Europe’s festival season has been heating up over the last decade. The promise of golden sunshine and pounding bass music has attracted flocks of revelers from all over the world to enjoy their festival season on foreign shores.
Perhaps one of the leading names in bass festivals, and the one on the tip of many great artists’ tongues is the notorious Outlook Festival.
Pioneering the way in beachside bass since 2009, and winner of UK Festival’s ‘Best Overseas Festival Award’ in 2010, there are plenty of reasons to jet off and experience the unique, dynamic and mind-altering atmosphere of Croatia’s music event of the year.
This is exactly what I did. In both 2012 and 2014, I packed into a coach, full of rowdy music lovers, and journeyed to Pula to take part in the explosion of history, culture, music and partying of which any good festival comprises.
Perhaps my most poignant and defining memory of Outlook Festival came during my first year there. We’d arrived at dawn, after spending 36 hours on a coach from Manchester in England. At 4 am, with a new-found group of friends, we trawled our belonging across the vast campsite and crammed ourselves into one of the last remaining spots – probably left vacant due to its proximity to the music.
We discovered this when we were lucky enough (sarcasm) to be awakened a few hours later by our own personal alarm clock – a multi-rig system blasting out the first tune of the day one the beach through the fence nearby.
However inconvenient it may seem, as I lay with the sun already beating down on my tent, and the sweet melody of ‘Welcome To Jamrock’ came booming through the canvas walls, I realized the beauty of where I was.
The beach parties are live all day. With massive names on the lineup, the peaceful Adriatic sea at your side and a cool drink in hand, these daytime sessions are epic and enough, alone, to make this festival worthwhile.
Night Time in The Fort
Because of the heat, the main line up doesn’t start until ten o’clock in the evening. The arena, which spreads across an ancient fortress, a picturesque woodland clearing and a peaceful harborside, is situated up on the hill through a winding pathway in the trees.
The first inkling you get of things springing into action is the low rumble of bass, rolling down and engulfing the campsite. As festival-goers make their way towards the noise, the atmosphere transforms; the trippy lighting shows, the booming speakers, the scattered artwork. Arriving at the top of the hill the trees open up into the clearing, where the first stage stands. The road to the left takes you down to the harbor, where two more stages offer massive line-ups and waterfront shenanigans.
To the right is the path to Fort Punta Christo – an incredible 18th-centry structure which, when lit up with 3D projections and strobes, looks more like a castle from a psychedelic other-world. The moat is filled with speakers and the inside rooms mark the boundaries for the remaining stages, giving the ultimate historical free-party feel.
The venue is what sets this festival apart; the atmosphere is unmatchable.
By far one of the most defining features of Outlook, and the reason why it’s a favorite of artist and fans alike is the careful construction of the sound set-up. Commissioning massive names in the sound system culture, rigs are donated by the likes of Iration Steppas, Mungo’s Hifi and Big Toe’s HiFi, and are guaranteed to pack a serious punch.
Further than this, the sound engineers work tirelessly to ensure there’s no bleed between stages and that each arena has exactly what is required to make an ear-orgasmic experience – the pinnacle of which can is the sub-woofer lined moat and the subsequent wall of bass that confronts new arrivals to the stage.
These people know what they’re talking about; they’ve been in the business for years and understand the ins-and-outs of it. While many take Outlook’s soundsystems for granted, the amount of work that has gone into creating the ultimate aural experience should not be overlooked when praising the festival.
Outlook’s boat parties are becoming one of its defining features. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to make it onboard one so far, due to a mixture of reasons. However, the reams and reams of people coming back from them, ensuring me just how severely I’d missed out, is a definite testimony to their success.
Hosted by a variety of big-name labels, each boat has its own unique style, genre, and line up. After boarding, you head out for two solid hours of undisturbed raving on the beautiful Adriatic Sea. The first year I went, one of the boats got caught in the midst of a lighting storm, and those who came back from it could not stop talking about what an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience it had been – as gutting as that was for me.
Although I never made it to a boat party, we did come up with a genius replacement; one of the great benefits of traveling is you learn to be extremely resourceful! Thank you blow-up mattress….
Festivals in Heat
Although festival-ing in the summer sun of southern Europe seems like a dream come true, some obvious factors have to be considered. Without becoming a public service announcement, I feel like I need to highlight these points so future festival-goers can learn from my mistakes.
Aside from the obvious ‘don’t get dehydrated,’ ‘don’t forget to drink water while you party’ advice, there’s another health element that the sunshine requires you consider. With the nighttime lineup running from 10 pm to 6 am, a bass so rattling that lying comfortably on the floor is practically impossible, and the sun transforming your tent into an oven by mid-morning, there’s very little time left to actually sleep.
While some people snooze on the beach or next to their camp, sunburn and sunstroke become obvious enemies. Learning the hard way the first year, on our return we fought our way to find a camping spot with a tiny tree next to it. This tree meant we could sleep in the shade, recover from the night before and not die. If you do plan to go, find a shady spot and guard it with your life!
It’s unfortunate that this needs to be brought up, but if you’re going to survive this festival, you’re going to need to know about it. Whatever poison you chose to enjoy your summer shenanigans with is down to you and, like most festivals, the less legal substances are out in abundance. Sure, it requires a bit extra work to find anything of quality – as many of the more ballsy artists pointed out on stage – but the stuff is there if you want it.
Unfortunately, the Croatian police are also aware of this. It’s debatable whether the drug laws are stricter in Croatia or whether the law enforcement officers are opportunistically abusing their power against ignorant foreigners. However, either way the drug arrests at the festival are severe and numerous.
Obviously the festival policy bans illicit substances, as almost all do, but usually anyone found breaking these rules are dealt with reasonably and humanely. However, in Croatia, stories of people being beaten up and dragged off for smoking a joint are constantly flying around and, after a few individuals I knew fell victim to these attacks, we realized that this was no joke.
Apparently, once arrested, you’re offered the choice between a prison sentence for several years or a significant fine. Fortunately, all the first-hand stories I know of managed to scrape the fine together between them and their friends, but others may not be so lucky. If you’re planning to indulge, be careful: you have been warned!
NOTE: last time I went there was discussion of using solely western security in an attempt to reduce the extremity of these punishments. This change may have happened in the years since I’ve been – ask around if you’re worried!
Outlook Festival is the one. If you’re a fan of bass music, love the sun and are always up for a good time then this is the experience for you. Every year I don’t go I shed a tear as the date rolls by and I’ve failed to get sufficient funds together. It’s filled with a mixture of fantastic people and, for whatever scare story you might hear about it, there are a hundred people who had a genuinely incredible experience. Go! Enjoy! And if you manage to make a boat party, tell me how it was!
Check out my Outlook 2014 Vlog HERE!