Festival reviews often take on an overview, sum-it-all up approach. We decided to do it differently. Two best pals, in Eastern Europe for one week to hit up Outlook festival. This is an account of their 7 day adventure (we had to leave out a few details...)
Written by Christina Knowles
Photos by Leony Mayhew
DAY ONE : TUESDAY
Fresh from a big sleep after some peaceful evening beers on a bridge over the Danube the night before, five intrepid explorers set off in White Gary the Hyundai across the beautiful countryside of Budapest. Which to be honest looks a lot like British countryside from the perspevctive of a passenger window on a motorway. True to form however we made the most of it, deciding to use this journey as an opportunity to try and assortment of different Hungarian/Croatian service station beverages and snacks. Memorable entries include the driest sandwich I have ever eaten ever (which was meant to be ham and cheese) and a light bulb with a screw top full of schnapps. When in...Hungary.
Around two hours drive away from Pula we stopped at maybe our sixth petrol station, where we ended up chatting to a group of eight gentlemen who were also travelling to Outlook. I felt slightly bad for feeling like our journey was long when they explained that they had driven all the way from Poland. It had taken them six days and they had stopped on the way to pick up some members of their team, one guy had come all the way from Brazil to be picked up in Budapest! We hadn’t even arrived yet and I was already feeling warm and fuzzy about how music brings people together. And also how schnapps makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
By the time we arrived in Pula, our travel companions Leony and Duncan were ready for a well deserved rest, so we parted ways and my partner Tommy, our pal Sam and I headed to the beach bar on the festival’s neighbouring campsite for a bit of a rave and a drunken explore…..
DAY TWO : WEDNESDAY
If you don’t wake up under a colourful sheet on someone else’s lilo with bass still ringing in your ears on festival day one, you’re not setting yourself up right I say. Two Fanta’s and a couple more hours of sitting down later, we were ready to go get wristbands and set up tents! The latter is particularly tricky as the ground in the campsite is harder than your first day back at work after Outlook. Fortunately I had two Frenchmen on hand, armed with steely determination and big rocks. About an hour later, we were done!
Headed down to the Beach Stage to meet the rest of our Outlook crew. Always important to correctly assemble your team. Rule one. The ubiquitous Dub Smugglers, the infamous Breezak and Samson Sounds provided the first set of our holiday soundtrack. Saxophones, sunsets and signature bouncy bass sounds. Setting us up with some sweet sweet dub before we headed to the amphitheatre for the opening party.
You won’t read a review of Outlook, or indeed most non-British festivals, without a paragraph being devoted to how necessary some sort of interaction with a boat is to the enjoyment of your holiday. Because it is. We caught the last boat taxi at about 9pm from the Harbour stage to the centre of Pula. Clear night sky and calm water reflecting beautiful lights and carrying music through the air, it’s really good to be honest. Really bloody good. Do you Titanic on the front of the boat? That’s your prerogative man. But I know I do.
As the boat pulls in to the harbour in Pula we can hear Jurassic 5’s ‘Gotta Understand’ booming from the amphitheatre, a rainbow coloured spectacle against the blue black backdrop of the summer sky. I have to say it’s amazing to witness people see it for the first time. Fast walks quickly became runs from the boat to the entrance. The rest of J5’s performance was amazing, known for being amazingly tight and super positive, they will set you up for the rest of the night. followed by Gentleman's Dub Club, whos's 'London Sunshine' got a massive cheer from literally everyone, to Roni Size Reprazent, who absolutely killed it. Live drum and bass is really impressive to see done well, and their hosw is one I would highly recommend. My highlight of the night would have to be SBTRKT though. Despite their frequent collaboration I was not expecting live support from Sampha. His soulful vocals reach me on a deep level and he is honestly one of my favourite artists. To see them perform live together was an absolute dream, especially as it was such a total surprise.
DAY THREE : THURSDAY
A lengthy lie in in a tent in Croatia is not possible. By 9am the sun has full hit the roof of your tent, despite the best efforts of the trees, and it is your prerogative to arm yourself with smoothies/fruit/chicken wraps in preparation for the day ahead. The afternoon saw an off grid mission to explore the surrounding coastline. To catch a beautiful sunset, have a dive in to the sea and catch up with some Croatian friends from previous years. Come evening time we were lead back through the forest by one such knowledgable friend, who was kind enough to take us to his home in the literal walls of Fort Arena One. Such a unique perspective on the festival would be hard to find, we enjoyed local figs and red wine in the comfort of the home of a man who fully appreciates the heart of the culture that makes Croatia such an apt location for so many people who appreciate the nature of soundsystem culture, the friendliness, good vibes and music that brings so many of us together. After a generous drink and fruit consumption in his home we were treated to a night of Mungo's Music, their arena showcasing some of the best acts Outlook has to offer. Mala, blending soul and garage in a way that set him up as pioneer of the scene, Stray, who's unusual mix of almost classical melodies, jazzy influences and creative sampling give his sets a sound all of their own that I was pleased to recognise from across the bridge on my way to the arena. A comical, yet still musically excellent memory of that evening would have to be watching Zed Bias, who although having drawn controversy having announced his retirement last year , appeared to take in good humour the group of guys at the front of the crowd wearing t-shirts with the caption 'I was at Zed Bias' Last Ever DJ Set' emblazoned across them. I saw off the night with a wander down to the harbour to check out Moxie, having heard that she blew people out of the water at Dimensions with an outstanding disco set, I was pleased to find her sexy techno offering just as appealing and just the right thing to send me off to my tent for a lovely romantic lie down. Bring on the weekend!
