A Great Weekend at Bloc

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Butlins seems an unlikely place for a festival but you can pack the crowds in and with games-a-plenty, a real ale stand and a water park there is enough to keep you occupied between acts.  The event organisers were celebrating Bloc the Fifth with a cracking line up spread across five venues and the festival sold out in record time.  If you were lucky enough to be there you were spoilt for choice and the only problem on Friday night was where to start?

How about Red:Bloc?  Probably the most inspired idea of the weekend was asking Modeselektor to curate Red:Bloc on Friday.  Modeselektion are doing great things for electronic music right now and Red was buzzing with expectation.  Once Siriusmo began lighting up the dance-floor with his quirky, funky, beats and bobs and wolfy visuals it was all set up for a great night.

In Centre Beardyman seemed like the popular choice.  He’s more refined now with less emphasis on beatboxing mayhem and more use of hardware, but certainly no less creative and unpredictable.  Highlight of his set?  Watching him put together tunes using title suggestions.  Oh, and there were lots of silly voices… and silly videos… and donkeys.

Magnetic Man followed, then of course, LFO.  Standing calmly in front of his computer the Warp legend treated the audience to chunk after chunk of techno brilliance in front of blistering visuals.  Somewhere around halfway he dropped “Freak” and the place went crazy.  A great start to the weekend.

When we saw Aphex Twin in big letters on Bloc’s website we got a bit excited.  When we got to the festival and saw Saturday’s lineup we jumped up and down and hugged the nearest person.  If you could squeeze into the almost unsqueezable Ableton RFID (Recursive Function Immersive Dome) Dome there was a healthy dose of early evening acid from Luke Vibert and friends. 

Next up Dopplereffekt.  Mysterious and understated clad in black clothes and masks, the duo stood opposite each other with seemingly just a synth and workstation for company.  Heavy and brooding, it served to bring the mood down so it could build back up again.

In Tek:Bloc the crowd were on another level and onstage dOP were on another planet.  Apparently, three bottles of vodka was all they had asked for on their rider.  Little did the security staff realise that as the frontman jumped down to the stage barrier he was planning to share with the audience.  In the scuffle that followed the Frenchman showed security that he had mastered a few choice English words, before the bottle was wrestled from his hand.  It was obviously all too much, so he headed back on stage for a lie down.

When Aphex emerged to thunderous applause and cheering it all seemed pretty standard, but it wouldn’t be Aphex Twin if he didn’t do things differently, and difficultly.  Photographers aren’t allowed to use flash and only have ten minutes to take pictures.  Maybe he finds it distracting or maybe he wants people to focus on his music rather than his persona.  It was all very confusing as his face was plastered all over his visuals anyway!

His set harked back to the early techno days with meaty kick drums and intricate hi-hats behind those familiar organic synth sounds.  He began to wander into other genres, before surprising everyone by dropping in some dubstep!  The mixed response on the dance floor has been echoed by messages on Bloc’s Facebook page, maybe he wanted to show his adaptability or maybe he wanted to do a little something just for the Bloc crowd.  Either way, we all stood smiling as he finished it all with a blast of filthy noise.

A quick breath of fresh air and we’re into Red for Venetian Snares.  Ten minutes later and we’re out of Venetian Snares.  Still the master of insane programming, but at 4am it was time for Jak:Bloc.  Orgue Electronique was setting the vibe for a night (or morning) of dancing with a cheeky bit of disco.

Sunday is often wind down time at a festival, but not Bloc.  Now craving something more melodic I headed to Jak for Boxcutter.  He has an undeniable knack for crossing genres, but best of all it was great to see him doing plenty of live knob twiddling.  Another standout set.

Laurent Garnier’s group had the crowd in the palm of their hands in Centre while downstairs in Red the spinback styles of Redlight and crowd-rousing taunts of Dread MC had people jumping.  Fancy dress was in and the heroes and villains had been steadily working themselves up, drawing on those last reserves of energy for the Sunday blowout. 

Bloc 2011 was a full weekend with a brilliant line up and even my partner who doesn’t particularly like electronic music had a great time.  The event organisers did a great job of providing something special for everyone and I saw smiling faces everywhere I went.

Was there anything I’d like to be different?  Well, yes.  While I understand the thinking behind the line up in the RFID- especially with the amazing visuals- it seems it could have been swapped with the line up in Tek.  I never saw Tek heaving but there was always a queue for the big sets in the RFID, especially on Sunday when Tek was actually closed down for the weekend.

I also feel there could have been even more of a mix up in the music on Sunday.  Judging from the way people were jumping around to Boxcutter, good producers will always get people moving.

These points aside, it was a great weekend and I take my hat off to Bloc for first, allowing the likes of Modeselektor to curate a stage and second, the way in which they managed to build each night to a crescendo, whilst achieving a good measure of variety.

Published on 23 March 2011 by Wayne Feltham

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