The 264 Cru

a Dubai based music, arts, and culture collective

Dimensions Festival 2016: '5 Years of Dimensions' | Festival Review

Hello Croatia!

With Karak Beats having hosted a diverse selection of artists, it was only fitting that The 264 Cru should play host to the first official Dimensions Festival Launch Party in Dubai. We invited one of Dimensions Festival’s staple acts and Eglo Records head Alexander Nut to headline the event on April 7th and what a party that was. Felt truly festive.

The next step was clear - get the Cru to Dimensions, especially 2016, as it was the festival’s 5th year anniversary… and so we were extremely happy and proud to get set times for 2 of our DJs; essarai and Finlay Lefox. The guys got prime slots on Sunday night of the festival at the badass Noah’s Ballroom. Add to that, we rolled to Dimensions with a 20+ person strong posse, making this festival extra special. That was fun… more on that later.

Let’s start off with a summary on some of the ins and outs of the festival, specifically for ravers planning to go to Dimensions from this side of the world. Dimensions is a yearly festival that takes place in the incredibly scenic Pula, Croatia, in an abandoned fort along the Istrian coast that has been converted into a very unique festival space. The music at the festival is extremely diverse, ranging from Jazz, Neo-Soul and Afrobeat live performances to electronic music across all bpms. Despite this being primarily an electronic music festival, you have plenty of opportunities to catch something totally different, especially during the day on the beach and earlier hours every evening in the fort.

Getting There

Buses

With the festival being in Pula, there are a few ways you can get to the festival grounds. There is an international airport at Zagreb, capital of Croatia, and from Zagreb there are several buses that go to Pula. Duration is about 4-6 hours and they run several times a day between the two cities. Best way is to show up at the bus station once you’ve landed in Zagreb and buy a bus that suits your travel plans. You can even potentially buy them online here: http://www.akz.hr/ , but if you get to Zagreb a day or two before the festival, getting them at the bus station won’t be an issue.

The festival also provides buses to and from several airports, including Zagreb, Venice, Trieste and Ljubljana. While these buses are more expensive, the buses drop off/pick up locations are at the festival site, so if you’re on that horrid “leave right after the festival” schedule, these are probably your best bet. Check the festival site for more info on timings and prices.

Trains

If you’re planning a Euro trip prior to the festival, then you have the option to potentially even get to Pula directly via train. This option is definitely recommended if you have the time as; Firstly, you get into Pula directly without having to deal with airports, changing buses etc, secondly, you get to see the outstanding scenery between Croatia and its neighboring countries and lastly, they are usually faster than buses when covering long distances, and more comfortable. Plus, it’s Europe. Trains best bro.

Ferry

There is one last option - taking a ferry from Venice to Pula. As Italy is smack bang opposite Croatia, there are ferries that go directly from Venice to Pula, and take about 4 hours. Another sick option to explore the Istrian coast on the way to the festival. Look up the ferry schedules, because they don’t necessarily run every day!

 

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TIP: Whichever mode of transport you choose, you will be left in awe of this region’s beauty, and they are all reliable and usually on time, so don’t sweat it!
* Pro Tip: If you’re buying a return ticket, be very careful of the return timing and of duration of the ride back!

Location & accommodation

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As mentioned above, the festival takes place in the Istria region of Croatia, known for it’s pristine coastline, blue and turquoise waters and lush beaches. With the festival being held in Fort Punta Christo in Pula, we recommend you stay in the towns/villages close to the fort. That means, preferably, don’t stay in the city center of Pula, as that will mean a 10-15 mins cab ride to and from the festival every day/night/morning. Expensive, and a pain, especially at 6am after a full night of hedonism.

You can check out all the accommodation options provided by the festival on their website, they have everything from basic camping to cabins and even apartments.

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We went with an Airbnb and locked down the 264 mansion you see above; yeah, ballin. You can use Airbnb, booking.com and several other websites to find accommodation. But move fast, as all the good ones go early.

The main areas you want to stay are in Stinjan, Fazana, Veli Vrh or Valbandon. We recommend either Stinjan (closest town to the festival - walking distance) or Fazana (nice marina and town center area with loads of restaurants serving seafood, Italian and Croatian food). For all the villages apart from Stinjan, you will need to either cab it to the festival, or take the festival buses from designated locations at each of these towns, so take that into consideration.

Yes, you can definitely walk it as well, but after the first day/night of the festival, we can guarantee that will be the last thing you’ll want to do.

TIP: If you go for a non-festival accommodation option, try and communicate with the host BEFORE locking down the accommodation. It’s best to go with someone who knows what’s up and won’t kill your vibe when you’re trying to have a small after sesh. Also best to go with accommodations where the owner doesn’t live in the house/too close, for obvious reasons.

Food and Beverages

The food options at the festival aren’t the most exciting, with a decent selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, ranging from burgers, shawarmas to juice bars for the health freaks. Also planted all across the festival you had several bars, ranging from your standard offerings to specialized Rakija vendors, with the goal to ensure you have a good time.