DAY FOUR : FRIDAY
British people being who they are, chat was rife by Friday of the potential mega-storm skirting around the horizon. The stormy atmosphere and tenseness in the sky did not nothing to deter people's spirits however, if anything there was more of a sense of anticipation and excitement in the air. The music on the Friday lent itself to this perfectly, BadBadNotGood filled the beach with eclectic jazz and electronica while people played in the sea, watching the skies. Digital Mystics vs Loefah took it a bit darker as the sun went down and the rave animals started to show themselves, then as the dark clouds gathered on the neighbouring coast and the air was still but electric, Loefah took the reins alone to embody the spirit of the Moat, a legion of dancers awash in strobe and dwarfed by speakers. As the music drew to a close we found ourselves wandering towards the beach, following the sky. We watched rolling clouds and a hail lightning tear it up on the next peninsula for what seemed like hours, but it evaded us all night.
DAY FIVE : SATURDAY
The ominous clouds moved closer to the Fort by Saturday afternoon and as we sat in the campsite restaurant as they rolled in towards the beach, it became clear we would not escape another day! A brief ten minute downpour gave us a glimpse of what to come, then it kindly held off until halfway through the Mouse Outifit's consistently fantastic sets. Singing and dancing along with a few hundred other people on a beach in the rain, reminds you of everything you love about festivals, rain means nothing in the face of fun! It did fully... Having survived the storm I endeavoured to treat myself! On the way to the garden stage I discovered a) an absolutely banging noodle stall and b) a wine bar. I know those might not seem like two things that go together, but those are my things. Cue extensive token exchange and a pouch full of prosecco and teriyaki chicken, all consumed while enjoying musical offerings from the Garden, a new addition to Outlook's extensive list of stages as of 2014. Set a little out of the way of the main hub of the festival, the Garden offers a little wooded retreat, still with a powerful rig and plenty to dance to, but in a more intimate setting where you feel just as comfortable enjoying the music sitting amongst the trees as getting right involved at the front of the crowd. The atmosphere at the Garden lent itself perfectly to Levelz crew, whose healthy entourage took over the stage to hype the Manchester party scene through a grime education featuring a host of MC's (Skittles, Truthos Mufasa, Black Josh, Fox, Chunky, to name but a few, the list is extensive!), a mash up of Manchester classics and some questionable behaviour with an inflatable banana. Leaving the garden we journeyed to the Harbour to see the Bug, who utilised the stage fantastically for an impressive light show and sound assault, a fair contribution to the Saturday effort.
DAY SIX : SUNDAY
As the festival entered it's last day, spirits were high and the sun was back out. Kromestar closed the beach in fine form and we said an official goodbye to the beach in style. Kurupt FM's Garden Set provided their usual injection of comedy gold to a garage soundtrack and we made the executive decision to stay for the Mungo's boat party on Monday evening, settling back in to campsite life for another night of chilling, laughing and heavy beer consumption in to the wee hours after a full tribe exploration of the site, my only sadness being that Noah's Ballroom once again evaded me! I have heard so many good things about the unique space and it's mix of artists, from Mighty Boogie to Sub Concept, I guess I will have to come back again next year and try harder!
DAY SEVEN : MONDAY
As the site begins to be taking down and the mass exodus from the campsite gets underway, it can be nice just to embrace the wind down and get your last day of sunbathing and water frolicking in while gently planning your Tuesday exit. It's become a tradition among many Outlook-goers to see the festival off on the mighty Mungo's Boat Party. This year was no exception. The queue for the boat began at around 6:30, with a hasty jostle of people boarding around 8. This is an absolute highlight for me as it combines the comforting vibe of the people that make Glasgow and all the brothers and sisters you meet throughout the festival weekend, that want to give it one last hurrah. The jagerbombs were flowing and the skanking exhibitions were numberous as a dub powered vessel took us out in to the sea to look back out over the fort from a distance with a fond reminisce. Outlook had done itself proud once again and now it was time for us to head home to our canvas bags and plan some wholesome Croatian exploration, to soften the blow of leaving this magical bass-filled wonderland.
Pula, I'll be back. Don't you worry about that.