Rarely have smiles stretched so wide. From the almost unbelievable site of Lauren Hill waltzing out onto the mind blowing setting of Pula’s amphitheatre, complete with leopard skin floor rug and all, to Manchester’s The Mouse Outfit giving a true lesson in how to rock a set and control a crowd underneath scorching blue skies on the beach, Outlook 2014 once again blew expectations and delivered in the finest of styles. Every year we say it’s time to explore new horizons but every year that lineup lands and it’s just too hard to say no, especially when you’re already aware of just how ridiculous the setting is; lapping waves, dusty forts and some of the worlds finest sound systems providing just about the greatest environment going to hear a whole host of bass music’s most respected producers, DJs, MCs and general connoisseurs do their thing.
After all sorts of Europcar woes and Italy based relaxation, we arrived shortly before the opening concert fully ready for a good old fashioned tear out and, hearing Submotion Orchestra warming up from the giant stone walls as we walked up the hill to the ampitheatre you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d just been cured of deafness. With their, as ever, stunning set shooting past before Fatima and the Eglo band provided an ideal warm up for a night topped by the Fugees legendary Lauren Hill, there was then plenty of time to cool down again as she kept everyone waiting, but as she strutted out underneath her signature wide rimmed hat all was quickly forgotten and the diva-ish antics seemed long behind us amidst an extended ninety minute odd, set that kept giving. From Fugees classics through a healthy spattering of her seminal The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and even a couple of covers, her reworks were enjoyable and fresh takes even on tunes that will never get old. That may not be what The Evening Standard thought of her Brixton date, but I’m on Talib Kweli’s side personally, check his thoughts on the matter here.
Despite a string of unfortunate cancellations the next day, including DJ EZ and Calibre, there’s still always plenty to entertain at Outlook and it’s never easy to dwell on things when life’s so good. Two of d&b’s most lovable MCs SP and DRS took to the microphone back to back over the tearing blends of some of d&b’s greatest in the Clearing while the likes of Dabbla and Sonnyjim provided hip hop flows in the outdoor arena and, elsewhere, not a bad tune was heard over the next few days while excitably/drunkenly running from place to place reacquainting ourselves with the dungeons, moats, forts and walkways of bass music’s greatest location.
As if the night time entertainment and beach bar based day party’s weren’t enough, London based Hip Hop promoters Livin’ Proof provided the day time beats as we took to their boat, their roster going b2b as personal favourite DJ Khalil rolled out soul and Hip Hop classics between Budgie’s deep bassed swag rap and Khalil’s wonky atmospherics. Boat parties just don’t get old and, as the morning clouds finally burnt off, this one was definitely no different as we skilfully swerved the kiddies boarding some Dubstep screechfest next to us to be rewarded with an eclectic range of expertly chopped party anthems that kept both me and the girlfriend (“the layman’s view” as she took to referring to herself) more then happy.
Once again, Outlook proved just why it’s the yearly festival of choice for not only a consistently growing number of heads and revellers but also for so many of the musicians they look up to. As far as we’re concerned it’s by far the greatest we’ve had the pleasure of attending. Variety is the spice of life and the sheer breadth and class of their lineup is second to none, something that makes it fly past, hazy memories summed up by blue skies, warm bass and that inexplicably simple feeling of deep happiness you get when you wonder how much better life can get. Until next time.