Dimensions 2012 – A Reflection

Art & Culture

The weekend before last saw the launch of the newest addition to Croatias ever-expanding family of festivals as Dimensions took to the stage at the abandoned fortress site of Punta Christo, near Pula, for its inaugural event.

Sister festival to one of Croatias finest recent cultural imports, the bombastic bass music jamboree of Outlook, Dimensions represented an inspired decision by its organizers not to compromise the vibe and ethos of Outlook by creating a separate event for the deeper end of house, techno, dubstep, drum & bass and all its electronic peripherals.
With Outlook having just celebrated its fifth year the weekend before (albeit in slightly muddy fashion) and its third at the Punta Christo site, all the infrastructure was already in place for Dimensions to continue the legacy with considerable aplomb and close the festival season with a bang. 
Boasting an unparalleled lineup of the finest purveyors of music from across the digital spectrum, with headline performances from Nicholas Jaar, Carl Craig and Moodymann alongside anticipated appearances by Scuba, Joy O, Mala and DjRUM to name but a few, Dimensions was set to be the summers most momentous electronica event. So how would it fair against all that expectation?
Stepping out of our 4-hour bus journey from Venice, it quickly became clear that the lineup had lured a very different crowd to Croatia than its predecessor Outlook. The wobbletastic fan boys and dubstep dons of the previous weekend were gone, replaced by a slightly older, more refined and musically more open-minded audience, which allowed for on the whole – a much more relaxed atmosphere across the weekend.
On the Thursday, we trudged down to the festival site for our first proper soiree with the Adriatic Sea, where we were greeted by the magnificent vista of the bay surrounding the fortress at Puntizela, with its flesh-filled shore and beachside stage pumping out a suitably sun-kissed soundtrack of deep house, Balearic beats and hip hop and soul classics. Occasionally, the laidback air of the beachgoers would disappear in an eruption of energy; throwing their towels to the ground and running for the dancefloor as DJs dropped everything from Groove Armada and Faithless, to Cheryl Lynn and Ja Rule. The picturesque location of Puntizela, the aptly cheerful backing track, and the numerous water sport activities on offer made for an enormously fun and relaxed base for the daytimes during the festival.

It was also here, however, that we first encountered the food & drink token system that Dimensions was governed by, and which was to be the bane of our lives for the next four days. Croatian Kuna could be exchanged for tokens at just one or two stalls across the entire site. The tokens were dispensed in flimsy plastic bags that often, unsurprisingly, split in your pocket as you fumbled around for enough Monopoly money to buy your next drink. Either that, or you would watch on in dismay as they all cascaded onto the floor if you decided to be so bold as to sit down whilst wearing shorts with anything less than zip pockets. 
The most sensible reason I heard for this incredibly frustrating feature was that licensing the sale of alcohol was either too difficult or too expensive for such a (relatively) short space of time, so the token system meant that while bars could not sell alcohol, they would be able to sell tokens that could be exchanged for it. Thats all well and good and I hold my hands up to not having any experience of the intricacies of organizing a festival, but youd think that after five years of Outlook theyd have sorted out a more convenient method of keeping people fed and watered, especially now that the two festivals were taking place in the same site, one after the other. So it should come as no surprise to the organizers that identical complaints of the token system could be heard high and wide across the festival site throughout its duration.
Making our way down to the harbour later that afternoon, we were introduced to another major feature of Dimensions the boat parties. We were booked on to the 2020 Vision boat to see one of three performances from the current king of house, Huxley. As the boat chugged out into deeper waters under the watchful gaze of the setting sun, 2020 resident Danny Raper and newcomer Jonny Cade treated us to a rambunctious selection of upbeat 4×4 cuts, before Huxley stepped up to deliver his own choice brand of warm garage-infused sounds.
From his own numbers Let It Go and Box Clever (which turned out to be one of the tunes of the weekend) to Armand Van Heldens ubiquitous You Dont Even Know Me, Huxley dropped classics of new and old in celebratory fashion as we pulled back into the harbour four hours later. Having been injected with an ardent energy and fuelled by a ludicrous amount of Medisa (Croatian honey rum), we stepped off the boat and clambered our way up the hill to begin our first night up at the fort

Making a brief pit stop for a markedly average chicken wrap (another disappointing aspect of the festival the selection and quality of food was awful), we made our way to the main stage (Fort Arena 1), hoping to catch the end of Mount Kimbie. Half an hour later, Mount Kimbie were long gone and we were still queuing to get in. Obviously no one can blame the festival schedule for our poor timing, but we certainly didnt expect queues to be such a prominent part of the evening, especially considering attendance was reportedly a quarter that of Outlook. (In fairness, the sites capacity had been reduced for Dimensions with a number of stages closed off, but the queues seemed excessive and poorly managed all the same). 

