It’s 2018 and we tend to see more and more festivals trying to showcase techno. With that, however, often comes the inevitable recycled lineups making these events quite generic as far as quality of music is concerned. Recently, many prominent voices in our industry have also been underscoring the fact that lineups have been male-dominated, with women-identifying talent grossly under-represented despite obvious talent.
This past weekend, Croatia’s Dimensions Festival was dominated by artists like Helena Hauff, Paula Temple, Margaret Dygas, Peggy Gou, Sonja Moonear, Nina Kraviz and other women taking in primetime slots, while Helena Hauff and Nina Kraviz were featured on the lineup twice.
Situated in the Balkan peninsulate, Pula is the largest island on the Istrian coast with a population of a little less than 60,000. People from all over the world come to visit the 2,000 year old Roman Amphitheater as well as a multitude of ancient Roman buildings located throughout the city, top of remnants of Greek culture through pottery and statues.
The 2,000 year old Amphitheater played host to none other than Kraftwerk, who’s live 3D show was an incredible spectrum of visuals accompanied by their own signature sound. Everyone in the crowd was handed 3D glasses in a branded Kraftwerk sleeve to witness the phenomenal display. Nils Frahm acted as the opener while Moodymann followed for the closing. This was the opening concert and kicked off Dimensions Festival for 2018, and what a crazy way to get the dances started!
Less than 8 kilometers – or a little less than 5 miles Northwest from the center of Pula – lies Fort Punta Christo, which has been the home of Dimensions Festival for the past 7 years. Fort Punta Christo was constructed in the turn of the 19th century by the Astro-Hungarian Monarchy to defend the city of Pula, the main naval port of the area. Fort Punta Christo is situated on a small peninsula 45 meters above sea level, its fort offering a magnificent view of the Bay of Pula entrance, its breakwater, and the National Park Islands Brijuni on the opposite side. The fortress has up to 270 spaces covering an area of over 10,000 meters.
Legend has it that all the forts were interconnected by a network of underwater and underground tunnels. The fort has not only played host to Dimensions Festival but also Outlook Festival and numerous cultural programs, concerts, festivals, jazz nights, exhibitions, performances, workshops, as well as the Seasplash Summer Club.
When you first arrive at the fort, you notice a few abandoned structures with one containing quite a bit of graffiti. The view of the Adriatic Sea is breathtaking and as you begin to walk towards the main gate, you’ll notice how rocky the area is. Normally we think of beaches as being sandy and majority of festivals have either dirt or paved walkways, but Dimensions Festival is extremely rocky, meaning that walking around barefoot or even in open-toe shoes is not a viable option.
Although camping at Dimensions Festival is possible, it is also optional and an extra expense. Camping options included mobile homes, pre-setup tents (a.k.a. glamping), and even hostels. Tents were also offered by Dimensions Festival for an additional charge and outside services offered to deliver an entire tent setup when you arrived to the festival equipped with a tent, sleeping pad, chairs, cooking supplies, and more. Numerous options for hostels and Airbnb as well as actual apartments in the nearby town of Stinjan and in Pula are also available to concert-goers.
Without a camping pass you weren’t allowed in the campsite, which was unfortunate as that area housed a few additional vendors, a restaurant, and ATM. Those at the campsite were also allowed to bring alcohol and food inside their designated area, something which wasn’t permitted in the main festival grounds. If you chose not to camp, you would enter into the festival and walk down a half-paved, half -dirt walkway and then notice the beach area to your left and food vendors and the bar in front of you. The food options included vegetarian and Asian cuisine, as well as pizza, burgers, and Mexican food. There were multiple spirit options but only a few beers, mainly Beck’s and Heineken, although there were also a few bars that offered craft beer. Beer and mixed drinks were priced at around 35 Kuna and specialty drinks priced at around 75 Kuna which came to a little less than $6 a beer and $12 USD for a mixed drink. Food was priced at around the same, still much less than most festivals in the states.
Head down to the beach and you will first notice the stage to your right which played host to an array of acts such as Bambooman, Palms Trax, and Hunee. The only sandy part of the beach happened to be right in front of the stage while the rest of the beach area was filled with rocks and pebbles. This didn’t seem to deter people from lying out and, in some cases, passing out.
On the far side of the beach was a small chill out area and you also had paddle-boats for rent, as well as what looked like a floating playground a bit further out from the beach. Needless to say, the water was crystal clear and just as beautiful as expected in this area of Croatia.
The beach area was only open until 8pm, while the rest of the stages and the fort wasn’t open until 9pm. On Thursday we opted for the Stamp The Wax boat party which set sail from 5pm to a little after 7pm, and featured Marcellus Pittman, Oyvind Morken, Aaron L, and Rosie Ama. After docking the boat, we visited The Sound Studio that over the next few days would play host to production courses, DJ courses, free-play, and product demonstrations and launches. Artist talks, panels and Q&As were also offered, suited for both those at the beginner level and intermediate level.
The Sound Studio featured the latest equipment and software from Ableton, Native Instruments, Pioneer, Novation, AKAI, and Loopmasters who recently introduced Loopcloud, a software application for producers to store, recall, and upload their audio samples, synth presets, and music files. This was one of the first activations that Loopmasters hosted at a festival and went over extremely well.
Native Instruments hosted a number of DJ courses for the first time at Dimensions Festival offering pre-sale tickets for Full Courses where on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for 2 hours each day one would have on-site tuition with a tutorial provided by Mr Dex of Point Blank University. They would also receive a Mixcloud Pro Account as well. You could also opt for a short course which was simply a one off session for 2 hours.
