Photo: Dimensions Credit: Ross Silcocks / Entirety Labs
Among the ever growing number of music festivals held by the clear Adriatic waters on Croatia's coast, Dimensions Festival has always stood out. It has always offered a line up far more underground than anything held on the famous Zrce beach on Pag, so the crowd is more dedicated to the music rather than simply partying.
Its site is a spectacular old military fort, Punta Christo, situated on the outskirts of Pula, just a short bus ride from the city centre, which boasts an incredible Roman amphitheatre. This site is much larger in capacity than The Garden in Tisno, on Murter, home of well known UK festivals like Electric Elephant, The Garden and Suncebeat and so Dimensions feels a lot less intimate than those events.
But this is, in many respects, a great advantage, there always being several musical options vying for your attention. Its sister festival, Outlook, also held on this site offers a more urban soundtrack of garage, hip hop, reggae and drum n' bass derived stylings, which appeals very much to a more youthful, British zeitgeist.
Dimensions is therefore populated by a slightly more mature and also more international audience, with France and Germany being well represented at this installment.
Credit: Ross Silcocks / Entirety Labs
The weather held out for all four days of Dimensions, so as the sunshine faded, signalling the end of summer in England, male festival goers still had the chance to go topless by the daytime beach stage or swim in the sea. Most here camped on site or found lodgings in the houses of the suburbs surrounding the festival.
The event is great at assisting in allocating accommodation to those wanting, although outside of their control are the fees charged, which can be at inflated prices to what is the going rate outside of festival time. Cheaper options are available in other parts of the city and the event provides a regular bus service to the site for those choosing an alternative.
After the daytime revellry passes, most go to eat and change for night time partying and it's at night that Dimensions really shifts into gear. There were eight sound system options to choose from after sundown and their close proximity to one another meant you could easily wander between them until you found a sound and atmosphere you like.
Credit: Dan Medhurst
At night, the old fort setting looked spectacular, easily the most impressive backdrop of any of the Croatian festivals, its structure well lit and the site further embellished with graffiti art.
Joining the daytime crew, numbers swelled at night by an influx of Croatian ravers. One of Dimensions best aspects is that it welcomes locals and it's worthwhile to venture out of your comfort zone and close friends in order to speak to those present. Those that don't could just as easily have stayed home and gone to a festival to mix only with their own countrymen.
Locals we met tipped us off about some of the best Croatian DJs playing this weekend and, again, it's to Dimensions credit that so many are included on the bill. Not every foreign festival here does that, or does it so well. Although you might see Solomun at a festival, he is of Croatian descent and has never courted a fanbase in the country.
Similarly, old, established Croatian DJ names like Illja Rudman, who appearaed here and Eddy Ramich, who appeared at Suncebeat in 2015, are not the names that young Croatian festival goers are excited by. There's a new underground here, names like Jakov Kolbas and Tvrtko Bolčić who it would be great to see at future events. A lot of the existing scene is small, particularly the underground sound, but a lot of it is excellent.
Credit: Ross Silcocks / Entirety Labs
The Noah's Ballroom (above) system seemed to be the place to catch the best Croatian DJs. On Friday night it was hosted by Zagreb club Sirup and the best representative we saw that night was DJ Brighton from Das Haus, who played a dark and off kilter set of deep house and techno.
On Saturday the space was given over to established Zagreb techno and house crew Ekstrakt. It was rammed, so much so that visiting journalists waiting to be admitted were refused entry and wandered off to other areas. It's a shame they didn't queue, but we were wise enough to wait and it was worth it as we witnessed one of the best sets of the festival.
Of the headlining DJs that appeared the Hessle Audio crew left an impression on Thursday night as did Surgeon, the UK techno DJ playing for two hours on Friday. On Saturday Floating Points was as dependable as ever and the following DJ, Chicago's Sadar Bahar was also great, although his reliance on lesser known material thinned the crowd significantly to how this huge outdoor space was in recent memory when 3 Chairs headlined.
Following Bahar, Kaidi Tatham and Dego's leftfield selections were excellent but failed to win a significantly large crowd back to the space.
Elsewhere another highlight came in the form of the largely disco based set of Amsterdam based DJs Hunee and Antal. The former, a German known best as a DJ and the latter known for establishing Amsterdam label Rush Hour, have played in the back to back format several times this festival season and complimented each other well. They held the attention of a huge audience throughout.
Also on Saturday we got treated to some more vintage music when Randall played a classic sounding drum n' bass set and techno originator Juan Atkins kicked off with some bona fide anthemic Detroit records.
Balancing great Croatian talent with appealing headliners and drawing a mixed crowd as a result is, alongside the wonderful setting, the best part of Dimensions Festival. That the line up this year didn't feel as impressive as previous years didn't matter to the enjoyment.
There's always some good music playing, although with almost every other underground dance music festival in 2015 techno, being the "in" sound, did perhaps get too much of a fair crack at the whip. Minor grumbles aside, after our third visit over the years, Dimensions remains one of our favourite Croatian festivals and one that it would be easy to recommend to anyone who has yet to experience a music event in this must-visit country.
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