A proper goodbye requires a proper send-off, so it’s only fitting that Bloc’s final farewell involved high-octane Techno, childlike escapism and a serious test of every party goer's stamina.
After the stumble that was Bloc 2012, many lost faith, unsure whether this once great weekender would ever re-establish itself on the thriving UK festival scene. For context, almost four years ago Bloc took it’s weekender to the UK capital for the first time. Disaster struck just a few hours in with fears of overcrowding and thousands of punters lost the money they’d paid. All seemed lost when the company went into voluntary administration, but just a year later, Bloc bounced back turning its focus to throwing parties in an abandoned warehouse in East London.
Faith was restored, respect grew, and as 2014 came to an end, Bloc announced they would be returning to their original home, Butlins Family Resort. Dance music fans whooped with joy, and as we rolled into spring Bloc marked their successful comeback to the inner circle.
This year everybody expected more of the same. And that is exactly what we got, except this year it came with some sad news. This would in fact be the last ever Bloc. In the words of co-founder Alex Benson, this final show would "mark a powerful crescendo to Bloc’s ten-year story." So 11 March arrived and off to Minehead we went, ready to see out this swansong weekender at its spiritual home.
Taking place in what is ordinarily a holiday resort for families with young kids, it was difficult not to feel like a big kid on arrival. Fairground rides presided over the resort, arcade games littered the Skyline Pavilion and giant flumes and slides wove around the Waterworld. But as darkness fell on Friday evening and the night got underway, I gazed at the inebriated faces walking through the arcade and thought to myself, actually, I couldn’t imagine somewhere less appropriate for children right now. But the location is part of the draw, we all want a chance to brandish our inner child and Bloc has allowed us to indulge in that illusion for a few days.
This year saw a few curveballs thrown into the mix; Motor City Drum Ensemble bringing the rare disco vibes, Fatima Yamaha fueling synth madness and Kahn taking you into the gritty depths of dubstep. Although these names added a little something extra to the roster, techno was still very much the main course, the pièce de résistance.
Floating Points kicked off Friday night, playing jazz tinged piano with a full live band to a packed Centre stage. It was beautiful, stirring and somewhat hypnotic but my legs were itching to move, so Fatima Yamaha’s powerful synth feats were the ideal destination. As one of the smaller spaces, the Jak stage made the atmosphere all the more electric during Bas Bron’s live synth sways and familiar distorted vocals. His affinity with the crowd bubbled over as ‘What’s a Girl To Do’ played out, marking itself as one of the best sets of the weekend.
Hoping to round off the night with a taste of Detroit, DJ Bone proved the only man for the job. Sadly the queues flowed out of the stage doors and after a failed attempt at getting into Ben UFO we were left with Klock at the Centre stage. It left us slightly underwhelmed, maybe due to the setbacks of our previous attempts but the dynamism of the evening’s previous sets were simply not on offer.
Glorious sunshine - something you can never rely on in England - got the Saturday off to a great start. My friends, donned in their cricketer’s whites, played cricket on the boggy green, while the less active slumped on the grass readying ourselves for the evening’s proceedings.
There was only one place to start. The Crack stage and the woman who ruled the roost this weekend - hats off, Helena Hauff. Although taking up the early 8PM slot, she effortlessly commanded the stage, drawing a large crowd who gleefully accepted the challenge to move to her dark electronic offerings, The Hacker’s ‘At Night’ sped up being a particular highlight.
The pace cooled down at the Centre Stage as the inimitable Thom Yorke performed his wonky electronic musings against a backdrop of mesmeric visuals. The performance culminated in an encore of Atoms for Peace classic ‘Default’ that had the crowd glued to the spot for just a few more minutes.
We caught the tail end of Magic Mountain High, before Motor City stepped up to bring some melodicism to the FACT stage. The audience danced furiously as he wove soulful gems, like Kiki Gyan’s ‘Disco Dancer’ in amongst pinging techno numbers. Meanwhile Kahn banged out ferocious dubstep to the Jak stage and one of the rowdiest crowds of the weekend. The night rounded off with the one and only Jeff Mills, relentless in his contributions, he proved again and again why he is a force to be reckoned with.
Sunday began the only way it should, with Steve Davis, a table, a cue and some balls. Hosting the pool competition with an unwavering smile, he toyed with the crowd as he played cheeky trick shots, letting his final shot tickle two pockets before going in the third. Man like Steve, showing Minehead that the ‘boring Steve Davis’ moniker is but a farce.
After missing a couple of the industry talks that LEME hosted over the weekend, Sunday afternoon proved opportune, so we hit the Art of DJing panel session. Two panelists had ‘succumbed to Bloc’s atmosphere’ so Boiler Room’s Raj was left to hold the fort. Although intrigued by what he had to say, the host pelted him with confused gabbled questions that left us ducking out early and heading back to the music.
Hot on the heels of his pool competition, which saw DBridge win big, Steve Davis and his partner in crime Kavus Torabi, took to the Pub for four hours of eerie psych cuts, experimental musings and leftfield techno. 12 minutes of avant garde prog rock thunder was delivered in the form of Weidorje’s ‘Vilna’, a track that, in my opinion, could have happily carried on for even longer.
The evening came to a head with Shanti Celeste at the Centre stage, who warmed up the crowd perfectly with lashings of disco house and dreamy low-fi numbers. Highlight? Shanti ending on the powerful K-Hand ‘Candle Lights’ before passing the mantle over to the don, Omar S. He kicked off with a psytrance sentiment before effortlessly guiding us through his own cuts, ‘The Shit Baby’, a snippet of ‘Day’ before closing his set aptly with ‘Thank U 4 Letting Me Be Myself’.
And then just like that it was over. Time to come out of our bubble and get back to reality. Any weekend regrets? Maybe that I didn’t catch Egyptian Lover throwing it down in the Waterworld, but my unwavering hangover? Nope. The fact I had to get up at 6am and go to work on Monday afternoon? Nope. It was undeniably worth it. We all got our third, fourth, even fifth wind, because it’s Bloc. And it’s the last one ever. And we’ll be damned if we are going to waste one second of it not having fun.