The music selection was top notch, with a diverse array of artists that explored a multitude of styles of electronic music, including house, techno, experimental, drum and bass, breakbeats, and even dubstep and UK garage. On Thursday, we were personally invited to a party in the dungeon hosted by Japanese fashion designer EDWIN who partnered up with Dimensions Festival to give 50 lucky partiers a gift bag with an exclusive Dimensions t-shirt and EDWIN branded bag, pens, stickers, coasters, and lighter. Alessandro Adriani, DJ Python and Dimensions Soundsystem provided the tunes in the super cool and aptly red-lighted dungeon. The stock room looked as if it is where they kept the prisoners but fortunately nobody was acting up, otherwise the Croatian security guards might have wanted to get creative!
Following the dungeon party, we heard the sounds of Lucy Lockett in the courtyard providing some great bass-filled techno. Next we witnessed Champagne Funk in The Ballroom which had a very limited capacity area, followed by Amp Fiddler who took to the decks in The Garden before Moodymann and Japanese sound designer and producer, Kuniyuki Takahashi. The latter performed live at The Void with John Talabot following to close out Thursday night.
Friday saw the likes of Dimensions Soundsystem on the beach, with James Holden and The Animals playing a live set and some chiller tunes at The Clearing and Courtesy taking to The Moat with some hard techno. Butter Side Up DJs, Hamish & Toby took some funky tunes to the courtyard while Peggy Gou provided some phenomenal house and techno at The Garden Stage.
Unfortunately the equipment necessary for Jon Hopkins to perform live wasn’t delivered in time, but he made up for it with an absolutely astounding DJ set. Many festival-goers agreed that this was the best set of the weekend with some wondering why Jon Hopkins wasn’t as well-known as he deserved to be. Melodies and experimental sounds were delicately paired up with familiar and not so familiar analog Techno basslines making for a well-crafted and rounded DJ set by the legendary Jon Hopkins.
Following Jon Hopkins at The Clearing was Jan Kincl & Regis Kattie, locals from Zagreb, who played a collection of Jazz, House, and Techno with Regis playing a synth as Jan spun records.
Soon after Jan and Regis’ set, we saw the magnificent Helena Hauff do what she does best, providing some amazing Techno in The Moat. The Moat was filled with heavy pounding bass with 3 separate stacks of speakers and subs throughout.
On Saturday, Palms Trax took to the beach ahead of Dimensions Soundsystem, providing Detroit techno in The Moat as Batu delivered a more ambient, experimental sound in The Stables. Umfang then followed Dimensions Soundsystem with some more heavy techno while Hunee laid out some disco and lighter sounds in The Clearing. Margaret Dygas took to The Garden while San Soda took to The Courtyard followed by Skee Mask in The Stables and Sonja Moonear in the Garden. Paula Temple then closed out at The Moat with the kind of heavy industrial techno she is known forl.
For the last day, Hunee took to the beach and drew quite a large crowd before we set sail with DJs from the Butter Side Up label along with Craig Richards who tinkered between house, techno, disco, and funky beats throughout the voyage. Although not nearly as crowded as the Stamp The Wax boat party, this boat party had the perfect amount of party dwellers who danced non-stop along the dark waters which were lit up an amazing aura of blue by the lights from the boat. Once the boat came to a stop, we headed to witness Leo Leal from Monterrey, Mexico, as well as Bonobo who played six and a half hours in The Clearing. his set ranging from deep, melodic, vocal house to a light mix of techno.
As with many festivals that predominantly feature house and techno, Dimensions Festival’s main focus was on the quality of its musical output. The security checkpoints were quite frequent and random drug searches were also prevalent with Croatia being known to be very tough and hard on all drugs, even marijuana. We must not that we were even stopped and randomly pulled into a crate and searched by a plain clothed Croatian police officer who asked if we had anything illegal on us before proceeding to physically pat us down.
Sadly, we noticed the lack of presence of any drug information or testing booths. Furthermore the festival adopted heavy use of plastic cups without visible recycling as well as diesel generators.
Environmental plans and policies will surely develop in the near future for festivals all over the world, and we hope to see Dimensions Festival and other festivals throughout Croatia be a part of this. We were also told that Dimensions Festival will be implementing reusable cups next year, a definitive step in the right direction for the festival.
Dimensions Festival also took place during rainy season in Pula, yet festival organizers provided very few covered areas for patrons, thus forcing many people to crowd under canopies located near the food areas whenever it rained. We also noticed very limited comfortable seating and chill-out areas.
Other than the few minor adjustments that can be made, Dimensions Festival was hands down an incredible experience of underground electronic music, its lineup providing a very diverse array of artists from all over the world covering multiple genres. Although the crowd was predominantly from the UK, we met those that came as far away as Taiwan and Australia, as well as all over Europe.
Festival-goers were truly there for the music and most were certainly familiar with many of the artists on the lineup and extremely enthusiastic about seeing their favorite acts. Never did we witness anyone bickering or fighting, with the crowd certainly enthusiastic to be there enjoying what the festival had to offer.
Although there are numerous festivals to choose from in Croatia, Europe, and around the world, Dimensions is surely a strong contender for techno and electronic music enthusiasts. The location, music, and vibe are top notch, despite the few snugs organizers could improve on in coming editions.