Bugged Out returned to Butlins Bognor Regis from Friday, January 16th to Sunday, January 18th for another three days of house, electro, techno, disco, garage and more across three stages plus extras such as pool parties, a pub quiz, rave karaoke and 24-hour arcades. Music came from acts such as The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Maya Jane Coles, Dusky, Ten Walls, Erol Alkan and Kerri Chandler. We were there to see Bugged Out successfully bring the weekender back to the south coast.
Even a fire alarm couldn’t ruin cosmic disco purveyor Todd Terje’s live set.
A full day’s work meant getting down to Bognor Regis late on Friday night when the action was already in full swing. The THUMP DJ competition and, more disappointingly, the free cocktails from Soulshakers were finished so it was a case of getting unpacked and down to the stages as quickly as possible. The Ocean Hotel offered mood lighting in every room, a balcony and, as we would see next morning, a sea view, however there was no time to take in the plush space: friends had offered their apartment for warm-up drinks and were to regale us with tales of winning a troll in the 2p machines littered through the arcades. The community feel the Butlins setting provides, with all guests given their own lodging to relax in over the weekend, means visiting them pre-main stages is a lot like congregating at a friend’s house before a big night out – journey times, line-up plans of attack and whether to wear sunglasses on the dancefloor or not were familiar topics of conversation.
When we did make it to Centre Stage for Duke Dumont , the venue was heaving to the back of the room with gleeful ravers getting down to his house vibes including hits ‘Need U 100%’ and ‘I Got U’. Despite being one of the biggest acts of the night, the Duke offered few surprises and we dropped downstairs to the Escape for Dusky who were in a deep house mood. There was plenty of energy about the venues tonight, none more so than when cosmic disco purveyor Todd Terje took to Centre Stage for a live set featuring his dancefloor anthems from last year’s LP ‘It’s Album Time’. Although disrupted by a fire alarm mid-set which threatened to derail the night, it turned out to be a false alarm with no need for a full evacuation and he was back in action swiftly.
When the fire alarm forced Terje temporarily off-stage he was locked into his floaty tunes, but knowing the crowd might need a blast of something a little harder to get going again, he came back with chunky electro that proved a welcome change of direction, and evidence Terje is not bound to just his well-worn hits during a live show. That said, his closing pair of ‘Delorean Dynamite’ into ‘Inspector Norse’ were no surprise to long-time admirers, though Terje ensured both are given extra twists while manning his keyboard and laptop, stretching out the cosmic vibes of ‘Delorean Dynamite’ then using its pace to give ‘Inspector Norse’ added anticipation, playing the main Norse hook while shifting down a gear its more casual beat. Terje brought hands into the air throughout both – and he was a fitting finale to our Friday at Bugged Out. While we left Shadow Child to end the Centre Stage music, elsewhere Dense & Pika closed out the Maya Jane Coles and Friends room while * Roman Flügel* finished Reds.
The Chemical Brothers succeeded in recreating an old skool rave atmosphere.
Why the early finish on Friday? Well Bugged Out had gone through the trouble of organising a pool party and a pub quiz on the Saturday, so there was every reason to try to stay fresh. Though we missed the free Bloody Mary bike riding around the site, we got down to the THUMP pool party in the Splash Waterworld in good time for a speedy queue onto the dingy ride – think rollercoaster flume – then got involved in the main pool where Mike Skinner was about to play. Inflatables were being thrown around everywhere you looked, including a giant THUMP oblong which took an almighty heave by several people to get properly airborne, making for a vibrant atmosphere. Skinner’s mix of garage, d&b and anything else with a heavy bass line was an ideal soundtrack to the chaos, though his MC skills early on mainly involved asking the crowd: ‘Bugged Out, are you sinking… or are you swimming?’ Repeatedly. Fun for a while, eventually a lack of breakfast combined with the level of activity to stay afloat and an increasingly chilly pool took its toll and we took our leave for sustenance ahead of the pub quiz.
For those who preferred staying dry, rave karaoke had been going on all afternoon, however I opted for a go on the arcades rather than try to listen to the last of the ravers trying to sing Artful Dodger or some other dancefloor smash judging by the quality of the one minute I witnessed before scampering away to spend my pound coins. When I returned with a willing quiz team member, the Rosso Lounge was packed – we had to fish a table and chairs out from a dark corner then battle for the final answer sheets. Categories included Bugged Out history, general knowledge, music trivia and a bonus round of DJsComplaining which all proved too challenging for us – save the one about what Brian Harvey blamed for giving him good poisoning the day he ran himself over (it was a baked potato if you didn’t know). We didn’t stick around to try to find out how far behind Team Butwins we finished, then just missed the complimentary cocktails, so onto a loser for the afternoon decided the best option was some downtime ahead of the music.
First port of call for the night was Centre Stage where we entered to Tiga dropping ‘Bugatti’ sending us into excitement overdrive. The Turbo label boss was in a minimal techno frame of mind, adding a dash of acid for electro effect, with ‘Mind Dimension’ and the DJ Gius remix of Kernkraft 440’s ‘Zombie Nation’ the pay-offs during a pulsating start to the night. James Holroyd then did an unscheduled half hour before festival headliners The Chemical Brothers were welcomed behind the decks with cheers and a round of applause – there was a lot of love for Ed and Tom – from the the now-heaving Centre Stage. The duo will mark 20 years since their debut Exit Planet Dust was released with a new album and live tour this summer, so there was much anticipation of what this DJ set might hold in store. The big beat masters kicked off by teasing us into their first tune with a rising synth progression, gradually growing in length, that fed into the spelling out of “Chemical Brothers” with twisted vocals and a bassline that got everyone on their wavelength.
