Dimensions 2017 review

One of Croatia's many musical offerings, Marko Kutlesa witnessed a soggy yet triumphant Dimensions 2017

Amelia Ward

Date published: 5th Sep 2017

Image: Dimensions Festival (credit Dan Medhurst)

For all that seaside festivals in Croatia rely on the almost guaranteed good weather as one of their strongest, edging factors, when it rains here it really rains. Lightning that rips the sky and thunder that seems to roll on for hundreds of miles provide a spectacular if concerning backdrop to large portions of 2017's Dimensions Festival in Pula.

The chill brought by the storms are manageable, but it's the heavy rain that's the real impediment to a good time here. Just as it is at England's festivals. 

At one point on Friday evening, the rain becomes so heavy that all stages seem to be closed for a time, sending the scripted running order into a disarray that it is still recovering from in Saturday's altered line up (which is also blighted by its own showers and halts to proceedings). 

Located on a peninsula 20 minutes from the city of Pula it is no small commitment to risk the rain in search of a dance; once you are on site there is no easy getaway, with the hourly bus back into town a considerable walk from most stages and taxis prices on the expensive side.

So it's no surprise that a fair number of the up to 10,000 festival goers here stay away during the rain. Those that don't get soaked to the skin. But though the rain damages expectations, most of the people here seem to be British so a knowing shrug and a determination to look on the bright side are present and reasons for optimism come early. 

Thankfully, Wednesday night's grand opening show displayed no sign of bad weather and attendees were treated to yet another exceptional concert. Having had Kamasi Washington, Massive Attack and Moodymann at last year's opener it's incredible to think that Dimensions continue to up the ante. But they do and this year the audience is initially treated to the fine drumming of Moses Boyd and the funky jazz fusion of Yussef Kamaal as proceedings commence. 

When Grace Jones hits the stage with her exemplary band the theatrics are taken up more than a notch, her body painted and either spectacularly over-dressed or in various stages of undress throughout the multiple costume changes that occur. Being a festival set there's not enough time for all of her classics, so no 'La Vie En Rose' or 'Nipple To The Bottle', but of course we are treated to 'Private Life', 'Pull Up To The Bumper' and 'Slave To The Rhythm'.

Nine years since her 'Hurricane' album ended a near two-decade absence from recording, it is that collection's best performing single 'Williams' Blood' that sounds, alongside 'My Jamaican Guy', the most muscular of the lot. A forthcoming release debuted on the crowd also sounds really nice.

Excitingly it sounds like perhaps her most Africa indebted recording to date. She stalks the stage like the seasoned pro she is and after witnessing such stage presence there's only one way for Moderat to follow; dressed darkly, fixed to the spot and almost exclusively backlit, their physical presence is understated, their impressive light show and spectrum exploring electronics offer the spectacle. 

One of the few remaining live dates the band will undertake before taking a well-publicised break, the general festival goers are joined for the occasion by some locals and a fair few dedicated travellers.

The amphitheatre in Pula is a spectacular concert venue. The non-committed fan's view from the back sees Moderat's electro visuals added to by hundreds of terraced viewers, ascending from the full, central dancing area while the surrounding Roman arches dwarf the stage. Moderat go down really well with the audience. Good luck to them in their time off.

Thursday's opening at the main site is another step in the right direction. At The Clearing, Donna Leake leaves Floating Points with some disco before his live show, which we don't catch much of as we're keen to get in the thick of it and look around. In The Void, Binh plays a confident set, edging ever towards an acid house vibe without actually playing a single 303 line.

Ben UFO is tearing it up in The Moat. We can hear it, but the queues are off putting and there's a sound emanating from The Stables that is simply transfixing. Moody intros that sound like they come from the scariest drum n bass tunes preface breaks which hold a ferocity and pace of techno. Electro and non-linear, they are a barrage to the ears experienced at around 2am.

The timetable says it was either Demdike Stare live or Andy Stott live. Whichever, it was great, but Dam Funk's live set is calling from The Clearing and the electronic funk is so strong it could conceivably pull nearby planets from their orbits. Representing London's Horse Meat Disco next are residents Jim Stanton and Severino Panzetta who hold the sizeable audience until the weekend's first rains begin to fall at around 4.30am.

But by that time we're back at The Stables where regional favourite Petar Dundov's dropping of Underground Resistance associated 'Don't You Want It' by Davina is a highlight from his house and techno set.

It's those that make an early start of it on Friday who benefit from the best weather and with a well advised interspersing of live acts and DJs, The Beach Stage provides much more than the usual waterside sound system of many festivals in Croatia.

Friday night's damp evening nevertheless sees memorable moments from Chicago heavyweight Boo Williams in The Garden and both Scott Grooves and the following Dan Shake in The Clearing.

The former drops a pacey, soul-edged set that features the music of his cohort Glenn Underground, the latter builds on previous successes here with a set that includes the edit of 'Fantasy' featured on the second of his Shake Tapes EPs.

Much of Saturday is spent drying out so plans we made to spend six hours in Theo Parrish's uninterrupted marathon go out of the window. We miss both of Antal's sets too, but by Sunday the rain has cleared (although it's still not warm like it was on Wednesday) and this coaxes the remaining energy from the crowd. Willow and Tama Sumo in The Void appeal.

But it's the harder, more angry sounds of Nina Kraviz, who drops DJ Funk's 'Run' followed by Jeff Mills, who plays Abstract Division's 'Convergent', that seem like the most befitting way to bounce off another brilliant weekend of music at Dimensions, albeit one hampered by bad weather.

Festivals 2017