For a second consecutive year we were a part of the mightiest sound system festival in Europe - Outlook Festival. Our team was solely represented by me, because my crewmate Alex couldn't make the travel. So, I'll try to revise my experience of the festival in this article. Have patience! It's going to be a long article so feel free to take a drink, light a spliff, play your favorite music before you start reading about my musical trip from Sofia to Pula.
It would be hard to chronicle my runs trough the stages by date, because I've listened to many and many acts trough the festival. Some of them I listened to for a while, the others - almost in full length. But when I count the numbers, there were always more than 10 in one night. Thus, I've decided to separate my voyage by genres, with 2-3 paragraphs for each of them, adding some personal thoughts, quotes and own opinion. And as I've told you, this one is going to be a long article... maybe too long. But it will be hard for me to compress the whole fest in 1 000 words. Normally, when doing an interview, we try to limit our questions up to 10 (or close to this number, depending on the situation). In the honor of our questions and answers tradition, I'll separate this article in then parts, just as our interviews. And, here is the first part of the review:
1. The only good system is the sound system
Stages & sound systems
As stated above, Outlook is a sound system festival, this is why I've decided to kick it off with a short review concerning the stages and some of the sound systems we were glad to experience during the event. Firstly, this year there was no Harbour Stage. The area was not available for use this year and the organizers used the spot as a real harbour where all boat parties used to begin and end at. Just a parties' stop/start point. The role of the main stage was taken by the Clearing. The stage was bigger than it was during the previous edition. The Den was a new smaller stage, just after the Clearing. It has been powered by the OBF Sound System (separated in three sound points), which provided mighty bass frequencies. Neuron and Void Acoustics powered the Garden and The Void stages, and in its returning to Outlook, I have to say that the Void Sounsystem was most powerful than ever. The Forth was separated in four again, and the newest edition of the Scottish veteran Earl Gateshead's Mungo's Hi-Fi was placed at two opposite corners at the Mungo's Courtyard. The Moat was jammed full of bass power again, and the Stables (previously known as Forth Area 1) alongside Noah's Ballroom were areas of many interesting performances as always. Arja's program was given to many domestic acts and there were several Slovenian, Italian, Serbian and local artists there. The Knowledge Arena was used for several workshops and live interviews. Also, the second edition of the Outlook Sound System Culture Conference was held there in the evenings. During the nights the area was transformed to a small stage. At the Beach, Manchester's Dub Smugglers sound system powered the daily program and the boats were sounded by another Scottish brand - Jamie Bostron's Electrikal.
|Another Point of view to the Clearing|
In the last moment there was a switch in the programs between some of the stages, but this was quickly announced on Facebook and the mobile application (really smart idea!). To avoid all the loitering trough the stages in searching of the correct act or label, there were schedules on visible spots and almost all of the Stewards, Staff and Guards were equipped with copies of the updated event program and were always happy to share the information with the few uninformed visitors. Thus, all problems regarding the timetable were avoided quickly and in an adequate way. Now, I'll turn your focus to the music acts of the festival. In the beginning let's say a couple of words about the Opening Concert:
2. Got to keep on walking ...
The Opening Concert
Of course, this track was in the repertoire of the main headliner of the Opening - Damien 'JR. Gong' Marley, but it was adopted as an anthem of our festival trip. From day one (when we first went to the unannounced in the schedule Beach Party and then to Pula), we'd decided to walk the roads on foot. Our daily course was approximately 3.5 km in one direction. And if we add the running between the stages (it is quite impossible and, I can say stupid, to be static at Outlook), the total distance of walking per day equals to about 10 km (3 miles). 'But, you've got to keep on walking ...'. We've walked a lot in Pula too, because we missed the correct juncture and decided to walk in circle trough the center for a half an hour, than to go in straight line for 100 meters in order to reach the Arena (the 2 000 yrs old Roman amphitheater). Simply said, the key of our approach was the walking.
