There’s a chant that you’ll have heard from the mouths of MCs, crowds and artists all over Fort Punta Christo if you’ve made it across to any of the nine Outlooks: “Croatia Croatia!” At the 2016 opening concert, staged in Pula’s dramatic 2000-year-old amphitheatre, the origins of this phrase are helpfully explained - by one Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley (Brigadier Jerry’s ‘Jamaica Jamaica’, in case you were wondering...)
Marley might be the most fitting booking that the festival organisers have ever made, seeing as the four-dayer gravitates around soundsystem culture - but also hip-hop and, more recently, grime. Accompanying the reggae legend that evening are Slum Village, whose Dilla-commemorating performance blows the dust off the Roman walls.
Clash has been partying at over half of the Outlooks to date (check here, here, here and here) and year on year the event seems to build on its successes. This time round the Harbour stage (the largest in previous editions) was missing, but there were added areas to compensate, plus an enlarged Clearing stage. The Den is also a new spot, tucked away from the main foot traffic but is the ideal place to catch Iglooghost on the final night, who drops Mssingno’s ‘XE2’ just at the right moment to start tears flowing at the prospect of going home.
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Not simply about the Stormzys and the Andy Cs, the festival champions the emerging artist as much as the established. We stumble across a group of rappers from the Czech Republic - or is it Czechia? - in the Moat, who apologise for not rapping in English (despite having a “few bars”) over Rude Kid productions and Eski beats while shouting out the “UK mandem”; a gem of a find.
Here’s two pieces of advice if you go next year: BRING A DUST MASK to avoid coughing up mystery mucus hoovered up from the ruins from the mid-1800s fort (a bandana wrapped round the face will do the trick). Secondly: buy as many boat party tickets as you can. On Friday we head down to the Resident Advisor boat where, just as the sun is setting, Hodge pierces the air with the skeletal keys of Dat Oven’s ‘Icy Lake’, before we plunge into darkness, with only a Milk Tray selection of dubs from Youngsta and Kahn & Neek to keep us company. Those three are also a staple of the festival, giving us sneak previews of Danny Brown’s ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ in the stone cold killer ‘Pneumonia’.
While the Radar Radio boat takes us sailing through our final day. Hosted by airwave regulars Ahadadream and Snoochie Shy, they do a great job of replacing Riz La Teef last minute, who’s sadly fallen off his scooter - bringing out MC of legends Killa P for his eleventh show in three days(!!) to join Mungo and Shy One. The punchy Electrikal system on board blazes us through a concoction of UK funky, the YGG version of ‘Side by Side’, and some appropriately-named cuts (Tinashe’s ‘All Hands on Deck’ Get it? ‘Cos we’re on a boat), while the Radar crew deck us out in white T-shirts for the occasion.
Swindle wins the prize for the most memorable performance of our four days. Firing water pistols at the crowd at the beach, him and his trumpet / saxophone players bust out some incredible synchronised moves while he works his magic on the keys. That’s not to mention an insane keytar solo before renditions of ‘Mad Ting’ and ‘Lemon Trees’ which, when you throw in a Croatian sunset, is pretty unforgettable.-
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The act we - and many people we chat to - are keenest to see is CASISDEAD. Arriving at the Stables, half the crowd are in V for Vendetta masks and a girl is waving a ‘DEAD TEAM’ flag right by the stage, so we know we’re in the right place. The most enigmatic artist out there comes out surrounded by his crew, wearing a mask that makes him look like he’s just bust out of a grave, somewhere in between Freddy Kreuger and an Orc. It’s there that the Grade 10 collective take over the next day, with Prayer and co demonstrating their vast array of genre-spanning sounds.
As a label, Deep Medi always enjoy a big presence at Outlook. So it’s no surprise that two of the most-played tunes are Bukez Finezt’s ‘Headache’ (whose ‘The Main Rule / Unknown Force’ is soon to emerge on the label) and Sir Spyro’s ‘Topper Top ft.Teddy Bruckshot, Lady Chann and Killa P’ - another keenly-awaited 12”. There’s a Medi takeover at the Moat (which is an actual moat) that sends heads spinning over coveted dubplates, while Hatcha does a History of Dubstep set b2b El-B in Noah’s Ballroom - a true highlight for fans of the original sound.
Honourable mentions go to Flowdan bringing out Novelist as a secret guest, Stormzy performing in an actual storm, Mala dropping ‘Abattoir VIP’, Japanese reggae crew Part2Style assembling at the Stables, Levelz being Levelz, and Egoless playing a combination of Gentleman’s Dub Club’s ‘High Grade’ and ‘Midnight Request Line’, which honestly shouldn’t be a thing that works, but it did.
A sanctuary of all things bass-related, Outlook has gone from strength to strength, billing massive artists while retaining its passion for the underground. Once you know about it (this year, Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams was spotted raving to Dub Phizix) it’s hard to look back - and it’s enough to make us adopt the basic bitch cry of ‘Take me baaaaaack! <3’. With a bottle of Ožujsko raised for the toast, here’s to their tenth anniversary next year, and to the many more that’ll follow.
You can already register for Outlook 2017: http://www.outlookfestival.com
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Words: Felicity Martin
Images: Marc Sethi / Dan Medhurst