Assessing the elderly man in a waistcoat, luxuriously dining on a lunchtime bottle of wine and an avacado salad at the table next to us in the non descript airport cafe, I splurted loudly (by this point content in the knowledge our London twangs were undecipherable to your average Italian or perhaps simply beyond caring), “This matey’s definitely on his way back from a checkers tournament”. After a short pause, one of my two travelling amigos piped up, “The bre here looks like an action hero star, he’s about to take three to the chest piece in order to save our lives, trust me”. “But who’s the villain?” came the third voice, and it wasn’t long before we’d picked out a beast of a specimen with a shining silver mane who looked like he could crush a diamond between his pinkies.
In short, twenty seven hours in an Italian airport will do strange things to a man’s mind, especially one with no money, his brain already seeping out of his ears after six days of rawkus bass fueled bodily abuse. Never has so much waffle been spoken. Never have three foreigners received so many ice cold stares. Never has an airplane full of people been so desperate to vacate for the sake of their ear drums. Perhaps I should start at the beginning….
“I think I might be turtle necking” shouted one of the In Reach family sitting next to me as our Boeing-747 rumbled through stomach churning turbulance, lightning flashes piercing the clouds outside the window, but it wasn’t long before we’d bumped down onto the landing strip and were jumping into a cab from Venice Treviso airport. After a short stay in a roadside hostel where we could literally feel the lorries careering past and feel the breeze flowing in through the rubble someone had smashed through with a jackhammer to create a makeshift hole for the air conditioning duct, followed by a couple of buses (gratis might I add), we were waiting for our coaches to transport us into Croatia for the mighty Outlook festival. Here came the one negative experience of the festival; ruthlessly picked out of the line, I was forced to fill the final seat on another coach, split from the clan. As if to twist the knife, the coach I wasn’t even supposed to be on broke down, creating hours of pandemonium, phoneless and trying to find the rest of the crew on arrival. Nevertheless, if that’s as bad as it gets, I’ll take it.
Walking into the campsite under the setting sun, something that was luckily a constant force throughout the festival, it didn’t take us long to find the rest of the gang and jump in a dodgy cab, drunkenly slurring something about taking us to the Amphitheatre in nearby Pula so that the the hazy chaos that was Outlook 2013 could officially get under way. If a Roman Amphitheatre even half the size of Pula’s existed in England, we’d no doubt be walking around it in daylight, rigidly obeying ‘keep off the grass’ and ‘no climbing’ signs as scrunched nosed officials examined our every move. But there we were, kicking up dust in an ancient relic as Grand Master Flash pumped out classic after classic, one minute shaking the walls with the rawkus bass of Dead Prez’s Hip Hop, the next prompting a sea of euphoric raised hands as he expertly cut in soul classics such as The Jackson 5′s I Want You Back, all the while hyping the crowd through his mic. For me though, what truly suited the epic, concert like, surroundings of the circular arena was The Wailers, running through a choice selection of their own joints as well as Marley classics, occasionally slowing things down to let the band jam as each member showed off an expertise of their chosen craft. Paapa Nyarkoh’s drum section was a true feat of nature and encouraged a healthy stomp in an otherwise mellow set. Despite technicals for a while, with the band eventually simply playing through darkness as the house lights failed, it allowed me to take a moment to look around and appreciate the venue for it’s true spectacle, it’s incredible arches silhouetted in a navy sky as lighters rose in the crowd.
The next day I was somewhat disapointed to find that the beach area was cordoned off meaning that, unlike in past years, you couldn’t take alcohol onto it. This seemed like a bit of a stinker as what made the festival so vibey in the past was chilling on the beach with supermarket beers, knowing you didn’t have to rinse through too many funds till the evening. Nevertheless, anything’s swiftly forgotten when you’re lying back in the Croatian sun or swimming through crystal clear water. While the clash between the two beach systems was doing no wonders for my hangover for a while (I just can’t help beatmatch two systems in my head, it hurts my brain), careful choice in regards to the beach plot sorted that out, and the epic slush puppy (affectionately renamed Purple Dank) that was for the rest of the festival elusive (something about the machine), froze the hangover before shattering it into tiny pieces. Besides, copious amounts of dog’s hair and an overdose of entertainment is without a doubt the best hangover cure, something that was in abundance on Thursday night with a choice lineup across multiple stages that left me unsure what to do with myself.