The Opening was opened by a DJ set by Eliphino, which we...missed (walking, bro ...). We arrived in front of the stage when two MCs, supported by a DJ and 3-men brass section, called A State of Mind. The British Live hip-hop project performed in style and was followed by another strong rhyme act - the US rappers from Slum Village. A lot of scratches and old school instrumentals were the proper addition to the classical flows of the MCs. Before and after Jr. Gong we heard Ireation Steppas, who filled the Roman structure with Dub (old and new and many, many dubplates). Marley sang a lot of his tracks and many remakes of his father's evergreens. This edition of the Opening was much more interesting than the previous and the amphitheater was full of capacity. All the acts at the stage completely drove the crowd crazy and the festival started in full throttle.
|Maybe, we are in the middle of the pic :)|
3. "Stop the music, it become colder"
My mom told me that once when she was at my house and I was playing some Dubstep playlist on my PC. I couldn't stop laughing for hours, but she is right in some suspiciously-frightening way. The demonic dark and deep elements of the dubstep can make people feel colder. And I love to feel cold in front of dubstep stages. I am starting my expedition trough the styles on the festival from here because as a dubstep fan in Bulgaria, I can not listen to the genre in the clubs, due to the fact that dubstep is completely dead in my country since October (when the last ubstep event here took place, with Commodo as headliner). And Outlook Festival generally started as a 140-bpm fest (nine years ago) and it's schedule is full of dubstep every year. Yes, this edition was poorer on dubstep than 2015, but the genre was represented by three mighty label nights.
|Mala at the Clearing|
DEEP MEDI's 10th anniversary was held at The Void on Saturday. The stage has been started by the deepest selection of TRUTH which I managed to catch in its last 15 minutes, because the of the Boat Party. Kaiju and Jack Sparrow followed with a dubby b2b as Kaiju represented their new album for the label. Commodo played b2b with Neek, because Gantz was unable to be at Outlook after which their session was followed by the best Dubstep act in my opinion, bringing Mala & Kahn together (more in the next paragraphs). Silkie played the most melodious set at the stage and Goth Trad & Tunnidge closed the party in proper. Contact was strong on Sunday at the Moat too. Egoless played the darkest of his mind, followed by the mighty J:Kenzo. The veteran Hatcha warmed up for Youngsta with old school Dubstep mix and Youngsta himself smashed with his traditional for the festival Birthday set. The man of the night was Benga and the stage was closed by TRUTH (more in the next paragraphs). Bandulu represented their Grimy style at the Garden in Friday and I've enjoyed the sets of label bosses Kahn & Neek and the strong Commodo. There was the Riko Dan session too, but maybe I've missed it when I was changing the stages after Kahn & Neek. At the Clearing, Mala was classy on Thursday, representing his new album. Kode9 was massive at the Mungo's Courtyard on Friday (Hyperdub Night), showing great skills and deep selection. At Arja Croatian 207 played b2b with the Uprise Audio's label boss Seven on Friday. Italians NUMA Crew were represented in full force in Saturday and played heavy dub set (thanks for the CD, guys!).
4. Grimey and Dirty like my hostel room
Grime, Hip-Hop & MC acts
Actually, my Hostel room was kept clean at all times. The people in Amfora Hostel (Fazana) never took a break from keeping the building in order. Great place! When you are booking a place to sleep near Outlook in the last possible moment (never mind, long story), this is the place. But now I'll briefly describe which Grime and Hip Hop acts I heard. Yes, these two styles are generally being juxtaposed , but for the love of the rhymes, I'm putting them in one paragraph.
Speaking of hip-hop, the main force at the fest was High Focus recordings who performed at the Stables in Thursday. The Four Owls and Jam Baxter brought the power of the British hip-hop. The big teen-boy A-F-R-O showed his powerful bars for a while and his mentor RA the Rugged Man made a great common show too at Boom Bap stage (Stables, Thursday). Maybe that was all the rap acts I managed to catch this year. Speaking of Grime, Levelz were loud and noisy and also made a great show. Although they were quite sober than the previous year and that played a bad joke on them :D . At the main stage we heard big names such as Stormzy, Flowdan (representing his new album), Novelist and many more. And at the end of the paragraph I would like to mention some artists which made great individual shows and hosted the biggest nights and acts: Killa P, Riko Dan & Flowdan was massive at Bandulu night at the Garden on Friday; Fava supported Hospitality at the Clearing in style; Sun of Sellah, Crazy D and Rider Shafique were also massive at the Deep Medi (The Void, Sat) and almost all of the DnB sessions were supported by an MC such as SP:MC, Visionobi, DRS and many many more . What really sucks is that in Bulgaria most people are very reserved when it comes to MCs, but if some of thiese mighty performers ever come in here, I dare to say I am sure that the crowd's opinion will turn 180 degrees. The MCs, the rappers and the grimers were all classy and powerful and showed unique rhyme rides and stage hostings that will be long remembered.
