Having been to Butlins a few times over the years my memories are pretty consistent. Loads of hen/stag dos, drunk men and women and cheesy music. Staying in cabins strewn in rows like a large prison camp. Well things have changed greatly in terms of accommodation since I was here last. There are now hotel rooms that are as nice as some Las Vegas rooms I've stayed in and with spa treatments available. I stayed at Waves hotel and from the moment I dropped my bags it put me in a feel-good mood ready to get out and explore.
With the various different festivals out there, and choices of day ticket, camping and private offsite hotels this is the first one I have been to with on site accommodation as part of the festival.
Getting here I drove but there is a railway station 10 minute walking distance or if you have luggage, £4.50 in the taxi which was a bit of a rip off for a 3 minute cab ride.
Walking around the site I noticed a few changes and tried to get my bearings. The map I was given wasn't very clear for a newbie let alone for me who has been to Butlins 3 or 4 times in my life. There were 4 stages; Centre (main), Reds, Skyline and Bar Rosso. All of which were in the large marquee style space other than Reds which was outside in another building.
As well as bars and arcade machines there were other things you could do at an extra cost like bowling, pool, go karting and small fun fair to name a few. Splash Waterworld was a popular destination during the day with plenty of water flumes.
Beers were around £4 or 4 pint jug around £14. and the food was very good in the buffet restaurant with grilled to order burgers, steaks and roast pork. There was plenty of veg as well as food from around the world (Chinese, pasta, curry), salad bar, help yourself ice cream machines and hot & cold desserts.
Was good to see Emma Pollock live having never seen The Delgados and her Scottish voice coming over the PA as I walked in was a warm welcome and a sorbet mouth cleanser before being visually pounded by The Membranes. Fronted by John Robb who wrote a Stone Roses Biography as well as being appearing on various tv programmes really showed his performing side of this punk outfit. He simply didn't stand still or even breathe! Seeing a punk band in 'Reds' felt appropriate what with the sticky floor in what looks like an old bingo hall.
Errors, a post electro 3 piece from Glasgow didn't do it for me but maybe at a festival in a tent stage they might well do alright. The Fall, I just don't understand the band or Mark E Smith, he reminded me of a drunk uncle and I couldn't stay for more than 2 songs before rushing back to get a good space for the headliners Echo and the Bunnymen. They hit all the right spots for a headliner, good banter with the audience, swagger and a set list that included 'People are Strange', 'The Killing Moon', 'Lips Like Sugar' and 'Nothing Ever Lasts Forever'.
Saturday was like a ghost town. Was it hang overs, people going to the beach or the general lack of events in the day. The music didn't start on the main stage until 5.15 but instead balancing the line up between Reds and Skyline, which was sat in the middle of the indoor open area and didn't hold a great atmosphere unfortunately and relies on getting the exact type of band and PA setting to make the most of it.
Ghostpoet went down well with the crowd and then Public Service Broadcasting put on a tight performance going down surprisingly well with their crammed stage set, replica 'Sputnik' included and played tracks from both albums including 'Sputnik', 'Spitfire' and 'Everest'. The 2 stages at this point were running between 30-60 minutes late so they clashed with Johnny Marr on Centre Stage. This man needs no introduction and tonight he covered some of his old bands hits 'There's a Light That Doesn't Go Out' (Smiths), 'Getting Away With It' (Electronic) and a cover of 'Crash' by The Primitives. Great fan set!
As well as music there was a silent cinema with 'The Lost Boys', 'The Big Lebowski' and “Donnie Darko' showing over the 3 days. Various DJ's played themed sets in Bar Rosso.
Good weekend, bit slow in the day but went on late for those that were night owls. Plenty of guests that had pre booked their weekend expecting a hen/stag party weekend ended up asking for a refund and leaving on Friday which suited us music fans.
Great choice of food but with the terribly expensive Burger King prowling on the drunken guest walking back to their rooms in the early morning.
And a great water park and accommodation to regenerate from the late nights ready to start all over again.
Early bird tickets are on sale already, I hope they put on more events in the day and I will consider it again.
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