Bloc Weekend 2007
Doolally in a Chalet

So, how was the first ever Bloc Weekend? Spannered's John Sevens brushes off the remaining rave detritus and pieces it all back together…

By John Sevens

For many, the inaugural Bloc Weekend filled a yawning Dedbeat-shaped hole in the festival calendar. The location is the same – the incongruous post-war seaside chic of Pontins near Great Yarmouth – and on paper the line-up represented quite some first stab at replicating the success of its early-noughties predecessor (rumoured to be returning in some form this year). Assembled by roaming UK leftfield dance collective BaseLogic, Bloc saw the cream of international techno, drum 'n' bass, electro-breaks and dubstep tumble-dried together with a few classic hip hop wild cards. A couple of thousand sweaty caners, reasonable drinks prices and the lurid allure of the arcades makes for quite a potent brew, and the Fordist flanks of chalets brought the only semblance of order to what was, quite literally, a rave in a massive pub.


Following the standard electronicised prattery from Wevie Stonder in BassBloc, TechBloc takes an electro-breaks pummelling on Bloc's first night via Cursor Miner and DMX Krew, although Ed DMX's protracted dalliance with billowing, flatulent acid in the final third of his set is perhaps a warm analogue primer for the arrival of Aux 88. The nineties Detroit paragons are just the ticket for a first night crowd whose chemical balance is rapidly losing equilibrium. Ever drawn to a teutonically funky live vision of the Motor City sound, tonight Aux 88 look more Detroit than the Ambassador Bridge, all industrial-looking synths and Nightrider shades, and their booming staccato breakbeats sound particularly crisp in light of the recent surge of media interest in B-more and Miami bass.

Meanwhile Two Lone Swordsmen are playing lumpen geezerish electro-post-punk in BassBloc, and I don't really understand. It's refreshing, in a sense, to then see Kool Keith doing exactly what you want him to do, as if he's been cryogenically preserved at the optimum point of Keith-ness. A towering version of Blue Flowers has a sea of banded white wrists flapping towards the stage.

Gallic troupe TTC then wind up the hip hop for the night (and bizarrely mark the only occasion all weekend on which the existence of Ace Of Base will be acknowledged) before the stolid live tech-breaks of Toob give way to a typically righteous closing round of Acid Idol with the shambling, vomiting Ceephax Acid Crew. His charmless backstage demeanour -  at times reminiscent of Pete Doherty with his crack pipe confiscated, tumbling stroppily round an oversized playpen – has been known to leave promoters wondering what possessed them to bother: then, in the throes of radioactively funky 303 nirvana, they remember exactly why.


Watch the Saturday afternoon BassBloc formula spread like blim marks on a hoodie across other leftfield dance festivals: from 4 till 8 it's all about the dubstep, with Mary Anne Hobbs' patent lack of mixing finesse being caught a little too closely for comfort by the brazen lens of Bloc TV. Unfair, too, as her welter of upfront dubstep bombs has the assembled pseudo-ASBO yoot shuffling at least one, at times TWO steps forwards in their THC-addled fervour, before slinking back to position to moodily anticipate the next sub drop.

As Rhythm & Sound lay down trustafarian Bristol pub-dub vibes in TechBloc, Plastician opens fancy dress proceedings next door, rocking a righteously vile PE tracksuit throughout his keenly mixed grime/dubstep shakedown, a set that deftly showcases the light and shade of music often accused of being disconcertingly 'po' of the face.

Virus Syndicate up the ante next, and the fun doesn't stop with their nonsensical Sideshow Bob wigs: their irresistably juvenile chants of 'Does anybody have a rizla?/Does anybody have a roach?', and at times almost stadium-rock crowd interaction ('hello to the left and hello to the right' stylee) add an unlikely sense of pantomime to proceedings that endures till the arrival on stage of the garishly leotarded Tim Exile. Following on from his label boss µ-Ziq's sage tutorial in industrial acid deconstructionism, Exile offers a different kind of lesson: how to present bludgeoning improv mash-step as end-of-the-pier cabaret, a singular (and largely successful) quest to evolve the revision of conventional dancefloor monotony – a pursuit rendered tiresome by so much sub-Aphex onanism and novelty breakcore futility – into engaging and – gasp! – unpretentiously entertaining live theatre. The way he bequests the BPM of his set to the whims of his crowd conjures an unlikely reality TV conceit – 'to evict  Reconstituted Gabba Apocalpyse, text this number' – while his casual, real-time command of an apparently limitless sonic pallette means that the question must be asked: where exactly else is there for this music to go? A smouldering pyre of breakcore producers is surely only a parliamentary motion away.

After such a keen taste of experimental dance music's present (and the inherent flaws in its future), Autechre beam us back to the recent past with a classically faceless exercise in early nineties technoid hypnotherapy. Building their set from feral semi-dubstep beats, through dislocated Detroit textures and on to a crescendo of fuzzy, otherwordly decay and their signature fidgeting, pulsing arrhythmia, Ae's was predictably one of the the least danceable sets of the weekend, but perversely one of the likeliest to move you. Congo Natty's surprisingly smooth call-and-response D'n'B is precisely what the doctor didn't prescribe for  afters, and as things get evermore predictably tear-out in BassBloc, there's time for a fleeting crystalline techno epiphany with Rob Hood in Tech, before a delirous and increasingly hazy stumble around the 24-hour SmashBloc into the eerie daylight hours.


While there were plenty able to summon the party gusto for Celebrity Darts, Sunday dub and Keith Tenniswood, for many (this writer included) the last day of Bloc was about meek trudges to the beach, perfunctory attempts at the passing of solids, and discreet mental implosion at the imminent return of torpid everyday existence. Still, for two days of honest-to-goodness festival indulgence set to a choice (if somewhat two-dimensional) musical soundtrack, Bloc more than rocked the spot.
 All photography kindly supplied by John Horsley
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