TIP: Definitely go to the nearby stores and stock up on stuff. A nice fat shopping trip on the first day to one of the bigger supermarkets (like the one near Fazana center) would be a good shout, so that you can stock up on essentials. Trust us, you’ll need them.
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TIP: There are some great restaurants in the towns, and being near the coast, lot of great seafood options. Avoid the tourist traps, ask the locals and get some real grub! Don’t get stuck just eating festival food.

Festival Experience

Opening Concert

Walking up to the Pula Arena in the center of the city, you’re instantly reminded of the rich history of the Dalmatian coast. The old Roman colosseum, a remnant from another era (completed in 68 AD) now plays host to some of music’s most forward thinking champions. The days of the gladiators are over but the arena is imposing as ever and the masses still hungry for blood… err, well… tunes.

Kamasi Washington welcomed us all to kick start the festival with an immense performance, truly setting the stage for the week to come. Drummers either side of the dashiki-clad saxophonist and the full band was a show in and of itself, but the soundscape they created would move anyone. Even if you’re not a jazz fan, this new age trailblazer will leave you in complete awe.

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Act two was none other than the hugely anticipated Massive Attack. With politically charged visual content, the critically acclaimed band shook the 2000 year old arena to its core. All the frills to be expected and then some were on show, it goes without saying that by now it was all too apparent, we were about to have an unforgettable couple of days in this magical place.

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To wind things down or liven it up, depending on one’s plans for the next day, the inimitable Moodymann turned the show into a party with some of his choice cuts and selections. This was something of a double edged sword, too good to miss but also dangerous to go full steam with the actual festival starting the next day. As some less experienced party-goers would learn in the coming days, it pays to pace yourself.

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Main Festival

The main festival grounds are quite large with each stage having its own characteristic identity. The first stage you encounter as you enter the festival is the day-time hangout Beach stage. The perfect environment to go swim in the refreshing Adriatic, crystal clear water, while nursing your hangover with cold beers and juices. Not only was it a great way to recharge your batteries, it was also the stage to sample some of the festival’s eclectic, world class offerings. Some of acts that really left a mark on our faded memories, were Hunee, Antal, Dele Sosimi, Yusef Kamaal and Awesome Tapes from Africa. Yeah, right? Too sick.

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As the sun would set, you would ideally get your night gear on, power up and head back further up the festival grounds into the Fort, where all the night stages come alive. These included The Clearing, The Garden, The (infamous) Moat, The Stables, The Void and the brilliant Mungo’s Hi-Fi stage to name a few. The Clearing is where you would see some main acts blow up the spot, like the amazingly talented Hiatus Kaiyote, who sounded EXACTLY like their records. Nai Palm and her band of Aussie musicians were on point from start to finish and a must-see for act for any future soul fans.

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While we were blown away by amazing acts across all stages; may it have been the nail biting sounds by the likes of Hodge or Swamp81 boss Loefah at The Garden, the perfect warm-up sets by K-15 and Henry Wu at The Stables, Rødhåd’s time warp techno at The Moat, or pretty much the entire Karak Beats alumni at Mungo’s, you’d always find something that tickled your fancy. And man, did we get tickled.

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There are a few mainstays, but it seems like the organizers like to keep things fresh by changing stage layouts and / or adding / dropping stages each year so there’s not a lot of use (and less fun for you explorers) in us describing the whole layout. One thing you should know, it does take time to mobilize between stages, and especially if you're in a decently sized group, you should expect to lose each other for a bit every now and again… but never sweat, there are plenty of friendly people around so take the chance and make some new friends while you're at it!

Of course, there was also the closing night, where our very own essarai and Finlay Lefox played a hour and a half of pure bangers at the uber cool Ballroom, which was a 100 person venue, structured like a hollow column, with the DJ’s perched up in a little box nestled into the side of this column. Safe to say, a perfect spot for the boys to show the world what talents lie hidden in the sands of Dubai. Not only was it a proud moment for The 264 Cru to see our own smashing it at Dimensions Festival, it was a great feeling to look around and see all the familiar faces from our Karak Beats parties supporting their homeboys. Feels.

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Boat Parties

Starting the Dimensions experience with a Hessle Audio boat party was the way most of us planned our first day. Having had a sufficiently large one the night before at the opening concert, the tempo was already set, and who would scoff at the thought of sailing the seas of the Adriatic with Pearson Sound, Pangaea, Ben UFO and Shanti Celeste!? It’s not easy with so many acts on offer to keep up, but it goes without saying that you can’t really do Dimensions without attending at least one boat party.

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The atmosphere, buzz, and beautiful scenery can’t be easily replicated anywhere else so it’s a must do. We suggest afternoon boats because they lead into the sunset; it’s simply amazing to return to the Punta Christo fort to see a myriad of orange, purple and violet shades bathing the rocks and greenery of the site.

The Knowledge Arena

Ok, full disclaimer; none of us actually made it to the Knowledge Arena. And it’s not because we didn’t want to, but because we physically couldn’t. A forward thinking festival offering, Dimensions has an on-site location that has an extensive programme of free-play workstations and interactive workshops, with in-depth panel discussions and keynote interviews with festival headliners and industry experts, including but not limited to Tama Sumo, Lakuti, Byron the Aquarius, Kai Alce, The Bug and many more.

