Every year, 16,000 or so bass music fans make the pilgrimage from all over the world to a small coastal town in Pula, Croatia for a week of unadulterated partying in what is surely the best setting for a festival in the world. Once again, DJ Mag made the trip over to Croatia for a week's worth of damn hard work (!), and more than a little hedonism. With a line-up that was as excellent as it was prolific, there was no way that we were ever going to be able to see everyone that we wanted to. However, we gave it our damned best try!
We arrived at the Outlook site Monday evening having coached over from Italy, which gave us a good two days to enjoy the Outlook site, catch some chilled beach parties and grab the best camping spots. The hardy ravers already on site who had stayed on from Dimensions festival for another week of partying told us tales of the week before, geeing us up for what was to come, and although the weather was a bit poor for the first two days, we really couldn't have cared less as we prepped ourselves for what was to come.
The opening party truly prepared us for the incredible setting of Outlook, the Roman Amphitheatre in which it was based genuinely the most stunning venue we've ever had the pleasure of visiting. The task was given to Submotion Orchestra, Fatima, Andrew Ashong and Lauryn Hill to open the festival. First up, Submotion Orchestra, who after some slight technical difficulties in the opening minutes completely stole the show, despite being the 'warm-up'. An absolutely stunning set, Submotion showcased their forté for live music and set a hard precedent for those to follow.
Fatima managed to shine though, and where some of the solo artists performing that night relied on band members and stage effects to emphasise their presence, Fatima's unstoppable swagger engaged every eye in the huge venue, despite being the least well-known amongst the line-up, arguably.
The Amphipheatre - Photo by Dan Medhurst
Lauryn Hill has had some damning reviews of late, particularly for her Brixton Academy performance, but maybe that was due to Lauryn Hill being born to play arenas and stadiums such as this one. Lauryn started with her newest songs, saving her Fugees anthems for very last, almost teasing everyone in attendance as they eagerly awaited each next track. When they came, the Amphipheatre broke into dance as she flawlessly delivered her greatest hits, and though some were almost unrecognisable in parts — due to the huge reworking of instrumentation around a live band — the tunes still sounded as great as they did 20 years ago. The stage effects and lighting added to the already incredible venue, making it a sight to behold. Outlook had well and truly begun!
By Thursday, the weather had brightened up significantly and our first port of call was the Uprise Audio boat party. The rising star of dubstep, Uprise Audio put on a fantastic party that was our first glimpse into the family vibe of the festival, not to mention its fantastic soundsystems. If Outlook manage to get systems this good, on boats, in Croatia, there really is no excuse for venues and festivals these days! Sets from Seven, Truth, LSN and Klax all killed it — the standout tune being this absolute monster from Klax.
Uprise Audio boat party - Photo by Ben Donoghue
Our first evening of music in the festival started off slowly with a slightly disappointing set from Kaytranada, whom we'd heard great things about. His set on the Void stage was sluggish and almost (excuse the pun) devoid of energy, despite a large crowd of eager fans, who slowly drifted off and became drawn to the booming of The Moat and the sounds of Contact that awaited them below. VIVEK and Truth were all we had time for, and probably all our bodies could take, as the system in The Moat — in combination with the unstoppable force of bass that the two acts employ in their sets — were amongst the weightiest sounds we'd ever experienced.
The Moat - Photo by Dan Medhurst
Both acts veritably killed it and left us slightly shellshocked as we headed down to the harbour for one of the festival's wild cards act-wise, Buraka Som Sistema. One of the most energy-filled performances we've ever had the pleasure of experiencing, Buraka Som Sistema turned the Outlook harbour into a full-scale Brazilian carnival for an hour with a booty-shaking set that held its pace throughout. 'Wegue wegue' and 'Hangover' were definitely two of the best songs of the week.
Finally that night we caught DJ Marky, who many consider to be the best drum and bass DJ in the world — we couldn't say, but that night he may as well have been. Plastician's trap remix of Hazard's classic jump-up anthem 'Mr Happy' going down an absolute treat in the clearing.
