About This Festival
Held annually in a former naval fort in northwestern Croatia, as well as on a small, adjacent beach and aboard several party boats, this celebration of underground electronic music was first held in 2007. Initially organized by a group of British nightclub owners, largely hailing from Leeds and all devoted to sound system pulsation, Outlook has remained a draw mostly for young Brits looking for a loud, thumping and friendly party.
The largest festival of its kind in Europe, Outlook has grown to attract upwards of 15,000 dub heads, junglists, skankers and d’n’b dons who come to bounce, sway and fist-pump en masse along with their favorite electronic/techno/house/rap/dubstep/dancehall artists from the UK, America, Jamaica and more.
The Lineup, from Lo-Fi to Hi-Fi
The message of Outlook is that much of today’s bass-heavy electronic music owes a debt of gratitude to the island of Jamaica. The festival’s manifesto suggests that without the influence of Jamaica’s reggae and dub music explosion back in the 1970s, modern electronica wouldn’t sound even half as funky.
Outlook honors the stylings of the original Jamaican artists, but also celebrates their beats’ current translations in the UK, the United States and present-day Jamaica. These modern acts and producers tend to take an independent production and distribution path, founding their own recording studios and labels; many electronic artists/producers join up with friends and colleagues to form “sound systems,” or groups of DJs, recording engineers, and MCs. Several of these sound systems, including Glasgow, Scotland’s wildly popular Mungo’s Hi-Fi, tend to have a strong musical presence at Outlook.
In addition to sound systems, this year’s festival roster included performers like American hip-hop/rap duo Run The Jewels, hip-hop supergroup Jurassic 5, Badbadnotgood, and reggae band Gentleman's Dub Club. A handful of artists will be representing the growing Balkan Dub scene, including Zagreb duo Dubble.
Several Stages of Excitement
The center of the Outlook action, Fort Punta Christo, was once part of a network of neighboring peninsular fortresses built by the Austrian Empire in 1863, when Pula was a powerful Habsburg-ruled port city in need of naval reinforcement. Punta Christo has long since fallen into ruin, creating an evocative backdrop for laser-projected graffiti art and the reverberations of heavy bass.
Large sections of the fortress, like a sunken ballroom and a 1,200-capacity open-air arena, are transformed into festival stages with cutting-edge sound equipment and dramatic, color-shifting lights. Outdoor dance “floors” include a heavily-reinforced bayside dock, as well as The Clearing, a forest glade barely paved with a crumble of ruined stone and matted grass, meant to accommodate the rhythmic fervor of 3,000 frenzied human beings trying to keep up with 150 beats per minute.
One of the last remaining tunnels from a large warren that ran beneath the fortress network, the Dungeon is the festival’s only underground stage, an echoing space reserved for upbeat rave sets. Conversely, just outside the fort entrance, a wide green lawn called The Garden provides a little open air for those who need a (relatively) quiet breather.
Set Sail and Bust a Move
For each day of Outlook, the festival kicks off at midday with a mellow party spreading out on the nearby ribbon of golden-sand beach. While hung-over festival-goers scarf down barbecue, sandwiches and various libations (ranging from simply hydrating to hair of the dog), DJs spin a soothing selection of reggae and electronica from breezy tents. Gear for snorkeling and other water activities is available for rent, and swimming is safe in the clear, warm teal-blue water. Festivities continue ‘til sunset, when the party moves toward the fort – or takes to the open water.
Separate tickets are required for party boats, which sail both day and night and feature DJ decks, state-of-the-art speakers and full bars. Not for the claustrophobic, these mid-sized pleasure vessels are packed to the hulls with happy, rave-dancing crowds (often shirtless or in bathing suits) who only get more fired up as the drum’n’bass gets to pulsing. Sponsored by various sounds systems and record labels, these boat parties are rare opportunities to get close to both emerging and already-famous artists while soaking up some Istrian Peninsula sunshine or toasting the area’s soft, pink sunsets with a plastic cup of cheer.