» Bugged Out! Head to Dreamland, Margate - read the Bugged Out Review from January.
Bugged Out! Head to Dreamland, Margate - read the Bugged Out Review from January.
What do you get if you throw 50 of the biggest names in house, techno, garage and grime into Butlins with thousands of other party hungry ravers from across the country that are beyond fed up of the January blues? The biggest party this side of winter, that’s what. Who ever thought up the idea of getting DJ's to play at what is usually a relaxed, child-friendly family holiday resort is, unquestionably, a genius. Because it works unbelievably well…
After resurrecting Floor-filler's Club Classics from a dusty glove box early on during our Friday afternoon journey, it proves the perfect soundtrack to get us in the mood for a weekend at Butlins. As soon as we've checked in we head to Spar for some essentials. Though, instead of the usual mum-friendly songs on its radio, it's a Bugged Out Weekender takeover as Skream's ‘Midnight Request Line' subtly makes itself heard. And it's not just the corner shop with an unusual soundtrack. The lifts, too, reject their usual music as Artwork preaches, "What comes up must come down" and "don't forget to eat before the pool party" as just two of the cheeky remarks to guide everyone along…
Heading into the main pavilion we’ve no idea what to expect. Greeted by a man in full Star Wars attire, we zoom past retro arcade games to check out DJ Barely Legal's grime and bass-heavy set. Not much later and we’re running into Reds - 'the home of the Redcoats' - as B Traits drops Barnt's face-melting techno thumper, 'Chappell' … everyone’s practically forgotten we're in Butlins by now.
Instead, we could be at any of the country's best clubs. With an unexpectedly strong sound-system, a good-sized stage, expansive dance-floor and incredibly on-point strobe lighting set up – Reds is where we spend most of our nighttimes… Groove Armada put in a set full of euphoria, dropping 'You've Got The Love' to arms-in-the-air effect. There's almost a Bestival vibe to the night so far; one group of lads sport homemade ‘to dare is to disco’ printed t-shirts. Everyone’s just high on happiness.
Meanwhile, in the more intimate Escape setting Erol Alkan is delivering the perfect electro set, and DJ EZ takes a packed Centre Stage crowd on a one-hour journey of past, present and future hits.
Grime, house, pop and garage - you name it EZ's playing it. From Bieber ('Where R U Now') to Stormzy ('Shut Up') to AJ Tracey ('Naila') to Chase & Status ('Hypest Hype') and even a weird-but-it-works edit of The Clash ('Should I Stay Or Should I Go?') …it's a bit like being at Oceana on a Saturday night.
Saturday afternoon rolls round too quickly and before we know it it's time to start drinking again - plans to explore Bognor’s beauty are fast disappearing… Armand Van Helden, following Eats Everything’s energetic house and techno, plays a 90's throwback set - attracting one of the Weekender's biggest crowds and a whole lot of confetti. It’s all about unashamed fun as Mouse T’s ‘Horny’ is met with two guys waving their half-eaten carrot and cucumber in the air like glow-sticks. Completely ridiculous, it seems we are at Butlins after all.
This is all going on whilst Mumdance takes a smaller but focused crowd through a hard-hittIng ear-punishing soundscape of electronic bleeps and bass in The Escape; whilst back on the Centre Stage, Skream and Jackmaster are preparing for Bigger Than JESuS with Armand and Eats, who see us through the rest of the night perfectly. With Jackmaster behind the decks, Skream adds a new string to his bow, acting as a sort of hype-man by coming crowd level to encourage a clap along; at Bugged Out Weekender the fun never stops... With it being the last day at Butlins, it’d be shameful not to check out a pool party. Inflatable’s, slides, wave machines, a lazy river, hot tub and dozens of dinghy's are just the tip of the iceberg – because it’s soundtracked by house and disco purveyors Bicep, a duo who’s 2015 was nothing short of amazing. As Sunday afternoon's go, this one takes the crown.
Come midnight we're straight down the front for Glaswegian star-in-the-making Jasper James's brilliant house and techno set. There’s not one track that misfires throughout Jackmaster’s housemate’s 90-minute set. We even watch man on his own, at least 70-years-old, throwing some crazy shapes; whilst a group of guys physically bow down in front of Jasper.
With the whole crowd applauding and having the time of there lives, there's an energy from the constantly on-point track selection – highlights: Emmanuel Jal ‘Kuar’ (Henrik Schwarz Remix) and Lil Louis and the World ‘I Called U (The Conversation)’ - that's been, so far, unmatched…
That is the case … until The Black Madonna puts in an effortlessly show-stealing performance. Most artists would struggle to follow a great set like Jasper’s, but Marea Stamper takes the pressure completely in her stride. Having played a show in Istanbul on Friday, it wouldn’t be wrong to expect she’d be just a bit tired, but no. Contrastingly, it’s rare to see a DJ getting as involved as The Black Madonna does. She looks completely at home behind the decks, putting in the most eclectic – and easily the best - set of the weekend.
From driving, vocal house to heavy, relentless techno, via personal highlights: Green Velvet and Harvard Bass’s sonically blinding 'Laser Beams' and Jimmy Edgar's ground-shattering 'Let Me Tell You' – The Black Madonna keeps the audience dancing like it’s their final night on earth.
It's clear from her hand claps, hair flicks and exuberant moves that she's up for a proper party. I could carry on with how great it was - especially the tribute to Bowie near the end - but The Black Madonna summed it up perfectly on Twitter: “I was maniac raving out here! … I literally don't know if I've ever danced as hard as I did on these last two shoes”. We couldn't have put it better…
Closing out Reds for another year, Bicep take the reigns for a set that ends up extended by an hour - because it was so good. Opting for Hubie Davison's brilliant 'Sanctified' to open, they don’t put a foot wrong from thereon. House music legend Kerri Chandler, meanwhile, provides the perfect send off at Centre Stage with a New York classics set full of soul and piano chords aplenty. Veering from a rapturously received ‘You’re In My System’ to ‘Lost In Music’, there’s no age limit.
“I’ve been raving since 1986,” explains a middle-aged man dressed in a flowing metallic cape with a neon pink flashing cupcake attached to his head. “It’s real music,” he gushes. “I do struggle to keep up these days, but I manage … somehow!” And that’s what the Bugged Out Weekender is all about. Offering fun for everyone, it doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are, when you get to Butlins all your inhibitions are forgotten. As the banner inside Reds reads … ‘IT’S JUST A BIG DISCO!’