The final curtain has fallen on Bloc Weekend. March 2016 marked the month the electronic music festival called time on their long weekends at family holiday parks, their seventh edition and fifth at Butlins Minehead after upgrading from Pontins in Great Yarmouth in 2009. Mike Barnard and Samantha Kemmy were there to reflect on Bloc’s farewell.
As we left I couldn’t help but check if Groundhog Day was still on Bloc TV. Alas no, it really was the next day - there will be no repeat of Bloc Weekend.
He Said: “Driving to the final Bloc was not without its flashbacks to the five previous times I’d ventured to the festival. From the Great Yarmouth days of sleeping in a car (no chalet with the review tickets ‘back-in-the-day’) and a 24-hour stage in the pub through to living it up in gold chalets a stones throw from the action, the setting had always been a fun one, and it was sad to be thinking this would be the last. Turning up at 1.30am on Thursday night meant we missed the annual BrackOut warm up party, however we hosted a little warm up in our chalet with friends keen to make the most of their first night on site. Dull hipsters that we are, we hit the hay at 5.30am rather than see the night through then got up five hours later to crack on with the first day proper.
“Friday started as any good day at a Butlins festival should: watching 1983 cult Star Wars wannabe Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone on Bloc TV then stocking up in the on-site Spar on food with only breakfast in mind and booze with every minute of the day in mind. Cider, gin and prosecco were hurriedly grabbed off shelves along with bacon, bread, tortillas, dips and a continental meat selection for a fancy moment, then we got back to sip on a gin and tonic before hitting the pool. This year Bloc finally took the plunge and gave DJs the chance to spin tunes in the pool so the 12noon keeno’s like us got to enjoy The Lick’s seminal disco classics including plenty of Prelude Records while relaxing in the lazy river, hitting the flumes or swatting at the Relentless mini beach balls flying around while riding waves. We couldn’t help think this had been a missed opportunity at earlier Blocs, espeically as the water was actually warm compared to the icy temperatures experienced at some of the Bugged Out! Weekender pool parties.
“Dip done, we fuelled up on fake Nando’s at the Firehouse Grill opposite the pub then retreated to the chalet to get into gear for the music. The Groundhog Day channel played in the background on Bloc TV meaning all was well in our Bultins world and I made it along to see Skunkrock open the Crack stage for Plex. Back at the chalet for a pitstop, cabin fever had struck so we headed to the Pub to see Desert Sound Colony spinning some house to only the most eager of dancers. We soon found ourselves wandering the Skyline Pavilion getting semi-obsessed with the Pac-man air hockey which would go insane and drop so many mini pucks at once the game became more like a giant hungry hippos challenge. We had another attempt to feel more involved in the music at the Plex night for a fleeting glimpse of James Tec’s surging techno before Rrose slowed things down, then considered biding our time before an all-night onslaught.
We soon found ourselves wandering the Skyline Pavilion getting semi-obsessed with the Pac-man air hockey.
“Said onslaught saw a squelchy bassbin disrupt an otherwise deep set from Lakuti and Tama Sumo while Fatima Yamaha’s uplifting set in Jak for Turf’s takeover gave us the energy we needed to power up the stairs to Centre and Carl Craig Presents Modular Pursuits. Coming off the back of Floating Points’ eclectic yet chilled set, Craig’s sat nicely as a slow burner geared more towards working through soundscapes via his synth project pseudonym, yet scheduling him main stage felt misplaced - you’d like to be able to see more of what he’s doing to really appreciate the music. His set may have worked better in the Jak where London Modular so successfully showcased their abilities with modular synths last year. We stuck around for Trade yet Blawan and Surgeon didn’t quite add up to the sum of their parts - the raw power of Blawan seemed stifled by Surgeon’s precision on the night, then Speedy J failed to ignite a dwindling main stage crowd as Friday threatened to fade out into a disappointment.
