Bloc Weekend 2016 review

Ben Jolley caught sets from Ben UFO, Fatima Yamaha, Evian Christ and loads more at the last ever Bloc Weekender in Minehead.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 16th Mar 2016

Image: Bloc by Hungry Visuals

Waking up at 5am ready (or not so) for a four hour cross-country journey from Cambridgeshire to Taunton via London's sardine-packed tube services, we can't help but question whether the long-haul commute to Bloc is worth all the effort. 

But, with it being our first ever - and the final - Weekender, it’s basically unmissable. Offering DJing and live talent from the world of house, techno and bass - and even infamous snooker world champion Steve Davis who plays and later hosts a pool tournament – it was all set for a special send off. 

To find Jimmy Edgar, Nina Kraviz, Evian Christ, Holly Herndon, Four Tet, Floating Points, Carl Craig, Motor City Drum Ensemble and countless others all playing over three days, at the same place, for one cost – is rare, in the UK at least. 

Additional to the techno fuelled madness, there are pool parties, dodgems, topical talks with music journalists, interviews with artists in the cinema area, Pacman arcade games... all set in a Butlins holiday resort otherwise intended for families with young kids. For an otherwise mundane March weekend, it has real potential.

Floating Points kicks off the centre stage on Friday night, performing his melodic and jazzy piano pieces with a full live band, made extra trippy by the accompanying blinding, flashing strobes.

Meanwhile at the Jak stage, there's a whole different vibe. DJ Skirt is going full on techno in front of a growing crowd, before humbly thanking them as breakout producer Fatima Yamaha's hour set becomes an early evening highlight. 'Love Invaders' arrives less than 20 minutes in and the guy in front of us cannot stop grinning.

Moving into a spacier, techno soundscape, Yamaha beams and bounces behind the controls, throwing himself into it as much as the energetic crowd. Ending with his slept-on masterpiece 'What's A Girl To Do' (below), the round of applause is never-ending as a man wearing a tinsel crown blows bubbles into the air... only at Bloc. 

Walking into the FACT stage - a room where kids and their parents would usually be watching Redcoats perform family-friendly songs and dances - the soundsystem is one of the sites strongest. Stood behind the decks is Jimmy Edgar, dressed in all black, he blasts out ULTRAMAJIC techno; percussive, robotic and somewhat mechanical.

In comparison to Carl Craig on the centre stage there's unquestionably a lot more energy; his edit of DJ Spookie’s ‘Reload’ (below) and ‘Let Me Tell You’ hit hard, it's just a shame Edgar was only given a one hour slot. 

The crowd at Bloc have come from far and wide - much further than us to be here, especially one Thom Yorke superfan that has flown all the way from America (her flight was £2,000!) If that's not dedication, what is?

Next up are Bicep, two producers and DJs who never fail to deliver, this time veering between vocal-led house and techno. Keeping the energy high and their room packed out, each track gains a bigger reaction than the last. It’s an exciting prospect ahead of their live shows. 

Ben Klock after a quick nap is the best way to wake yourself up. Heavy, unforgiving techno being pelted out to a sea of people under crazy neon strobes while others lay stretched out at the back of the room taking it all in and girls partaking in late night/early morning yoga, not your average sight. 

Later Ben UFO draws one of the weekender's biggest queues to his set at the constantly busy Carhaart stage, which remains open until 10am, whilst DJ Bone takes his crowd on a journey in the Jak room. As we walk in he's teasing Floorplan's huge 'Never Grow Old (Re Plant)' (below), building up to the gigantic scream. 

There ain't no party like a Butlins pool party. With Space Dimension Controller behind the decks dropping disco and old classics like Jermaine Stewart's 'We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off' and Armand Van Helden's 'I Want Your Soul'.

Starting things off early Sunday night are Lyre - a bass-heavy, synth led duo - who play their trippy visual-fuelled beats to a pocketful of people. Returning to the centre stage little over an hour later, Holly Herndon's "strange rave" (as one person describes it on Instagram) is in full swing.

A mix of computer manipulation, live vocals and minimal techno mixed with eye-popping visuals - it's weird yet hypnotically enjoyable. During the close of her set she types out some messages on her laptop, these are then projected onto the screen behind her: "There's too much on tonight to shout anyone but we will be dancing. Say hello <3" the inventive producer writes, adding "C U L8R. Thom Yorke next. Jheez!" 

Twenty minutes late, the Radiohead frontman, along with a two person band, bring lots of heavy bass to Butlins. Flexibly stalking the stage, Yorke's unique vocal rides over trippy riffs, but its Evian Christ who really gets the blood pumping. 

At the front of the as-yet-unexplored Crack stage, he is obliterating the dancefloor, both sonically and visually. Putting in a blinder, with mad strobes relentlessly flashing outwards, Christ offers a fresh outlook on the electronic music experience, fusing trap beats with his bass-heavy maximalist electronic style. There's no holding back.

Nowhere else on site would you hear Justin Bieber's 'What Do You Mean?' Here, though, it's melted into a bone-rattlingly apocalyptic fusion of darkness. "I can't believe he just dropped Bieber" is the stunned yet satisfied reaction from one punter. It's quickly followed up with an intense edit of Alice Deejay's classic club anthem 'Better Off Alone'. Manipulated for another dimension, smoke engulfs the room and strobes render Christ barely visible. His set becomes one of the Weekender's finest hours. 

It doesn't get any softer, either. When XL's Powell takes over for a lesson in inventive industrial electronic music and techno, the strobes turn blood red. Cleverly building up each track, he keeps the crowd on their toes as he kneels below the decks intriguingly and enthusiastically. At this point an older couple - one with the beard and hair of Gandalf - make their way to the front barrier to showcase dance moves better than most of their younger counterparts.

Four Tet pulls in a massive centre stage crowd meanwhile, effortlessly mixing between house, techno, bass and world music. His edit of Jamie XX's 'Seesaw' (above) goes down a treat, alongside the euphoric eight minute build up of 'Opus' and Denis Sulta's melodic techno banger 'It's Only Real'. The man in front of us is totally right to let out a humongous "Yeah!!" adding emphatically "I love you Four Tet".

Nina Kraviz, appearing at around 2.30am, plays the crowd well, mixing tracks like an expert and orchestrating the crowd with her hand movements to the bleeps and blips whilst lasers flood the floor enhancing everyone's multi-dimensional sense of feeling.

Jeff Mills, who we were told earlier would be a highlight, goes on a similar tangent after Kraviz, dropping ‘The Bells’ to a raised level of elation – a real moment that will go down in Bloc Weekender history. 

It might be the end of the Bloc Weekender on paper, but Butlins in Minehead will forever remain the spiritual home of techno in Britain. 

Read more: Bicep Interview: Fit to flex

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