Now in its sixth year, Outlook Festival has quickly established itself as a Mecca for bass pilgrims. Set in the heart of Fort Punta Christo – Pula’s abandoned 1800s-built battlements – all kinds of dubby treasures lay in wait for itchy ravers. Subs in dusty corners churn out low frequencies. Titan systems battle it out in furious soundclashes. Ragga MCs roar across glittering waves.
The site itself, which this year is covered with stunning bits of graphic artwork from Ashes57, opens its gates to thousands of snapback-wearing (and overwhelmingly British) revellers, many of whom are ferried in by travel-simplifying enterprise Planet Festival.
While sunburn might be in abundance, what’s clear is that people make this commute for the music – rather than an excuse to down one’s weight in Pivo (that’s beer, to any non-Croatian speakers).
A festival traditionally rooted in the UK sound – albeit the side indebted to Jamaican heritage – 2013 sees Outlook reaching out to North America for an influx of boom bap. But this move to include hip-hop acts doesn’t mean a dilution of what is always an expertly curated line-up.
Young lyrical tsunami Joey Bada$$ makes the move from Beast to Adriatic Coast, while ‘90s veterans The Pharcyde snap necks and ‘Simon Says’ legend Pharoahe Monch delivers a block-rockin’ set, teaming up with Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def to perform their collab cut ‘Oh No’.
Jay Electronica is here, too – though if you were hoping to catch him at a future Outlook, you can probably forget it. The New Orleans rapper has no doubt been struck off the artist bookers’ lists, thanks to what must surely been one of the craziest performances of the four-dayer.
With his mic cut after a tardy arrival, Jay calls on a budding MC in the crowd to spit some bars. He then crowdsurfs and invites the assembled throng onto the stage, which buckles under the pressure, having to be rebuilt later on.
Naturally, the heavily armed soundsystems also pump out their fair share of reggae, dubstep, UKG, jungle, drum and bass, UK funky, dancehall, along with a multitude of other splinter genres.
Kahn and Flowdan are a grimy match made in heaven, performing their ‘Badman City’ (which became ‘Outlook City’) and ordering the rippling crowd to crouch down low before dropping Spooky’s heatedly-received ‘Spartan’.
Later, Zed Bias plays a shoulder-rolling set, and he hops aboard the Audio Doughnuts boat on Sunday night to sail the choppy seas under the stars. Joining him are Dark Sky and Tuesday Born, who bring a raucous medley of tropical flavours and anthems from the likes of Kaytranada and trap lord A$AP Ferg. Even as the boat scouts for an unfortunate reveller who’s fallen headfirst into the water – lights are out and the crowd crouches on the floor – an a cappella hum of ‘Shabba’ can still be heard.
But the music doesn’t stop while the sun is blazing. Down at the beach, the Dub Smugglers Sound System blares into action from noon, where The Artful Dodger keeps the crowd effortlessly hyped, while Terror Danjah digs out a beauty of a D Double E dubplate.
Wax is also spun by genre-spanning new selector Chimpo, and Romare, who gets Sunday off to a good start by cracking out some country and Shirley Bassey’s cover of ‘Light My Fire’.
The closing night sees Gentleman’s Dub Club continue their long-running reign of the Harbour stage, previewing tracks from their forthcoming debut album. With those infectious Madness-like rhythms, the ska outfit instantly initiates new members into the club of dub.
Taking to the stage next, Mala showcases his ‘In Cuba’ project, which saw him travelling to Havana last year to record with local musicians, producing a full-length of the same name. The dubstep veteran performs live – and dexterously – on percussion, alongside musical prodigy Swindle on keys. This is one truly breathtaking performance of resonating, ear-embracing bass weight and intricate melodic delicacies.
While sister festival Dimensions looks after the house and techno quotient of the dance spectrum, Outlook is also populated by a four-to-the-floor artist or two. Machinedrum takes to the Church stage, playing a smattering of the jungle-footwork hybrid from his forthcoming ‘Vapor City’ LP, while Dorian Concept and Eliphino warm up the Deviation stage for Benji B.
Perhaps the memory that will stick most firmly in the minds of all bass enthusiasts, though, is Outlook’s opening ceremony. Held at Pula’s 2,000-year-old Amphitheatre, it’s fitting that this monumental event is put on at the only fully preserved Roman arena to remain in the world, and on a balmy Wednesday evening following a downpour of Biblical proportions.
Trojan’s Earl Gateshead and J Rocc spin rare grooves before hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash mixes up a hit-heavy set. It’s when The Original Wailers take to the stage, however, fronted by Bob’s right hand man Al Anderson, that the night feels like a real piece of history in the making.
It’s the fervent worship of the roots of the sound and meeting with their modern rave mutations that makes Outlook such an inspiring place to be. One where crowds go from belting out SL2’s ‘On A Ragga Tip’ to skanking to Newham Generals. Don’t go changing, Outlook.
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Words: Felicity Martin
Photos: Marc Sethi
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