As one of the final dates in the festival calendar, the latest addition to Croatia’s coastal party scene has promised a fine coda to the summer since its mouth-watering lineup dropped at the start of the year. Held in the same spot as older sibling Outlook, which celebrated its fifth year the week before Dimensions opened its doors, it’s been billed as a more highbrow offshoot – in place of Fat Freddy’s Drop on the lineup stands Nicolas Jaar, Skream gives way to Carl Craig and there was nary a New Era cap in sight.
The crowd too is noticeably older, more European, although the majority UK contingent show just how persuasive the lineup and setting is. 1,000 miles is a long way to travel for a party, but the combination of beautifully curated lineup, beautiful people on sun-drenched beaches and a jaw-droppingly beautiful venue certainly trumped the autumnal chills of home.
Perhaps you have to travel that far for a venue that good. Fort Punta Christa is a tumbledown castle, an H&S nightmare but a festival promoter’s dream. Seeing Carl Craig anywhere is quite something, but Carl Craig in a 19th century keep while flames shoot from the walls is something else. Similarly Blawan’s panel-beating techno felt never more appropriate than pounding down the castle’s moat, with scores of bodies flanked by soaring rock walls, bathed in purple light. It makes the ‘rigs in a field’ formula of most festivals seem woefully uninspired.
Label showcases make up the bulk of the outside stage programming, from Hessle and Swamp 81’s low end swagger on the Friday night to the nu-disco sounds emanating from Todd Terje and Axel Boman in the Scandanavian-themed moat. The intelligence of the programming is such that you could have stayed in any one place all night and not felt short-changed – the only problem being that for everything we see, we neglect something equally unmissable.
This admittedly minor frustration is amplified by the difficulty in moving between stages. A castle’s natural capacity limitations meant the entrance to each stage was closely guarded –queues scupper our chance to see Nicolas Jaar on the opening night, although disappointment is tempered by Dusky’s surprisingly tough techno in the 100-capacity ballroom, their remix of Hot Chip’s ‘Day & Night’ even inspiring someone to set off a flare. As the lads put it afterwards: “We played techno here because, in this setting and with this crowd, we knew we could get away with it.”
It isn’t all heaviness though. The first night’s Eglo party is a smorgasbord of soul, funk and house, punctured by the occasional rougher moment. FunkinEven’s ability to segue between Motown and guttural techno is a thing of beauty, and against the grooves Juan Atkins’ ‘Time Space Transmat’ snarls even harder. It is a mantle taken up on the last night by Theo Parrish and Moodymann, their bass licks and rim-shots standing in stark contrast to the tough as nails, but equally well received, Ostgut showcase going down across the park.
Sunshine hours are reserved for that Croatian festival staple – the boat party. Wooly-headed and nauseous, DJ Mag isn’t looking forward to the Hypercolour boat as we walk up its gangplank but the restorative effect of booze, bass and a sea breeze is remarkable. Axel Boman and Ste Robert’s b2b to close is the highlight, replete with audience sit-down to Pachanga Boys’ ‘Time’, as temporary MC Tom Demac screams "fuck DC10". We also bumped into Huxley on the boat where he is recovering from his set supporting Carl Craig the night before, an experience he laughingly describes as “nerve-wracking". "I didn’t know what to play. I made 50 CDs, and then played none of them,” he admits.
But as we stand on the deck of a sun-soaked boat in the middle of the ocean, with a crowd in rapturous appreciation as Daniel Bortz’s take on ‘Limit to Your Love’ thuds out of the speakers, the lad from Tring was sure of one thing: “I could be in worse places on a Saturday afternoon.” He isn’t wrong.
PIC CREDIT: MARC SETHI