Our first taste of the main arena, changed slightly from previous years with the Dock stage being replaced by one called ‘The Clearing’ back up near the fort (a welcome amendment for tired legs), saw artists such as Joey Bada$$, Alborosie, Skeptical and D Bridge provide us with an eclectic medley of the finest music. Then DJ EZ did what he does best to a packed 4am crowd and Dr. Syntax and Split Prophets finished a off night that took us from hip hop through reggae, d&b, garage and all the way back again. Seriously, you’ve only got to look at the lineup for this festival to know how good the music is. D&B was out in full force throughout all the stages over the weekend with Dispatch, Exit, Symmetry and a whole host of other dons of the 170 tempo, while Hip Hop held it down from the UK to the US, Garage made a very welcome comeback, dub music survived the screeches of the past few years to return to it’s bass fueled self and the likes of Bonobo, Submotion Orchestra, and Gentleman’s Dub Club provided an added element of variety that topped off probably the greatest musical lineup I’ve ever had the pleasure to bare witness to.
A particular highlight included a serene Submotion Orchestra set leading into the rowdiness of The Pharcyde, playing an eclectic selection completely different to that which I’d previously seen on their Bizzare Ride II tour, also out to the Tuesday Club DJs who fully smashed the warm up. The High Focus showcase standardly held it down; in the interest of not continuously repeating myself by saying how dope that crew is, check my Boomtown Fair review for the full lowdown on that. Task Force (short of Farma G but with the addition of his son Remus) followed shortly after and any appearance from Chester P is always cause for celebration, while LTJ Bukem’s set to near enough close things up on the Sunday night was exceptional. Beyond the obvious names on the lineup though, what’s so incredible about Outlook is the sheer scale of it, in the rare case of downtime you’ve only got to stroll into the Dungeon to be greeted by dark d&b rolling round the sweat soaked walls of the dingy room, or pop down into the Moat, one of the greatest stages in existence where speaker stacks stretch back seemingly endlessly. And that’s just the night time.
By day, when we weren’t missioning into Pula to sample the local sea bass, flick through vinyl on the streets and slap the town silly with stickers, we caught Artful Dodger adding to the sunshine vibes with garage classics and a welcome ammount of cheese, Rag N Bone Man’s booming vocals singing sweet soul tunes over sun soaked heads and Kutmah smoothly blending trip hop and hip hop head nodders. As if that wasn’t enough, we jumped on the Swamp81 boat party as it cruised out into the Adriatic sea adorned with a sprawling mass of arms and pumping bass to the sea bed. Even post 6am when the music turns off, there’s always fun to be had sitting on cliffs heckling, joking and simply appreciating the sun rising over a part of the world us messy gang of bass lovers barely deserve to be in. No lineup can describe how special the surroundings are, be it the crumbling walled fort or the waves gently lapping at your feet in the day. What’s more, the troupes of little snap back warriors that almost drove me away when I last visited two years ago seemed to have significantly wavered in numbers. Whether it’s down to the decline of mid range screeching dub step among the kids or perhaps the trendy pull of Dimensions’ House music, the crowd was pretty much ideal.
Leaving Outlook this year was bittersweet. I’d have been sad if it wasn’t for how grotty we all felt after six days of camping, skanking and hanging. As much as I’d live there if I could, my body simply can’t hack it and an overpriced Venezian hotel promised untold luxuries, the draw of which was simply too much. A stroll around Venice the next day, avoiding the overpriced water cabs but throwing ourselves head first into the under priced ice cream, provided the ideal way to come down and, unfortunately, spend the last of our money…. two days before our return flight. Slightly regretting the last few sea basses and overzealous liquor swigging, we blagged free buses, enjoyed a healthy ammount of ‘gratis’ elsewhere, and narrowly avoided death hiking down dark motorways until we eventually found ourselves, 27 hours early, at the undeniably dull Venice Triviso Airport, where even the nearby McDonalds proved to be shut. Nevertheless, there was still plenty of laughs to go round as we toyed with wheelchairs, slalomed around on trolleys and terrorized anyone in the nearby vicinity, which is where our story loops as we watch the minutes tick and unsuccessfully harass staff to let us onto earlier planes so that we can enjoy that full English we’ve all been dreaming of.
Condensing eleven days of mind blowing music and rawkus pandemonium into pixelated characters of the human invention is no mean feat, but all you need to know is that Outlook 2013 was HYPE. Out to all the heads that made it enjoyable. Out to In Reach for providing the travel jokes and giving me stickers to plaster in the absence of any Broken Culture ones. Out to whoever found/stole (still trying to work that one out) my camera bag only to later return it to lost property, minus a notepad, stickers, my phone and not far short of £250, a perhaps extortionate finders fee but I’m grateful for the finding part none the less. Out to James and Chris who went and found said bag in lost property while I was too busy being irate to be of any use. Out to the flight attendants who put up with us. Out to the Finland crew who shared their tarpaulins with our merry bunch and were plenty generous with their supplies. Out to anyone who had to deal with/witness me in all sorts of states of disrepute. Out to Italy’s bus network. Out to the whole clan, you know who you are. Out to anyone who hasn’t been yet who after reading this should now be dashing out to purchase their tickets quick time. Enjoy. Check out more photos of what went down on our Facebook.