Underground electronic music festival Dimensions held its second year at Fort Punta Christo in Pula, Croatia from Thursday, September 5th to Sunday, September 8th. From the people behind Outlook Festival, it featured headline sets from Model 500, Mount Kimbie, Tony Allen, Gilles Peterson, Theo Parrish, Moodymann and Daphni spread across a beach, boats and an abandoned fort from 12noon to 6am daily. We were there in what would be an impressive four days of music
Arriving on Wednesday proved to be a wise decision. Travel from London to Pula via Ljubljana in Slovenia made for a varied mix of taxi, train, flight and coach but there was an anticipation among all the travellers the whole way with the Dimensions crowd easy to spot and similar conversations had by all as they discussed their must-sees. We made it on site by 4pm, greeted by a 30-degree heat and glisteningly-clear Adriatic Sea, with the camp-site buzzing with activity from both the fresh festivallers and those who had stayed on from Outlook the week before. A relatively shady spot in the campsite secured, we spent a relaxing evening getting acclimatised to our new surroundings capped off by cocktails and a dash of deep house at the Beach Bar Pacino, one of the two beach venues. Meanwhile those who attended the opening concert featuring Bonobo and Mount Kimbie at the Pula Amphitheatre reported a spectacular first night.
An early start to the first day of the festival proper meant getting down to the beach by Beach Bar Pacino for the first act of the day – Suntrap. His house sounds combined with the midday sun and an increasingly lively crowd on the beach was putting Dimensions into first gear. The house sounds continued with shades of disco, a dash of funk and a side of jazz with Napper, Cropper, Turf DJs, Campari Safari b2b Mavverick and LFM b2b Mali all getting behind the decks while revelers lazed, danced or got involved in the water. Soon it was time to get ready for a first trip up to the fort with a strong line up of house and techno.
Model 500 showed a dash of humour when Juan Atkins burst into the chorus from Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Around (Like a Record)”
The path up to the main festival site emerged first at the Clearing, the largest outdoor space at the event where some of the biggest acts would perform. The Matthew Halsall Trio were on stage as we passed, with band-leader Matthew Halsall helping bridge the gap between the daytime chilled vibes and the night time beats. We continued down the windy path to the fort and a whistle-stop tour of nearly all seven stages. The setting for the nightlife of Dimensions is stunning. One stage sits just outside the abandoned fort, but the others nestle in among the remaining walls and courtyards. The Ballroom was located deep inside the fort as one of the most intimate spaces, the Dungeon had a psychedelic wall and Mungo’s Arena was in the middle of a clearing surrounded by 30-metre-high walls with a staircase up to view the dancefloor from a bar and seating area.
We first stopped at Mungo’s Arena for Klose One’s beefy bass, then got over to the Clearing for techno pioneers Model 500 made up of Detroit originator and Metroplex label founder Juan Atkins plus Mike Banks, DJ Skurge and Mark Taylor. A huge crowd had assemebled to see them perform, and they didn’t disappoint with their retro synths still exciting, particularly “No UFOS” which brought the biggest cheer, while they showed a dash of humour when Juan Atkins burst into the chorus from Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Around (Like a Record)” over their own beats. The set was something of an education for many who had never seen Model 500 before, for those that had it was a fitting reminder of where much of the music we would hear over the weekend takes its origins.
Although it was over to another techno mastermind Derrick May straight after Model 500, we took a break to see Prosumer and Dixon at Fort Arena 1, a space enclosed by walls with a vibrant atmosphere. Berlin’s Panorama Bar resident Prosumer served up house with a surprise disco twist, then Innervisions Recordings owner Dixon kicked off his mammoth three-and-a-half hour set with atmospheric, uplifting vibes. We returned to the Clearing to hear May’s final tunes where he had pumped up the dancefloor with his own Detroit stylings, then it was over to White Noise radio host Dave Clarke to finish off the first night with an inventive mix that kept a blistering pace with an inventive tune selection. The sun wasn’t quite up yet, but sleep was needed as a first boat excursion was on the agenda at 12.30pm.
Up at 11am following a 6am finish would not normally be easy, but a quick shower and the ever-present Croatian sun made it relatively easy to shift into festival mode for the Aus Music boat party with Glimpse, Mosca and Will Saul. Richly textured house was the soundtrack to our mini-cruise as the boat set sail past the fort and into a vast expanse of sea while the sun beat down. There were happy faces all around, and, oddly, a large pile of shoes by the speakers, making for a fun start to the second day leading nicely into a stint at the Mr Scruff beach party. The famous tea-drinker was nearing the end of his eight-hour set by the time we arrived, having had Floating Points as a guest. His jazz/funk/soul infusion helped refuel the batteries as we got some extending rest by the water, then it was time to get ready for the second assault on the fort.
