Bugged Out’s Best Year Yet | Review

Organising a festival in the middle of winter would be a challenge for most, but dance music titans Bugged Out have been pulling it off for five years now, and 2016 was no exception. Butlins felt like the perfect setting for the Weekender’s illustrious hedonism, making very clear that everyone there was there to party. With such a stellar lineup, the hardest thing about navigating the festival was choosing who to see. All three arenas were accessible from inside Butlins’ central pavilion, and getting between stages took neither time nor braving the cold.

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DJ Barely Legal made a memorable start to the weekend, bringing an eclectic selection of hip hop and grime which built the Bugged Out Stage’s energy perfectly for the Korrupt FM crew to take over. Grindah, Beats and Steves truly immersed the crowd into the People Just Do Nothing experience, and frequent chants of “Roché” and a Chabuddy G-led round of “Fuck Aldona!” proved just how much of the crowd followed the cult TV show. Wheel-up after wheel-up built the excitement to an explosive climax of grime classics like Pulse X, jungle anthem Original Nuttah and Korrupt originals like Get Out The Way.

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The legendary DJ EZ also failed to disappoint, blending house, grime and garage with characteristic skill and originality. Heading to the Escape stage switched up the vibe completely – lighting fixtures gave way to a smaller, darker room, perfect for Boddika’s slamming set. The choice between George Fitzgerald and Joy Orbison b2b Gerd Janson was clearly favoured by the Bugged Out crowd, with the main stage emptier than expected for Swamp 81 don Klose One. That said, Fitzgerald played a fantastic set, keeping it going till 5am. In true Bugged Out style, even this was not the end, with the legendary Artwork hosting a disco-tinged house party in one of the pavilion’s smaller bars. With DJ Barely Legal, Grindah, Klose One, Benton and more in the crowd, performers and punters alike were keen to keep going till sunrise.

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For those that managed to resurface before Saturday night, Jackmaster’s pool party was the perfect hangover relief. Unashamedly reeling off 80s classic after 80s classic, the vibe was perfect for Butlins’ SplashWorld. Concrete Music’s stage that night brought innovative producer Lil Silva and grime wonderkid Novelist into the limelight, before Toddla T packed the stage. Mumdance’s impeccable set was filled with dubs and exclusives, before we returned to the Bugged Out stage to catch a modified J.E.S.u.S – minus Seth and plus Armand – go back to back. Having seen the legendary DJs play solo sets before, the dynamic of their combined selections offered a completely different and equally exciting experience, balancing Skream and Eats’ techno with Armand’s funk and Jack’s eclecticism.

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Sunday’s lineup proved that Bugged Out had got the lineup’s balance spot on across the weekend. It takes a lot to make a third all-nighter attract as big a crowd as the first two, and what we got was more than enough. Despite having hosted two afterparties, Artwork was on form for his Junk Department set, before Jackmaster’s protege Jasper James delivered another slamming set. Back on the main stage, Jackathon partystarter Heidi kept the crowd bouncing into the early hours with a masterful blend of perfectly curated house. For the final set of the festival, and one of the most anticipated of the weekend, Bicep knocked it out of the park. With one of the best releases (and one of the most in-demand unreleased edits) of last year, they were never going to disappoint.

Bugged Out’s 2016 Weekender kicked off the year with a fantastic three day event, well organised and even better curated. The greatest struggle was, and always will be, waiting a whole year till the next.

Words by Andrei Sandu
Pictures by Luke Dyson and Tom Horton