After a 4 year hiatus, spent putting on nights at their wonderfully intimate warehouse space in Hackney Wick, Bloc finally made their much anticipated return to Butlins in Minehead. And a glorious return it was.
Attending a festival at a holiday camp is a very unusual feeling. For any that have been to a Bloc weekender before (or to any of its Butlins-based-brethren, such as the now defunct ATP), it’s a welcome feeling indeed. It recalls vague memories of sneaking away from the family on camping holidays to drink cheap cider with the older kids four tents down from you. The mixture of smiling redcoats and starry-eyed Twenty-somethings was jarring, and yet oddly welcoming. Walking in to the central arena was like something out of a dystopian novel written by a six year old. People sat in the café drinking cheap coffee at expensive prices out of cardboard cups while their slightly more addled counterparts darted between watching cartoons from the deck chairs and putting their loose change in to the 2p machines. It was a glorious merging of British holidaying and nights misspent in grubby warehouses.
The opening day kicked off at 2pm, with a set from Shapes DJs in The Pub. The Pub was a stage set up in, well, a pub. As you might have guessed. Not taking any prisoners, the weekend was immediately kicked off with vicious energy, the pounding energy resounding across the drizzle drenched lawns. The majority of the crowd hadn’t yet arrived and settled in to their chalets, so the crowd was thin, but the music was good and the energy was undeniable. After that Percolate DJs and Flux DJs kept things ticking over nicely, while the other stages prepared to open.
One of the best curated stages of the Friday opened next, with MakeMe starting things off at the FACT stage, followed by October and then DJ Qu. This stage was small in comparison to the Centre and Red stages, but had a great atmosphere right the way through the night. The crowds had started to gather by this point and the Fact stage had pulled in a strong herd for the wonderful Donato Dozzy, who masterfully set the mood for the rest of the night. The battle of the trios started soon after that, as Livity Sound (Peverilist, Kowton and Asusu) followed on the Fact stage, whilst the Hessle Audio Trio of Ben UFO, Pangaea and Pearson Sound opened up the Red stage.
Livity Sound produced a fantastic live set, with all three of their members operating the various drum pads and synthesisers together in flawless synchronicity. Slow building, their set evolved and twisted and turned through their surprisingly short one hour set. By the end, it was surprising to see how little time had passed. But that’s not to say it dragged. The opposite in fact. The set was so rich and textured that it felt like that much music could not possibly have been absorbed in a single hour.
Meanwhile, their ‘rivals’ over at the Red stage, attracted the larger of the two crowds. The Red stage was packed full for almost the entire 5 and a bit hours that the Hessle DJs were on for. Less adventurous perhaps, but a very neat and very enjoyable set throughout.
A brief break from the techno took us back to the Pub for an unannounced set from Jake The Lick. A complete break from the feel of the other stages, we were taken through a couple of hours of 70s/80s/90s funk, disco, soul and more. Proving a welcome reprieve from the techno encroaching on all sides, a good crowd had stepped away from the other stages to boogie away until midnight in the Wetherspoons-like stage.
It was back to the Fact stage after that as Joy Orbison b2b Midland began. This set was one of our picks for the entire festival, and with good reason. Both very talented DJs and producers in their own right, their signature sounds complement each other perfectly. Strong Tribal rhythms could be heard throughout their set, as they back-and-forthed behind the decks. A bit of friendly competition seemed to be on display as each tried to outdo the other, but never in a way that was detrimental to the set as a whole. And, as expected, they pulled out one of the strongest sets on display for the entire first night.
Things progressed over to the Centre stage from here, and from the bleeps of Hudson Mohawke, rose squelchy 303s as Modeselektor came on at the Centre stage. Inimitable performers, the Berlin duo blew away the crowd with live renditions of some of their most famous tracks, including the delightfully strange ‘Evil Twin’, which seemed even more warped than normal. Possibly due to their rendition, possibly the setting, or possibly something else entirely. And they very nearly stole the show, for the Friday at least.
And they would have done if it wasn’t for the following act, as DJ Pierre and Spanky’s ‘Phuture’ started up. It was a wonderfully brutal onslaught of Acid, right from the start. The repeated adage of ‘this is acid’ chorused through the crowd as they started. A continuous assault of 303s, this set was truly something to behold, and was probably our favourite of the night.
Due to illness, the main stage was closed by Robert Hood instead of Jackmaster. But, as you might expect, the Detroit veteran didn’t seem remotely phased by the last minute change of scenery as he was bumped up from the Red stage to the Centre. A journey through the music of his heritage, Hood took us back to where it all began with the sounds of House and Techno from Detroit, Chicago, New York, and more. He crafted a full and educational set spanning the years and the history of the genre that brought thousands of people to a Butlins holiday camp on a rainy March weekend.
Unfortunately, this harked the end of the weekend for us, as we only came for the opening night. But if the Friday was anything to go by, then Bloc’s return to Butlins was as triumphant as anyone could have hoped. The Bloc Weekender is back!
Words by: Gabriel Presland – A final year Journalism student at Sheffield Hallam University, with a passion for electronic music and spends as much of his spare time as possible collecting records and DJing.
Pictures by: Dick Willy Wood