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 Floorfillers Club Classics from a dusty glovebox 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!’
It was certainly an intriguing decision when cutting-edge electronics festival Eastern Electrics announced a one day event at ‘Hatfield House’. Now in its third year as a festival, it began in 2012 as an unassuming one day affair, which expanded greatly to the behemoth of a three day event in 2013 with an unforgettable line-up boasting a plethora of world class DJs. You’d only assume it would do the same again, considering its vast popularity as one of the most spoken of electronic festival in the UK. But it returned with fewer large names in a quaint yet stunning backdrop of a mansion, reverting to just one day again. But did this take away from the experience? Absolutely not.
Considering a last minute rampage to get cagoules galore in preparation for the rain, it was scorching as we entered the festival and headed straight to the Art of Dark tent for Dyed Soundorom. After taking over Ibiza with DJ outfit Apollonia alongside Shonky and Dan Ghenacia, the Parisian DJ returned alone playing a to crowd that were lapping up the set, putting on an impressive display that most certainly testified the idea that you can’t get people dance at such an early time. The atmosphere within the tent however was an unbearable sweaty pit of sighing bodies that had to relinquish to the outdoors to be able to breathe, which somewhat ruined what could have been an incredible set.
Over in the Rinse FM tent were duo Dense and Pika. After favouring their remix of Paul Woolford’s Erotic Discourse, I was excited to see the gritty and glorious sounds of the techno pair as they played to a somewhat empty tent. But empty or not, they certainly received an energetic reception from those who attended, with songs such as Alden Tyrell ‘Wurk it’ and Josh Winks ‘Are you there’ solidifying their stance as DJs that certainly the ones to watch at this event. The same tent played host to London DJ Route 94; admittedly, we were only passing through the tent as his set played, but we halted to a stop as the commercially well-known hit ‘My Love’ began to play, and the echoes of a singing crowd erupted into a guilty pleasure performance that we couldn’t seem to stay away from.
It was tINI who was inevitably the highlight of the festival. The characteristic deep blow of her selections were both intense and electric, igniting the crowd to full attention as she commenced tracks such as Cid Inc & Victor Hugo’s ‘Made in Brazil’ and transforming the outdoor Switchyard venue into a sea of adrenaline fuelled fist-pumping. As she unleashed Floorplan’s Never grow old, goosebumps appeared as the crowd were divulged in a euphoric state that only the Desolat master was responsible for. It only took a few years for tINI to make a name for herself, and it only took a few moments for her to create an incredible and unparalleled atmosphere at Eastern Electrics. At a climactic moment in the set, a torrential pouring of rain began, and a huge rampage of waterproof handing out activated; no one left their post, however, and a sea of umbrellas and awkward plastic cagoules continued to dance regardless of the showers falling over us.
What was frustrating about the festival was the queue for drinks tokens; having to wait to purchase non-refundable pieces of card to use as currency, to then wait again for a drink seemed somewhat pointless, and many I spoke to were agitated that they had to waste time doing this instead of seeing the acts they wanted. After a swift wait however, we were back and ready for the exciting duo Serge Santiago and Firas Waez, also known as Waze and Odyssey. They were playing at the Red Bull tent – a gloriously compact outdoor venue that played host to an array of exciting acts that day, including Catching Flies and Ali Love. Waze and Odyssey’s set made for a refreshing change from the deep and bellowing techno that seemed to be echoing throughout the rest of the festival, incorporating faster-paced beats, plenty of energy and a steady fuel of bass incorporated into their distinctive house/garage sound. The atmosphere was further lifted as the smooth elements of jazz began to play as Lil Louis ‘Why’d u fall’ was blasting through the tent, much to the delight of the revelling crowd who seemed truly captivated by the duo.
Onto the main stage, and Canadian techno heroes and headliners Art Department began their extraordinary set to a field of fans ready to be driven into a whirlpool of synth-driven house and techno. Comprising of Johnny White and Kenny Glasgow, the duo’s alias ‘Art Department’ have long established a distinctive and pioneering sound, consistently pushing the boundaries when it comes to their music. It was certainly an incredible experience to finally be able to see the pair in action, as their unique elements seem to captivate the crowd and infuse a sense of energy with the bridging together of each track, which was done so in an artistic way. The final act of the night to close the festival was the soulful house pioneer himself, Kerri Chandler. With an abundant body of work behind him, his renown bass-lines create instant excitement, intrinsically hooking between catchy choruses and impressive kick drums, marking him a true legend and ‘King Kerri’ to some. However, tonight’s set was much mellower from the usually up-beat soul DJ, and although the crowd were content, it failed to consume and amaze like his predecessors had done this day.
Eastern Electrics, although downgrading in size, has still managed to pull of an incredible, memorable and equally exciting display of DJs. I’ve attended all three years of the festival; although it doesn’t compare to last years, the atmosphere, acts and overall experience certainly didn’t fail to impress, and thousands of revellers would absolutely agree with me.
Proponents of a low-slung bass-infused house sound, Art Department join the party, alongside BPitch Control head and creative geniusEllen Allien, and deep house luminary and champion of all things soul Kerri Chandler. Chart-topping house upstart Route 94 is on the bill, as is Tania Vulcano, an underground force to be reckoned with, and acclaimed house and techno selector tINI rounds up The Six – but this is only the beginning; Eastern Electrics Festival is curating a lineup of more than 30 acts, soon to be announced.
And now Eastern Electrics Festival can also reveal the location of its new home, Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. Coming to a stately home only 20 minutes outside of London, and only a minute’s walk from Hatfield train station, Eastern Electrics Festival celebrates the very best sounds coming from an electronic music scene that has never been so diverse, exciting or innovative. Providing a majestic setting for an inspirational lineup and rousing party atmosphere, Hatfield House is an impressive backdrop – and a solid home for one of the UK’s most revered electronic music events.
Promoter Rob Star presents the third annual edition of Eastern Electrics Festival this year: “The feedback from the event last year was so good that it made sense to stay in the Hertfordshire countryside, so we decided to relocate to the beautiful Hatfield House. It’s such a great move for us, and comes with the advantage of being right across the road from the train station, so you walk off the train and straight into the festival grounds.
“The new venue also means that we can retain all of the attractions that made last year’s event at Knebworth so special, including the Electric City, the fairground rides, the bespoke stages and our favourite pub the Star of EE. Hatfield House ticks all the boxes for us and we're certain that this will be the first of many Eastern Electrics Festival events here. Welcome to your new EE home!”