Review: Bugged Out Weekender 2016

Art & Culture

The towering, pointed marquee of Butlins pierced through the dark clouds that hovered above the seaside town of Bognor Regis.  We arrived on Friday evening to a fierce wind and the air was bitterly cold. Festival season it was not. 

Since 2012 Bugged Out have been attempting to banish the winter blues by throwing a weekend event at one of Britain’s oldest holiday parks on the Southern coast of England.  This year they had drafted in the likes of Armand Van Helden, DJ Koze, Joy Orbison, Gerd Janson, Paranoid London and Jackmaster to keep the feet moving across the course of the weekend.  

Friday evening was eased in by the likes of B.Traits, Kamera and Erol Alkan but the real highlight of the weekends opener came in the form of Paranoid London. The group are beginning to develop quite the reputation for their raucous live performances: this is largely down to the energetic vocal accompaniment of long time collaborator Mutado Pintado. Wearing a cowboy hat his voice bellowed above jacking acid house, it echoed around a room that was known over the weekend as ‘The Escape’.  Playing for one hour Paranoid London were definitely the most obscure outfit to grace the weekend event. They maintained a busy dance floor throughout even if some of those moving looked a little perplexed at times.  There was certainly life in the party for those who dug deep to discover it. 

In the small hours of the morning there is little more appealing than a dance in a bowling alley. Raving on carpet is a fabulous thing and we wish that someone in London would bite the bullet and deck their club out in full shag.  Room 3 is unescapably, gloriously, Butlins. Scores of international flags and fibreglass pool balls hang from the absurdly high ceiling. The bowling alley is clearly visible behind a short partition.  Boddika does a fine line in dark ‘n’ nasty house and techno bangers: he sets the tone rather nicely. Outside in the main hall, the arcade proves a welcome but costly distraction in-between sets. We probably wasted a fiver on those stupid 10p machines alone.

At nighttime Butlins can feel a little as though you have wandered into a haunted house, there are noisy characters, shiny props and dark smoky rooms. However, when the daylight rolled in it was a pleasant discovery to learn that the location was actually quite scenic.  

We woke up on Saturday to noises outside – maybe the fabled complimentary Bloody Mary delivery? Sadly not, just more entrepreneurial laughing gas salesmen posting their business cards under our door. 

We were left with two options: don the swimming costume and attend the pool party sound tracked by Jackmaster and friends or take a walk along the seafront. Unfortunately, we had overdone it ever so slightly the evening before and opted for the safe option ahead of DJ Koze that evening. 

Grime was aplenty on the Bugged Out lineup. On Saturday night Lewisham don Novelist adopted a “no tunes, just bars” approach. There can be no faulting his mic skill or his energy levels. Mumdance followed with abstract techno workouts, before veering into harder-edged grime and finishing and a clutch of old school rave bangers. 

One of the most impressive sets of the Saturday saw the much-loved DJ Koze play to a relatively quiet room for three hours. It was a mesmerizing trip through bewildering melodic house. His style split the opinion of the crowd as many came and left, however, over the course of his set he developed a hypnotic groove which was warmly received from the most experienced of the weekend’s clubbers.  By this point we were starting to flag. 

When Sunday finally rolled around we were in for a bit of a revelation.  The highlight of perhaps the whole weekend came in the form of The Black Madonna’s set for Junk Department’s room 2 takeover. 

It’s rare to see a DJ having so much fun behind the decks. Jumping about and grinning from ear to ear, hers is an infectious energy that instantly feeds through to the crowd. Along with plenty of classic house cuts, she throws in a few curveballs. Everyone goes nuts for the new Missy Elliott, and Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’ goes down a storm as the penultimate track. Closing on Frankie Knuckles’ ‘The Pressure’ is an even more inspired move, bringing a little slice of Chicago to Bognor Regis.

She was a tough act to follow but our conclusion to the weekend saw us take in DJ duo Bicep. They closed out the festival in stunning fashion with a set of house and disco heavy hitters. Simply put, everything they draw for is absolute. Hubie Davison’s ‘Sanctified’ is an early highlight, as is their own Italo edit of Lady Gaga’s ‘Alejandro’.  The weekend concludes: ‘Just’ echoes through the speakers, the crowd is in ecstacy.