Outlook Festival 2011 review

'A landmark event on the dubstep calender'

13 September 2011

A few years ago, when Outlook Festival was held in a nightclub on the island of Pag - a place who's moniker as 'the Ibiza of Croatia' is ambitious at best, and at worst just a lie - 2,000 people attended, and for most of the week it rained.

That was 2009. Fast forward two years, and VF is perched on a viewing platform above the harbour in Pula, Outlook's new home, contemplating a main stage to rival any UK festival ones this summer, and a crowd that must be setting records for the number of hi-top trainers in one place. On the hill, young dubsteppers stream towards and away from the abandoned mid-19th century fort, which holds the event's other stages. Word on the street is there are 8,000 people here. To say things have snowballed would be something of an understatement.

Even if four-nights spent listening to bass driven repetitive beats is your idea of hell, Outlook is worth a look for the site alone. As one MC at the Urban Nerds party inside the circular Ballroom stage puts it: “Hands up if you've ever partied in a place like this before. Don't lie!” Aside from the Ballroom, other site highlights include the Moat, a 2,000 capacity, 20ft walled arena just outside the fort itself, which resonates to the sound of drum and bass from the likes of Logan D, Kenny Ken, and Nicky Blackmarket for most of the weekend, and the enormous Outside The Fort area, which plays host to a stormer of a set from Roska and Broke n' English on the Saturday night, amongst others. It really is an astonishing place to have a rave, and if anyone is concerned about blasting low-frequency music at hundreds of decibels through these old walls, well, that only adds to the fun.

As a dance music fan, there are few festivals where you'll spend much time at the main stage, but Outlook is a happy exception. A varied line-up of reggae, dubstep and drum and bass, as well as some excellent visuals, keeps thousands locked-in here all weekend, and it's one of the few stages where there's room enough for everyone. Amongst brilliant work from Iration Steppers, Shy FX, Jamie XX and Flux Pavilion, the main stage set of the weekend still undoubtedly goes to jungle legend Congo Natty, whose nostalgic performance on Friday night covers all the classics, and even sees Natty (or Rebel MC, to his pals) bring his daughter on stage amongst a host of other guests.

For those that manage to venture out in the daylight hours - and that's everyone who's camping, since consistent 30-degree temperatures render tents inhospitable - three sound systems on the beach as well as a slew of bars and restaurants keep hoards entertained. Phaeleh's sundown set here on the last night is an absolute gem and gets the reaction it fully deserves - an experience which the Bristol-based producer has since called one of the most magical moments of his life.

After two sell out years on the bounce, you would predict Outlook to expand next year, but it's hard to see where, at least in the current location. The campsite - which operates as a normal holiday destination the rest of the year - has had its facilities stretched to the max. The fort itself, while admirably crowd managed, is surely at capacity. In three short years Outlook has become a landmark event on the dubstep calender, and a destination for fans of drum and bass and reggae, too. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

By Lisa Key.

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