It seemed that the fates were conspiring against me as I struggled through blizzard-like conditions to reach Bognor Regis last weekend. Of course, to many this would act as a stark reminder that a trip to the seaside in the depths of winter isn’t really on the to-do list of any sane individual, but this weekend was different. Bugged Out have been running club nights for well over a decade now, and after the huge success of their inaugural weekender last year, it made sense to see what all the fuss was about this year.
After the nightmarish journey there, amounting to a lot of waiting around for trains to amble through snowdrifts, I wasn’t exactly feeling in the highest of spirits but this was all to change in what was to be one of the most enjoyable weekends I’ve had in some time. The one thing that made Bugged Out feel a little bit special when I first arrived was the locations, Butlins. With the family holiday chain’s Minehead branch constituting the recently resurrected Bloc’s location of choice before its relocation and ultimate demise, Butlins is becoming something of a hotspot for great weekenders in the Winter months and it’s easy to see. Sure it might not be the most glamorous of locales, but it’s entirely functional, comfortable and above all, cheap. It’s hard to express just how fantastic it was to have a nice warm bed to return to after the night’s music had finished, compared to the prospect of a muddy campsite Butlins was pure paradise.
The location also brough with it all the trimmings you’d associate with a holiday camp, but were decidedly more impressive than I had anticipated. The central hub house numerous places to eat which, whilst not exactly Michelin Star standard, were better than some of the shite you can get at other festivals, as well as a massive arcade and pool parties that really brought out my not so well hidden inner child.
?Of course all of this is fairly irrelevant if the music doesn’t deliver and on the most part, it did. Sure, the line-up wasn’t the most groundbreaking I’ve ever seen, but solid sets from the likes of Ben UFO, Bicep and Blawan (that’s a whole lotta B’s) certainly did the job, hitting the sweet spots of festival sets that can be incredibly tricky to negotiate. The arenas themselves were well equipped as well, wherein quality soundsystems and lay-outs coupled with alarmingly friendly security staff created an ideal environment to party in.
The probable highlight was Jackmaster B2B Oneman, with the pair delivering one of the most unashamedly retro sets I’ve ever heard, in the best way possible. Rifling through the likes of Craig David, Destiny’s Child, New Order, Devo and The Streets, they managed to take what admittedly sounds like a car crash on paper and forge it into one of the most enjoyable and downright fun sets I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.
If anything, it was the headline acts that failed to deliver and I was fairly disappointed from a Chemical Brothers performance that seemed to ignore their stellar discography and settle for more banal electro-house, whilst Frankie Knuckles was a huge letdown. I had been looking forward to hearing a set of jacking Chicago house he has become renowned for, but instead was greeted with awfully generic Hed Kandi-esque house, which, to be honest, I simply can’t abide. To have two massive names seemingly ignore what made them famous in the first place was somewhat disheartening, but it couldn’t really put a damper on the overall experience.
Perhaps the one thing that was missing from the Bugged Out Weekender, is that festival spirit of community. It’s not that the crowd wasn’t friendly, it just lacked that little bit of ‘spark’ which ultimately led to a weekend that felt a bit more like 3 nights out with my friends rather than attending a festival and meeting new people. Admittedly, this sense of community is not easily found and may take years to foster, but if the quality of the experience is maintained as it is, this can only be a matter of time.