After having witnessed the rise and (very quick) fall of what was meant to be Bloc Festival in London earlier this summer, I must say that I was a little apprehensive about coming to Dimensions. Sure, this newcomer on the scene was organised by the experienced team behind award-winning Outlook Festival, but could they handle the up-sizing without any major teething problems?
Dimensions take place in the same abandoned fort on the Croatian coastline that has been the home of Outlook for the past five years. I dare to say that the location is one of the best things about this festival. If you’re camping, when you wake up in the morning (if you ever went to sleep, that is) because the sun has risen and is making you sweat through your sleeping bag, you simply roll out of your tent, grab a towel and make your way to the beach. In Glasgow you never get to realise this because we live in constant apocalyptic rain, but there’s nothing to cure a hangover and make you feel human again like crystal clear waters, a gentle sea breeze and some general good vibes. Day-time at Dimensions is all about the boat and beach parties. Six boats left the harbour every day and the music rarely stopped at the beach, with enthusiastic day-time ravers bouncing in the large sandpit under a DJ booth shaped like a large ship. The beach became the place to be in the day, whether you wanted to snooze in the shade, chill with a drink in one of the bars or dance under the hot sun.
Come night time, festival revellers make their way up to the main venue for this 4-day party: the Fort Punta Christo. Built in the eighteen hundreds, the fort is a truly breath-taking place with big stone walls, stairs, dungeons, moats and towers. The strategically placed stages make use of all the areas, with the main stage located between two huge, sound-insulating brick walls. It’s not far to walk between the stages, yet they all feel clearly separated and sound pollution is very low. The site also features a chill-out area with drink and food stalls, a shisha bar and plenty of places to relax. In addition, the place is visually stimulating with light shows, festival flags, art work and decorations throughout.
Music-wise, Dimensions has more of a niche than Outlook does. There’s a lot of house and techno, however several of those in the bass music genre who played Outlook also stayed for Dimensions. The GUM Dimensions preview featured many DJ’s who’ve played in Glasgow in recent months and out of the ones I managed to catch live, no-one disappointed. First of all, the sound system at all stages was as good as promised. Electronic music and sound systems go hand in hand, so it was nice to see that the Dimensions organisers made an effort to get this right. Eliphino played a set heavily influenced by his hip-hop roots, with a queue quickly forming to the small stage where he was performing. Blawan’s set on the other hand felt very much appropriate for the 4.30am crowd still going strong, far from his more danceable ‘Getting me Down’ the crowd instead went crazy bouncing up and down to the more heavy ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?’ – a tune that has been named the unofficial anthem of the weekend by Resident Advisor. Headliner Theo Parrish played a more eclectic set which was welcomed by the crowd, with people queuing outside and even crawling under the fence to get in. It’s nice to see that someone who’s been on the scene for such a long time is not afraid to play some more mainstream stuff. The Mungo’s Arena was always crowded and especially banging was perhaps the Friday night with Pearson Sound, Loefah, Ben UFO and Zed Bias amongst others.
Since Dimensions is in its first year and since the music has a smaller, less mainstream fan base, the numbers are down compared to Outlook from 15k to about 5k. Now, I have never been to Outlook before but I wouldn’t have wanted three times as many people on the site. At Outlook the festival venue itself is slightly bigger, the campsite and beach however remain the same. Dimensions was the perfect size – it was busy, but not crowded, some queues happened for the main stages but nothing too bad. To me it seems like Dimensions is the right kind of size for the site itself.
There were a couple of things that annoyed. The festival had its own currency, a perfectly acceptable system that allows festival goers to swap cash for little plastic tokens to be used in the shops, bars and restaurants. There was however no way to exchange tokens back for actual money and after the last day, with many people still on-site, the drink and food places stopped accepting the tokens without any clear prior notice. This left some people with useless bits of plastic and no way to get their money back or spend them. Information in general was lacking, with quite a bit of confusion as we arrived. Timetables were rare like little pieces of gold (they also cost the equivalent of 7 euros) and the people who managed to get a hold of one held on to it for dear life.
Although predominantly British, Dimensions had a more European feel than you might have expected. I also don’t know if it’s the music at Dimensions and the people it attracts, but the whole festival had an extremely friendly vibe to it. I saw none of the horribly drunken daytime antics sometimes spotted at festivals, people being sick on your tent at 11am or shouting abuse at strangers. The food and drink places all had locals working in them and it very much felt like the local area was being preserved and looked after throughout the event. The campsite was kept clean and there were always volunteers with high-vis vests around. In addition to its cleanliness, the campsite also had everything you might need in terms of personal hygiene. To me these things matter – being able to do a week at a festival showering almost daily and only having to use a portaloo once or twice to me is pretty much a dream come true. Internet, although painfully slow, was also available. On the whole, definitely the most comfortable camping experience I’ve ever had.
All in all I can congratulate the Outlook/Dimensions team on a very successful festival. Overall, things ran smoothly and there were smiles all around. See you in 2013!