Friday, 2 May 2008

Bloc Weekend - the post mortem

After all the good times we took down in Glasgow, the week after myself and the Gag Reflex journeyed to East Anglia (Great Yarmouth to be precise) for the Bloc Weekender.

We visited last year on a jolly thanks to Fact Magazine who sorted us out a chalet and a pass to check out the best bits of the rave.

They didn't inform us we'd be staying with a gaggle of cockney wide boy djs/window cleaners/nurofen peddlers. Needless to say we got involved and ended up dining on the finest horse tranquiliser known to man for our Sunday lunch. Lovely...

Thankfully this year was a bit more sedate but still resulted in me giving my wallet away to a crusty within five hours of entering. Then I chundered massively on Saturday during the Black Dog. Warp's finest purveyors of bleepy maximal most be pleased to know that right in the middle of their rave I was splurging my guts reet outside their area. Whoops...

FACT published the review but first here's a few photos they neglected to use. Thankfully I didn't lose my camera although everything else (mind, aforementioned wallet, dignity, ears) ended up in Steve Wright's notorious skip.

Underground Resistance in full effect - note Mad Mike lurking in the back

The 'baron' Dave Clarke at work - electro ghetto tech from the man with deep jowels.

Great Yarmouth's finest cuisine. Note prehistoric peas. They tasted like they'd been up all night.

When you've got a stomach like a fucking walnut, there is nothing better.

Here's my steak pie looking a little more appetising than it did on the plate. We went back to check on the state of my mouth excretion through out the night. It mysteriously disappeared around breakfast time. We spent 'breakfast' with a new friend called Jellyman. Look him up...

Oris Jay (from Sheffield natch) showing Bloc how we fucking do it. Note trainers. Top fucking smart boi.

The Wee djs. Nice tie mate.

C'mon you cunts let's rave

We're all tired...

Shelley Parker in the Smashbloc arena on Sunday. As you can tell by the headgear, the whiff of lunacy and poppers was in the air.

York b-boy Mossadon in the AREA. So good we've booked him for Rough Disko in June. HYPE.

The last fucking stand. Dude on the left is in de rigeaur chicken attire.

Here's the review in all its twisted glory. It's the pennings of a frazzled mind so subsequently the grammar/terms are a bit clarky cat. At this point my brain had properly gone off the deep end...

Take a shitty seaside resort, a holiday park oozing tack, 2,500 of the world’s sickest ravers, 3 days worth of electronic hardness and the resulting chemically-enhanced slice of fun is the Bloc weekend. If ever a party was to be found at the world’s edge/end then this is it. In fact driving through Norfolk may just resemble the journey to the sulphurous outer depths of hell, except that a trip to check on the bowels of Lucifer might be slightly sweeter on the eye. The place really is the a-hole of the UK with little in the way of redeeming features. We were forced to take our minds off the desolation and creeping loathing by feasting on scotch eggs, jam doughnuts and laughing uproariously at the idea of residing in Clengewharton or Whadpole. After 5 hours in a car several clouds of lunacy had severely set in...

Last year Bloc truly had been the rave to end all raves. We’d spent the best part of 48 hours getting up close and personal with a bunch of scallies, our own personal demons and a selection of hot electronics from the likes of Dutch electro lord I-F, booty warbler EDMX and Detroit man Robert Hood among a line up which really would be worth throwing yourself off a cliff for. The five days post-Bloc were full of fear, intense nightmares and brain agony - we weren’t expecting anything less mind expanding or frightening from round two.

After successfully avoiding the sniffer dogs at the gate (who appeared to be taking great, tongue waggling delight in giving the fear to wonkers by bounding through vehicles with gay abandon - a pant soiling prospect to say the least) we found our chalet, stuffed our snouts into some hot cheese and started lapping up our gin stash pronto.