Thank you guys! You've made me feel like I am mentally unstable. Even at the best clinics worldwide clients don't get asked so many times a daily 'How are you feeling?'. Joke, of course, but that was the most common question from the mic artists.
5. With the smell of Bettany
|Inside the Moat|
Bettany, in short Bett, was a beautiful English girl I met before the festival. Bett wanted to be in my review, so here she is, in the Garrage section. She always listened to garage from her laptop. And when I say 'always', I mean always. Garage on the phone, Garage on the PC, Garage in the bed. Just like me with the DnB 5-6 years ago. Bett was always on the Garage stages, so when I was there with her, her scent always accompanied me: something smooth and light, a little bit of fruity, mixed with the smell of salt from her sweat and the coastline air. So, maybe in future, I'll always link Garage with Bett and her aroma. Just because I was new to the style and she helped me get into it. She did a lot more as well, but I'll try to stay focused on the music :)
Maybe you'll be not surprised if I told you, that we in Bulgaria don't have a Garage scene. To be honest, many of our youths don't know what the Garage actually is. As an open minded fan, I am trying to be involved in all music styles, descended from dub and reggae. As a bass music fan, I am listen to Garage online, but as a Bulgarian, I don't get many chances to listen to it in the clubs. So, Outlook is one of the few chances that come by where I can really experience and enjoy the genre. And at Outlook there was a lot of Garage acts. On Thursday at The Moat there was the For the love of the Garage night with sets from Jimmy Fe, Erra & Standpast, Masappeals, Jikay, Lex Luger, Mucci and Ganz, which I'd listened with Bett for a while during the lot of the stage changes I'd made that night. At the Hyperdub Night (Friday, Mungo's) there were several Garage sets by Ikonika and Scratcha DVA, too, because the label is open to all kind of Bass music. The veterans Zed Bias and Hatcha were present in the scedule every dayand I got to hear a lot from them. Rhythmic and deep, garage is one of the most danceable genres I've ever heard. Everyone that knows me also knows that I don't dance. But when it comes to Garage, just watch me go :D
6. Back to the roots where the Lion of Judah roars loudly
Reggae & Dub
The Lion of Judah is the symbol of the Hebrew tribe of Judah. After the coronation of the Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie I, the Lion is depicted on the Ethiopian flag between 1897 and 1974. That automatically turned into the beast symbol of the Rastafarian culture, movement and religion. Today the Ethiopian flag uses a blue circle with a yellow pentagram for a National emblem, but the Lion of Judah still can be seen in many red-yellow-green Rastafarian flags (such as the Ethiopian flag during the reign of Ras Tafari - Haile Selassie I). Actually, this is a text, based on several Wikipedia publications. I've never been a Rasta and maybe will never know the real meaning of the Lion for the Rastafarians. But I am always connecting the Lion of Juddah with dub music (because of the flags I've told about). Thus, in my mind, I always imagine that the Lion's roar is the mighty dubby bass from the sound systems, which was the foundation of many of the modern bass music genres. And at Outlook, the Lion roared loudly and the Dub was represented by the mightiest agents in the business.
|Backstage fun at the Mungo's|
Yes, Mungo's Courtyard was the host stage for most of the Dub acts at the festival. And just read the names: the absolute veteran Mad Professor (one of the pioneers in the Dub Music), Chanel One (pioneering Jamaican label), Earl Gateshead (founder of Mungo's Hi-Fi), Jah Shaka (founder of the pioneer British-based Jah Shaka Sound System), OBF (founder of OBF Sound System), Irration Steppas, and the very Soundboys from the Mungo's Hi-Fi and Dub Smugglers. The saddest thing is that most of our Bulgarian readers know nothing about the dub, despite our frequent publications and the numerous events, organized by the local reggae organizations. Maybe these readers will never know the power of the old dub sound and will never pay respect to the style, but the more educated fans maybe bristle when they read powerful mighty list of names. And those veterans made huge sets. Maybe not as technical as some modern styles, but with strong power and mighty legacy in the represented artworks.
Reggae artists did perfectly too. On Thursday Kabaka Pyramid smashed at the Clearing (by the words of my companions on the trip). Prince Fatty opened the stage with the mighty support of Horseman. Milion Stylez performed a mighty show as well and his evergreen 'Miss Fatty' making the crowd scream the refrains alongside him. The reggae vibe was more emphasized on during the sunny hours at the Beach and the nightly acts were just a few. But as few as they were, they were absolutely peremptory on the stages.
