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Outlook Festival 2017 [Review]

Check out a selection of our photographs from Outlook Festival 2017 on our Facebook page (unfortunately we lost about 200 photos when a hard drive corrupted). Tickets for Outlook Festival 2018 are now on sale.


Outlook Festival, a beautiful party on the Adriatic Coast of Croatia, celebrating all genres of music that fall under the umbrella of sound system culture, turned 10 this year. Starting in 2007, in a different location from its current base in Fort Punta Christo, the festival has grown year on year and is now the go to festival on the continent. Not so long ago we published a post of our favourite Outlook Festival memories and compiled a playlist of some of the incredible artists that have graced its stages.

As far as I am concerned Outlook Festival does it the way it should be done: get the acoustics and music right and everything else is secondary. That doesn’t mean that the complex infrastructure of running a festival is ignored but it does mean those that love the music will enjoy it a whole lot more and in the way that it was meant to be heard. We would like to thank the guys at Big Box for inviting us a along and congratulate the NVS Music team for reaching such an epic milestone. We would have written all of this sooner but laptops have a tendency to die just when you need them (we also lost some great photographs in the process).

Outlook Festival holds a special place in my heart, it was the first music festival that I attended that I could say catered to exactly the genres of music that get my head nodding and my feet moving. Hip hop, grime, reggae, drum and bass, a dash of jungle and a sprinkle of R&B for good measure. Reflecting its resurgence grime played a bigger role this year with the likes of AJ Tracey, Dizzee Rascal, P Money, Capo Lee, Jammz, Newham Generals, Logan Sama and Sir Spyro. All making appearances at various times at the festival. Unfortunately, and some would say predictably, Wiley didn’t bother showing up which was a bit of a disappointment.

The main festival is held in the grounds of Fort Punta Christo, a 19th century castle built by the Austro-Hungarian empire to keep an eye on any enemies that may have wished to attack them from the Adriatic (a little history lesson for you there). Even in its current location the festival has made some big changes. Gone are the main Harbour Stage and its little brother the Dockside stage. To date The Dockside was the location of one of the greatest DJ sets I have ever witnessed by Dismantle in 2012. It was lashing it down with rain, there was lighting acting as a strobe light and the tune selection had everyone grooving into the early hours with the likes of UB40‘s Red Red Wine. Nevertheless, newer stages have also popped up to replace them in the last couple of years: The Clearing and The Garden are newer features and some of them have had a name change such the (The Fort is now the The Stables, Outside The Fort is now The Void et cetera.

One of the incredible highlights of the last few years has been the Outlook Festival opening concert that is hosted in Pula’s 2000 year old amphitheatre and is usually guaranteed to host a few legends. It’s a great way to begin the festivities with a bang and past headliners have included the likes of Grandmaster Flash, Lauryn Hill, Jurassic 5 and SBTRKT. This year the main names on the bill were Dizzee Rascal, DJ Shadow and the Outlook Orchestra with the assistance of some familiar vocalists such as Jehst, Loyle Carner, Pharoahe Monch, General Levy, Horace Andy, Roots Manuva and Foreign Beggars.

We arrived a bit late to catch of all of DJ Shadow’s set but he delivered as one would expect from someone of his immense calibre and he even dropped his song with Run The Jewels who have also previously played Outlook Festival (if you haven’t listened to these guys you are doing yourself a disservice). In between the three main acts of the opening concert DJ Andy H, a bit of an unsung hero, kept the crowd jumping. Playing the likes of Gold Digger, Call Me A Yardie, Rum & Red Bull, T. R. O. Y., Jump Around and It Takes Two without missing a beat on the mixes. Full credit where it’s due: Andy H knows how to rock a party..

The Outlook Orchestra comprises of a 20-piece band playing a variety of instruments, as one would expect from an orchestra, and with the assistance of various vocalists then play their songs live. It’s easy to sound sceptical but we saw them perform at the Royal Albert Hall in June (reviewed here) and we were blown away. The opening concert was even better. Kicking off with Simon Says alongside Pharoahe Monch they then proceeded to play a mind-blowing J Dilla medley. The man of the moment, Loyle Carner, brought out Jehst who he described as the best rapper the UK has ever produced. The young man showed why he’s fast becoming a household name with an energetic performance. Following the new kid on the block getting off stage, one of the old guard was next to rock the stage. Roots Manuva, dressed in tracksuit bottoms and a suit jacket rocked the stage. Horace Andy, a true legend of reggae, came next and played his classic Skylarking that he then mixed into his performance of Bill WithersAin’t No Sunshine. If you have a chance to catch Horace Andy at one of the Outlook Orchestra shows around the UK we suggest you grasp the opportunity with both hands, you won’t regret it. He was followed on stage by Outlook regulars Congo Natty and Gentleman’s Dub Club who rocked the crowd with the stage presence of seasoned professionals. Ending the Outlook Orchestra set was General Levy who performed his incredible classic…. Incredible.

