The excitement for our Pula pilgrimage couldn’t be understated. Carried through a 5 hour coach journey by sheer hype and incessant Drum n Bass (the novelty of which ran out very quickly), we were ready for Outlook festival – a celebration of all the best Hip-hop, Grime and Drum N’ Bass that the UK has to offer. Situated just outside of the Croatian seaside city of Pula, Outlook has everything going for it. Hidden amongst Roman ruins are numerous stages including; The Clearing a hub for the biggest names; The Stable which gives a platform to more underground artists; and the old converted Moat stage which brings something a little different.
Despite having travelled abroad, we were immediately engulfed by hordes of southerners puffing out their chest in matching bucket hat/side bag attire – it almost felt like North London had been relocated. There was still an abundance of Northern charm and friendliness, which made the vibes and social dynamic feel slightly more like being back in Cardiff. Our daytimes were spent recovering on utopian beaches, rejuvenated by floating out to sea on inflatable mattresses (which proved to be the most practical purchase of the festival), all accompanied by the booming sound systems of the beach stage.
Anyone who’s familiar with Outlook knows they kick it off in style with the grandest of opening ceremonies at Pula’s 2000 year old amphitheatre. Missing this on the first day did spark some regret, although the blow was softened by the news of Wiley’s absence. Thursday saw the start of the boat parties, Outlook’s USP. Up first was long standing UK hip hop label High Focus Records, with appearances from the likes of Coops, Fliptrix and Dirty Dike. In theory, three hours seems like a painfully long time to be stuck on a boat listening to the same type of music, but the sheer diversity of High Focus disproves this. Coops’ set was electric, with near-capsizing levels of energy. Fliptrix’s performance was a showcase of lyrical dexterity, shelling out several bangers from his latest release ‘Inexhale’. Dike closed out the party with unparalleled energy; throwing insults at the crowd as a way to ramp up participation, had never seemed so effective.
This year’s festival was full of random acts which ended up being surprisingly memorable, most notably 0121’s finest – Devilman. Taking the Stables by storm, he had the crowd completely in his control as he ushered in a frenzy of fuckery. Bodies were being catapulted from one side of the pit to the other, soundtracked by his most prolific anthem Drum & Bass Father (No bitches were strangled with iPhone chargers during this performance).
A personal highlight was J Hus’ set. Emerging from the mists of controversy, it felt like a treat to still be able to see him. Performing a medley of fan favourites from his 2017 release ‘Common Sense’ guaranteed crowd response. Songs like ‘Did You See’ sent the entire clearing into choir-like unison. Kojey Radical’s distinctiveness was on full display during his poetic performance complemented by fitting choreography with a detour into the crowd to finish his set. Closing out the rap acts for the night was Small Heath native Jaykae, coming out moments after Lady Leshurr for back to back brumtown brilliance. Bringing a more gritty style, his set provided a contrast to the previous acts (with a good amount of mosh pits and reloads chucked in too).
By the final boat party it seemed like all energy was depleted, but Manchester clan Levelz provided that figurative shot of caffeine which kept everyone going. The guys are clearly fans of partying just as hard as the next man at the festival. Skittles and Sparkz traded tongue-twisting verses over a variety of sounds ranging from disco to dub – courtesy of DJ’s Chimpo and Metronome, who I have to thank for providing a change of pace from the typical Outlook sounds. Watching the sun setting over the horizon from a boat was a perfect conclusion to the beauty which characterises Outlook.
I couldn’t sing its praises any higher; for any lover of hip-hop or good music in general, this should be a sought-after experience. It merges all the best aspects of a holiday with Europe’s leading sound system festival to create a week of bliss that’s hard to match.