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Think Butlins Holiday park and you are forgiven if the first thing that comes to mind is tacky holidays for chubby chip eating families. Butlins may have been synonymous with this image in years gone by but these days it is hosting festivals with increasing frequency. So why put a festival on in such a venue you may ask? The Butlins in Minehead, tucked away on the Somerset fringes, has a permanent infrastructure suitable for a festival in terms of chalet accommodation (,camping in march would be insanity), food stalls are permanent features and venues are covered with sound proofing allowing music until the early hours. All this not to mention there is added daytime entertainment such as go-karts and swimming pools with slides and chutes. With all of these features already there it is simply a case of adding music and bingo, you have a festival granted the décor is somewhat surreal but it's somehow perfect for three nights of musical fun.
The Bloc Weekend line up is an eclectic mix of worldwide electronic artists with the occasional leftfield act thrown in for good measure. The music was spread over five venues and literally all under one really big roof, plus, as this was Bloc's fifth anniversary it would surely be one to remember, so with attendees settled in their chalets, it was sound systems on and straight into it at 4pm on the Friday. My first impression was how friendly the event felt as after I had previously attended All Tomorrow's Parties (mainly for my love of Bon Iver) there in 2009, finding it dull, pretentious and far from friendly whereas this was in sharp contrast as I barely went five minutes without chatting to a new smiling face. It seems that people really wanted to be here. Over the course of three days I met countless Irish, Scottish, Spanish and French, plus many people from other far off destinations including a couple that had flown from California especially for this event. The rich melting pot of different background blended seamlessly, lured by the promise of seeing DJs and acts from the UK and their own countries all in one place.
Friday night's highlight was for me undoubtedly Magnetic Man, heralded as dubstep's super group (due to the members being Skream, Benga and Artwork). Magnetic Man seem light years ahead of many of their dubstep peers, programming more complicated drum rhythms and experimenting with a greater variety of sounds, some refreshingly uplifting like old school rave. These guys are definitely forging a path for others to follow so it made a perfect contrast to have them directly in-between Beardyman who is a festival classic and turned out a solid set with some moments of sheer improvised comedy, including an odd song about seagulls and LFO who were a massive influence in early electronic music and have held a strong underground following to this day. The other rooms also were in full swing with speakers blaring out dubstep, house, techno all with artist giving it their all, what an introduction to the Bloc Festival and tomorrow the line up is set to get better.