Even on the coach transfer from Venice, there was a sense that 2016 was going to be a vintage year for Dimensions. Speaking to the backpackers around me there were revellers from as far afield as Lebanon, Canada, and a promoter from Dubai, all of whom had taken keen interest in the consistently astute lineups, stunning surroundings of Fort Punta Christo and Croatian weather.
Regulars have been returning year on year for the sun soaked boat parties and the intimate confines of Noah’s Ballroom, and that’s not just the ticket paying party punters; Mala, Moodymann and Hessle Audio crew amongs others all made an appearance for the fifth year running. The dedicated crowd and DJs who are affiliated with Dimensions all make the pilgrimage for the sound, setting and programming; basic factors which are often lacking at festivals across Europe but are the bedrock of Dimensions. Who needs fancy decor when you’re dancing in a moat fitted with a wall of Void sound systems?
The policy of booking pioneering forefathers alongside exciting new talent has been one of Dimensions’ strong points since its inception. No doubt helped out by its bigger brother Outlook, which, last year, enjoyed continued success and growth, the headliners were of another calibre for their fifth birthday: Massive Attack, Moodymann and Kamasi Washington was about as indulgent an opening concert as you could wish for, but there was one name on everyone’s lips for 2016, you couldn’t help but hear his name being murmured across the fort, Mr Fingers himself – Larry Heard.
One of the biggest highlights of the weekend was surprisingly preceded by one of the biggest disappointments as The Moritz van Oswald Trio laid down an hour of grooves that were as underwhelming as they were disjointed. However this isolated blip was soon forgotten as the majority of the festival crowded into The Clearing for a joyous celebration of Larry’s back catalogue. Ably supported by Mr White on vocals, they swung through various versions and live edits of classics such as ‘You Rock Me’ and ‘The Sun Can’t Compare’ before finishing to a rapturous encore with ‘Can You Feel It’. The answer was an emphatic ‘yes’, and I spotted a few people crying in the crowd. This may not have been a musical performance as accomplished as Underground Resistance or Roy Ayers in previous years but it was a party that surpassed any headliner in the festival’s history.
From James Stinson to Larry Heard, the spirit of Detroit and Chigaco has underpinned Dimensions, and the presence of Mr Fingers definitely filtered through into his peers performances over the weekend, with Pearson Sound dropping Mr White’s ‘Gimme The Acid’ and Shanti Celeste giving material from Derrick May and Octave One a spin.
The party atmosphere was prevalent throughout the whole weekend, whether it was Soichi Terada playing air guitar during a phenomenal Rush Hour take over at The Void, synchronised singing with Chaos in the CBD, live improv from Byron The Aquarius on our stage on Friday or Mood II Swing dropping Kylie Minogue to close the festival on Sunday.
The more discerning bookings were to be found on the Stables stage, which saw Hieroglyphic Being deliver a masterclass in textured techno to a surprisingly small crowd, Fit Siegel go deep into the D, and Sotofett and Fett Burger try and go one better for the most obscure record during a nine-hour marathon.
Throughout the day the beach stage was also a bastion of good vibes the entire week as they vamped up the programming from previous years with headliners from 3pm onwards every day. Dele Sosimi and Mim Suleiman both lifted everyone’s spirits in the sunshine with energetic live performances whilst Antal and Hunee both drew the biggest crowds with their ever popular funk, soul and Brazilian selections; the latter drawing for his favourite curve ball of 2016 – Phil Collins ‘I Can Feel It In the Air Tonight’.
Where Hunee has a knack for playing cheesy party anthems, DJ Stingray has a knack for playing an electro record every minute at 140 bpm. Entering the chasm of The Moat is almost akin to descending the steps into hell where you’ll be whipped into an eternal frenzy. It is not for the faint hearted. The spirit of Drexciya was in no short supply as Stingray and Helena Hauff cemented their positions as the contemporary tour de force of electro. Never leaving a moment to rest, Hauff pushed weary legs over the finish line, with The Other People Places seminal record ‘Let Me Be who I Want to Be’, a fitting close to the moat just before 6am on Monday morning.
This definitely felt like a pinnacle year for Dimensions, and a wider reflection of the direction dance music is headed. Josey Rebelle (above) in particular summed up the festival ethos on our boat party with a blinding mix of current UK flavours mixed with old Detroit soul and Chicago house. The programming at Dimensions has always been ahead of the game, with one foot in the past and one looking ahead to pastures new. From bringing us Rhythm & Sound to Nils Frahm, many would say it can’t get any better than Larry Heard. Larry Levan? Maybe not, but we’ll certainly be watching closely to see how they can better themselves once more.
Listen back to 200 musical highlights we tracked down from the fort and beach, separated into two playlists to suit the mood.
Dimensions by Day:
Dimensions by Night:
Shouts to our boy Duncan behind the lens and thanks to Mia Zur-Szpiro, Julia Kisray, Harri Pepper, Josh Thomas, Andrew Mensah, Will Edge, Anu Ambasna.