“Electronic music. It, it ain’t about genres man. That’s what makes it what it is.”
Under normal circumstances, Moodymann’s line wouldn’t make sense. But Dimensions festival doesn’t have a whole lot of normal circumstance to it. Held in a vast medieval fortress on a forested hilltop in Croatia’s Pula this esoteric pocket of analogue-leaning techno attracts some 7,000 people each year, all piling into the open-air, multi-venue, brick-and-grass-and-drawbridge madness of Fort Punta Christo – the same place that also hosts bigger sister Outlook Festival and Croatian bass workout SeaSplash.
In fact Moodymann’s 2am philosophy could not have been more on point. Croatia has some 16 electronic festivals each summer. DT has visited 14, yet it’s at Dimensions where that tangible, mysterious ‘magic’ that every official promo shot, every wrap up video so painfully tries to capture, really does seem to exist.
It’s not hard to understand why. This was a festival which, as far as set up goes, remains entirely unique moment-for-moment. Caribou playing in an ancient Roman amphitheatre at the opening concert on the night before, surrounded by red downlights and haunted architecture. Move D playing mid-noughties bassy classics on one of the several boat parties. At the festival proper, Jonny Dub taking it weird as goers sun themselves down on the beach, Moodymann waxing introspective or SDC going full-camp on the vast clearing stage at the entrance to the fort.
Then, there was the fort itself. Whilst Exit’s fortress set up amazes on sheer scale, the attention to detail that’s gone into transforming Dimensions Punta Christo location takes our vote. Every tree, every wall was lit, every arena came with it’s own graphics and theme. The arenas themselves meanwhile….the illuminated graffiti of Fort Arena 1, the crazed dimensions (geddit) of the 800 ft long, 30 ft wide, flanked by 100 ft walls of The Moat. The vast main-stage set ups of The Void and the Clearing, the 70-person squash of the circular, covered Ballroom and the cult festival-in-a-festival favourite Mungo’s Arena were all packed with both bespoke soundsystems – possibly the loudest we’ve heard in our entire Croatia adventure – and an amazingly up for it crowd.
The latter are among the most diverse we’ve seen in Croatia. Whilst the majority of small festivals tend to go down a niche when it comes to crowd – be it the Brits of Hideout, the Italians at Barrakud or, er, the Brits again at The Garden Festival Dimensions was a hot mix of Brits, Australians, Canadians, Spanish and actual Croatians – a comparatively rare site. This heady mix gave the campsite its own misty ambience – where, undeterred by frequently driving rain, from 7am every single morning the place was alive with foreign accents, newly created friend circles and a kind of ongoing unofficial afterparty on the beach, people bringing bottles of vodka and beer and iPod docks never far away.
Moodymann’s phrase had another truth to it too. The Dimensions promoters have never shied in interview from stating that they’re only into booking acts they’re genuinely hot on, and in 2014’s case there’s an interesting theme emerging. In 2012 those selfsame promoters in an interview termed it Soulful Electronica and, well, we can’t really top that. Jeremy Underground Paris, Eliphino, My Love Is Underground, Seven Davis Jr and Roman Flugel kept things loose whilst there was an injection of 90s-reference DnB from the likes of Alix Perez and DBridge (who actually narrated their set, discussing tunes they were playing, and why they were playing them. At 1 am in a fortress, this sort of worked). Meanwhile, a nod to Croatian talent including Eddy Ramach and Petar Dundov provided potentially a window into the festival’s programming going forward.
We liked, absolutely everything we saw about this festival. The vibe, the mentality behind the programming. At 7,000, it’s big enough to lose people but small enough to make new friends. It’s boat party range and multiple stages keep things fresh but most of all the fortess, the sheer fact your listening to music often played on 40 year old synths, bounced off walls 400 years old, all the while bathed in hot white and blue light just does something a bit unusual.
We’ll be back next year.