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Eight things that made Outlook 2015 great

Croatia, Croatia!

  • Words: Seb Wheeler & Dave Turner / Image: Dan Medhurst
  • 16 September 2015

Now in its eighth year, Outlook's a staple of the European festival calendar. One of the first dance music weekenders to make home in Croatia, it's known for its crazy fort location, towering soundsystems and dedication to reggae, dubstep, grime, drum 'n' bass and jungle.

It's fostered a dedicated following of bass heads who make something of a pilgrimage to the event from across Europe and North America. And with good reason: at Outlook, you'll experience soundsystem music like no where else in the world. DJ EZ on the beach? Check. P Money, Big Narstie, Stormzy, Newham Generals and Novelist touching mic on the deck of various boat parties? Check. Youngsta totally dominating a huge, custom-built Void soundsystem beneath a clear, star-filled Croatian night sky? Check. It's holiday nirvana if you like your ribs to rattle.

So, what changed this year? Well, the last time we visited Outlook, grime crew Butterz had a few sets and a boat party. This year, Elijah and Skilliam's squad hosted their own stage (The Clearing, with Logan Sama's Keepin It Grimy), as well as taking to the high seas, and played their brand of music to thousands of raving people, which was amazing to witness; similarly, the Critical soundsystem dominated a sunrise main stage set that sent a huge crowd absolutely ballistic; the beach stage seemed rowdier than ever; two small areas, Arija and The Garden, provided some of the festival's most intimate moments; the previously mentioned Void system was an event in itself and the beach bars peppering the coast down from Outlook's official campsite seemed more keen than ever before to provide a bubbling after-party vibe. What hadn't changed? Well, the expensive on-site food, which has never matched the UK's boutique standards (tough-as-cardboard pizza, anyone?!) and warm mixed drinks sans ice or lime (connoisseurs would be advised to check out the local offsite bars and restaurants). And while there were some genius curation moves, there were also some massive billing pile-ups, meaning we just couldn't see everything (Critical, Deep Medi and Butterz x Keepin It Grimy stage takeovers all clashing on the Thursday night, for example).

But, all in all, it was a fucking good time. So here are eight of the best bits.

1 DJ EZ on the beach

It's Thursday afternoon and the first day of the festival is in full swing. What better way to go from sun-kissed to dangerously hyped in 60 seconds than watching DJ EZ do his thing on Outlook's lush beach stage, which hosts a slew of up 'n comers as well as a few marquee bookings (Norman Jay, Hatcha, Mungo's HiFi, Seven Davis Jr). The stage, with it's raised, nautical-themed booth, fat system and sandy dancefloor is right next to the beach and an expanse of sparkling blue Croatian water. It's the perfect place to listen to EZ do his thing, quick-firing through grime, garage and bassline like the hardcore continuum's equivalent of Jeff Mills. A highlight is Royal T's 'I Know You Want Me', which goes careering into Maxwell D's 'Serious', causing the first big reaction of his set. And then there's his finishing move, during which he teases the bassline of 'Seven Nation Army' before dropping a blend of 'Anti War Dub' and Jack Ü and Bieber's collab 'Where Are U Now?' The man's a genius. And so is this bit of festival curation, which sees EZ play during the day as well as late at night (as part of a Butterz x Keepin It Grimy takeover of The Clearing stage) and ranks alongside other neat tricks like allowing Moodymann to close the festival (see below), booking an 'Acid Ragga' set from The Bug and letting Big Narstie loose on the Adriatic Coast.

2 Stormzy on a boat

If you've been keeping up with his Wicked Skengman series on YouTube you'll know that Stormzy, aka Big Mike, aka #theproblem, is quite the delivery man when it comes to freestyling. 'Shut Up', his palm-off to wannabe MCs over Ruff Sqwad's 'Functions On The Low', has apparently become the "most watched UK freestyle online, ever" and, judging by the rapturous reaction that it got when dropped on the Bandulu Records boat party, we can see why. Obviously 'Know Me From' had an outing as well, along with other bangers, with the South London MC oozing confidence as his DJ, Tiny, dropped riddim after riddim.

Kahn & Neek, Hi5 Ghost and Boofy bossed it beforehand, too, traversing between rugged grime and old-skool garage, with Killa P and Flowdan running the game on mic. "Bandulu! Bandulu! Bandulu!" went the chant, but there was nothing criminal about their tunes whatsoever. Especially the instrumental of Southside Allstars' 'Southside Riddim'. Nothing beats sinking cans of lager and listening to grime on a boat.

3 Mungo's Arena

What. A. Place.

If you've got an inch of desire for big, warm soundsystems, this high-walled enclosure is the place to deliver your audio pleasure. Run by Glasgow soundsystem crew Mungo's Hi-Fi, we witnessed some real, royal dub and dubstep here courtesy of Mungo's themselves, Kahn & Neek's Gorgon Sound alias and the Deep Medi crew. With one stack of speakers at the front and a tower at the back, we thought it'd be clever to mooch by the latter, only to be forced to move through insane low-end pressure as the dub sirens, trumpets and booming bass spewed out. Notting Hill Carnival may have been the week before Outlook started but, through the amount of dreadlocks on show, we couldn't help but feel like we were still engulfed in the London street party. Just with some Adriatic warmth.

4 The Deep Medi squad

It was a pleasure to watch the Deep Medi crew roll through Outlook. It's rare that you'll see them – label head Mala alongside Kahn, Compa, Commodo, Gantz, Jack Sparrow, Truth and Kaiju – all together in one place. And when that one place is a festival equipped with stunning sound and jaw-dropping locations, things are only ever going to go off.

The squad held a showcase at the Mungo's Arena on Thursday night, with Mala turning out one of his near-religious performances. Kahn also made a statement by appearing with three MCs: P Money, Flowdan and Killa P. It's something we'd not seen him do before and it felt like he was using his slot here to challenge himself as well as present the Deep Medi faithful with something truly special to savour. Gantz also went full ham, unleashing an eccentric set of highly-rhythmic tracks that all felt as if they could unravel into chaos at any time. He played SD Laika's 'You Were Wrong', which kind of blew our minds too.

Then there was the Deep Medi boat party, which promised three hours of b2b action from Mala, Compa, Kahn, Commodo, Gantz and Jack Sparrow. The five artists kept the vibe at a peak for the duration, with Commodo's own productions in particular getting some huge reactions. He also played HudMo's 'Chimes' which went off and is something of a Commodo party trick.

Dance music trends have totally swept past dubstep but it was grin-inducingly fun to get back among it all at Outlook and the Deep Medi troop prove that the sound is still so, so essential.

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