7. And the Jungle is massive
Drum and Bass
'First we've called it Hardcore Breackbeat, then there was the Tech-Jungle to become a Jungle and now we have the thousands of sub-genres of Drum and Bass' - or something like this said Rony Syze at the Sound System Conference
In 2016 there were plenty of DnB acts at Outlook. Mainly, because of the anniversaries of some fundamental labels in the genre's history. Playaz turned 20, Dispatch - 15, MedSchool only 10, but they were supported by the powerful sister label Hospital. And this jubilees deserved to be celebrated in style. Maybe EXIT Records' Stage (15 years anniversary) would be the perfect addition to the list, but the label smashed the fest in 2015 and this year dBridge's imprint wasn't in the line up. The DnB program started with Metalheadz at the Garden on Sunday. Yes, they didn't have an anniversary ...(this year), but the artists of the label had a lot of new sound to represent. Dom & Roland presented (as many critics say) the DnB album of the year. Onemind did a live session, supported by Rider Shafique. Doc Scott was as diverse as always with loads of new material from his own label 31. Lenzman and Commix played the crowd's favourite Liquid DnB and Scar did splendidly as well (although I didn't catch much from him).
|Void Acoustics' speakers|
Dispatch and MedSchool closed the program on Sunday at The Void and Garden. Zero T b2b Amoss opened for Dispatch with some stage troubles in the beginning. They were followed by the massive selection of Sceptical b2b Alix Perez. Dub Phizix & Strategy did great in their crazy way. DLR presented his new album and Ant TC1 walked us through the full history of the genre by playing some stone-cold classics, freshly delivered in the company of newer tracks. Again, I missed Scar, because I was afraid to leave The Moat. Re-entering Benga's set would've been hard, so I stayed on the Contact stage until I reached my limits. Med School night was opened by Bop with his minimalistic selection, followed by the massive b2b session of veterans BMT & Royalston. That were the only two acts I heard, because of the events on the other stages. Sadly I missed Playaz (Garden) and most of the Hospitality (Clearing), because of the Deep Medi night on Saturday, but was able to catch a bit of Nu:Tone b2b Logistics and SPY, yet it was not enough to include them in the review.
|David Rodigan - a legend!|
There was a big list of DnB and Jungle acts at the Main Stage, as well. David Rodigan was attractive in his radio hosting style with a lot of talks to the crowd and an interesting old school selection. Goldie MBE made the best DnB set at the Clearing by my opinion. Noisia and Andy C did well, so I've heard, but decided not to visit their acts. Yeah, they are great artists and mastermind producers and their work is fundamental for the modern DnB, but I'd leave them for the teens. The main purpose of my trip to Croatia was to listen to as many new and interesting artists as I can and both projects were not on the list. Man, they were in Bulgaria three times ... And, to be honest, I am a bit of tired of their style and full-of-bangers selections. Mighty Junglists Roni Syze and Congo Natty (and his Congo Dubz) smashed the Clearing in the early hours of Saturday morning. At the smaller stages there were strong DnB acts too. Safire smashed with his Liquid set at Noah's on Friday (maybe the best Liquid set overall) and Signs added some fresh Neurofunk on the stage on Thursday. At Arja there was a lot of DnB, played by several artists from the region, but Billain and Hallucinator had the strongest acts. Maybe this was the most-DnB-orientated Outlook ever, but maybe no one had a problem with this.
8. Some bitches, some booty
Boat & Beach Parties
Okay, 'some Beaches, some Boatie'. Actually I visited only one Boat Party, but this was the most diverse Boat I've ever visited. It was hosted by Hyperdub and supported by Teklife. First, two of the Teklife DJs made a very interesting b2b, based on techno and house patterns with a lot of grime and dubstep interposes. Without any delay, afterwards behind the decks was Scratcha DVA & Ikonika, who took the vibe to the garage side of it and the 3-hours boat trip was closed by the demonic vibes of Kode9. The interesting moment was that the routs of the boats were longer than the previous year and the party platforms weren't as static as in 2015. At this very boat party I decided to start my coverage and wrote the first words. Strange place for doing this, but I felt some muse boost at the open sea.