If you can manage to make one of these, be a soldier and do it - especially if you are an aspiring producer/artist, you will be able to take some invaluable knowledge and experience away from these sessions.
 

Favorite moments

Radyous

First heard of Outlook festival back in 2010 when I was planning on going to my first bass festival. What steered me away from it back then continued to do so till date, even though the draw from the plethora of my favourite artists was increasing year after year.

Fast forward to 2014 and my attention diverted to Dimensions, where it’s set at the same great location that I’ve heard so much about from many friends who have been to Outlook, but it catered to a crowd that appreciate diverse types of music. No matter what specific sound you’re mostly inclined to dance to, the Dimensions line-up would most probably have the creme-de-la-creme of that.

Fast forward 2016 and I’m throwing a Dimensions launch party! As the line-up was announced and stage times, my excitement couldn’t be contained, I had Day 1 planned: Hessle Audio boat party and then camp out the whole night at the Mungo’s stage for a ‘Mala Presents’ evening with Kahn, Mala, Om Unit and DJ Spinn. Needless to say, that was the most epic night for me.

Day 2 had some great acts at The Beach stage during the day, but couldn’t make it down there due to some law enforcement issues and ended up reaching the festival to bounce between The Garden and Mungo’s to catch Skeptical, Hodge, Loefah, dBridge, Calibre, and Alix Perez.

I didn’t have any specific acts that I really wanted to see on Day 3, so I floated around the stages that I haven’t been to yet but always reverting back to Mungo’s .. and glad I did for catching Tapes!

With a heavy heart, started Day 4 by finally making it down to The Beach in time to catch Hunee. Day 4 was also the day that fellow 264 Cru members essarai and Finlay Lefox were set to perform! Started off the evening at The 264 Mansion, which was very close to the festival that you could hear the first stage, The Clearing; where DJ Gilla was playing a great set of everything from Thurdercat to Outkast to Mala. Went down to the festival to catch the end of his set and just in time for Hiatus Kaiyote, who were my festival highlight. Amazing performance by all members, especially the drummer and bassist being locked together and on point with all the off beats and breaks. Venture off to catch a tiny bit of Danny Scrilla at Mungo’s before rushing to Noah’s Ballroom to witness 264 history. essarai and Finlay Lefox smashed up the awesome stage located in the heart of the fort and I felt proud to have been a tiny bit part of it. Mungo’s was calling after that, barely catching Sam Binga’s set and then Fracture for my last dance at Mungo’s before heading up to The Clearing for Motor City Drum Ensemble. Was quite a sad feeling trekking all the way there and seeing people leaving the stages all heading to The Clearing for what was the final dance of the festival.

(Traveling grows you as a person, but traveling to a music festival is like a fast forward in your “growth”)

P.S. .. Buy comfy shoes that are well padded and half a size bigger than your feet.

C.O.B

Daytime pool healing, midday beach sessions with live jazz, afrobeat and eclectic music selections, night time ragers with the Cru and extended fam, with 6am sunrise chill sessions back at the pad. Definitely done something good in my life, to have been blessed with this epic continuous cycle of karmic goodness.

essarai

I partied, I played, I danced, I slayed, I crashed. Awesome. Croatia will forever be in my heart.

Finlay Lefox

As a self confessed veteran of croatian festivals, it amazes me to see how the Dimensions / outlook brand has grown and morphed into what it is today, I remember the first outlook festival being just a Dub orientated event, circa 2007 it was all about Dubstep music with artists such as Digital Mystiks, Irations steppers, Benga, Chef, Coki and many others being the main acts at the event.

Fast forward 9 years, and I was back at the same location for Dimensions festival for third time, but this time with a new extended Dubai family of Karak heads and true party people, all squatting in a sick villa which was actually the closest villa to the festival site, so stumbling home was super quick and easy, we even had a pool! - Proper Dubai Balling.

The festival itself for me was a blur and haze of jokes, drinks, banter and great music. One of the stand out sets for me was Klose One who played a live set under his new One One One moniker, with raw stirpped back low end beats with bass music influence. He was followed by one of my favourite producers Hodge, whose set was a trippy, forward thinking techno fixed set. There were tons of other great sets, euphoric moments, fun, games, blackouts, and almost too much to be able to put into words. My only advice would be to go forth and check out the festival for yourself, you will not be disappointed.  

Closing Statement

All in all, this experience at Dimensions festival will remain dear to our hearts for so many reasons. The music programming, stages and sound systems (on land and sea), as always, were exceptionally on point. To add to that, Cru representing on Sunday night and epic hangs with the Dubai fam made this festival trip one to remember.

We highly recommend this festival to any explorative festival junkie, and feel free to hit us up for more tips and tricks!

This year’s Dimensions Festival will take place from the 30th of August - 3rd September, so go NOW to http://www.dimensionsfestival.com/tickets, and start planning that Euro trip. And remember, the Schegen visa process is a bitch, so start early.

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Peace,

The 264 Cru

Written by: Rishabh Chadha (C.O.B) & Danilo Venegas (essarai)

Photography Credits: Marianne Zammaria (@ishootrockstars) and Danilo Venegas (essarai)