Outlook: Population 12,000 drunk Britons

September 5, 2011

I’m going to get this all down while it’s fresh in my mind, or rather, as fresh as it could be after a weekend like that.

I got back from Pula, Croatia, several hours ago for Outlook Festival 2011. For y’all who don’t know, you better axe somebody– or I’ll just tell you. Outlook is one of the biggest bass music festivals in the world these days, it’s organized by a crew somewhere in the UK and it’s mostly marketed to those folks. That’s generally the reason it’s consistently around 90% Britons in attendance. The remaining few are typically from all over Europe with a very few folks from North America thrown in there (me being one of them, of course).

In the interest of not boring you with the details on the demographics of such festivals, how about I tell you about the festival itself. As soon as I saw the lineup this year I knew I had to go. I hadn’t even heard about the festival until I stumbled upon it online somewhere, then a series of events that went something like: (i) “Whoa, it’s in Croatia”, (ii) “Jesus, look at the lineup!”, and (iii) “It’s perfectly synchronized with my weekend.” convinced me that it was meant to be. Conclusion? The music and location were fantastic, as predicted, the clientele less so (read: drunk British folks who rarely talked about anything but “getting fucked up” and lewd sexual exploits of the night before). Now, in the interest of not generalizing, there were plenty of people who weren’t like that, but it seemed like the overwhelming majority was.

I showed up several days before the festival itself started so that I could procure a proper spot to pitch my tent (no sexual innuendo intended, now get your mind out the gutter). Said spot was indeed procured, and said tent was indeed pitched. It turned out to be a pretty good location aside from the neighbors, but I think that was the case everywhere within the camp ground.The following rundown is only the memorable acts, there was much more involved, but for the sake of brevity, only the best of the best will be included here.

I spent the first few days basking in the Adriatic sun and went straight to the festival grounds (held within an old fortress on the Adriatic coast) to catch reggae/dancehall/you-name-it legend David Rodigan. The dude is 60 years old and absolutely obsessed with bass music. Read his Wikipedia article if you’re interested, but seeing this guy perform is like having a really zealous partygoer man the Youtube page the whole night. He spent most of his time in front of the decks hyping the crowd up on the mic (which he did so with the greatest of ease) like a true selector, the rest of the time was him queuing up records and giving us a lesson on the history of bass music. The guy is an absolute legend and his set was fantastic, in the weirdest of ways.

Next up on the first night was Kode9, dubstep veteran and man behind the Hyperdub label. The stage he was playing at had an absolutely insane bass system. The one time I’ve experienced more bass was Benga’s set at Neumo’s in Seattle for Decibel a few years back, and it wasn’t by much. Fortunately I had my earplugs, but the physiological effects of this bass can only be described as awesome (yes, in a good way). As per usual with Mr. 9, the music was kept minimal and bass heavy, and the visuals extremely sparse.

The second night was a little lackluster for me, but the definite victor was The Bug and Flowdan at the main stage. The Bug’s 2008 Ninja Tune release London Zoo will forever be a key component of dubstep and bass music in general. Anybody who’s seen The Bug on a DJ set before will know that his mixing skills are essentially non-existent (or he just chooses not to use them, I’m really not sure), therefore, the quality of this set certainly did not come from his chops as a DJ, but rather from his tune selection, and the fact that these legendary dubstep tunes were being played by the man himself with Flowdan (who appears on many of them originally) over the top.

Rustie won my heart for the best one set at Outlook, I would have to say, a close call between him and Kode9. Rustie played at the same stage as Kode9 the night before, but much to my chagrin they turned down the bass, perhaps there were too many bass-induced deaths the night before. At any rate, the set was phenomenal, the energy was kept high, a couple new dubplates were rinsed (like the following video), some stuff like Ludacris was mixed in, and reloads were pulled based on crowd reaction. All things considered, I commend you for a great set, Rustie, not to mention a mind-blowing upcoming album (Glass Swords) from the sound of it so far.

The third night was also host to another SWAMP81 takeover at the Moat Stage (see my Exit Festival blog post for more information on SWAMP81). This stage is a long, narrow corridor between two high walls (quite moat-like indeed) with the stage at one end and speakers lining the entire thing. The vibe at this stage was amazing, and again, MC Chunky proved to be my favorite MC in the bass music world these days. Not only is the guy a magician when it comes to keeping the crowd hyped until the wee hours of the morning, but he gave the only shout out to the US that I heard the entire festival. Shouts to Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, etc were commonplace, but Chunky gave it up for any American fans in the audience as well, of which there were two, Vanja and I, needless to say we went completely nuts which garnered a few stares and inquiries as to our origins. Beyond that, all the SWAMP81 DJs pulled off an amazingly energetic and bass-heavy night with their hybrid Chicago house/juke/post dubstep sound.

The fourth and final night was a fair bit of running around to check out various sets. Of note, Noah D, a local Pacific Northwest badbwoy hailing from Portland was on the decks in the Dungeon (an underground stage that indeed felt very much like a dungeon). The following video shows him pulling a much-needed reload on his VIP remix of his 2009 release Serious. It was raining pretty hard at this point, but that didn’t deter the crowd at one of the many outdoor stages, this one in particular hosting Night Slugs (L-Vis 1990 and Bok Bok) followed up by Girl Unit. The rain actually promoted a wilder crowd, I think. All three DJs did a great job of dropping new tunes and keeping the bass high, check the videos for proof.

All in all, I had a fantastic time, although I think I’m done with festivals for awhile. I’m definitely glad I went, and I loved the music, but I’m completely drained on so many levels and it’s quite nice to be home. Signing out, and make sure to check out the videos on Youtube and the pictures on Facebook.

Peace, love, conserve water.

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