Bugged Out celebrated their fifth weekender with a fourth, three-day festival at Butlins Bognor Regis. From Friday, January 15th to Sunday, January 17th, Armand Van Helden, DJ EZ, Kerri Chandler, Bicep, Julio Bashmore, DJ Koze, Groove Armada and Artwork were among the acts. Mike Barnard took the trip to the South Coast of England to get involved in one of the first festivals of the year.
We can’t wait to drown our dry January the same time next year.
Getting to Bugged Out Weekender past 10pm meant the festival was already starting to find its stride when we were picking up the keys to our hotel room. Situated 30 seconds from one of the main doors into the central hub Skyline Pavilion, the bass from the Relentless Beach House inside could be heard from our balcony and lights darted across the roof. We rallied to get ourselves into the action, bumping into plenty of revellers who had been down catching the early sets from Barely Legal and B-Traits or checking out Discreet’s Death Star Disco.
Erol Alkan was laying down some heavy acid on his way to dropping Donna Summer’s classic “I Feel Love”.
Our first port of call was to head into The Escape - normally a Butlins Hotshots complete with bowling alley - where Bugged Out stalwart Erol Alkan was laying down some heavy acid on his way to dropping Donna Summer’s classic “I Feel Love”. There was a small yet passionate crowd fist pumping into the air in the smallest of the rooms - a strange programming choice by Bugged Out as Erol is normally found on one of the bigger stages such is his popularity, and his track selection was as on-point as ever with ‘I Feel Love’ blended into Giorgio Moroder’s “The Chase” from Academy Award winning 1978 movie Midnight Express with its dreamy synth then laid on his own Transonic Re-Edit of La Priest’s ‘Engine’ from 2007 for an 8 bit closer.
We took a break from the dancefloor to have a quick bash on the alluring Butlins arcades at the back of The Escape, first piling into what looked like a car-shaped cabinet from the outside to shoot at pirate ships then grabbing the automatic machine guns to blast at xenomorphs from Aliens. It’s always a short-lived distraction, however the arcades flashing around the resort begging for attention help bring out the kid in you. A quick search for friends checking out the house grooves of Groove Armada in a bustling Reds later, we skipped joining the huge queue into Centre Stage for DJ EZ in favour of Paranoid London’s live set.
The Paranoid London vocalist adorning a straw cowboy hat and sunglasses beckoned us forward towards the stage.
Paranoid London are a mysterious troupe who never speak to the media so let their electro-acid do the talking. On the mic their vocalist adorning a straw cowboy hat and sunglasses beckoned us forward towards the stage ahead before ploughing into some rasping, distorted lyrics accompanied by big thunderous beats and acid synths. The energy on stage ensured a bustling dancefloor for the peak time set despite DJ EZ packing out the main stage. We stayed loyal to The Escape for Boddika, keen to hear what the Nonplus head honcho would spin. He opted for the more direct teachno approach with Slam’s remix of Envoy’s ‘Dark Manoeuvres early on in the set before the acid theme of the stage continued with the trancey Arnaud M & Jed Living’s “Conflict”. Boddika quickly reverted back to the techno to finish with the deep progressive tech of Damiko’s “Space” and a retro outburst in the form of Steve Poindexter’s “Computer Madness” from 2003 for a second DJ set of the night that oozed quality.
For the final set of the night, we had to check out the two hours of Joy Orbison back-to-back with zap! bang! favourite Gerd Janson, the Running Black label boss. Both DJs have a tendency to pull out the rarity or forgotten classic so we were keen to see what they could do together to round off Friday night in second biggest arena, Reds, where a large audience seemed hyped for the double-act. We weren’t disappointed as disco, techno and house were blended perfectly. Sound Stream’s playful “Starstrike” from last year and “Intro” by Alan Braxe and Fred Falke too care of the disco while Landlord and Dex Danclair’s “I Like It” from 1989 covered the retro with a dash of old school chords thrown in. By the time they served up Laurent Garnier’s “Crispy Bacon” we’d been treated to an assured b2b set that lived up to the hype. We’d duck into the Art’s House party en route back to our hotel at 6.30am to see what Artwork was up to and found him bouncing around behind the decks in the Rosso Lounge - a bar by day - playing Daft Punk’s “Too Long” to a dedicated crowd of afterparty seekers. The lack of a bar was a bit of an oversight so after a quick boogie, we decided to conserve energy for Saturday.
We ducked into the Art’s House party en route back to our hotel at 6.30am to see what Artwork was up to.
