Reviewed: Outlook Origins 2021
“I don’t think you understand what it means to put on a festival in a pandemic and just how difficult this is to do in another country from where most of us live. Ladies and gentlemen, make some noise for Outlook Festival” – MC Lowqui opening Outlook Origins
If you were at Outlook Origins earlier this month then maybe you’ll recognise these emphatic words from MC Lowqui during Technimatic’s set on the opening night of the festival. But if you weren’t, then take his message as the sentiment summing up the Outlook 2021 experience. From the organisers to the artists to the ravers to the locals, Outlook Origins going ahead was the moment many had been longing for, and one some were anxious about.
It goes without saying that when Outlook announced plans to upheave everything they’d built at their spiritual home in Pula further up the Dalmatian coast, there were people left feeling dismayed at what the future held for the festival. Would it lose its magic? Well, I can confirm Outlook is still the magical experience it always was – it’s just a new experience.
Much smaller than the previous editions, Origins signalled a return to the festival’s roots before it grew into the giant of the bass scene it is today. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we should re-evaluate the values most important to us and focus on them, and I feel like Outlook did exactly this with Origins.
Celebrating Soundsystem culture is engrained into Outlook’s values, and Origins was a chance for the organisers to curate a line-up paying homage to the legends, pioneers and figureheads who helped get bass music to where it is today. You only had to look at the line-up to see this. From label takeovers including Metalheadz, Dispatch and Deep Medi, to artists such as Fabio & Grooverider, DJ Storm, Hybrid Minds, Mala and Mungo’s Hifi, the line-up was stacked with names who have done so much for their respective genres.
The opening concert was no exception, with Chase & Status, Children of Zeus and Shy FX all billed to host the prestigious show igniting the festivities. There was some disappointment though as the planned location of St Michael’s Fortress fell through, and Shy FX pulled out. It was gutting – especially after seeing how epic Outlook’s opening parties usually are. But Barbarellas Discotheque, one of Croatia’s best-rated nightclubs, was a decent substitution.
Surprisingly, the situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise with Noisia’s Thys stepping in and Dynamite MC jumping on the mic for what was an epic performance. This is a combination you’d never get normally, but it was incredible! Anyone who has seen Thys before will know his sets can be hit and miss, but it felt like Dynamite’s presence pushed him to go in with Noisia classics and weighty D&B hitters.
To add to this, Barbarellas was a super intimate, open-aired venue where you could get closer than ever to the artists. When would you ever get to party two metres away from Noisia, Chase & Status and Children of Zeus? It tied in perfectly with the theme of Origins – taking it back to a time when the stages weren’t huge, artists walked through the crowd to get to the decks, and the DJs fed off of the crowd’s energy. It was a real intimate affair.
This was one of the themes defining the Origins experience, and it was helped by the main festival’s location. Taking place at The Garden Resort in Tisno, the site was much smaller than Fort Punta Christo but just as magical. Walking through the resort was like being in a tropical paradise where the sun constantly beat down, the sound of cicadas and bass wubs filled the air, and the smell of the sea was always there.
The site itself was made up of four open-air spaces – Main Stage, Olive Grove (a smaller stage with awesome decorations), Wabi Sabi (a tiny area next to the restaurant smashing out bass music to hungry punters), and the Beach Stage (without a doubt the star of the show with its insane views of the ocean).
After the opening show concluded, everyone headed back to the main site for a huge evening of music until 5am. Opening nights always have the tendency to be the best ones, and I feel like this was no different. It was all about the Hybrid Minds main stage takeover with Ama, Hybrid Minds & Degs, Technimatic & MC Lowqui and Artificial Intelligence (again with Lowqui) running the show. On paper, it’s a liquid lover’s dream, and in reality, it was that and more.
Hybrid Minds played arguably the set of the night with dub after dub being laid down to a crowd buzzed to be at a festival. It was Degs’ words “hold on to the person you love. Fuck covid” just before the drop of Culture Shock’s anthemic ‘There For You’ that hit home how beautiful of an occasion this was. For many people, this was their first festival back, and the roar of the crowd after Degs’ words summed up the crowd’s emotions. That roar felt like people letting go of all the pent up frustration they’d accumulated over the past 18 months. We were finally at a festival!
It was a feeling of coming home we didn’t experience at the start of summer (sorry, I had to bring it up), but one that left everyone at the festival with a spring in their step – especially on the Friday as the boat parties began setting sail. Undoubtedly the star of the show, the Arognaughty boat parties saw many curators take to the sea for intimate showcases with dedicated fans. Dub, dubstep, D&B, garage, grime – there was a boat for everyone.