Outlook festival is not for the faint of heart — or the unfit! As we found out to our degradation on the Friday (only the second day of the festival...). If you haven't been to Outlook festival before, it is our thorough recommendation that you pace yourself well; this festival is an epic marathon, not a sprint! However this DJ Mag reviewer battled through and managed to catch an early boat hosting Newham Generals and Benton.
When DJ Mag first arrived we were disappointed to see Newham Generals hadn't turned up, but Benton soon got us perked up again with his unique style of breaks-influenced 130 mixed with some grime and dubstep anthems. Our disappointment in the Generals turned to hysterics when we saw a speedboat fly across the sea towards us, with D Double E at the helm and Footsie chilling in the back, and once aboard the boat they proceeded to tear it up on the mic, with a mix of classic bars and new material that perfectly suited Benton's wonky rhythms; Footsie's 'Bare Right Hooks' a sure highlight.
One of our favourite stages, The Void - Photo by Dan Medhurst
We headed in land to the Void in time to catch arguably — and unexpectedly — our favourite set of the festival, from Kutmah, who laid down an incredibly well-mixed hour of beats and hip-hop filled with the usual Brainfeeder and Stones Throw suspects, but with a dark almost techno-like electronic twist that had ears begging for more.
From there we headed to Moodymann in the clearing, who came as a welcome switch-up from the heavy beats we'd been indulging in previously, his new material hitting all the right notes with us. We only wished he had played on one of the smaller stages as his brand of house — as well as Floating Points, who proceeded him — seemed to be less suited to the huge open area, leaving the audience feeling slightly disconnected from the larger-than-life DJ. The same occurred during Goldie's set on the Sunday, leaving us to think The Clearing as a stage was to blame — still, great performances and thoroughly enjoyable.
To finish up the night we caught the end of Pinch's set which ended on a high note with Skream's classic dubstep anthem 'Filth' and then headed to Jah Shaka in Mungo's Arena for some more bass weight. Shaka educated his audience with a schooling of roots reggae that brought the unity and family vibes of the festival to a high point, leaving our minds thoroughly cleansed and ready for some rest and another day of Outlook...
Photo by Ben Donoghue
Another early start and another dubstep party on the shores of Croatia, this time hosted by Reconstrvct and Big Up Magazine featuring the likes of Kahn & Neek, Commodo, Gantz and True Nature. Reconstrvct, for those that don't know, is an event usually held in New York that is infamous around the world for so successfully bringing soundsystem culture to the US — for which they have our utmost respect (despite the fact they managed to fleece us for £40 on a horribly handmade Reconstrvct cap!).
The system on the boat was even better than the boats we'd experienced previously and we were treated to brilliant b2b2b sets from all three DJs. Some particularly choice dubs were played by Gantz, and as always Commodo's recent material caused a near riot — even literally almost bringing the ceiling down at one point. 'Space Cash' in particular led to an unforgettable moment when one lad proceeded to take his shoe off in amazement and... well just watch it here.
Our last boat party was rounded up by some straight-up dread from Kahn & Neek. Geeneus' remix of Wonder's classic grime tune 'What' was a big standout for us. The boat party again highlighted the family vibe of the festival - it's as much a holiday for many of the acts as the punters in a way. The huge line-up feels more like a big group of mates than the world's biggest DJs at times, which is highlighted by impromptu performances such as Loefah's b2b with Mala and Newham Generals' surprise appearances on multiple DJs sets, as well as Wookie's b2b with DJ Q and many other examples.
It wasn't much of a holiday for DJ Marky, who was in between gigs in Brazil and Japan; though of course he was still his bubbly self - truly one of the nicest guys in the game! But he told us of how he looks forward to Outlook every year as a chance to meet up with his international friends that otherwise he would just never see, and he believes it's the friendship and camaraderie of the DJs at Outlook that make the music and vibe so special.
The Beach - Photo by Polona Kumelj
The crowd of course is another major contributor - mostly young Londoners, though with many people coming across from all over Europe. Inevitably, you do get your standard red-faced British guys, and all the rowdy lads in their string vests that they bring with them, but what really brought Outlook to life was the many people from different backgrounds who'd travelled from all over the world for the the same reason — to enjoy some bass and meet some like-minded people. Where else in the world would you find a British gym lad befriending a dreads-endowed hardcore dub and reggae fan?