Entering the arena early on Friday eve we were pleased to see all the best bits of last year still standing. This is Pontins so amusement arcades, greasy fodder, Newcastle brown and massive stained rooms more used to seeing doddering collections of blue rinsers shouting ‘house’ bingo rather than the mind-mangled mouthing ‘ketamine’ are all in place. Dob in a random mix of caners featuring crusties, behooded ones and more elderly ravers all biting on the bit to get a chemically induced invertigal lob on and you can practically taste the room odouriser.

Amon Tobin in the Bassbloc was the first artist who walked in front of our rave radar and was surprisingly exciting. His ‘surround sound DJ set’ had far more digital crunch, snap and full on bass than his more smokey Ninja Tunes offerings could lead your ears to expect. The mass of writhing finger poppers getting down in front of him showed that the blue touch paper for this party had been lit, eaten, and gipped up a while ago. Going off…

After Mr Tobin had finished dishing out his eclectic wares, Dave Clarke and Underground Resistance Interstellar Fugitives were the next men on our hit list. Clarke was as subtle as a baron can ever be, lashing all and sundry with ghetto tech, hard booty and funky electro. The UR men played wrapped up in hoods, masks and synths with main man Mad Mike prowling the stage like a panther strutting in his lair. Are UR still relevant? Do they still mean anything? Is the bluster of a ‘change through sonic revolution’ just soap-box posturing from men old enough to know better? It looked awesome but perhaps these days more fierce some sounding electronic artists are out there offering a little more ear bending than their militant breed of technofied-electro funk…

Afterwards we began to spazz out massively in the increasing sea of messiness strewn across the site. I lost my mind, and unfortunately my wallet which I probably ate or gave to a passing crusty to fetch me an ice cream with. The gin had completely slipped one past me so by the time EDMX got stuck into ravaging those still standing somewhere near dawn, I was genuinely lost. Apparently my body was still there but deceiving the hoardes by actually being asleep on my feet - the dance was too good to not at least allow half of yourself to experience it…

Day two was surprising in the first instance that I woke up in bed and it was daylight. Thankfully the bender we had played within did not put our chances of checking the next night’s business at serious risk, unlike those wearing the horses’ heads outside or the chap who was looking to distribute his equine medicine to security, last checked being bundled off into the back of a van.

We even journeyed to Great Yarmouth in the fog for some food at one point (at which various other wide-eyed festival goers cackled at uproariously - ‘Food?! What’s up with you? Losers…’, a particularly ravaged looking members of the wonkathon bellowed as we left). We ate opposite an amusement arcade bestowed with the moniker of ‘Joyland’ which was a slight misnomer. The scran left a little to be desired, especially the peas which had possibly been sitting about in this lonely seaside resort longer than some of the fossils staggering up and down the foggy ‘seafront.’ Like Joyland, this was another fib on the part of the sign maker. There was little in the way of sea, just the cold, the cloud, and pikeys flogging food and possibly glue.
Back in the arena the vibe was becoming increasingly wonk-fuelled. As the sleep deprived and intensely bastardised crossed the beams, the Saturday descended rapidly into what an unhinged and anarchic meltdown.

Sleeparchive was an impossibly nerdy purveyor of ace deep techno, who looked embarrassed to have so many ravers watching him, never mind getting down to his business. He shuffled meekly off after his set - Grow some balls dude, your music bangs. Over in the TecBloc Milanese exposed us to a rare bit of crunk funk, dropping a heavy Timbaland track before spazzing off into a dance floor heavy dubstep selection. Sheffield’s Oris Jay (and Mary Anne Hobbes other half who we caught in the amusement arcade) wouldn’t let the vibe drop by keeping his foot on the dub-tech accelerator.

We missed the Black Dog as I was too busy turning my guts inside out but they sounded pretty banging through the sick in my ears. Karl Bartos didn’t really kill it as we hoped, The Bug’s new direction was a bit dull (where’s the dry ice and gut punching noise gone from the live set up?) while Radioactive Man decided to take a pounding electronic sledgehammer to the Bassbloc floor, almost uprooting it.

