Reviewed: Dimensions Festival 2019
Those who have been travelling to Croatia every year for Dimensions hold this festival so close to their hearts. Set in a beautiful and unique location of the abandoned 19th century Fort Punta Christo in Pula, surrounded by crystal blue waters and pine trees. It is a haven and community where underground electronic music fans and DJs can come together for a week to celebrate: House, Techno, Electro, Minimal, Disco, Jazz, Funk, Soul, Drum & Bass and more.
Following the news that this would be the final year at the Fort and with the next location yet to be announced, I had to make sure I attended the last dance.
Presenting a lineup year on year that is always expertly curated, 2019 again followed suit, featuring legends and the hottest upcoming talent from all genres on display. Whether it’s the opening party in the 2000-year-old Amphitheatre, beach/boat parties, or the heads down darkness and depth of the moat, stages are designed to cater for every type of rave experience. To give the festival the justice it deserves I picked out my highlights of each day below.
A notable point about Dimensions is the people who attend, the beach is where everyone gathers by day and is a perfectly shaped bay for relaxing and sunbathing among friends, but also getting to know others who share common interests. The diversity of the music on offer is also displayed in the crowd and conversation is sparked naturally. Soundtracked by chilled-out beats during the day, but also energetic live performances as the evening moves in, and on Wednesday you can taste the buzz in the air at the anticipation of what’s to come.
To commence the four days, a special one-off show is held at Pula Arena, a historic Roman Amphitheatre set away from the main site in the city. I arrived there in the early evening to get a spot on the banks of the walls to witness an inspiring event. Tony Allen & Jeff Mills were first up, hundreds started to fill the huge space to the unique sound of the Detroit legend and innovator combined with the father of Afrobeat. The connection they have as drum pads interacted alongside drum kit was ideal with the sun coming down behind the stone walls and over the backdrop of the city of Pula.
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals headlined and stole the show, the electric energy of Paak, who bounded about the stage with joy and freedom, accompanied by his talented band. He moved through pop hits like ‘Come Down’ and his ‘Glowed Up ‘collaboration alongside Kaytranada, as phone torches of the crowd lit up the Amphitheatre. Their set also included fun edits like ‘California Love’ and latest album anthems including ‘Jet Black’. In the palm of his hand, roars of delight came from the audience, while fireworks and flames went up behind his charismatic moves.
Objekt played a captivating live performance that really absorbed me. Rich ambient and the eerie chimes of recent album intro Lost and Found opened and an enormous screen behind him beamed bizarre patterns and mysterious animations throughout that suited the perplexing beats of 35 and alien-like vocoder vocals of ‘Rest Yr Troubles Over Me’.
Closing in stark contrast Hunee played an eclectic mixture of house, disco and boogie that provided a fun and lively end to the party, displaying the diversity that the festival is all about.
On Thursday I got up and headed straight to the Tribe Records boat party, the sun shining on top of the Adriatic water magically as it set sail to the sound of Tribe staff member and On Rotation Rinse FM show Alex T, who didn’t even need to warm up the crowd on the completely sold out boat, everyone showing maximum energy dance moves immediately as the first beat dropped. NTS Radio hosts Shanti Celeste and Peach launched into a superb garage and house set that suited the vibe to a tee. I particularly lapped up the rhythm of ‘So Deep, So Good’ – (Ndako Gboya Mix) but the biggest reception of glee came from the audience when the boat pulled back into the harbour and they ended on the classic ‘U Sure Do’ – Strike, hands aloft, fans wafting and both DJs grinning from ear to ear.
After an afternoon nap to recharge for the evening ahead, next I went to the tunnel party at Zerotrasse. Located back in the city, deep within the network of underground tunnels erected during WW1, they play host to weird, murky and experimental sounds. Making my way through the long dark underpass, low bottom end frequencies of dubstep pioneer Mala were rumbling the walls while water dripped from the ceiling. Sydney-born Electro champion Jensen Interceptor took over and played a galvanizing set of bouncy and dingy numbers including a remix of ‘My Neck, My Back’ – Khia that I heard in multiple electro sets during the festival.