We spent most of the Saturday evening wandering between The Ballroom and The Garden, two of the much smaller and more tucked away stages that Outlook had to offer - and also two of our favourite of the lot. The Ballroom is a small circular pit in the heart of the fort, probably only big enough to fit about 50 people squished in, and in contrast the Garden is an area decorated with various plants and foliage with a much more chilled out vibe, complete with a local wine stand — a great place for weary souls/ravers to have a much deserved break from the dance.
The Ballroom - Photo by Dan Medhurst
One act we did catch on Saturday was The Bug, with Flowdan on mix duties in The Clearing. Contrary to Moodymann and FP, The Bug suited the stage perfectly, his dread-filled rhythms echoing across the large open space, inducing skanking from the front to the back of the crow, the lighting perfectly complimenting the duo's evil vibes, turning The Clearing into something akin to the gates of hell for an hour. Flowdan's 'People Power' sounded like an ungodly take on Dead Prez, and The Bug's first play of 'Function' from his new album was by far the heaviest tune played at the festival — turning a thousands-strong crowd into a riot of possessed skanking feral creatures for a good five minutes... The Clearing on this occasion was an absolute triumph.
The Bug in the clearing - Photo by Jody Hartley
Our last day of music at Outlook started in The Void for Swamp 81's stage. After a good set from Benton, Klose One took up the reins and supplied a stunning early evening set that was brought to a denouement with Redlight's 'C.A.S.S.I.E' and Pinch & Mumdance's brilliant 'Turbo Mitzi'. Paleman and Zed Bias followed, both of them playing stellar sets that had the eager audience bouncing from first to last. The real star of the stage though was Chunky, Swamp's quintessential MC — his words, style and undeniable swagger had the crowd leaning off his every word. Paleman could have dropped the Grandstand theme tune and Chunky would have had the crowd hyped within the first eight bars! Without doubt the best act of the festival, Chunky's bars spread like wildfire throughout Outlook — people were still chanting his lines at the airport.
After The Void we walked over to Mungo's Arena for Deep Medi's stage in time to catch an impromptu b2b from Goth Trad and Mala that completely overshadowed the other dubstep we'd heard at the festival. To say we were hyped for both sets would have been an understatement. This anticipation often can only lead to failure, but both DJs completely shattered all expectations we had and raised the bar even higher. Believe the hype around Goth Trad's DJ sets.
For the last set of Outlook we chose to journey down to The Harbour for now infamous drum and bass Mancunians Dub Phizix and Strategy. Their tunes 'Marka' and 'Buffalo' had already been a part of pretty much every drum and bass set of the festival (not a bad thing!), and we'd heard some raving reviews of their bonkers energy that tore up The Moat on Friday. It was a brilliant end to the madness, and though 'Buffalo' may be a bit of a cheesy tune, you cannot deny its power when it manages to get so many thousands of bass music fans of all origins straight up losing their minds to its zany beat — at half-five in the morning.
The Harbour - Photo by Jody Hartley
To summarise, Outlook is the perfect festival for anyone who has a passion for bass music in any of its forms. Saying so, we brought a guy who wasn't even into dance music and by the first day he was fully into it as well! It's a bit pricey, but every penny is well spent. It's a week of pure hedonism, unity and moments that will stay with you for a lifetime. Outlook is, indeed, probably the best annual bass music event in the world.
In recent years Outlook has become more and more popular as the word has spread, and many long-time attendees have worried about overcrowding or a loss of vibe. However, they needn't have worried. Whether it's the music they promote, the volunteers and staff who make it run so smoothly, or the incredible surroundings of Pula — the vibe and culture of Outlook is one we've never found anywhere else. Here's to hoping it lives on forever! Check out the 2014 highlights video below:
A lineup has just been announced for Outlook 2015's first launch party at the end of January in London's Coronet Theatre. If you want to get a small idea of what the vibe is like at the actual festival, we recommend checking it out here.
PHOTOS: Cover by Dan Medhurst