Elsewhere Skream justified the hype with a hot, tight and heavy dubstep set. It may have been too chocked with rewinds but it banged just rightly and Juan Atkins looked gaunt and as if he’d had a pipe too many to give a shit about his increasingly off kilter it mixing.

It was left to energy flasher Joey Beltram to raise the roof of the rave on the main arena through a riotous blend of hot, booming, big room techno. At that point my body and mind were again melting and we retired to the chalet to continue the naughtiness until the morning hours with a chap dubbed Jellyman and our increasingly farty entourage…

Sunday was spent staring dumbly at the grand prix and eating fish fingers before entering the arena for the last wobbly hooray. Shelley Parker was an unexpected find in the Smashbloc dropping a wide array of old rave, including Mr Flagio’s ‘Take a Chance’ and Radioactive Man’s ‘Ave it’. Elsewhere the boiler-suit-wearing Mossadon robo funked our booties with an ace set of body blopping eighties electro stuffed with vocoders and digital dancing. The man got the little room bouncing before we were bludgeoned almost to death by the pounding techno, houseisms and filtered acid badness of Phuture 303, A Guy Called Gerald and Ben Sims…

On Monday morning the flat smelt of spam, Tennets Super and one of our crew who was being asked for the car keys thought he was getting badgered for a carcass. The trumps were feral, I couldn’t speak, and after a day or so, I’m still getting my throat repaired, my head round what happened and learning to keep solids down. But again Bloc showed that it’s an intense throw down to the increasingly lengthy season of festival sillyness. Props to our chalet mates at Soma and Radio Magnetic who helped us survive the carnage. If we go in 2009 (lord help us), I’m ordering a helmet and a fucking tank…

Optimo Espacio in Glasgow

Word here's the vibe on a fairly recent trip down to Optimo Espacion town. If you're up there and fancy cracking the electronic whip of a Sunday, then it's got to be done...

Dragons of Zynth were playing. We didn't like them much.

Aww the hype, the verse, the platitudes, the beats, the genre defying mixes -Glasgow ‘clubbing institution’ Optimo Espacio has garnered a reputation that every leftfield electronic shindig would give its latest Hercules and Love Affair promo for - supposedly one of the last bastions of underground dancing, after the merciless culling of Manchester’s Electric Chair by proprietors the Unabombers, and a club as much about the flyers, posters and live acts as much as the music and militant sloganing. The reputation of resident perves Twitch and Wilkes precedes them.

We were Optimo virgins and Glasgow ones too. Staying in a snide guest house near the Glasgow School of Art had made it an interesting trip but we were desperate for the wonk that the city is so famed for.

We’ve checked the Optimo djs before - Scuba in Sheffield played host to them not so long ago while we saw them take on the opening night of Spain's Benicassim festival a few years back.

That was mindblowing - 5am, a still baking hot car park in the south of Spain and one of the pair dropped the heart tapping synth line (where your atriola is the bassline) from the start of Black Strobe’s Italian Fireflies (still the best thing Smagghe has ever done) before bashing it into Blondie. The whole place went ape and that's the last thing memory recalls.

I woke the next day half in half out of a tent mammories melting and mouth like the proverbial menopausal minge - well fucking worth it.

Unfortunately it just our luck to catch the club when it’s two main men are out of town

However we were treated to a special set from Zombie Nation’s Dj Mooner, whose identity on the night was a secret. He was hiding behind some very big specs, a natty yellow jumper and an ace selection of italo cosmic disco which throbbed throughout. That, the smoke machine and ‘We love your ears’ sign boom bipping like a disco light house illuminating our ginned up steps was ace - The selection of doubles at three pounds a pop hammered it all home.

The next day (a Monday - yes the sickos run the night on the lord's day) was spent nursing a burning ass ring after smuggling some ill-gotten chips into the guest house. It was agony. A full day traipsing round Glasgow in the rain with trainers with holes in. The highlight was a full fry up breakfast where a miscalculation was made and the plastic wrapper that the black pudding arrived in was taken down to stomach town. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

This is the view from outside the Sub Club where the do goes down. Shot taken at a jaunty angle natch.