Heading back to the main site and into the arena for the first time Francesca Del Garda performed a blend of funk, techno and groovy house on the colossal sound system of The Void stage (named after the sound system). Meat Free ended the night in what is arguably the most impressive stage at the festival, The Moat, it’s lofty 80ft walls that rise above you create a powerful chasm. Nina Kraviz made her way through an exuberant mixture of drum and bass, hip hop, acid, house and electro that many wouldn’t have the audacity to play, but it really worked. ‘Show Me Luv’ – Captain Cadilac (Robert Amarni Remix) highlighted the playful yet hard hitting nature of her set.
Post some much-needed recovery time on the beach, I got to The Garden in the early evening for Hamish & Toby who brought early warm grooves. The tree lined open space a great spot to find a place on the incline and settle your way into the night. Binh knocked things up a gear, the Time Passages boss playing his trademark blend of ravey synths and unhinged acid, characterised by ‘Acid Fix’ – Hezziane that had people flocking toward the alluring green lights and plants that adorned the stage. Watching Andrew Weatherall, I had my first taste of the SubDub arena. Home to the famous Sinai Sound System, speakers stacking up formidably inside the tight walls of the fortress. “The Guvnors” trademark brand of spacey, dark disco chuggers like ‘Remote Scope’ – Llewellyn were lapped up by a packed-out audience
One of my favourite DJs of recent times, Helena Hauff, finished in The Moat and she took the baton from Kraviz the night before, her set lined with plenty of hefty bangers like the delirious jungle drop of ‘???’ – Furiorario.
Dimensions has had a great hand in the brilliant resurgence of exciting electro and The Void was the stage that championed this brand of music predominantly during the festival. Along with big names, it brought some of the scenes best rising DJs to the fore. Within the intriguing lights of the stage Kirsti launched Saturday here, demonstrating her uncompromising sound of raw electro and techno that you can find on her Null & Void label and radio show. Craig Richards, an artist who needs no introduction, played his first set since the recent heartbreaking disappointment of Houghton Festival and proved why he is held in such high regard by so many, presenting another expertly crafted electro set.
A running theme was to finish my night in The Moat and the thumping, relentless four to the floor Berlin warehouse techno sound of DVS1 ended another outstanding night of music. Starting moodily and progressively under a blue haze, he had the crowd completely under his spell, all locked into the groove and fist pumping for the duration, before he moved into heavier cuts and the blue changed to yellow lasers piercing through the long corridor like space.
Sunday came around in the blink of an eye and although feeling lethargic initially after hours of dancing, the draw of The Nothing Special boat party with Craig Richards, DBridge and Radioactive Man was enough to revitalise me. All three of the artists have remained at the top of the scene for so long and for good reason with their dedication to all genres and facets of electronic music. The boat demonstrated this, both the DJs and crowd fully appreciating the contrasting and unique styles on offer during the three hours at sea. Whether it be Richards dropping the snappy bleeps and otherworldly sound effects of his own ‘My Friend Is Losing His Mind’ or DBridge ending on the house classic ‘Burning’ – MK, the latter particularly received with adulation as the burning sun dropped for one last time into the sea, before we all prepared for the very last dance over at the fort.
DJ Stingray, head covered in his unmistakable balaclava took over The Void, a breakneck set of dystopian electro activating the last shot of life into the Dimensions throng.
He handed the reigns over to Paula Temple who similarly pounded the skulls inside the fencing, possibly the most unrelenting set of the festival, recent tracks off her album like ‘Joshua’ and ‘Goliath’ sounded utterly immense out of that system.
As is tradition since the outset of the festival Hessle Audio featuring Ben UFO b2b Pangaea b2b Pearson Sound concluded the last hours in The Moat. It was a truly emotional end to bring the curtain down and all the crowd used all their limbs to show appreciation for the grounds they have cherished over the last 8 years. Tears of joy were streaming down faces and groups of friends hugged as a belting edit/remix rang out that is yet to be ID’d. It featured the synths from the LFO – LFO (Leeds Warehouse Mix) and an instantly recognisable, spine tingling “something for your mind, your body and your soul” vocal sample, this being chanted back by the audience, before dropping into an insane jungle beat as the last morning sunrise gently filled the sky.
With everyone making the last walk out the site back to their tents and apartments, it felt as though the four days had been life-affirming, praise must go to Dimensions Festival, who alongside others have created a family connected through a mutual love. I sensed diversity was always at the forefront, many of the standout sets coming from female artists and all weekend there were no clicks or feeling of superiority. All left excited and eager to see where the next chapter of this special brand will go.
Thank you for having us this year Dimensions Festival!