A dramatic oversleep of several hours meant there was no time to get involved in Jackmaster’s Tweak-a-holic pool party where Artwork popped up behind the decks. Instead we headed straight to the Bugged Out Quiz of Dance Music and Other Things in the Rosso Lounge which had been reverted back to its cosy surroundings following Art’s House earlier. Armed with a jug of prosecco (the festival rule of no glass allowed applies everywhere at Butlins) and teaming up with The Guardian’s reviewer among others, we felt we had a fighting chance tackling subjects including film, music, general knowledge, Bognor Regis trivia and DJs Complaining. Unforunately, the Yippie-kay-ay-M@therfu!kers were pipped to the post by a Mixmag team who we can only assume scored full marks while we somehow got the number of inversions on the Alton Towers Smiler ride wrong and incorrectly guessed that it was Skream rather than Tony Blackburn who Tweeted about Coronation Street live. In retrospect, we probably should have know that The Chemical Brothers had released eight studio albums, but nevermind. It’s the taking part that counts, right?
The pub quiz is a great addition to the Bugged Out Weekender entertainment on the Saturday when you need an excuse to get out of your accommodation while not wanting to listen to music in a dark room just yet. Similarly the pool party and rave karaoke - it’s activities like this that maintain a light-hearted feel to the weekend and keep minds active rather than fall into an oblivion Butlins weekender of crappy afternoon television and a takeaway Papa John’s pizza waiting for the hangover to dissipate. We wandered past Ashworth spinning tunes at the Cubed stage in the Skyline Pavilion and spotted Skream lingering around the Beach House looking like he was ready to jump on the decks en route to Burger King for some much needed nourishment, then opted to visit a few friends around the site in the build up to the evening’s music. Having various chalets to drop into feels a lot like stopping by a series of house parties - you’re never sure exactly who will be there (if anyone) or even how many faces you’ll recognise: what you do know is anyone you meet will be friendly and keen to chat music.
The pool parties, pub quiz and rave karaoke maintain a light-hearted feel to the weekend and keep minds active by day rather than fall into an oblivion.
Our Saturday night started with a few free cocktails from Soulshakers to the soundtrack of disco before heading into Reds where Pampa Records’ DJ Koze was into the final hour of a three hour set. He looked consistently amused wearing a wry smile on his face as he mixed house and disco with subtle twists of the mixer and finely-dropped basslines. The intricate mixing came to a head when he brought in Roma Zuckerman’s “I Have a Question” with a smug look. Soon the crowd loved the sassy 8-bit synth and deep vocals overlaying the minimal beat.
We were keen to see Armand Van Helden’s headline set and make a first trip up to Centre Stage so reluctantly joined a sizable, if fast-moving, queue. Predictably the Centre Stage dancefloor was heaving as Armand dished up classic after classic from the 80s and 90s alongside his own productions. “Push the Feeling On”, “Deep Inside” and “Show Me Love” proved as popular as ever, then when Armand moved onto his own work such as his remix of Sneaker Pimps “Spin Spin Sugar”, “My My My”, “I Want Your Soul” and set-closer “You Don’t Even Know Me”.
The Centre Stage dancefloor was heaving as Armand dished up classic after classic from the 80s and 90s alongside his own productions.
Van Helden DJ’d with a grin and that joyful mood came across as the crowd responded with arms in the air, girls on shoulders and wild rapture when the confetti cannons sprayed as “You Don’t Even Know Me” kicked in. As a headliner, Van Helden delivered with aplomb, which is more than can be said for the muddled Bigger Than J.E.S.U.S? b2b2b2b of Van Helden, Eats Everything, Jackmaster and Skream that followed. While Eats Everything and Jackmaster stepped up first for mixing duties with Outlander’s “The Vamp” indicating an continuation of the old school vibe Van Helden had started, the continual switching around prevented any discernable flow to the tunes making for choppy dancefloor grooves. By the time Jackmaster and Skream were left b2b rather than doing solo sets, it sounded like they were locked into a competition as to who could play the tune with with the biggest drop rather than keep the crowd engaged which felt like a missed opportunity given the musical knowledge that had been present on stage together in various guises for the last five hours.
We decided to chip off via Art’s House and were delighted to find Eats Everything involved in another b2b, this time with Artwork, having rediscovered his fun tunes selection for a smaller audience blasting out Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is In The Heart” for the afterhours freaks. It proved to be the last tunes for us that night, and a timely reminder that packing a main room stage full of DJs all-at-once does not guarantee a wild set - as proved by the composed performances by DJ Koze and Armand Van Helden.
Pool party tactics: chill in a rubber ring on the lazy river, brave the main pool with inflatables flying around or look on from the balcony.
The third day for us was curtailed owing to prior committments so there was just time to check out the Bicep Hot Tub Jamz pool party. There were three options to get involved: chill in a rubber ring on the lazy river, brave the main pool with inflatables flying around or opt to look on from the balcony. We regretably had to opt for the latter in our fragile states as an energetic crowd splashed around with the energy we could only dream of. A curry in the on-site bar set us on our way, but it was with heavy heart we missed Artwork, The Black Madonna and Bicep in Reds while Julio Bashmore, Heidi and Kerri Chandler closed the main stage - a sure sign that while a festival in January might seem insane in theory, in practice it kickstarts your year with a bang. We can’t wait to drown our dry January the same time next year.
Early bird tickets to Bugged Out Weekender 2017 will go on sale at www.buggedoutweekender.net next week.