For the fifth instalment of Dimensions Festival, the peerlessly programmed adventure into the Adriatic continued on its quest to deliver the finest assortment of house, techno, bass and beyond to a switched on crowd in an idyllic setting.
Set amongst the ruins of Fort Punta Christo and alongside the west-facing, sunset-laden coast this year’s line-up boasted prestige artists from every era of house music, eclectic crews brave enough to put record bags in hold luggage, bass heavyweights warming up for Outlook and Rhodes-wielding jazz bands.
Each day started – assuming you weren’t still at the Croatian half protest, half after-party, entirely never-ending psytrance affair from each previous night – at The Beach stage. A short walk from the well-furnished campsite the stage neatly dissected the festival site and the beach itself allowing revellers to opt for either days lazing on the seafront, dancing to not-quite-but-almost Balearic jams, or running across the dancefloor for ‘refreshments’.
During middays to late afternoons the Balearic vibe clearly being aimed for occasionally felt a little forced. Hip-hop sampling obscurities such as Rachel Sweet’s It’s So Different Here sat next to straight-up hip-hop instrumentals albeit delivered in fine-tuned perfection across the astoundingly warm and crisp twin stacks that made up the sound system. At this point, as hard as it is to argue when anyone drops Dr Dre’s The Watcher, something just wasn’t right.
Certain acts though, such as the switched-on Peckham-based selector Theo from Yam Records, nailed the vibe. Opening the stage on the Sunday afternoon with laidback modern jazz from Ashley Henry the next two-plus hours were spent traversing Japanese synth-pop, Brazilian bossa nova and afrobeat-inspired funk before culminating with T-Fire’s Afro Hi-Vibrations (we’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the forthcoming repress for this).
Each evening as the sun began its descent the flawlessly managed stage converted in record time for expertly picked live bands. In a flash moment of recognition Dele Sosimi’s performance finally allowed me to ID a white label I’d found years ago in Belgium, while the soulful afrobeat of Mim Suleiman’s radiant set on the Friday, sandwiched between acute selections from the Highlife boys (Auntie Flo, Esa and Andrew) made even the rapidly blistering noses and shoulders of the perma-beachers smile.
During this time, the legendary daytime boat parties manage to do you the courtesy of setting sail from around the coast, preventing anyone who missed out from viewing the boat. So aside from the elated tales of returning sailors you can spend the entire day unaware of what you’re missing. That being said, Mood II Swing closing their boat party with their vocal mix of Ultra Nate’s Free was just something else. Sorry.
Come nightfall the main site opens and the festival flourishes. The diversity and sheer abundance of quality acts was astonishing. The majesty of the ancient fort settings meant that little production was required to create some of the most impressive and immersive spaces available on the festival circuit today.
Having graduated from The Moat stage (set in the old fort’s moat, funnily enough) Dimensions regular Ben Klock’s Thursday night techno sermon was delivered on The Void stage. Although this was the most extravagantly designed stage, money saved elsewhere on décor was clearly spent on the phenomenal sound systems installed on every stage.
For the entire nightly 9 hours of music, pristine highs and sumptuous lows bombarded you from all angles, with more of an auditory high five than the customary slap to the face.
However, the sheer quantity of quality music coupled with the perils of daytime drinking in above 30 degree heat meant Thursday was a bit of a blur. Apologies, but no track ID’s from that night.
Friday though began at The Arija stage with the Hackney based audiophile bar Behind This Wall demonstrating their talent for selection and dedication (carting two boxes of records all the way to the farthest reaches of the festival can’t have been easy) before arriving at Tama Sumo’s set at The Void, just in time to witness one of the all-time piano-jam extraordinaire’s.
At this point, for many, it felt like everything so far at the festival had been leading up to the about-to-finally-happen, near-mythical performance of Larry Heard, AKA Mr Fingers. At The Clearing stage, aside for the techno warriors who were still assembled in The Moat for the 6 hour Rodhad/Richie Hawtin onslaught, the entire festival gathered to witness the legend himself perform for the first time in 20 years under this moniker.
The deep, passionate spirit imbued into all of his productions emanated through the entire crowd in a way few artists managed to replicate that week.
The highlight for many being when, joined on stage by vocalist Mr White, the pair incited a mass singalong of 5AM favourite ‘The Sun Can’t Compare’. Coincidentally, the vibe at Mr Fingers was without comparison for the rest of the festival.
After another chance meeting with the Highlife boys, Joe Clausell closed out our Friday at Dimensions with an uncharacteristically deflated performance due to technical issues, before a stint at the Croatian after party continued until operations recommenced at The Beach Stage at midday on Saturday.
In poor journalistic form, Saturday night was spent entirely at The Void stage for the Rush Hour takeover. With the impeccable selections of label boss Antal and the charisma and joy that Hunee and Soichi Terada always manage to convey, the family affair felt like a celebration of funk. The jubilant house party vibe came to fruition when Hunee jumped on with Antal for an hour of back to back mayhem and riotous applause.
Elsewhere that night (based on several testimonies) the continually rising, New Zealand-hailing brothers Chaos In The CBD delivered one of the best sets of the festival, combining their own impeccable productions with solo-laden, Shazam-unfriendly gold and an all-consuming party attitude.
Continuing the antipodean affection, Sunday began at the tiny, circular Noah’s Ballroom, hidden inside an old outpost of the Fort for up-and-coming Australian talent Lancelot. Surrounded by Australian friends (side note: Aussie’s are fun, huh) he pulled out Aussie house anthem Kookaburra replete with didgeridoo samples, before leaving to enthusiastic applause and adulation, presumably to chug a 4X.
Back at The Void, stood shoulder to shoulder in the crowd with Jayda G, we witnessed Smallville stalwart Moomin deliver a fine set of techno-tinged, percussion-led grooves before gathering at The Clearing for Nightmares On Wax who produced an unexpected disco-house masterclass. A hazy circuit round the site managed to reconvene back at the main stage for my personal highlight of the festival, Gilles Peterson dropping Frank Ocean. The grandiosity of the setting, the purity of the sound, the cheeky London voice introducing it. Everything about that moment was perfect.
Nothing was left then, except for Motor City Drum Ensemble to close the main stage for two hours of textbook Motor City – storming through disco monsters and rinsing isolators.
Staying for the Monday’s activities is fully recommended. After the first proper sleep of the weekend and when half of those in assembly had evacuated the fort, you could claim the beach as your own.
Jayda G closed the beach stage that evening with joyful vocal house jams and the night wound down at Pacino’s Beach Bar, tucked behind the beach with Manchester based Souljam and a skinful of cocktails.
The array of artists on the roster mean you never get to enjoy everyone you paid the ticket price for, but it seems almost irrelevant. The beautiful setting (although already beginning to feel clichéd to some) and the attitude of everyone present prove to be in some ways more important to the overall experience.
Although the line-ups can be the main drawing factor in attending festivals, the primary factor determining your interpretation of it isn’t the star quality of the acts, it’s the music you hear and the people you meet.
In this way, Dimensions for me was encapsulated in a moment. At the interval between day and night at The Beach Stage, with the sun beginning its lengthy transition through peach to Pantone 190, swathed in adulation and clearly revelling in the sights of Aoki-esque inflatable-riding crowdsurfers, Hunee played a track that repeated the following phrase, over and over:
“Make good friends with music”.
On these terms, Dimensions 2016 was an emphatic success.