Space Dimension Controller rifled through his collection to pull out Womack & Womack’s “Teardrops” for a finale of unashamed shapes on top deck.
We made straight for the drum and bass of Fracture in Mungo’s Arena to enjoy the view from the bar overhead, then got an electronica fix Outside the Fort with Littlebig agency owner NED, a dose of big beats from Jon K in the Courtyard and future techno from Jimmy Edgar back Outside the Fort. The sets of the night would come last, however. First Huxley’s house and garage got many of the men in the crowd doing their signature move of stripping off their tops and swinging them above their heads in approval. Then we headed over to the Clearing where Dan Snaith was behind the decks as his Daphni alias. Expecting a moody house set, we were surprised to find an explosion of disco that produced a burst of energy among the group and very happy returning campers as a result.
Day three and rest was much-needed during daylight hours so an extended stay on the beach was required to recharge the festival batteries. Sleeping in the sun with a few splashes in the sea was an effective tonic, making way for a decent meal in the evening to set us up for the third trip to the fort. This would be a focused night where we saw the Jimmy Edgar and Machinedrum collaboration JETS and a joyously happy set from FunkinEven in the Clearing, but the majority of the night was spent Outside the Fort where clubnight Deviation were in control. Resident and Radio 1 DJ Benji B got a soulful techno set in just after midnight but it was Omar S who really impressed with the deft mixing of spacey soundscapes and unrelenting beats making for a mind and body workout. Sets from R&S Records’ Pariah and 3024 label boss Martyn were also enjoyed as socialising took precedent over dancing and it was soon into the final day of the festival.
The intention for Sunday was to reserve energy for the epic nine hour set from the 3 Chairs of Rick Wilhite, Marcellus Pittman, Moodymann and Theo Parrish, but things didn’t quite work out as intended – in a good way. Some beats on the beach at Beach Bar Pacino from Raikes Parade, Annie Nolan and Hopskipjump got our minds turned towards jumping aboard a final boat party and so the late afternoon saw a decamping from the beach to the zleep boat with Martyn and Space Dimension Controller. Though Martyn couldn’t make the boat party, it didn’t matter as Space Dimension Controller more than made up for his absence. The sunset boat was alive throughout his set, then came old skool classics such as Kerrier District’s “Let’s Dance And Freak” and Outlander’s “The Vamp”. By final tune KC And The Sunshine Band “Give It Up”, he had the voyagers singing along as the boat docked in the harbour. Yet the crowd demanded another, refusing to disembark, and SDC rifled through his collection to pull out Womack & Womack’s “Teardrops” for a finale of unashamed shapes on top deck.
Following the zleep boat party was always going to be tough, such was the positive vibes heading back to the campsite that even a 30 minute queue for the cashpoint didn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. When we got into the fort, we made straight for the 3 Chairs Outside the Fort where an eclectic mix of techno, jazz, soul and funk was being put together by the quartet of king spinners. Conscious that we had spent the majority of the previous night in the same spot, we visited the Clearing for Pantha Du Prince’s epic soundscapes followed by a live set from zleep hero Space Dimension Controller that was more forward thinking electronica than his exploits earlier. By now there was only one area in the fort left to explore – The Moat – and 3am in the morning turned out to be the perfect time to get involved.
Steffi was blasting out the techno as the Dimensions crowd soaked up the increasingly heavy rain.
As spots of rain began to fall, the first of the weekend, we descended the steps into the fort’s moat which had been converted into a dance trench for Dimensions with a stage at one end and stacks of speakers down the trench to keep the music reverberating. Tonight Berghain’s Ostgut Ton was in control of the music, and as we made our way into The Moat Steffi was blasting out the techno as the Dimensions crowd soaked up the increasingly heavy rain. It was fitting that the most intense music of the weekend would be heard now in the most intense conditions and, as Ben Klock got behind the decks, there was no sign of any relenting in the booming basslines or the hardcore crowd down the front. We skipped the end of Ben Klock to catch the finale of the 3 Chairs marathon where all four of the revered DJs were putting on tunes to the delight of the Dimensions faithful, and the rain even stopped for the last hour. A huge round of applause greeted the concluding beat which also signaled the end of Dimensions 2013. An encore was denied owing to the licensing restrictions, yet 3 Chairs seemed humbled by the show of support as many had danced for the duration of their set and the Outside the Fort area was packed until the end.
In only its second year the Dimensions organisers proved they know their underground electronic music as well as the bass-led sounds of Outlook. The beaches were the right mix of relaxing and fun, the boat parties provided a unique way to enjoy many of the artists at the festival and the fort venue offers a real playground for revelers. Dimensions Festival will be one to keep an eye on for 2014.