Dimensions Festival has again successfully crafted a line-up as solid as the military fort that it occupies.
During August’s last balmy week, there was a crackle of electricity in Croatia’s Pula. Not because the small city in the northern Istra province was about to embark on an unparalleled two-week long party (Dimensions Festival’s sister festival, Outlook, occupies the same site the following week). The cause: a massive electrical thunderstorm, passing over from Western Europe. But there was a silver lining to this enormous cloud. Over the following week, the Dimensions crew proved that not only could they coordinate a massive all-outdoor event to provide musically unforgettable experience—but that they could also do it during a nightmare weather scenario.
Dimensions Festival is a five-day-long festival taking place in an abandoned military fort on Croatia’s scenic northern shores. Attendees can expect a smorgasbord of electronic music, ranging from disco to house, techno to electro, drum’n’bass to dubstep, hip-hop, footwork, and everything in between. Reviewing the 2018 lineup, it is immediately clear that Dimensions has again successfully crafted a festival as solid as the military fort that it occupies.
Wednesday kicks off with an opening concert in the world’s best-preserved 2000-year-old Roman amphitheater, bang in the centre of Pula. The tickets to the opening concert are separate to a festival pass, but there are also bars beside the amphitheater with seats overlooking the venue, so if you don’t have the cash to go inside you can still listen from outside (sipping a beer, ideally). This year, the amphitheater boasted Kraftwerk performing a 3D live show; the talents of Nils Frahm; and a Moodymann DJ set, among other acts. Kraftwerk’s 3D show proved to be an early highlight, a sentiment echoed by many throughout the festival. The act—credited by many as the creators of techno—put on a live show that featured all the hits of their deeply varied back catalogue, backed by a visually stunning show featuring Kraftwerk’s albums artwork coming to life before their eyes.
Fast forward to noon on Thursday (with the help of some of those Croatian beers, perhaps) and Dimensions is in full swing down at Fort Punta Christo, a twenty minute taxi ride from Pula. During the day, chilled festival-goers can hear a mix of jazz, funk, soul, afro-beat and more at the shoreside stage, which overlooks an idyllic (though rocky) beach with crystal clear water, provides the perfect setting to soak in some beats alongside the sun. From around 7 each evening, a DJ whose selection suits a romantic sunset comes on to close out the beach stage. This year, Hunee and Palms Trax (among others) were given the opportunity, and which they performed with tremendous grace.
Throughout the day from noon ‘till 11 p.m. there are two different boat parties running three times a day. The tickets for these parties are sold separately and will set you back about €25. In my opinion, this is a fairly small price to pay to see the likes of DJ Stingray, Avalon Emerson or Craig Richards (to name a few) on a boat in the middle of the Adriatic Sea. The styles of music on the boats are as varied as the festival itself, so don’t expect to see any DJ’s playing their usual set list.
A new addition to Dimensions this year were the Zerostrasse parties that ran on Thursday and Saturday in Pula city centre. Originally built during WW1 as an air strike shelter, then reinforced by the Yugoslav army in WW2 as an atomic shelter, these walls offer not only a unique dancing experience but also a history lesson. The Exoltics, Saoirse, Volvox, Paula Temple and dBridge were among the chosen few given the opportunity to play this historical venue.
After a day of boats, beaches and beats, the day crowd disperses. Slowly, the festival ground becomes illuminated by strings of lights hanging overhead, and from 9pm onwards, the main festival area opens (about a five-minute walk from the beach stage). Firstly is The Clearing, a large triangular stage, with an impressive soundsystem, a beautiful backdrop, and plenty of room to dance. This area hosts the festival’s biggest names (Nina Kraviz, Jon Hopkins, Bonobo and James Holden); another five minutes’ walk further into the fort will lead you into the main festival area, where you will find the rest of the stages.
Peggy Gou put on a particularly special performance at The Garden stage, a place that hosts various colours of house and techno right through the festival. That said, the best performances were a tie between Steve O’Sullivan and Margaret Dygas. Steve O’Sullivan’s expertly crafted dub techno set the tone for the evening with elegance and grace, and the crowd enjoyed every minute of it. Following O’Sullivan was Margaret Dygas, whose proficient mixing made for a seamless set of bouncy techno that got the whole crowd moving.
Move deeper into the fort grounds and you’ll end up at The Void, a stage which has a colossal Void soundsystem. This stage hosted a Resident Advisor takeover on Thursday, featuring plenty artists, among whom were DJ Python & John Talabot. Highlights on this stage included Detroit electro heavyweight DJ Stingray hastily mixing records like his life depended on it, and Palms Trax, a DJ capable of getting your grandmother up on the dance floor. As with all the stages in Dimensions,—but particularly this one, as the stage is built around a soundsystem—the sound quality was impeccable for every single artist who played on it.
The Moat stage itself could be the main reason to go to Dimensions Festival. A metal staircase leads you down into a long moat with large stone walls on either side. Sets of speakers are carefully placed throughout the moat, making it the most thumping of all the stages at Dimensions. This area featured the most techno and electro DJs of Dimensions Festival. Nina Kraviz’ TRIP label did a takeover of the stage on Thursday night, playing a mixture of acid techno, breakbeat, gabber and rave revivalism. Helena Hauff, Anastasia Kristensen and Paula Temple all turned in jaw-dropping sets. Hessle Audio closed out The Moat on Sunday, with sets from Pangaea & Ben UFO pulling the biggest crowds. DJ-sets here are truly an experience like no other, with one of the most impressive set-ups in the world.
One of the most noteworthy things to consider about Dimensions Festival is that the sheer size of its site means that queues rarely run longer than 10 minutes (except The Moat stage, where wait times can be up to between 45 minutes to an hour, depending on what time you get there and who is playing). A wristband system featuring a small chip, with cash added via top-up stations, means time wasted goes down considerably. It’s a considerable improvement on the previous token system that Dimensions used, as small plastic tokens are easily lost.
The storm looming over the festival caused a couple of hours’ delay on Saturday, but the Dimensions team kept everyone informed via timely updates on all of their social media channels and the festival app. The organizational skills of all involved demonstrated a commitment to professionalism, and ensured that attendees had the best experience possible.
While Dimensions may seem expensive to some, it can easily be done on the cheap. Add-ons, like boat parties, are not a necessity; flights from many major mainland European and UK cities are cheap if booked far enough in advance; and between local Airbnb options and the serenely beautiful campsite, there are plenty of accommodation options. The location, the line-up and the sound quality make Dimensions Festival truly superlative in the dance music festival circuit. There’s something for everyone here, illustrated by the amount of repeat attendees I chatted with, many of whom have been attending since the festival’s inception. Final verdict: a festival that everyone who is interested in dance music should attend at least once.
Images: Rob Jones, Cal Chaplin, Daniel Kiršić, Perry Gibson, Kate Berry and @chazzadnitt.