Recap: Outlook Festival 2015

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Back in September we attended Outlook Festival 2015. For the first time at this celebration of underground dance music and sound system culture, we fled to Croatia with the thousands of other Brits with photographer Vicky Grout to experience the frenzy.

I’ve attended a fair share of festivals over the past ten years, both home camping on UK soil and away drenched in continental sun, but the excitement I felt for my first time being welcomed to Outlook Festival 2015 in Croatia was greater than any of the solid festivals I’d previously visited abroad – a combination preempting a trip in the sun and the enthusiasm of an indelible curation of contemporary music. But was this as good as it would get? The answer is no and far from it. The ability to curate such an excellent billing across such impressive areas in an idyllic setting and doing so in such a greatly organised manner impressed me to a level that a festival hasn’t attained in a long time.

The site of Fort Punta Christo situated near the city of Pula in Croatia is the selected location for the event. A nineteenth century coastal fortress adds to the character of the festival, tipping it over any field festival. The seafront location ensures every sun-blessed day ends with a beautiful west-facing beach sunset over the Adriatic sea, a stunning way to build the mood in advance of the evening. There is something about having a beach within the site of the festival that formulates high spirits for the Outlook audience throughout the duration of the festival. The festival’s opening concert is situated in the old Roman amphitheatre in the city of Pula, the largest remaining roman colosseum in Europe, and had names such as Jurassic 5, SBTRKT and Roni Size performing within the old walls ahead of the week’s festivities.

The Outlook beach was the focal point in the daytime, with the rest of the site closed off until 8pm. Blazing sun and sea, accompanied by superb DJs is a highly satisfying combination. The first evening on the beach was closed by the legend DJ EZ shelling out the classics in the impeccable way he does. In terms of curation this was probably one of the best ways to get the Outlook audience fired up for the first night of the festival. Sunday stood as my favourite day on the beach with the Astral Black camp taking care of things with the likes of Jon Phonics, DJ Milktray, Impey and Bushido.

Both The Clearing and The Harbour stages more than catered the desire for big stage action, with top billing acts playing on both across the weekend. Down at the Harbour, the biggest area and stage saw in the upfront performances from Beanie Man, Flatbush Zombies, Run The Jewels, The Bug and Boy Better Know. In a way, The Clearing acted as a little brother to the main stage, still playing host to some of the big hitters on the bill. Butterz & Keepin It Grimey took care of business on the first night with Logan Sama, Flava D, Kahn and Neek, Stormzy and Novelist. The second evening was filled with dubstep from the giants that are Quest, Silky, Chef, N-Type, Hatcha, Youngsta, DMZ and Loefah. Hip Hop heavyweight Madlib curated things on the final night at The Clearing with his “Madlib Orchestra” which included the mighty Moodyman.

Drawing out some of the character of the site, making use of the ruins of Fort Punta Christo were the areas such as The Moat, The Fort Arena, Noah’s Ballroom and The Mungo’s Hi Fi stage. There’s something intense and slightly surreal but highly satisfying about dancing in the moat of an old military fort at 2am to the sounds of Pinch and Riko. My highlight at the Fort Arena and possibly the whole festival was the Soulection showcase on Sunday night, as both Jay Prince and Sango played impeccable sets to a perfectly receiving crowd. Elsewhere, The Garden Stage acted as one of the smaller areas, where the likes of High Focus, Kutmah, Kurrupt FM, Chimpo and Zed Bias held it down. I can’t go without mentioning The Void, a medium-sized stage that always had an outstanding vibe, particularly on the Saturday when Just Jam took over with Crack Stephens, Ellijah and Skilliam, The Heatwave, Spooky and Oneman.

The Adriatic festivals have a reputation for their infamous boat parties and Outlook is no different. Captaining each voyage and curation were the like of our friends at BREAKS, Wavey Garms, New Era, Just Jam, Bandulu, High Focus, Hot Wuk and The Blast. In terms of our experience, Just Jam came out on form again with a stellar party, although the Bandulu party was definitely something special. As the whole crew kept the energy levels through the roof afloat the Adriatic, with a massive back to back, Stormzy came on to deliver as always as the boat started its way back to the harbour.

Outlook sets out to give their audience the best in bass music, sound system culture and the genres loosely attached. They aim to do so in an idyllic setting to execute as well as they can. The billing was excellent this year with a strongly thought out, forward thinking list of artists across all the genres covered. Outlook is a festival where you can see truly up and coming, contemporary artists showcased alongside some of the most established and legendary. I’ve heard a couple of complaints since the festival that there may have been too much grime this year, but when you take into account the scenes growth over the past couple of years it’s completely understandable. Outlook not only catered for the grime crowd from the corner of BBK fandom, it delved into the scene as a whole with acts like Butterz and Bandulu and DJ’s such as Bushido and Milktray. Seeing a relatively new MC like Jammz own every stage he appeared on just adds to the outstanding year he seems to be having. In terms of delivery, the organisation of the festival seemed near perfect when you consider things like the boat parties and how big the site and stages are. Finding a setting as beautiful as the organisers have may be a strike of luck, but leaves nothing to fault on that front either.

To capture the energy, we took Vicky Grout along with us to visually document it all and to do so with a more personal feel to the usual festival coverage you’ll find elsewhere. With this in mind, the photo’s focus on the people – the audience and the artists that built-in to such a high standard of festival.

The experience of this years Outlook should have left anyone wanting to return next year. If you want to register for 2016 you can do so now over at Outlook.

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Luke Pinot

Co-founder of music blog Bass Ache and an active part of Bristol's music scene, Luke manages our mixtape series as well as contributing to other areas of The Daily Street.

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