Last year we took on Outlook Festival for the very first time. Undoubtedly, it was one of the best weeks of our lives and we knew heading into our second year partying in a converted Roman fort in the Istrian region of Croatia that last year would be a tough act to follow. Armed with nous acquired on our bold voyage to Pula 12 months earlier, we set out this year with an expectation that this time we were going to own it. If last year was very good, we were determined to make this year prodigiously good and, thankfully, the organisers more than did their part to help us deliver on that goal. Here are a selection of our highlights from a festival that left us with more memories than a 1tb hard-drive.
The first night of madness, as ever, involved a trip across the water in a boat taxi to the Roman Amphitheater in Pula for the Opening Concert; with performances this time around from ASM (A State of Mind), Slum Village, Iration Steppas and the legendary Damien Marley. Slum Village had a cult following and brought a true hip hop sound which included some of J Dilla’s most famous productions. There were also very touching moments when Slum Village held mini-vigils for J Dilla and Phife Dawg when performing ‘Push It Along’, on which Phife features (who died earlier this year).
Damien Marley performed a well-worked mix of his own music and some legendary Bob Marley tunes to end the night with a feel good reggae vibe. The venue, which had been buzzing before, reached its capacity in the moments leading up to Damien Marley’s entrance and we heard rumblings that this was an Outlook Festival record breaking crowd for the Concert. And that made for a fantastic moment when Damien Marley cheekily remarked “Many of you in here will have heard of my Father. His name was Bob Marley” before launching into his tribute to dad during the set. All in all, the Opening Concert was a level above last year’s and had perfectly set the tone for what was to come by its conclusion. A point not to be slept on was the breath-taking views of the city of Pula and the Amphitheater on the boat to and from the concert – the icing on the cake of a brilliant opening night.
The festival well and truly underway, we headed down to the beach stage to catch Abra. Formerly known as the DarkWaveDuchess on Twitter, Abra’s cult following was in full force in the Crotian sunshine to see her showcase her Indie sound that included her unique off-mic signing style. The crowd went especially wild for the bassy tones of her hit ‘Fruit’. Akala was also on the beach stage that day where he performed more recent politically charged music that is designed to uplift and encourage those who suffer from different forms of discrimination and oppression. A man known to give the people what they want though, Akala didn’t disapoint the crowd and drew for a few classics too such as ‘Bit by Bit’, ‘XXL’ and the ever iconic ‘Shakespeare’.
Also on the beach stage Thursday was the talented Little Simz who did a great job of getting the crowd going. Our only gripe with her performance was that she didn’t have a longer set. Apart from that, she was engaging and entertaining; hitting hard with so much of her work. ‘Dead Body’ had the beach lock off and she managed to form what felt like a deep and genuine connection with her audience through her sound from the off. We can let you in on a secret too: she informed us she is working very hard on her album and is hoping it will be done soon. Watch out for her supporting lauryn hill on tour too.
There was some confusion as to when Joey Bada$$ would be performing due to a misprint on the lineups saying he would be on a day later. Thankfully, app users (an important addition this year alongside wifi throughout the campsite and festival) saved the day and we were still able to make it down to see him persform for the second time at Outlook Festival. The vibe in the clearing was unreal and our favourite songs ‘Paper Trail$’ and ‘Belly of the Beast’ were amazing to hear live. Mick Jenkins also killed it at the clearing “DRINK MORE, WATER!” from Mick’s standout tune in 2014 quickly became the catchphrase of the performance and his energy and stage presence drew in a large crowd as he weaved his way through classics from his albums. There were also a few drops from his new album The Healing Component. Our favourite moment of Mick Jenkin’s performance especially poignant moment when he paid homage to the race issues that plague Black people in the US, it’s refreshing to see a artist who remains in touch with the issues that fans experience daily. Another highlight was A-F-R-O at the stables. AFRO and RA The Rugged were moved to the stables last minute and smacked it performed songs from tales from the basement and went in. A-F-R-O showed everyone just how promising a talent he is and even treated the crowd to an old-school off-the-dome freestyle incorporating items collected from crowd (including our Canon lens cover)!
Kano is undoubtedly one of the best performers that the UK Grime scene has ever produced. Every time he runs up on the stage you know it’s going to be something special. A big part of Kano’s appeal is his ability to never miss a line despite his high octane perfromance style. We weretaken on a journey of London living with ‘A Roadman’s Hymn’ and ‘T Shirt Weather in the Manor’ providing soulful reflective moments in a set full of hype.
