Review: Bloc 2016
All good things must come to an end, and with Bloc’s tenth weekend away in the depths of Somerset, so marks the end of a momentous yearly event that will be sorely missed.
With little competition other than Bugged Out in January, Bloc has always been the darker, more serious affair of the two, and so with knowledge of both an exceptional line-up and the knowledge that it was the final ever Bloc weekend, fans travelled from all over the country to Butlins Minehead to relish in three (and a bit) days of musical splendour.
Sporting an unarguably strong line-up to mark it’s final year, Bloc did not disappoint with its list of acts. From big acts like Thom Yorke and Four Tet, fascinating performances from Holly Herndon and Floating Points, and unmissable fun from Ceephax Acid Crew and Lone, there was something for every mood of the weekend. With each day of music starting at midday, and each night of the weekend wrapping all the way round to 10am, there was almost always something going on with hardly a breather available – therein lying the strength of the accommodation and real beds offered by the location, letting festival-goers party longer and harder than at a traditional festival.
The action took place inside the pavilion of Butlins, with stages dotted between every-day fast food chains and dated arcade machines. The setting is odd, if successful, given the lovely British winter. Six stages were kitted out with some of the latest lighting gear around that made its debut at Bloc.
Allowing guests to arrive a day prior to the main event, the action actually started on the Thursday with the second stage opening up at 8pm and going on until the early hours, with acts like Strepsil and Luke Handsfree filling out the stage with surprised guests who danced to what turned out to be a more than worthy warm-up to Bloc.
With the Waterworld and Pub stages opening early each day, guest arriving were treated to an immediate onslaught of music which wouldn’t really let up until the festival ended, and the start of Friday’s activities were no different. Tessellate opened Pub with a great set but it was Jacques Adda who followed with one of the most memorable sets of the weekend with unstoppable song after song that got a growing crowd really into the spirit of the weekend – and it was only 4pm!
When the Crack stage finally open, guests could for the first time witness what was perhaps Bloc’s best visual effort outside of the main stage – thirty two pin-point lasers swept and mesmerised the crowd gathered to witness strong sets from the hypnotic Datasette and the back-to-back fun of Volte-Face and Luke Handsfree.
By 10pm, the festival was in full force and suddenly guests were spoilt for choice – with six concurrent stages and none of them filler or an after-thought, the crowds were already given more acts in one night than they could hope to balance out seeing. The FACT stage stole the show however, branded as the ‘Feel My Bicep’ stage for the Friday, the stage adorned with a large neon disc adorned with their logo. With fun, light-hearted sets from Space Dimension Controller and Bicep themselves, it was the perfect atmosphere for the first night of Bloc.
Perhaps the first and only misstep of the weekend was the Centre stage lacking in punch – with heavy hitting acts like Surgeon and Blawan it was to many attendees puzzlement that the volume seemed to be far too low – it was even possible to hear (and feel) the bass leaking from FACT stage while trying to appreciate the live set of Floating Points. With a stream of complaints from attendees and even artists on social media, it was perhaps the only hiccup in an otherwise well managed weekend. Thankfully improving later in the weekend, it was unclear what the issue was.
As Saturday dawned, festival-goers were facing easily the most jam-packed and busy day of music of the whole weekend, with each of the stages offering several tempting artists. Thankfully the close proximity of each stage allowed for indecisive guests to flit between stages to catch multiple acts that clashed, from the unmissable visual splendour and marvellous performance of Thom Yorke, the trance-inducing beats of Daniel Avery, and the irresistible tunes from Lone on the R&S vs Boxed stage.
Having such a diverse line-up for the weekend, Bloc did a great job of balancing the stages to offer everything from accessible dance floor hits to the more eclectic, weird and wonderful electronic. Guests were offered what was perhaps the highest concentration of the scene’s talent in such a small space for one weekend.
The Crack stage sadly finishing earlier than others (although still managing to reach 4am), Ceephax Acid Crew delivered perhaps the most memorable set of the whole weekend, with more analogue synthesisers than you’ve seen in years, raising the energy in the crowd to one of the absolute peaks of the weekend.
Despite two stages sadly closed on the Sunday, festival goers were still spoilt for choice, with the Pub stage unexpectedly offering the large highlight of the day. DEBONAIR delivered a two hour set which managed to get the crowd going while nursing their hangovers – a feat of accomplishment given the all-out previous night for most festival-goers. As some guests sadly packed up and left to return to everyday life, those that stayed were treated to perhaps the most eyebrow raising set of the weekend – a back to back set with snooker champion Steve Davis and Kavus Torabi of the cult rock group Cardiacs. With what looked like little experience on decks, Davis and Torabi managed to deliver easily the most diverse and widely spanning set of the weekend, with the mix jumping everywhere from Autechre to Black Sabbath and Véronique Vincent & Aksak Maboul. With passer-bys confused and often quickly moving on, those that stayed got exposed to a wealth of musical knowledge that kept many in the crowd enraptured for the full four hours of their set.
With the Sunday beginning to wane, crowds surged into the few stages still open to witness the final acts of the weekend. On the FACT stage relentless energy was pushed out the entire night with acts like dBridge and an hour-extended closing set of drum and bass from Goldie. On the Center stage, goers were treated to a two hour set from Detroit legend Omar-S, playing house and techno tunes that pushed crowds to their limits of tiredness after a jam-packed weekend. Ending a good deal earlier than the other nights, perhaps in kindness to those exhausted from three full days of dancing, the mood was one of happiness and awe of such an impacting weekend. Such mood was carried over back to the Butlins chalets, where attendees were treated to those groups who refused to let the weekend end, prohibitively playing endless tunes out to their neighbours until exhaustion overrode and the guests of the final Bloc slept.
On the Monday morning guests were faced with a challengingly early checkout from Butlins. Leaving behind the seaside town of Minehead, it was impossible to not reflect back on the weekend as something quite special – an event to remember, a highlight of the electronic scene, and a true benchmark for which future events will be judged against.
Written by Dan Cohen.
Site Setup 9/10
Festival Communication 8/10
Attention to Detail 7/10
Creative Content 6/10
Value for Money 9/10