Undeterred, we headed for the Outside Fort area and its almost non-existent queue for the showcase from one of this years biggest success stories: Eglo Records. The stage was enshrined by an amazing honeycomb-shaped faade a fantastical piece of stage engineering with a window in front of the decks where label head honcho Alexander Nut was toying with genres like nobodys business. From Gregory Porters modern soul classic 1960 What? and Kinshasa street music from Staff Benda Bilili, to Youngstarrs eponymous Pulse X, Nut delivered a gleeful set of tracks from across the global spectrum that outlined why Eglo have become such a go-to imprint for alternative dance music thats inherently rooted in fun. Fellow label cohorts Floating Points, Funkineven and Fatima each gave stunning performances of their own inimitable styles with the latters Mind a notably sentimental highlight that led to them frankly owning the night in terms of good vibrations and eclecticism. 

After a brief but vigorous jaunt with Joy Orbison back in the now less congested Fort Arena 1, we headed back home for a kip before making our way back down to the harbour for another boat party, this time with Trix vs Aka Aka Roar.
The blazing sun and midday departure time prescribed jubilant house and UKG as the order of the day, though any anomalies were treated with just as much appreciation, as when Midland cheekily but oh so appropriately drew for the Fleetwood Mac. As if there was ever any other time for Dreams. 
Space Dimension Controller entered the nautical dance in spectacular fashion (see below), forcing us all to sit down for his opening tune Phil Collins In The Air Tonight. Similar celebratory vibes pervaded his set right up until the closing moments, culminating when he dropped The Love Quadrant as we pulled back into the harbour. A perfect end to a day that was just getting started.

Our second night in the fort was much more successful in terms of logistics. Queues seemed much shorter than the night before, allowing us to glide around the site to see Huxley for a second time, as well as the mysterious and militant Mancunian techno-garage duo Akkord who set the miniature Ballroom stage alight, and a long overdue first witnessing of the superb DjRUM. The latters set took place in the Courtyard and was a turntablists wet dream, with a diverse selection of tunes ranging from his own ambient 2-step piece, Turiya, to Sister Nancys timeless rocksteady classic Bam Bam, right down to Leviticus junglist rinseout The Burial. His unique and furious mixing style made us realize just how thin the line between techno and garage can be. Despite not even getting close to the Swamp 81/Hessle Audio showcase at Mungos due to the ridiculous queue, we went home thoroughly satisfied. 

So impressed with the quality of sound at the Outside Fort area which Eglo hosted on the first night, we headed straight for Morgan Geists set there on Saturday, the last full night of music. With Detroit heroes Theo Parrish and Moodymann following, there seemed no good reason to leave particularly as the queue to get back in grew to infuriating but now predictable lengths. Parrishs set a definitive highlight for all who witnessed it – consisted mostly of downtempo funk, soul and the occasional house track, and provided an incredibly nonchalant and tempered energy to soundtrack the closing hours of the festival. Thats not to say that everyone didnt completely lose their shit when he dropped Nirvanas Smells Like Teen Spirit totally out of the blue.
When Moodymann finally stepped up to follow the man he described as his hero, brother, it was clear hed been enjoying the treasures of his rider. Perhaps more aptly performing as Boozymann, he proceeded to rant for a few minutes, in true Moody-style, about how the festival programmers should never, EVER put me on after my brother. When he finally played some music, it wasnt hard to get deep into the Detroit groove as he dropped tracks from Mahogany Music past, present and future, though most of his set is a bit hazy, both for him and yours truly. Nonetheless, I can say that he played up to his role as a truly authentic entertainer from start to finish.
Despite the planned beach party the following day that was due to have featured sets from Simbad and John Talabot amongst others, that night turned out to be the last official activity of Dimensions. On Sunday morning, reports flew around of a man having drowned in the sea in the early hours and, as such, the beach party was postponed and/or cancelled. A subsequent statement from the festival confirmed that a 28 year old Irish man was the deceased.
So it was that Dimensions 2012 closed with a truly unfortunate and tragic end to an otherwise magnificent display of the best in electronic music and festival culture. Theres no doubt that the festival has a number of fairly pressing issues to iron out in years to come, with its token system, food selection, extortionate drinks prices (which would frankly give Mayfair a run for its money), and crowd management. But nonetheless, its fair to say that Dimensions evident desire to focus on the quality and variety of music gifted us with hands down one of the best events of 2012, and we truly hope that the regrettable climax it experienced doesnt taint its undoubtedly bright future. 
Photo credits Matt Small