Dancehall’s worldwide appeal was shown on two consecutive nights in the void. Both nights had a crazy carnival vibe with The Heatwave spinning certified bangers. All we can say is that the ladies were delivering A1 whines and many guys were unable to handle them.
Lady Leshurr was on top form in the Void and we were pleasantly surprised that the whole crowd knew her bangers. Our highlight was a toss up between when ‘Where Are You Now?’ dropped or when she was handed a toothbrush by a fan during the infamous “brush your teeth” line from ‘Queen Speech 4’. Kahn & Neek and Hi5ghost spun some dirty, base heavy tracks over in the garden with brought out special guests Flowdan, Rikodan, Killa P and Novelist entering the fray to spit tracks over the beats. A certain Bespoke Mag photographer got so gassed he literally nearly threw his camera at one point; that’s how in they went.
Today was the day of the Hot Wuk boat party. The boat party where whines are secured and dreams definitely come true. There’s something majestic about catching a whine to the rawest bashment in the middle of the see with the sun blazing down on you and and a beautiful view ahead (take from that statement what you will). Having done a madness earlier onstage, we expected big things from our favourite boat and they delivered with consummate ease.
Madam X heavily featured in the pre-event press and one of our standout DJs of the whole Festival. Madam X was so live she embodied the spirit of Outlook Festival – hard hitting bass that helped you lose all sense of time. She had a wavy set and then dropped some mad instrumentals for
a few MCs to spit over. CASisDEAD’s cult following included the Kurupt FM crew and dressed in all white and his ever present mask, Cas played some bangers he definitely bumps in his car. When the levels were sufficiently high, he made his grand entrance to spray that unmistakable flow over his own tunes. The performance was something special – the CASteam sprayed the crowd with water and a very sexy heavily tattooed woman literally flew the CASisDead flag to add some theatrics.
AJ Tracey in The Moat was just another exclamation mark on what has been a great year and a couple of days for him having performed on the Boiler Room stage at Notting Hill Carnival earlier in the week. AJ had the Void on a level that only Lex Luger could match throughout the festival. ‘Leave Me Alone’ and ‘Dele Alli’ were our favourites and General Courts was mashing up the decks.
Kurupt FM were the first major act on at the Clearing on the night that was unquestionably the highlight in terms of line-up. We enjoyed their performances of ‘Oh No’ and ‘Shut Up’ especially and the Champers spraying into the crowd was a hilarious throwback to the days of old school garage befitting of their personas. Novelist, Fresh off shutting down the one of the biggest boat party in Outlook, Novelist had the whole crowd chanting “Fuck David Cameron” (how topical *cough* Brexit *cough*) and moshing like it was the end of the world. Nov’s DJ provided the highlight of the set though. He was mixing two tunes in and the beat took him with such force that he threw his headphones across the stage. The tone was well and truly set for the next 2 acts. Having seen Section Boyz smash their performance at Appelsap in Amsterdam we were very excited to see them on a much bigger stage in The Clearing. We were taken aback by how in-tuned to their lyrics the large crowd was and demonstrative of their global appeal (we definitely heard a heavy French accent screaming the lyrics to ‘Trapping Ain’t Dead’ in our vicinity).
Next up was Croydon’s own Stormzy with arguably the grimest perfomance of the entire Festival. Multiple mosh pits and general wild behaviour ensued from the onset post Stormzy’s epic entrance. The opening bars of ‘Scary’ began playing but we couldn’t see him, then as the beat dropped Stormzy ran from the shadows and caught the beat perfectly. As expected, he ran through all of his fan favourites and even the rain didn’t stop Stormzy from having a shutdown set – in fact, the lightning almost seemed to be crashing down from the sky on-beat. It was a madting.
All in all, this year’s Outlook Festival delivered to the same high standard of last year’s. The performances were thrilling and there seemed to be a better representation of rap music which encouraged us as it’s often neglected when it comes to music festivals centered around dub and bass music. From the second we touched down until the second we left the vibe was perfect and even the rain knew to stay away until the very last moment. If we were being picky, the food still needs to be improved on the campsite as finding a good meal still felt like a quest, and we think rap and hip hop could still be better represented by the DJ’s or stages booked as the festival is still a bit overly tilted towards fans of jungle and drum & bass for our tastes. That, however, did not detract from what was a special few days and probably the best festival of 2016.