BLOC is now in its fourth year at Butlins Minehead. Each year at about this time, among the local West Country folk you’ll find scores of smiling and up for it clubbers ready for a three-day feast of music, stretching across the electronic music spectrum.
BLOC is spread over six stages and, unlike other festivals at which the majority of the day is taken up with live music, the party only gets going after dark. So it’s near 9pm when cult London dubstep night FWD open the doors of the Reds stage to showcase a night of the best up and coming names in the genre, along with a few old favourites too.
Scratcha and Roska kick things off nicely with some seriously heavy bass, and the early birds lap it up. An airing of Major Lazer‘s Pon De Floor is a firm highlight, though this is far from the only time the track gets played over the coming three days.
Over in the Fenchurch stage, a small round dome equipped with 3D visuals on its roof, Radioactive Man‘s frenzied gabba catches the imagination of many while Roots Manuva on the centre stage brings an air of commercial familiarity to proceedings. His newer material falls sadly flat and the lack of atmosphere for Stockwell’s finest finds us wandering elsewhere. It’s for the greater good as Nathan Fake is showcasing his recent Hard Islands mini album over at the Tech stage and his fusion of house and dubstep, while a disappointing departure from his more ambient output for some, goes down a storm on the packed out dance floor.
As we enter the small hours, the Jak stage is packed out for one of the past year’s most hotly tipped acts, Glasgow’s Joy Orbison. While the crowd’s hysteria is firmly for him, his set never really gets going. Poor volume allows people’s conversations nearby to compete with the music and the sheer numbers in attendance make dancing a difficult prospect at best; even the sublime Hyph Mngo falls flat.
So it’s a return to the Red stage to raise spirits with Wiley. His habit of not showing for live gigs and the 20 minute set time he has been allocated left punters with the impression that he probably wouldn’t bother. But, wrong they were. Well, a bit. Some 40 minutes late and only playing two tracks, it was perhaps a case of “better than nothing”. But the raucous Take That was certainly something to marvel at, and there were promisies of him returning to the stage later in the evening.
Omar-S‘s profile has rocketed in recent months thanks to a sublime Fabric CD released last year. Live, the Detroit wonder translates perfectly with a fusion of house and techno that feels like the first truly euphoric set of the weekend. It’s a pattern that continues with Berlin legend Ellen Allien, whose forthcoming new record Dust gets its first UK airing tonight. The usual Allien traits are all still present and correct, but with a hint of a more housey element that was most welcome to the BLOC crowd. It’s just a pity her set was a mere 75 minutes; she only appeared to be hitting her stride when the plug was pulled.
Pushing 5am now, and while Adam Beyer tries to keep us going, it’s decided that bed is a more alluring prospect. Sorry Adam.