Well, it’s one thing Bloc Weekend are good at – it’s getting a reaction from people. From anecdotes of excessive weekenders, mouthwatering lineups and priceless tall tales or in contrast major cock ups (hey 2012), questionable security issues and some very controversial comments from one of their organisers (more of that later), Bloc Festival has become the marmite of festivals.
2016 was to be the last Bloc hurrah – so how did it measure up?
Bloc at Butlins is a strange, funny creature – a techno blow out in a wholesome holiday camp that makes for an interesting, inviting setting. You get a first class lineup filled with giddy, hardened headbangers dotted around Pizza Huts, teddy bear grabber machines, arcade games, Waterworld, childrens slides, laser tag and crazy golf. Techno heads riddled with hangovers – not your usual family holiday park crowd.
On reflection the best Bloc experiences are the handy on site chalets that mean no commute to and from the festival. It also means you get chalet wall to wall buzz and banter as you make endless friends (it’s the very opposite of stranger danger). The Bloc crowd could not have been more lovely, bantery or welcoming. For me, it made Bloc the beltering experience it was – it was love thy neighbour in spades. This wonderful welcome seemed to seep into everything. Where else would you bump into Intergalactic Gary outside an overpriced buffet restaurant, see someone curled up asleep on the iconic giant Bloc deckchair, drink cans while sitting on a children’s slide or have an unannounced Andrew Weatherall Fan Club meet up in the smoking area (there was a brief standoff, until we realised there was room enough for all of us)
Musically we had a killer live set from Auroral Halal – always a cross between seamless, startling and comfortingly unpredictable. While I was slightly gutted Midland didn’t finish in his usual disco style he was as supreme as ever (Go hard or go home was his weekend mantra).
No spot prizes for predicting the Weatherall back to Back Optimo tag team was an outright success – containing more twists than a Latin American soap opera. It was like being in a panic room you don’t ever want to escape from.
Shout outs to Automatic Tasty’s loudest, proudest fans who I danced next to and Saturday night, the John Heckle ruckus and Shanti Celeste giving me my one disco fix Sunday evening.
The absolute highlight had to be Omar S Sunday night – jackhammering out surprise after surprise under an armageddon laser show. We literally felt like we were standing at the middle of the earth – I still get a giddy flashback everytime I hear this:
And the security issues? I think I was one of the lucky ones, any dick moves (apart from one issue during the initial search in – we won that round BTW) were just stories, but there were some unfair decisions over the weekend for sure. But any other hi vis vests I encountered were polite, fair and dare I say a little bit sound. One explanation for this juxtaposition could be the rumour that there are 2 security firms, one from Butlins one from Bloc – I’m convinced it’s some kind of Orwellian experiment.
I am scolding myself for forgetting my swim gear, the swimming pool party with Egyptian Lover was apparently a sleaze-tastic affair. While there was the spectator area that we stuck our heads into, we felt like kids that had been banished to the bold step. Ragin’.
Witnessing Bloc TV first hand – the festival channel piped into every tv that shows freaky crackpot movies and tv programmes made my year- it was a literal bucket list moment (naturally in a new friends chalet..sorry Mam)
3 days following the festival, one of Bloc’s founders George Hull announced he had decided that he was pulling the plug on Bloc to concentrate on a super club as we are “too safe and boring and us “hipsters” are “an uptight bunch”. While he does make the point festivals are now ‘a monstrous cabal of overpaid circuit DJs’ (yikes), then maybe just don’t book them George?
Perhaps he is saving face, given that they were practically giving away tickets the week before – it can’t have been selling as well as previous years. But talk about giving the 2 fingers to those that forgave previous security rumblings and that had lost money on the 2012 cancellation. I for one George had a ball and then some, so I won’t waste my hate on you. I salute all those beautiful souls who made my Bloc experience what it was and those that refused to give up on the Bloc dream even though you gave us many a reason to do so. You sound like zero craic anyway – enjoy your super club mate.
Pics by: Jake Davis and Daddy’s Got Sweets.