“Thankfully a sterling set from Optimo back-to-back with Andrew Weatherall for Feel My Bicep was a turning point and DJ Bone delivered a soulful Detroit vibe in Jak to finish off Turf’s session in style with quick mixing and the kind of personality in the music and atmosphere Centre had been unable to muster. Back at the chalet I contemplated whether to venture down to the Gateway to Zen early morning session with a crew eager to get back to the dancefloor. I took a look around at the zany characters - many locked in deep conversations at the bar - over a gin and tonic but reasoned I should drink less and look after myself for a big Saturday. Cue another five hours sleep…
DJ Bone delivered a soulful Detroit vibe in Jak to finish off Turf’s session in style.
“The start to Saturday was a slow one best enjoyed while watching classic 1993 movie Hercules Returns on Bloc TV featuring a re-dubbed version of 1964 Italian movie Samson and His Mighty Challenge with Hercules, Samson and Ursus crossing swords. That combined with more Groundhog Day saw us recover enough energy to catch Egyptian Lover in the pool where his poses and rapping over seminal 80s 808 beats - including a trademark “8-0-mutherfuc!ing-8” shout out sent the assembled swimmers into raptures: at one point during a breakdown Egyptian Lover stood arms aloft as Relentless beach balls were batted into the air while arms flailed in splashes and there was a huge roar: a legendary session in Splashworld. As we exited the pool we ran into the Lover looking for reception while still wearing his sunglasses and looking smug - we’d later see him across The Diner as we ate, giving us a wave as he left.
“The Saturday evening of music was far more successful than Friday. Magic Mountain High - the live trio of Move D, Juju and Jordash - took us on a deep house journey with spikes of energy throughout their 90 minute set, then Motor City Drum Ensemble blasted out the funk, soul and disco to an eager crowd. Over in Jaks R&S Records’ Lone opened up with Outlander’s “The Vamp” and dropped in LFO’s “We Are Back” in a set of upfront techno flashed back with old school synths. Ceephax was the highlight of the night with his breakneck acid rounding off the Leisure System takeover in Crack to a capacity crowd before Ansome & DeFekT’s relocated set from the Pub to Fact’s stage pummelled us with industrial techno and Jeff Mills round off the night with his sleek techno and some cheeky live drum machine action to finish.
Ceephax was the highlight of the night with his breakneck acid rounding off the Leisure System takeover.
“Bloc was at its best on Saturday night as we visited four of the five main stages and Butlins felt alive throughout - the massive queue outside Body Hammer at 6.30am was testament to the stamina of the Bloc faithful. Many of our crew didn’t want to miss out and headed along. Given one of them had managed to sleep from 1pm to 1am after a prolonged Gateway to Zen session the night before, they were due more time on the dancefloor.
“Sunday arrived and proved to be short but sweet. Groundhog Day returned to TV screens and the Diner was again the source of sustanance and much wine. We found our way down to the beach for a disco-soundtracked sunset as the tide retreated, then got kitted up in jumpsuits for an anti-Richie Hawtin fancy dress theme which, it turned out, was adopted by no one we saw all night. Still, a finale with Omar-S in Centre playing an assortment of house, techno and disco classics with a short DJ Deeon cameo in the Pub felt like a fitting end to the weekend even if it wasn’t the epic closing set we all wished for. The main thing was we all had a blast and I got to bed by 3.30am in time for another five hours sleep and a drive home. I hope Bloc founder George Hull isn’t too upset I spent 20 of my 94 hours on site sleeping, but that’s what dull hipsters need these days. As we left I couldn’t help but check if Groundhog Day was still on Bloc TV. Alas no, it really was the next day - there will be no repeat of Bloc Weekend.”
Too wong-fu, thanks for everything, Samanthak.
She Said: “The melody in Omar-S “Day” haunts my reverie of Bloc 2016. I can almost see a lone Supreme, hips gently swaying, glittering on an empty carpeted dancefloor. Her melancholic chant of something sweet lost ‘because, you’ll never have another day’ echoing through my collective Bloc memory. It’s also one of the last tracks played by Omar-S on the centre stage on Sunday night, closing Bloc at Minehead for good. However, it’s in a lighter and far more farcical mood that I continue to reflect on my final weekend with Bloc at Minehead. Where the out of season holiday resort with its hyper-real facades and themed sprawling grounds, enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the musical programming.
