All Blocked Up

It’s the same story every time. Three nights with almost no sleep leaves you asking: “What have we done?”

You could be forgiven for thinking a load of lunatics had just got off the bus when we arrived at a service station, somewhere in England, on the way to somewhere else. Hopefully our carriage was taking us home. The one thing we were sure of was that we’d been to Butlins, but it hadn’t been a holiday camp.

Well, OK, maybe it had, but not the type where everyone drinks piss-poor lager, and lives in ominous rows of pre-fab chalets. Right, point taken, that’s exactly what it was like. Only there was a monster truck load of fast noise everywhere, along with people who looked happy.

And with a lineup like this year’s who wouldn’t sport a smile? From L.F.O. and A Guy Called Gerald to Jamie XX and Magnetic Man there was a ‘through the ages’ feel to pretty much everything about Bloc’s fifth Minehead mashup. This time-travelling ethic had been mirrored in the crowd, wherein dubstep kids donned peaked caps beside those who should surely know better by now. A mighty enjoyable do, especially as we didn’t end up being escorted to a B&B sans dignity. So then, now all’s been said and done, let’s piece it back together…


Day 1


Check in time. For some sadistic reason our coach left Manchester at 7am. After previously being located in the Holnicote Village district it was quite something to find ourselves back at the same address. Like killers returning to the crime scene, an excitedly familiar feeling descends.



A painful trip to Morrisons, and some solid drinking makes two things clear. We need to go out, and turn the TV off. The sight of another man being killed by having a huge dildo rammed down his throat would be too much, plus it’s about time we had a dance.



After checking out a lackadaisical Guido, all backstep grooves and lucid flavour, and marauding around a little, we’re back in our soon-to-be-smack den. It’s an early warning of the pitfalls to be encountered by rocking up to a festival with a 20 strong team. Some serious self-discipline will be needed if there’s any hope of not getting sucked into endless duvet discussions, despite nobody paying £160 for that particular privilege.



We’ve just had our heads down to a bit of Untold, playing some stereotypically submersible bass sounds, and now Joy Orbison has taken control of things. On top of that, there were these two people from Hamburg explaining their lengthy drive, and a staff member who was taking time off to check Red:Bloc for a bit of a boogie. It’s not bad going, considering by this time we’d usually only just have managed to leave the house.



It’s hot in here, very, very hot. An intense feeling that’s exacerbated by the fact Ben Klock‘s playing a kind of two-tier techno made almost entirely of razor sharp hi-hats and pounding, raw drums. All the while a huge inflatable monkey seems to mock us all, serving as a reminder that Modeselektor are running the show, and Ramadanman just rocked it with his token step and shuffle, albeit here realised with added rave.



Navigating the rows of obscure buildings we’re home with surprising ease. It’s been quite an energetic day, especially considering we’ve seen every hour of it. After calling in at Centre:Bloc for the first time to steal a few seconds of Claude Von Stroke, and then deciding to spend an hour wandering without purpose the quandary hits… Sleep, or bed? Which would make tomorrow better? It seems obvious they way things are heading.


Day Two


There’s already discussion of getting into our fancy dress. It’s unclear, but something says staying in the same ridiculous outfit for 48 hours isn’t a great personal hygiene decision. Two of our party arrive; one dressed as a lobster, the other a banana. We’re kept busy for a while.



It’s unclear how it happened, but it did. After residing ourselves to no sleep for the duration of Bloc we’re now happily in the middle of some twisted slumber, dreaming of the neon lights and Sega Rally that define Butlins’ arcade, making us wonder how we thought we’d manage without.



Lying on the bathroom floor, white with pain, wondering if that slapping noise was a pelvis snapping isn’t the best place to be before a day of dancing and debauchery. Forced to sport a heat pack for the afternoon we read the sign by the shower: ‘Caution – Slippery When Wet‘.



Back at the chalet things are getting messy in the kitchen. A well-meaning living room clean up has resulted in every conceivable piece of clutter being transported onto the work surfaces, microwave and draining board. Still, the music’s started, as has the all-important Saturday night.



We woke up thanks to Addison Groove (the man also known as Headhunter). It was all about those infectiously danceable breaks the kids apparently call juke. It’s sightly reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers, all sleazy vocal stabs and booty shaking basslines. No matter which definition you prefer, it was exactly what’s needed post-Friday pre-Saturday, getting the party started in the most upbeat manner.



King Midas Sound just turned everything a shade of Tricky? with their token dub-metal epicness. It’s the sound engineers we look to as the contrasts between soft and harsh play havoc with the levels, and our eardrums. Enjoyable nonetheless, with femme fatale Hitomi’s vocals tantamount to the calm before the storm. Now we’re mid dOP‘s live house set come vodka swilling, topless session, which is cool, if bizarre.



After facing the crowds inside the main arena Four Tet managed to make it all worthwhile, delivering a mesmerising live set of building block house filled with those warm melodies. Worried about Aphex Twin‘s liability to pack the place out Billy Nasty came up trumps in that physical, been about since the early 90s, double drop techno way. The Advent then launches into Green Velvet’s Flash, and blokes start shouting.



Finishing Bloc’s room had been the highly worthwhile Oscar Mulero, complete with his solid, jackathon Detroit-influenced punchiness- a performance many maturer members of the crowd deemed worthy of a closing, rather lengthy name chant. And deserving it was too. From there we’d glanced at Vitalic‘s big room showcase, and got invited to an after party complete with ‘proper soundsytem’, and the promise of more games.


Day Three


After walking into the ‘party chalet’ members of our group immediately ran out, close to tears. In the living room people stood shoulder to shoulder while music hammered out. Opting for something saner it seems now is the best time to get into fancy dress and shout our catchphrases.



After debating what to do we decide the only logical activity is to go and investigate what had happened in the nightmare chalet crammed to bursting with post-club revellers. Broken crockery, and minds, line the path in front, while the soundtrack continues. Still, this is Bloc.



Bowling or pub, pub or bowling? It’s a difficult decision make no mistake. All too aware aware of how bad you are at a game that requires good aim when 40 winks are a distant memory, we’re keeping it pub, basking in the glory of a warm March afternoon, occasionally toasting the future.



After losing our keys for what seems like the tenth time since we arrived we’re back where the action is. Burger King offers a pretty non-descript menu, falling well short of the dishes available in the US and many European countries. Irritated but not put off, a simple cheeseburger proved sufficient. Now we’re watching last minute addition Jacques Green, a broken house and garage DJ that does his job well, so take note.



Legs are tired, half the troops are dead and the others no doubt one step away from a good sectioning. Thankfully then, the best is yet to come. After queueing in the shop for some time we’re on our way to polish things off in the main arena. En route we stop for pictures in a hot air balloon.



An impressive Matthew Dear successfully provided the kind of warm up-headline tech house that chugs along enticingly, melding chunky beats and snappy percussion. Now we’re mid Laurent Garnier, and a thousand or so people have already been reduced to putty in his hands. A dash of jazz and a whole lot of throbbing baritones makes for a commanding soundtrack that only a few names can hope to achieve. Tired, we continue.



It’s over. The Frenchman in charge of shutting things down did a fine job, showcasing his live LBS set to dazzling effect, delivering no less than three hours of (dare it be said) prog that had people dancing shoeless, topless and oblivious. Men held men, babies would have no doubt cried, and stuff fell from the sky. Exhausted, and drenched in the sweat of a thousand weekends, it’s time to collapse. Same time next year then?