At the Beach there were several strong daily events. First, on Wednesday, there was Mungo's Hi-Fi and Dub Smugglers who held the situation near the fort during the opening concert, but we only stayed for a while. On Thursday the main event at the Beach was ASM, supported by several other acts, yet we were once again unable to reach the fiesta. Friday and Saturday were mostly reggae days with performances by Prince Fatty, Twinkle Brothers (or Brother, because only one of the frontmen was able to perform at Outlook), Dub Smugglers and Gentleman's Dub Club on Friday and Harleighblu (mostly Jazzy & Soul), Mungo's, Taiwan MC, Swindle on Saturday. Those two afternoons were full of positive emotions and the crowd was so excited, completely forgetting of the heat at the Croatian coast. The strongest event, however, in the daily schedule was on Saturday when the Liquid DnB label Soul:R held their Soul:Ution event. DLR opened the stage, followed by the live band performance of DRS, the label boss Marcus Intalex and the Irish mastermind Calibre. The Beach was completely packed and that gave the start of the strongest night of the festival - the rainy Sunday.
|Swindle at the Beach|
9. Close to the end
According to the info the illegal taxi driver near the fest gave us, there were approximately 18 000 visitors at Outlook this year. Although we don't have any access to the official statistics, I am going to agree with the guy. By my opinion Hatcha was the man of the festival. He played 6 (or more sets) in 3 different styles (mostly Garage, Jungle & Dubstep) and was part of the schedule during all days of the event. Zed Bias was hyperactive too, but his sets was strictly Garage, so I am giving the crown to Hatcha. But there is no surprise that the very two artists closed the Main Stage on Sunday with 3-hours b2b session. Swindle made the best set at the Festival at The Void on Thursday, mixing at least 5 different bass music styles - ranging from the dark dubstep to the danceable garage, Swindle played everything. My favorite Dubstep was represented by several of the mightiest artist of our time, but Kahn & Mala made the greatest performance of all deep 140 bpm acts with their oldschool strictly-vinyl back2back, supported by the almighty Flowdan at The Void (Deep Medi 10). The drum and bass act of the acts was courtesy of Royalston & Blu Mar Ten at the Garden (MedSchol 10) with heavy selection, proper mixing skills and great vibes among the crowd.
Best moment of the festival was at The Moat. Benga made his returning to Outlook and almost half of the visitors wanted to listen to him. The queue at the entrance was long and there were a lot of people who tried to jump over the fences in their attempt to avoid waiting. The security was solid and didn't allow that to happen. The Moat was full and Youngsta was still on the stage. The guards counted the number of people entering and leaving every second and controlled the flow before the steps. This was the first time I was unable to enter the stage at once. My Press Pass allowed me to enter trough the exit in my haste to catch as much artists as I could for my coverage. But in this situation my VIP attributes did't help me immediately and I had to wait about 10 minutes before the exit gate. After the security allowed me to enter I managed to catch the end of Younsta's (Birthday) set (after I've leaved the stage a few minutes ago to go to other label night). And then Benga appeared, supported by another veteran Sgt Pokes. The two of them made a huge session. Not the best, but the most interesting. The Moat was full of capacity leaving no free space alongside the whole length of the stage. You couldn't even look at your shoes without bumping at someone. And all of us went crazy with the stage performance in front of us. At the end of the show, it started raining (for a third time this night) so hard, that almost all stage visitors ran to the stairs to climb for the exit. That, of course, blocked the passage thus, making it impossible to exit the Moat in the next 10-15 minutes, so me and Bett stayed in the rain, wet to the bones and cold of the wind, listening to TRUTH and waiting to the end of the festival to go to her place for the last goodbyes. The rain, however, didn't stop falling until the duo's set was almost over . Great moment!
|Hands in the air for all the names in this paragraph|
So, here is the end of this long publication (sorry about that) and here is the moment for give a 'Thanks' to all the people, that helped me to visit the festival and made my review. First I want to thank to my teammate M34K(AAA) (Alexander Angelov), who translated and edited all the pre-event articles so that we got approved as a media partners of the festival. Then I want to thank the International Press manager Amy Barlow for the chance to cover Outlook for the second year in a row! Thanks, Amy, you are a legend! Then I want to thank to all my companions in this voyage: the ZionLions Soundsystem member Kappa Irie (Kiril Aleksiev), Gabby, Kiky, Boby, Tsvetan, Stela and at last but not the least - the driver of our car - Georgi. Great trip, guys and girls! Thanks a lot! Thanks to all the readers that reached the bottom of this short novel. Thanks, Bett! You gave me a reason to love Garage. And, finally, thanks to the editor of my broken English publication (tag yourself bellow, bro)!
DutZie (Dobri Andonov) - Author
M34K(AAA) (Alexander Angelov) - Editor
Photo credits: Dan Medhurst Photography