Bloc 2012: London Pleasure Gardens, 06/07/12

From the moment I caught wind of Bloc, it felt too good to be true. That kind of line-up doesn’t come around often at £55 for a day and rarely is a festival so perfectly situated on the golden, greater London transport system. With news of his upcoming, 12th studio effort Reincarnated, the butter was to be the appearance of the legendary Snoog Dogg. Taking just twenty minutes for a very sweaty crowd to transition from excitedly wailing ‘SnoooooOOOP’ to hurling curses and several drinks (hopefully not cups of urine) at the stage, I knew the game was up. Bloc flopped and I doubt the name will stand through to 2013.

Previously affiliated with Butlins and other British holiday resorts for six successful years, the organisers braved the new territory of near-Central London. It was a strong move to the extent that huge names Gary Numan, Orbital and Jamie Jones were drawn to the capital city location. Enough media attention was generated that they could up their usual capacity (or more poignantly, their ticket sales) from 6,400 to 15,000 in just a year.

Overlooking the site as we approached on the overground, it felt as though all grand expectations might even be surpassed. The leaked running order had it that the mouth-watering string of names, Oneman, Loefah, Joy Oribison and Addison Groove, would perform on an ex-Communist fishing boat that we saw moored at an on-site dock. But that seemed to be the problem; it just looked good. It didn’t take long for people to notice the fact that entrances into stages were far too narrow given the capacity and that with no campsite to disperse festivallers, the population around the main arena was overpoweringly concentrated.  Aboard the Stubnitz Atrium, people seemed to be gasping for air as the crowd heaved back and forth on the top deck.

The eventuality all felt like a bit of a kick in the balls. I’d always kind of liked some of the more minimalist artists on the line-up like Nicolas Jaar but it’s with the benefit of a festival sound set-up that the focal bass of most electronic music excels. As I watched his three-piece group including saxophonist and guitarist play Mi Mujer, the nostalgic groove was flecked with an irresistible jazz-house fusion. Disappointed as I was to settle for Amom Tobin in the face of the ship’s never-ending queue, even his limited range of Rockwell-esque drum and bass tracks proved a pleasant experience.  I thought it would only get better.

Then it struck me–really, why am I here listening to something I didn’t entirely pay for? I remembered the 3D light show. It got really hyped during the festivals promotional period and my friends were keen to check it out. It was undoubtedly cool as Tobin sat in the centre of this eccentric, visual demonstration. But was it necessary? Blasts from fire canons at the front got the crowd going but only made the arena more of a sweaty sauna of filth. I just wanted to hear some music.

That’s not to say that visual supplements are unimportant. After watching Doom wearing the metal mask from Gladiator while comic reels artistically expanded upon the ideas within his lyrics, I do believe a lot can be said for stage presence.

But the blunt truth is that the organisers seemed to have employed more props men than security, and that did show.  At 3am after we’d been kicked out of the site and stranded in the middle of East London, an annoyingly chirpy promoter came over to me at the bus station. She was selling even more day tickets for the Saturday that would also be cancelled in less than two hours.

After being told to leave, festival goers tried to salvage a beat by banging on the walls.

Jonjo Lowe