 Chairs showcase capping off Sunday in true Detroit tone (“We mad as hell!”).
Other than a scrap of rain (now expected on every visit), those darn tokens and having to cough up half of 19th century Croatia on the way home, Dimensions was straight enjoyable. A crowd that rarely got rowdy savoured a venue that always felt busy but never rammed or overbearing, and I’m sure the artists involved relished a certain air of receptivity and focus to this years encounter – shout out to all the trusty steeds who kept us grinning from ear-to-ear over the weekend. As an organiser utilising such a location, your ultimate goal is surely to give your punters a little more to think about than what they are there to see, and the people behind the scenes certainly did just that. See you next year Dimensions. Taxi, maybe?
Photography: Dan Medhurst