Dimensions Festival, Fort Punta Christo, Pula – Croatia
The 4th to the 8th of September, Fort Punta Christo, just outside Pula, Croatia, hosted a second wave of electronic zealots. Following in the wake of Outlook Festival, Dimensions Festival 2013 delivered the best names in house, techno, and dub in addition to live acts, centring round themes of jazz, downtempo, and trip-hop. The location itself is a mid-nineteenth century stronghold, built to defend Pula, once one of the most credible trading Mediterranean cities. Over the years, the fort lay dormant. Nature had reclaimed the site. Yet, the Outlook team could see beyond the twisted vines and gnarled roots and after an extensive clearing, the raw potential of Fort Punta Christo was actualised. It would be a pilgrimage that we, in England, would never experience at home due to more than reasonable reservations from National Heritage.
The evening of the 4th of September saw the largest arrival of Dimensions guests. As tents were pitched and luggage thrown inside apartments, we made our way into Pula by boat, taxi, and foot to the opening concert. It took place in the Pula Arena (built 27 BC – 68 AD), a 2,000-year old Roman amphitheatre (among the six largest surviving Roman arenas, if you care to know). For nearly 700 years, the space had been one used for combat between convicts, sentenced to death by the hands of each other/wild animals. In the Middle Ages, it became a space for tournaments by the Knights of Malta. Today, it’s largely used as the perfect venue for music, our generation’s prime source of entertainment. The line-up, consisting of Andrew Ashong, Portico Quartet, Mount Kimbie, and Bonobo, might have seemed quite strange beforehand, being largely unrepresentative of the rest of the music to come over the weekend. In hindsight, it was just the humbling experience the crowd needed to break away from themselves and feel raw music, loosening the limbs.
A real highlight of the entire festival was the South London, experimental jazz crew, Portico Quartet. The sun had just set over the sea with the sky kept illuminated long enough to shine through the arena’s windows. ‘Window Seat’ got the ball rolling, emitting ethereal whale calls that resonated out as fans of white light spiraled slowly over the walls. Shortly after, ‘Ruins’ crept out and under the skin. Jack Wyllie’s saxophone called out, beautifully stirring, in tune with the rumbling hang (steel drum in the shape of a flying saucer, if you will). The song emulated the frail beauty of the human condition as the saxophone broke form as appropriately as one would in a fit of passion. I Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at how strong that resonated with me. Cornelia joined the outfit on stage for ‘Steepless’, letting out a voice that could be described as that of a timeless, choir elf. Bonobo delivered a top set and apart from the crisp and full sound and magnitude of visuals being amplified beyond comprehension, it failed to stray far from anything you could have seen on his recent tour. Sirens, Andreya Triana, Cornelia, and Szjerdene made their appearances. Highlight tracks included: ‘Recurring’, ‘The Keeper’, and ‘We Could Forever’. How the crowd pulsed along to it all. I couldn’t see him from where I was stood, but I knew Mr. Green must’ve been made up with the turn-out. What a surreal venue, how spoiled were we all?
We eased through the day with a dip in the sea and a play on the inflatable obstacle course, staying limber for the night ahead. Hesseltime had the honour of playing first in the Ballroom, a tiny circular room, open to the sky with the tiniest capacity. Warming the crowd up with garage vocals and funky basslines, the delivery of Paul Woolford’s ‘Untitled’ brought the best out in those lucky 75 people. The man behind Manchester’s Hit’n’Run dubstep/drum’n’bass night, Rich Reason, played the Dungeon early on, doling out quite the eclectic mix from sinister Joy Orbison-like wobbles to disco to a happy-go-lucky fade out to Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’. The Dungeon, at a capacity of 300, itself was an acoustic playground. From the DJ booth, it curved round like a horseshoe, sending inescapable waves of sound down each corridor.
Photography: Benjamin Eagle Photography/Zoe Lower