Friday saw Cimm Presents and Navy Cut set sail, but I jumped on the Contrast boat party featuring Artificial Intelligence, DLR, Redex and Lowqui. It’s hard to describe how insane these charters were. Imagine being able to stand so close to the DJ you can see what dub they’re bringing in next. Especially when you’ve got DLR on the decks (a man known for his stash of dubs from The Sauce), this was a winner.
As good as the music was, sometimes you had to just sit on the top deck and take in the surreal views of the Croatian islands – that’s until a naked water-skier comes zooming past to taint the view… He was flapping around more than the Croatia flag on the boat!
One of the best things about Origins was the variation of music on offer. Friday night had this in abundance with Calibre curating an experimental Main Stage featuring LCY and Thys, the Olive Grove blaring jungle with Sheba Q and Ama, and the beach stage hosting an evening of dubstep courtesy of the White Peach crew.
But this music variation wasn’t always there at the festival, and I felt the weekend section of the event suffered as a result – particularly the Saturday. For those who love their BPM fast, at times it felt like a mission to find something to groove to. You’d see people milling about like confused creatures waiting to catch wind of an amen break. In all fairness, the Saturday after-party at Barbarella’s was a hefty D&B offering with Sofa Sound X Dispatch causing carnage, but on-site during the day this wasn’t the case.
It wasn’t a coincidence the stages were quiet during the weekend days, with the Main Stage opening late and the Beach Stage only ever having a small cluster of people bopping to the dub or reggae on offer. I felt sad seeing the beach stage empty like this, but then I reminded myself of Lowqui’s quote from the first night. Organising a festival during a pandemic is difficult, and kudos to Outlook for doing it.
But let’s be clear here, even though the numbers were lacking at times, the vibes weren’t. If anything, the smaller attendance made it a unique experience. Each day, you’d bump into the same people, rave with them, then repeat the process the next day. That was special. Something we missed most during the pandemic was connecting with like-minded ravers, and at Outlook Origins, you were able to connect with anyone. There was no drama, no silly antics. It was a real family affair where everyone celebrated their freedom and a love for music.
It was the Roots in Session set on the Beach Stage on Saturday afternoon that summed this up and provided one of the moments of the festival. A raise in BPM with the duo reeling through reggae, grime, jungle and D&B had people flocking to the stage like moths to a flame, and the spirits were high. Someone whacked out a beach ball and it ended up being a game of…if you hit it in the sea, you strip off and jump in the water to get the ball. Or for some people, just jump in and soak everything… It was a festival after all!
I loved the music selection from Roots in Session. You could tell they were playing tracks that meant a lot to them, and that’s something I found throughout Outlook Origins. This festival felt different to the norm. Artists weren’t just drawing for the tracks that would guarantee a reaction. Instead, it felt like they were digging deep to find tracks important to them. It comes back to the values of Origins: paying homage to our musical heritage.
This sentiment was echoed by many acts across the festival – especially Mungo’s Hifi – who hosted arguably the busiest Beach Stage of the festival on Saturday night. Reeling through reggae classics and old school rave anthems, it was a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The moment they played their vocal rendition of Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ was like being transported back to the ‘90s rave days, but with the message that the modern world has not forgotten – something reinforced by Mungo’s finishing the set with theirs and Gardna’s ‘Back In The Dayz’ (Feat. Catching Cairo) – a track all about celebrating the old rave days.
It’s a sense of remembrance that was threaded throughout the festival. Whether it was the Metalheadz main stage on Sunday night plastering a hilariously creepy image of Goldie’s face across the screen behind the DJ, or Zula from Artificial Intelligence wearing a t-shirt paying respect to the deceased Marcus Intalex – a pioneer who inspired so many of the top names in D&B – the whole event celebrated the past.
The final day of the festival was the finale Outlook Origins deserved with various takeovers from curators who have done great things for their scenes. From DJ Storm and the Metalheadz family curating the Olive Grove to The North Quarter closing the beach stage with liquid D&B to Conducta & Zed Bias turning the main stage into UKG heaven, this was a mega Monday.
It was the latter takeover that closed the main stage in style with Sammy Virji bringing his bassline energy and Shosh shutting down the festival with feel good UKG. The whole stage packed out for one final celebration of the live music we had dearly missed.
At the end of the day, music would be nothing without its origins, and I think the new Outlook Origins concept provided a fresh take on the festival experience and a thoughtful nod to the people who got us to where we are. It’s a new Outlook experience, that’s for sure, but it will no doubt continue to grow into something even more special over time.