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The Croatia Diaries: Outlook

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It put bass music (or, from 2007-2009, dubstep….) on the map. It was one of the first international festivals to grace Croatia, and it takes place in possibly the best venue for an electronic music festival, ever: an abandoned medieval fortress: fort Punta Christo. We swapped helmets for snap backs and siege weapons for soggy tents and headed on down there. Here were our favourite moments:

Ms. Lauryn Hill Played 

The queen of Soul played in an abandoned Roman Amphitheatre on Outlook’s opening night – cue songs about men who are cruel to women in a venue originally designed for men to be professionally cruel to other men. A hot rain began midway through the set, but nothing could damp Lauryn’s powerful delivery, starting with a rendition of Audio Bully’s Shot Me Down and moving through a number of her own classics as steam rose from the several thousand specators packed into a sand-filled ancient arena, hot light bouncing off of haunted walls. 

Eliphino Smashed The Moat

Bassy Brit producer Eliphino encapsulates Outlook’s crossover sound. He played a rumbling, growling, build of a set that flitted between undiscovered, breaking and current tracks nicely – the whole experience felt like a kind of general sum up of Outlook’s overwhelming pluses, all rammed up in the moat with smoke and endless walls and white strobes cutting through the massed crowd

The Moat, and the Fort was Smashing In General

We go to festivals for a living, but we’ve never seen a venue like this. 800 ft long, 30 ft wide, with walls 100ft high, The Moat was the (already spectacular) Fort’s high point. but it faced its fair share of competition – be it the spectacular graffiti on walls-and-people of Fort Arena 1, the vast mainstage raw energy of The Harbour, The Void and The Clearing, the festival-in-a-festival intimacy of Mungos’ Arena or the weird otherworldliness of the 70-capacity, circular, covered Noah’s Ballroom amongst others.  Where most festivals have a definite line-up and vibe hierarchy between main stage and smaller areas, the sheer variation stage to stage at Outlook, coupled with the fact that every venue had a pounding bespoke sound system meant wherever you went, it was going off, leading to a general sense of smooth momentum all night, every night.

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Mumdance Smashed It.

Standalone, B2B, in Fort Arena 1, an orange and green lit crowd, flanked by long walls and hot lights, listened to this breakthrough act’s offering. Whether it was his brief on-the-decks-solo moments or his slick back to back work, Mumdance had a rolling fist-pump running the entire length of his set.

We Need To Talk About Gramatik

The Slovenian born-and-bred producer moved to the US in his teens and promptly became one of the leading names in bass music, not to mention the key player in the controversial Free Music Movement – actively partnering with BitTorrent to release his new and old material. A man with a lot of independent ideas, but his set at the Harbour Stage was just straight up on-point quality. A signature mix of hip hop, funk, breaks, dubstep and we’re-not-even-sure-bro-it-was-just-sick quickly recharged a post-boat party hazed crowd into a frenzy from 10pm onward

Outlook Is On With Croatian DJs

Croatia’s a curious place. Over a dozen electronic music festivals happen here, it’s now regarded as a global capital of sorts for festivals, yet precious few festivals are run by Croatians, resulting in what’s actually a fairly healthy Croatian underground scene being largely overlooked. Outlook, it’d appear, is on this. They’ve teamed up with local Croatian promoters, the result being a healthy presence of Croatian homegrown talent at the festival, including Eddy Ramach, Ilya Rudman, Petar Dundov, DMT, Homeboy amongst other acts given exposure and access to a UK crowd who, by all accounts, were seriously into it.

Grooverider Boat Party

“It’s my first time playing here, and I love it!’ announced d&b-&-Dubai’s most wanted as he passed out bottles of vodka during one of the best boat parties we’ve experience this summer. A set floating (see what we did there?) everywhere from liquid throwback classics to Flume reworks was added to when a neighbouring boat party, mid-water, joined us, clubbers on either side high-fiving and exchanging drinks as the sun set over the Adriatic. 

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The Beach

Normally the beach at campsite based festivals resembles something out of a straight-to-DVD apocalypse movie – bodies, litter, stray dogs, stray students, stray students wrestling with stray dogs over a piece of kebab. A leg, somewhere. Not so here, where day on day some several thousand surprisingly hot clubbers emerged to stay on it or get on it in the Croatian sunshine, backing tracks provided by the beach stage a la Jonny Dub and impromptu sea-inflatable competitions providing the warm up before the night began.

Secret Parties

These happened, daily, at the fort. And they really were secret, word of mouth affairs. The vibe was like that of a crazed house party because…well…technically that’s what it was. In a fort. In Croatia…. 

The Campsite

Getting camping to work in Croatia – country of 40-degree summers and horizontal thunderstorms is impressive. But Outlook did it. In fact, we’d argue some of the best times to be had were on the vast, several-thousand capacity space, facing a beach and protected by a thick forest covering. Over the course of the week, ever-widening tent circles formed as friend groups were forged by an international crowd whose common language was shared cigarettes and warm vodka shots. Every night saw Mexican-wave style roars filter through the trees and ever-growing groups of people joined Croatia’s Biggest Pre-Drinks before heading up to the fort.

At seven years old, Outlook isn’t just a festival, it’s an institution. Croatia, whether or not it’s ‘The New Ibiza’, whether or not it’ll last, is the current leader for electronic music festivals. It’s a touchstone for our time. The moment electronic music became mainstream music, or simply ‘music’ was also the moment when the world’s leading labels, promoters and acts decamped to the former Yugoslavia to change the very definition of what a good festival looks like. Outlook was, and remains an integral part of this story, and, at 7 years old, it’s running as hot, as fresh, as mad-for-it as ever. Check this out. 

Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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