Dimensions Festival – A Reflection

Art & Culture

Any festival which kicks off with a show in a Roman Amphitheatre has got some pretty big ambitions. After all if you’re choosing a venue more used to staging gladiator fights you better bring the big guns. Never fear though the Dimensions team have this well in hand and as sun sets in Pula we’re given a gentle introduction to proceedings courtesy of piano/ electro wunderkind Nils Frahm.

Next up is rising soul star Kwabs who bounds onto the stage immediately taking the vibe up a notch, with a bouncy fun set contrasting well with Nils' beautiful but more introspective sound. Then it’s time for a much anticpated set from Caribou. As darkness falls the crowd are primed for celebration, hell; even the cranes in the dock behind the amphitheatre have been lit up in various disco shades. It’s a spectacular view, and Dan Snaith’s richly layered music is the perfect soundtrack. He rips through new track 'Our Love' – it's great, but as others have noted, sounds like a lot like “Good Life” –  before moving on to more familiar territory in 'Odessa' and 'Sun'. 90’s refs aside it’s an electric set and watching from the steps it’s incredible to see so many people dancing in such an iconic setting. My only criticism of his set, (and I acknowledge it’s a massively female comment) is why the white t shirt and jeans combo, has he been taking wardrobe tips from Andrew W.K?

Anywayyy moving on to more important things like headliner Darkside! If Caribou was a colourful disco filled set, then Darkside are its more sophisticated cousin, dressed in black and white chainsmoking in the corner. What we had from them was a super tight powerful set which was as striking visually as it was sonically resonant, the intensity of their performance made all the more striking by the grandeur of the venue and making for a strong opening to the festival.

Fast forward to Thursday, and the start of the festival proper. For me this day was the most interesting, especially on the Clearing stage with Roy Ayers and Warpaint on the bill. Some would have questioned their billing, but as festival director Noah said to me “great music is all about sound with a good groove at its heart” and these acts really encapsulate that. The biggest surprise though was the event itself; this really is a stunning festival. Not only does most of it take place in a ruined castle, or on stages hidden amongst the trees, but the sound is second to none in all of these locations. The Moat, Mungos Ballroom and the Fort Arena all played host to some incredible sets- but for tonight back to the Clearing.

Roy Ayers was a standout all weekend for me, largely thanks to his hugely joyous set and the fact that “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” was just so much more apt when you’ve spent the day soaking up rays and drinking up good vibes at the beach. Next, Warpaint. I’ve seen this act a good few times but they were really mesmerising this evening and seemed perfectly at home tucked amongst the trees. Highlights from the set were recent singles “Keep it Healthy” and “Love is to Die”.

Rather than give you a blow by blow account of each day, I think it’s better to share the highlights First Moodymann – how can you not enjoy a set where the artist appears in a mask, dishes out Grey Goose to the crowd and then closes with Rod Stewart? Jon Hopkins proved he’s taking to the larger venues scaling his cinematic sound and entertaining the crowd with a ton of glowing orbs which seemed extra magical in this setting. Gilles Peterson mastered the crowd with a set which gathered pace rousing to a full blown carnival of sound by the end. In the Fort there were some incredible acoustics which Josey Rebelle and Kelela took full advantage of making theirs pure party sets. Other notable mentions go to Space Dimension Controller, I’m not sure I’ve seen a DJ have so much fun for ages and props for kicking things off on the smaller Arija stage too. Goldie too was on full form with some classic MetalHeadz material and some rock star antics, crowdsurfing and losing his wedding ring in the process.

The boat parties were epic- cruising into the sunset with nothing but great tunes and cheap beer is a winning combination – and the hot ticket was the Eglo records party with Daphni on deck and on the decks making for a real treat. Add to this the chance to recover on the beach, listening to Kwabs, John Wizards and the likes of Awesome Tapes from Africa, there’s not much fault to find. For me the best part of Dimensions was how theatrical it is and not in a naff jazz hands way there’s something about the scale and venue especially compared to UK festivals which really brings out the best in a lot of the artists. Even the weather got in on the act with Sunday night closing with an epic electrical storm and rumours of sound systems shorted by lightning! In the interest of being impartial though I’ll say two things, Croatian festival food needs to up its game (raw potato wedges are not gourmet in my book) and also Mo Kolours I never want to have to hear you (sing about your dog)when I’m hungover again…

Words: Gemma Lacey