Since its inception five years ago, followed by an inaugural welcome onto the festival stage a year later, Dimensions Festival has consistently gone on to impress and enthral all those who have passed through its gates with its comprehensive music programming, idyllic location and comfortably sized capacity. After our last visit during its second year, we knew an offer to return to Fort Punta Christo was always going to be a no brainer and with this year’s event marking its fifth in existence, we knew from the offset that no stone was going to have been left unturned.
For an Opening Concert to honour the festival’s five year legacy up to now, organisers faced a momentous task, yet when the night rolled round on August the 24th it was executed with an effortless ease – speaking volumes of the staff’s years of experience. Jazz saxophonist and Kendrick Lamar collaborator Kamasi Washington kicked off the evening’s proceedings in the now all too familiar 2,000 year old Roman amphitheatre. Accompanied by his band and fellow jazz musician dad, Rickey Washington, the group’s cheery performance and lively stage presence assured that the crowds were drawn in – not only from the festival but also from Pula itself. As the sun set and the attendees began to settle into place; the onstage buoyancy of Washington gave way to the enigmatic, thought provoking musings of Massive Attack and their politically charged lighting display that touched on everything from Brexit to the current refugee crisis. Arguably sealing their status as one of the festival’s most highly anticipated performances, the group powered their way through the majority of their discography before leading the audience in a spine tingling rendition of ‘Unfinished Sympathy’- a truly fitting end. With the crowd left feeling more energised than ever, the stage was now set for veteran DJ and producer Kenny Dixon Jr. aka Moodymann to pick up where Kamasi Washington left off and work the crowd into one final ecstatic frenzy with his signature soulful house sound.
Diversity has always been a key part of the unique festival experience that Dimensions (and its big brother festival Outlook) holds, with the team behind it keen to utilise all that Fort Punta Christo offers. From moats and stables to courtyards and gardens, the 19th century site is a treasure trove of space and variety for festival goers who are seldom left disappointed. As the festival programming began in earnest, it was always the Beach stage that would be everybody’s first port of call with disco, house and soul acting as the beckoning soundtracks. Each day, and from 12pm to 9pm, the burgeoning crowds on the campsite were treated to a whole host of DJ-ing talent from the likes of Jeremy Underground, Charlie Bones, Highlife, Awesome Tapes from Africa and many more. While the temperatures slowly began to soar and attendees gradually made it out of their tents, it was the Beach that was the focal point every afternoon for the four day party that was well underway.
Along with its beloved beach parties, the festival staff really make the most of what the site’s stunning coastline has to offer year upon year with a string of specially curated boat parties. Nothing can ever quite compare to dancing along to a handful of world class DJs on a boat at sunset in a Mediterranean climate. As always, this year’s instalment of parties boasted some particularly memorable moments such as seeing Swamp81 head Loefah opt for something different with a Chicago House set, and Hessle Audio co-founders Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound bring their party to a close with a generous dose of UK Garage, much to the crowd’s delight.
It’s at night when the festival really comes alive and there was certainly no shortage of talent encompassing the full four day event. With each stage comes meticulous planning and it’s always with the larger ones like The Void in which many of the biggest and most anticipated names are reserved for. From Thursday to Saturday it played host to a variety of names in artists such as Kyle Hall, Virginia (ft. Steffi & Dexter) and Soichi Terada – each of whom left their own indelible mark. Whilst Hall revelled mostly in the sounds of crunchy, lo-fi house; acts like Virginia, Steffi & Dexter showcased the impressive versatility that often comes with artistic collaborations, leaving mythical producers like Terada the chance to introduce himself and his playful take on vintage house music to a younger crowd. The formidable Moat stage is another which always ends up becoming a firm favourite with the scores of people who flood through the festival gates each summer. This year’s edition saw a mixture of familiar, UK faces with the likes of Mala, Josey Rebelle and The Bug all stepping up to its elevated decks, alongside relative newcomers to the scene like Shanti Celeste and techno titan DJ Stingray who both helped to complete the transformation of the antiquated moat into a vibrant, dancefloor space of its own thanks to their widely praised, singular sounds spanning lush house hybrids to menacing 140 BPM electro.
Whilst both The Void and The Moat have long been revered, their presence is nearly always overshadowed by the stage that has, for four years been at the forefront of some of Dimensions’ most notable highlights. The Clearing is the first stage area you come across upon entering the festival site from the campsite – its immense size and the sheer expanse of its surrounding area dwarfing all the others around it. Once again, the stage lived up to expectations by housing performances from legendary names such as Octave One, Ron Trent and Moritz Von Oswald Trio – whose composed dub techno explorations provided an absorbing prelude to what was to follow, an enchanting two hour journey through the seminal work of Larry Heard aka Mr. Fingers with long time musical associate Mr White in tow. After a twenty year hiatus and with a palpable sense of euphoria in the air that was only heightened by his decision to play the timeless house of ‘The Sun Can’t Compare’ and ‘Can You Feel It’, there could be no doubt that it was Heard who stole the show on Saturday – maybe even the entire festival itself.
Despite the big Dimensions moments being saved for its larger stages, there was to be no talent deficit across the rest of the site. It was more often than not the case that smaller stages like Mungo’s Courtyard, Noah’s Ballroom, The Stables and The Garden delivered the goods in terms of providing equally spectacular backdrops for countless voyages of musical discovery from a more understated selection of DJs. Friday night saw Phonica Records affiliate Al Zanders aka Lodger embark on an intoxicating House centred set to a heaving Noah’s Ballroom crowd whilst Saturday night in The Stables bore witness to a typically eclectic offering from Rinse FM and Eglo Records label head Alexander Nut, whose distinctive old-skool Hip Hop selections earnt their place as standout memories for many.
Mungo’s Courtyard offered the perfect, quieter setting for the elusive Tapes. As the Selah Wadada head honcho and his cassette decks forged together an unforgettable experience that drew on his love for drone, dub and world music, The Garden was proving to be just as memorable with Rhythm Section representatives from Chaos in the CBD and Bradley Zero commanding the stage through stripped back and disco inflected house music. Last but not least, Sex Tags Mania co-founders DJ Fett Burger and DJ Sotofett were at the helm of a gargantuan nine hour set from 9pm on the Sunday right through until dawn the next day. Dozens of festival-goers were left captivated by the abundance of rare and obscure records brought out by the Swedish brothers that spanned virtually all genres and proved to be the perfect close.
For a festival that is still in many respects very much in its infancy, the Dimensions Festival experience continues to be one unlike any other. Armed with a close eye for detail and open minded approach to bookings, festival organisers are also lucky to be blessed with a site that is unparalleled in location and natural beauty. Its fifth birthday was always going to be a big one, and as was to be expected, the festival outdid itself with faultless programming that sought to entertain as much as educate in an environment that can only be described as second to none. Forever a must go to for underground electronic music lovers, make sure you register for 2017 updates off their website now.
Words by Sofía Alice Leadbetter