Anyone who thought that the first night of BLOC lacked big punches had no room for such complaints on Day 2 as two heavyweights from the old school kicked things off.
First up Grandmaster Flash brings a proper (if slightly cheesy) party set with a relatively diverse selection from the credible (Phroae Monch, Tupac, Chic) to the questionable (a request to cheer if you miss Michael Jackson falls on deaf ears) but he’s clearly having too much fun for even the hardest cynics to disapprove of any of it.
It’s a mere warm up for what follows though, namely Salt-n-Pepa‘s first UK date in over a decade. Any suspicion that a lukewarm reception would greet them at a ‘serious’ music festival are destroyed as soon as they take the stage and launch straight into Do You Want Me? What follows is essentially a greatest hits set. From the r’n’b nugget Shoop to the infectious What A Man, the crowd go ballistic throughout, and the duo are clearly touched by the warm response after such a long hiatus. The one slight lull comes with a largely forgettable new song, suggesting that a lesson in nostalgia is where the set is best placed, something that is underlined with the encore of Let’s Talk About Sex and Push It, providing perhaps the most elated moments of the weekend.
The party continues with Kode9 and Martyn back at the Tech stage, with two of dubstep’s finest performing a back-to-back set full of danceable gems. A Bristol MC is on hand too to supply vocal accompaniment, and shout outs to Plastic People, the East London venue which is currently under the threat of closure, is greeted with a huge response.
Back to the older generation on the centre stage, where Detroit legends Model 500 play a terrific set of dark, soulful techno. They’re followed in short order by Shed, resident at German techno chapel The Berghain, who brings the Butlins crowd to its knees – and in our case to our beds, as our dancing shoes wear out once more.
Compared with the previous two days, BLOC’s Sunday is a low-key affair, with fewer stages and a far earlier curfew. But this is not to say it’s winding down. First off is an early evening MJ Cole set, though despite the classic Garage tracks like Sincere and Crazy Love still sounding fresh today, the DJ takes it upon himself to add a bass-heavy layer on top of pretty much everything he plays, which proves to be off-putting and unnecessary. A shame.
Skream back on centre stage fare better, with the sound system seemingly turned up to 11 and the pounding bass blowing away any residual hangover cobwebs.
It leaves Derrick May to finish the weekend in truly uplifting fashion with a minimal set leading up to an ecstatic finale complete with a glitter explosion, the Detroiter looking genuinely moved by the masses who have stayed on till late into Sunday night.
Thus ended an exciting and at times terrific weekend. Although it slightly slipped into samey territory at times (some more italo/disco would have been a blessing amongst the overdose of dubstep), this was a minor gripe in what was a unique and forward thinking music festival.