“Friday began at the FACT stage with an eclectic, bubbling and building set from Dutch DJ Intergalactic Gary. I start the night to the striving synth of Visage “Fade to Grey” and pretend I’m a trendy yuppie. Post dancefloor fantasies, it was on to Carl Craig’s Modular Pursuits - a techy synth snore, worthy of the most shoegaze of 90s bands, which I enjoyed all the same. Centre stage blurred the remaining hours into a pumping, industrial wave of Trade featuring Blawan and Surgeon. A serious-and-scathing-looking Andrew Weatherall B2B with Optimo was next at FACT where a troop of fixed eyes and dancing bodies looked to the stage for commands. If I had recognised anything played, I could probably tell you they were all classics that you/I should know.
Danilo played cat and mouse with the crowd, crouching low behind his decks and jumping blindly at the crowd at the swelling of a track.
“Saturday afternoon and we make it in time to join electro funk legend Egyptian Lover in Splashworld. His arms widened to the crowds with an occasional ‘walk like an Egyptian move’ chanting ‘8-0–MOTHERFU!KING-8’. It was fun, they turned on the wave machine and there were inflatables. At one point he did confuse Butlins Splashworld with a height of fame NWA pool party. “No sex please, we’re British” and all our swimwear stays on. I caught up with Egyptian Lover outside Atlantis for a brief chat but lost my nerve to address the tops off issue. Instead I promptly directed him to the guest reception and congratulated him on his career thus far.
I caught up with Egyptian Lover outside Atlantis for a brief chat but lost my nerve to address the tops off issue.
“Exit light, enter night to Magic Mountain high which was both low and high, masterful and made to look easy. This blended nicely into Motor City Drum Ensemble where a delighted Danilo played cat and mouse with the crowd, crouching low behind his decks and jumping blindly at the crowd at the swelling of a track. In contrast to the optimism and disco of MCDE, Daniel Avery began a monotonous set which, had I been feeling gloomy, I may have appreciated. Warp speed to Crack stage for Ceephax Acid Crew to PLAY SOME BLOC ACID! He whipped us into a waltzer frenzy at the opening 303 beat of “Sidney’s Sizzler”. The assemblage of Bloc norms and Bang Face nutters set it off to the best lasers all weekend to simply belter acid. The perfectly-timed “Capsule in Space” played to cinematic climax and then it was over. Thankfully Jeff Mills will save us all and we were promptly taken on board at centre stage. I don’t need to tell you how the crowd erupted to “The Bells” only that I do and they did. As dawn broke and Mills ended, I took a leisurely walk around Butlins stopping to appreciate a Ren, the musicians of the bird world no less. I made it back in time to observe the Body Hammer stage from a safe distance, finally joining the famed 10am club of rave myth.
“I warmed up gently on Sunday night with DMX Krew, who’s enthusiasm, energy and pure fire lifted a weary crowd. The much-hyped and kickstarter funded performance of DJ Deeon was filtering his raw Chicago bounce. “Not enough Booty!” I shouted to anyone who would listen, reminiscing on DJ Godfather & MC Omega of Bloc 2009 acclaim. As I made peace with this, I threw the last of my energy into the closing set of Omar-S. Arming us with hit tracks “Set it Out”, “Day” and anthem “Here’s Your Trance, Now Dance” the crowd bowed out gracefully. In parting I would like to remember Bloc when we met, exciting, young and full of promises. An easy lover who provided a platform of fun against an enviable track list. I’ll remember it this way and in return say ‘Too wong-fu, thanks for everything, Samanthak’.”
N.B - Dancing on Carpets, a forthcoming documentary, captures the highs and lows of the collected Bloc history.
She Said by Samantha Kemmy. Images by Hungry Visuals.