For the next hour The Chemical Brothers avoided their own tracks in favour of technically-inventive selections that would surprise with delicate breakdowns and bruising 4/4 that proved evidence of their ears for well-produced dance music. Ed and Tom looked like they were having a blast on stage, this being a rare outing for Ed who has quit the live tour to concentrate on his studies, and they succeeded in re-creating an old skool rave atmosphere. By the time they dropped the first of their recognised tunes, “Saturate”, they had built up a head of steam that didn’t require hit after hit, but the acid-doused “It Doesn’t Matter” and set-closer “Swoon” were appreciated to their fullest and crown a fitting weekender headliner set.
Our next priority was to try to get into the “secret” Mixmag party which was quite far from being a secret. Not only was it mentioned in the programme as happening at 3am Saturday night, but then the venue of “next to Burger King” in the Skyline Pavilion was Tweeted and Facebooked so by the time 3am came round there was a mass of people heading that way. Luckily we managed to be among the first to arrive and were privileged to be invited inside to find a space for no more than about 150 people at best, glowsticks covering the floor and a Soulshakers bar serving up complimentary drinks to a soundtrack of minimal house. It was intimate, much like the (former) Plastic People club in Shoreditch, and everyone was keen to chat about their weekend so far, and apparently went on well into Sunday morning, but we had friends who didn’t get in to hook back up with before the night was out.
We found them in Reds where an almighty B2B2B2B session was going on between Optimo , Jackmaster , Ben UFO and Four Tet to close out The Hydra’s stage. The combination of the parts wasn’t quite working for us with some garage being busted out so we headed to Simian Mobile Disco on Centre Stage who were playing a stripped back electro set which needed more patience than we could possibly give to really get involved on the dancefloor so opted to seek solace with a wind down at the Ocean Hotel where the mood lighting and vodka cranberries served in mugs were used to reflect on a busy day of weekender antics. We’d later find out that we missed the Jackmaster Mad Wi It Crazy Golf tournament which kicked off at 8am with – yes – Jackmaster and a Skream fresh from a drive up from London post his residency at XOYO. Look up the pictures, we’re a bit gutted to have missed out.
Kerri Chandler’s set was the universe to many Bugged Out ravers.
When you see ‘secret special guest’ on any line-up, it’s hard to know what to expect. For Bugged Out Weekender, all weekend there had been speculation about who could be filling in the two special guest slots on Sunday, one for the Ibiza Rocks pool party headliner, the other playing Centre Stage between Bugged Out resident Lemmy Ashton and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs , but they often revolved around an Ibiza Rocks resident for the pool party and perhaps Mike Skinner making a main room appearance. As we sat munching on some food considering the pool party, it soon emerged that Ibiza Rocks had managed to bring in Fatboy Slim as their guest – or Fatboy Swim as it was announced on Twitter – and though some of us couldn’t face the pool, a trip up to the balcony for those feeling to fragile for the pool found another party in full swing and Norman Cook loving it behind the decks. He left to cheers and clapping as he departed Butlins Splash Waterworld, shouting “see you tonight at 10pm” in every direction – our Centre Stage headliner revealed.
The appearance of Fatboy Slim proved to be a masterstroke by Bugged Out, not only had they kept it secret from the majority of guests, but it was just the injection of anticipation they needed for the final night. We’d already lost some of our crew to work commitments on Monday, and a quick disco nap almost ruined any hope of getting back out to the stages in good time, but we made it to see Fatboy Slim entertaining another heaving Centre Stage as well as Daniel Avery and Erol Alkan in Reds offering banging techno and measured electro respectively.
The best set of the Sunday (and arguably the weekend) was to come from New Jersey house legend Kerri Chandler , who we joined midway through his four hour set in The Escape. We entered to some classic house vibes at the two-hour mark but as he reached the final quarter of his set, out came “We’re Lost in Music” and suddenly it was disco all the way as Chandler jumped on his keyboard to help the tunes along and put smiles on everyone’s faces, especially with set-closer “Strings of Life” which he peppered with his own chords for a blissful end. That wasn’t enough for Kerri, he turned his headphones into a microphone to address the crowd, telling them how much he’d loved the four hour journey with the Bugged Out Weekender crew and asking for a soulful song or a deep song to spell the end for The Escape stage. Shouts for both were ruled as even, so he opted for one of his own most beloved tunes, The Brand News Heavies “You Are the Universe”, which was a surprise to all and so much the better. Kerri Chandler was the universe to many Bugged Out revellers tonight
With just over an hour or so left of Bugged Out Weekender, we headed to Centre Stage to see how Skream was faring with his own closing set of the weekend. Such is former dubstepper Skream’s repertoire these days we were unsure what kind of style he would play (house and disco the most mooted), he caught us off guard by playing a heads-down techno stomp. Skream was potentially still locked into his set from XOYO the previous night when his guests were Detroit techno don Robert Hood and the respected Broom – he even dropped Hood’s “Baby, Baby” mid-set – and the energy he was bringing out of the crowd was impressive. He couldn’t quite finish up as masterfully as Chandler – a euphoric, 10-minute breakdown brought the confetti but the follow-up electro felt disjointed – and there were no closing words, however the curtain was brought down on Bugged Out Weekender with a set fitting of its techno and electro heritage. It may have been one of the coldest weekends we’ll experience this year, we’re grateful Bugged Out gave us the means to get through it with gusto. Roll on Bugged Out Weekender 2016.