so bloc was a disaster, which is a shame given that last year it had been one of the best weekends of my life. for context, bloc has been held at a butlins in minehead for the past 5 or so years, with no more than maybe 5000 people attending each time, all staying in chalets (you couldn’t attend without having a room on site, which was included in the price, meaning overcrowding was simply never an issue). there would be around 6 stages, all about the same size apart from the much larger main one, and all indoors, with impeccable sound systems. i didn’t queue once at bloc 2011, even for aphex twin, who was the only act for which there was anything approaching ‘overcrowding’. otherwise, there was always more than enough room to dance and move around in the other acts.
the gist of my experiences and the rumours we all heard circulating at bloc 2012, however, adds up to:
for some reason (someone mentioned asbestos maybe?) one of the largest stages was declared unfit for use before the event, but instead of cancelling they just moved the acts onto the second stage of the stubnitz boat. this meant a boat with a capacity of 700 people was holding some of the biggest, most popular artists at a festival with (at least) 15,000 people attending (the second day in particular was when basically everyone i had wanted to see was supposed to be playing on the boat)
we arrived just around the start of the events and there was such a massive queue to get in that we ended up missing steve reich
the only act i actually managed to see was amon tobin’s amazing ISAM show (which we also had to queue quite a while for)
after that we hung around for a bit, had a go on the ceephax acid waltzers (so sick) and then we tried to get on the stubnitz. there was an angry crowd outside, and we were being told by security the boat was closed for the night, no more information
what seems to have happened is the boat got overcrowded, a few people started getting crushed, and it had to be evacuated as paramedics were called in
around the same time, snoop dogg was refusing to go on stage in the main arena
the only other big stage open was essentially overcrowded and the sound system was awful, sounding almost broken, and so whoever was meant to be playing there was also refusing to go on
by midnight things started to fizzle out, the organisers (and apparently some of the festival goers too) having called the met police in to have the event shutdown
another factor was an apparent crowd surge at the main gates by people who had arrived as early as 6 and still hadn’t got in by 9. it was described as a mini-riot, barriers knocked down, boxes of wrist bands knocked over and people snatching them up, rendering tickets useless etc.
as we were leaving, having been finally told by security that the event was now cancelled, there were some 50-odd people, some of the last left in the event grounds, banging on one of the metal containers in a relatively inspiring instance of communal music production, with a sizeable crowd dancing to it. incidentally, i was briefly manhandled by a 7ft monster of a met officer who went into the crowd just to take a bit of wood from someone who was using it as a drum stick against the container
with many acts left stranded in london with no festival to play, nights were quickly set up around london on saturday which were free for people with bloc tickets, so i still managed to see a few acts at XOYO (namely an amazing set by oneohtrix point never—noticably confusing for the half of the crowd who had just wandered to the club for a saturday night out rather than going specifically to see acts from bloc—and a ridiculously heavy hour-long set by flying lotus, with the weeknd as surprise guest MC not really doing much)
chances are this whole fiasco has killed bloc, easily the best alternative electronic music festival in the world for some time now. it was getting so popular that i suppose they had to take it to a bigger venue, if only because the council at minehead were complaining of the increasing strain the event put on the local infrastructure each year. it seems in making the transition however they simply ended up going overboard, overselling it and booking far too many huge artists who could easily have acted as sole headliners at other festivals, and then failing to suitably organise the space etc.
of course none of this would have happened if the government hadn’t consistently cracked down on self-organised raves since the 90s leading to the blunting commercialisation of the entire sub-culture