Dizzee Rascal, with the assistance of the legendary DJ MK, of London Underground mixtape and Kiss FM fame, delivered a performance just as great as we witnessed at Glastonbury this year. Ensuring that he played a variety of his back catalogue including several songs from Boy In Da Corner all the way through to songs like Space on his new Raskit album, Dizzee proved why he’s still one of grime’s greatest.

The next day we headed to the Beach Party; there’s a beach party every day for 8 hours. When we got there, Dawn Penn, who is seven albums deep and has millions of records sold, was gracing the crowd with her very talented band. The veteran singer best known for You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No) was followed by the young upcoming Jorja Smith whose fan base has grown drastically following her collaboration with Drake on his latest More Life project. We actually became aware of Jorja’s talents some time before that collaboration through the photographic work of Vicky Grout. Jorja Smith is clearly a huge global star in the making, she has toured the United States and sold out shows across the pond. She played all her well known songs including Blue Lights, On My Mind, Teenage Fantasy as well as Get It Together on which the crowd played the part of Drake. She also played a rendition of T2’s Heartbroken. All of this under the glow of the beautiful afternoon sunshine by the sea.

Another highlight for us was Loyle Carner, another young talent who has come a very long way since we saw him on the Clearing Stage in 2015. At that time we hadn’t heard of him and in fact we were waiting for the Madlib Carnival when he came on stage with his pal and DJ Rebel Kleff. At the time, he left quite an impression with his energetic performance but this time around it was clear that he had mastered his craft and live performance. His growth in popularity was demonstrated by the fact that the crowd was huge and that they knew pretty much knew all the words to his songs especially for Ain’t Nothing Changed. In the last two years he’s managed to release an Mercury Music Prize shortlisted album which peaked at number 14 in the album charts, sold out a UK tour and become a model Yves Saint Laurent. The Croydon rapper’s intimate and honest brand of music have earned him a loyal following and we’re sure there’s a lot more to come from the 23 year old. His success is a testament to those that curate Outlook Festival; they are able to spot talent before all the huge festivals catch up.

On the Friday night we headed to The Stables for the Boom Bap takeover and caught all of Mr Thing‘s set. Once again proving that he’s one of the most talented and versatile DJs from our shores, his in depth knowledge of music and his technical ability feeds into his unforgettable sets. The festival as always has a very diverse pool of artists, sets and activities as demonstrated by the fact that after Mr Thing, Jonwayne came on stage with a live beat making set. Although we were expecting a live set and had marked his set on our schedule at the onset of the festival based on his impressive performance at the Jazz Cafe earlier in the year, there is a lot to be said for seeing a master bear maker in his element. At this point, it’s also mentioning that during the course of the festival, Outlook also hosts equipment demonstrations by professional music technology companies such as Akai, Native Instruments and Ableton. As well talks with artists to allow them to share their experience with aspiring musicians.

With all the planning and logistical efforts that goes into running a musical celebration such as Outlook Festival, there’s some things you cannot legislate for. In the words Andre 3000, you can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather. In all the years we’ve been drawn to Outlook Festival, the weather has never been that unrelenting. Unfortunately on a few occasions the weather forced the closure of some stages for a a short period of time (lightening storms and tall stages don’t mix). Getting drenched at a music festival is not alien to seasoned festival-goers such as ourselves but when you pack for sunshine it can put a dampener on one’s mood. For example, on the Saturday night The Clearing got locked off for a short time but when it reopened Shy FX lifted our spirits by playing a Bob Marley medley, The Specials and even Chaka Khan. It’s not unusual to get the odd spot of rain at the beginning of September in Croatia with the rest of the time being hot and sunny but this year was particularly wet.

Undefeated by the weather, we still managed to catch P Money and High Focus RecordsFliptrix, Dirty Dike and Edward Scissor who all delivered stellar performances full of energy to warm us up.

It’s clear that Outlook Festival has developed a lot even in the last couple of years. With a more efficient wristband payment system (no more tokens!) and better crowd control measures our time at the festival seemed a lot more stress free. Although we camped, which was not ideal in the rain, the on site facilities are better than you’ll get at any other festival as it’s a year-round campsite anyway. On the musical front, Outlook Festival still delivers the best acoustic experience as far as their sound systems and stages are concerned. From the tiny Ballroom which holds about 60 people to The Clearing, the sound is crisp throughout all the stages even at very loud volumes so pack some decent ear plugs. There’s no doubt we’ll be back to Outlook again, the allure of the beach, Croatia, the sound systems and the incredible artists that perform there every year is too much to resist. Outlook Festival once again proves it’s music festival by music lovers for music lovers. If your taste leans more towards the electronic end of the musical spectrum then make sure to check out Outlook‘s little sister Dimensions Festival which might be more suited to you. Same sound systems, same location but just different music.

Outlook Festival tickets are now available for 2018 (click here) and if you’re quick you can get the early-bird discount. Still not convinced? Check the highlights video below and see if that can’t sway you.

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Fan of rap music and hip hop culture. Highlighting the best of our culture from all corners of the globe from 2012 'til infinity.

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