When some of the best minds in audio, incredible artists and a few thousand people descend on an abandoned fort in Croatia's idyllic Štinjan the results are bound to be memorable. The 150 year old Austrian built Fort Punta Christo, nestled by the Adriatic, came under heavy aerial bomb attacks in the second world war, but for a couple of weeks in August for the last ten years, a more sonic approach has been taken - with a fair bit of added litter and glitter.
But before they let loose the sound systems in the fort, the Dimensions team make use of another Croatia’s many coastal monuments; this one a more ostentatious, Roman attempt - Pula’s very own, intact amphitheatre. A 15 minute sunset boat taxi from the Dimensions site reveals the imposing and illuminated structure, a sight which hopefully washes away any regret of paying around £40 extra for the tickets. Awaiting the revellers was a reasonably muddled lineup of Grace Jones, Moderat, Kamaal Williams and Moses Boyd. Though a sizeable amount of people were there, it felt hard to get into the first two acts (the latter two in the list) as the vast space felt empty, lacking in volume. But after a characteristically long interlude and a gathering of anticipation for the main show, it was clear they were saving up all the decibels for the queen diva. It was truly a spectacle as she burst out from the curtain to the Sly and Robbie produced anthem, “Nightclubbing”, and she proceeded to take complete control of the crowd from then on - including costume changes after every song, amazing movements and her inimitable, sultry post-punk vocals. After a 15 minute hula-hooping “Slave To The Rhythm” extravaganza to finish, I can’t help but think Moderat, who were up next, were a little nervous - enjoyable to a lot of people, but an odd programming choice at best.
As the dust settles from the night before, the whole of the festival site comes into view and it’s straight to the beach. The Adriatic, thankfully a calm sea, laps up to the pebbled shore adorned by a reasonable (compared to its sister festival Outlook) number of sun bathers. Once again the beach was soundtracked by the incredible Dub Smugglers sound system, its warming tones perfectly complementing the Croatian rays. Rather than a downright party (aside from the opening nights - shouts to Alex T especially), the beach provided welcome sonic relief for fatigued souls and soles. This was perhaps best understood by the Cosmic Slop duo on the Friday, who garnered a small, slightly dazed but friendly crowd and the perfect vibe before the imminent long night ahead.
The beach stages shut as darkness falls and in these hours the campsite comes alive, there really is a tangible atmosphere. Waves of excitement and downright giddiness take over at the prospect of the fort. Venturing to the gates a long winding uphill path is revealed, accompanied by the rumbling of sound systems in the distance all adding to the anticipation. The small hill plateaus and is met with the main stage, The Clearing. A large open space, it is left mainly for the bigger acts - live and DJs - to occupy. This is in fact the only stage at Dimensions with an out-the-box non-custom sound system and yet it still sounds great. Aux 88 were a real stand out here, taking the difficult task of the last night of the festival - also in the pouring rain, transforming certainly at least myself from zombie to party with silly Detroit chants, silly electro and sillier outfits.
Ambling closer to the Fort itself brings The Garden into view. This is the first of several stages powered by Void and is at first, a little unassuming. That is until Theo Parrish was given eight hours to play on Saturday night. No one was ever going to come close to him on that stage, his usual jaw dropping mix of rough Chicago and Detroit with beautiful soul and dub effortlessly captivating the entire crowd for the duration. A notable moment when it was decided that he had actually played the greatest song of all time - look out for that on the ID groups.
Taking control of Punta Christo’s Stables stage was former NASA employee Tom Danley’s Danley Sound Labs, alongside possibly the strongest of lineups of all the stages, each night with a new theme. Perhaps one of the more memorable experiences was the masked Detroit deities Dopplereffekt playing their blend of bleeps and bloops alongside an aptly timed electrical storm. An absolute festival standout here though, was Antal, playing a blistering truly hi-nrg set that was refreshingly different with added natural lightning strobes. A notable shout also to Sassy J for being one of the only DJs to actually play a warm up set and for doing an incredible job of it, setting an amazing vibe for the rest of the night - very impressive.
Flirting with the perimeter of the fort lies several other stages, including Void’s own where they test to breaking point their new half soundsystem - half jet engine, and of course Mungo’s in which dancers could find a change of pace and different rhythms to move to. But without a doubt, the most captivating stage, Dimensions’ magnum opus - The Moat. A genuine fortification in which eight 10ft stacks tower above the crowd just as ominously as the stone walls, filling the space with sound as dense as the solid rock which it was carved from. There are few times when the DJ should tower above the crowd but this is surely one. Up first were the Hessle boys alongside A Made Up Sound and Helena Hauff. Whilst Ben went for a more hypnotic set, Pearson Sound really seemed to push the boundaries of cheeky but well executed UK party music (it is evidently difficult to describe his style of DJing) with what sounded like a couple new productions thrown in which of course sounded extraordinary. It was an honour to witness Hauff do her thing after the Hessle guys, and to see her tackling straight up techno for the last hour was a momentous occasion. Of course the moat lends itself to techno and electro, but it would have been really interesting to see what other DJs could do in there; even seeing Randomer go with Future Sound of London’s anthem “Papua New Guinea” and then giving way to a crushing jungle closer was incredibly revitalising.
Dimensions has surely one of the greatest settings imaginable, with each stage creating its own completely distinct environment. It is a testament to the crew that every stage (of which there are many) has a team pushing their own brand of sound. Combine this with, if you’re prepared to be sneaky, beautiful hidden spots on the peninsula, it makes for a pretty special place. It does however, have to be careful, with some newer festivals arguably pushing more forward thinking lineups, there is now real competition and for Dimensions to keep their position they will need to carefully consider the bookings to keep things moving forward - we’ll be back though.
Photos courtesy of Dan Medcalf
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