Bugged Out Weekender 2015 Turned a Vacation Park Into Clubbing Nirvana
A small town. The British seaside. Big DJs. The Bugged Out Weekender was heaven.
Billy Butlin's chain of actually weirdly expensive, but cheap and cheerful seeming holiday camps are a throwback to an age of innocence, a time of three channels on the television and corned beef on our plates. With their ever smiling swarms of mom-friendly characters, permanently installed fairground attractions, and concrete swimming pools, they bring families together under one billowing roof to spend a few days joylessly playing card games in rain-lashed chalets as a sense of ennui courses through every fibre of their collective being, to the point that sipping warm beer out of glasses stained with the greasy memories of a thousand packets of Cheese & Onion while failed entertainers belt out "Rock DJ" to adoring grandmothers seems like one night in heaven.
Something magical happens when the families are turfed out. Dischordant mother and father duos are replaced by in-it-to-win-it partygoers. Welcome to the Bugged Out Weekender.
In the daytime the resort becomes a ghost town. The site's normally packed pizza and hot dog spots pump out nauseating fumes to passers-by who've not eaten all weekend and don't seem quite ready to consume solids just yet, fairground rides go unloved and unused, and tribal house thuds at club volume. When the sun sets it slowly repopulates: plastic cups appear to refill themselves as if by magic with vodka and Ting, the chirrup of arcade cabinets is deafened by the rumbles of distant sub-bass and the fizzing hum of pre-club chatter.
THUMP were delighted to start the weekend's nocturnal activities by joining forces with Bugged Out's Lemmy Ashton to judge the inaugural THUMP DJ competition.Ten hopefuls gave us twenty minutes of their finest in an attempt to secure a mainstage slot on the Sunday night. Our eventual winner, Aaron Joll, came through with a slow and steady set of kosmische leaning deep and dubby house that rolled us into the opening night's festivities with subtle aplomb.
Bugged Out's global reputation meant that the bill bellowed with top tier talent from start to finish. Our post-competition wanderings took us from Axel Boman to Maya Jane Coles to Todd Terje to Roman Flugel; taut, sleek house in a converted bowling alley to deep, dark, dancefloor bombs dropped in a room usually reserved for red-coated renditions of Robbie's greatest hits, to euphoric cosmic disco in a cavernous space that contained a stage, a bar, an arcade and a souvenir shop, to twisted techno back in the red room. A stellar start to a festival by any means.
The sweet surreality of being able to hot foot it from the club to the cornershop stretched into Saturday – THUMP's pool party day. We slipped into our speedos and sauntered/wobbled down to Splash Waterworld for an afternoon of leisure centre classics. Our resident DJs got things off to a steady start with an hour of deeper than deep house that kept the wavy ravers happy before slamming into a set of upfront summer holiday anthems. We're confident that no one else at Bugged Out followed JoVonn and DJ Deep's seminal "Back in the Dark" with David Morales' even more seminal "Needin' U". Mike Skinner also joined us to throw down a few hours of everything from OT Genasis' now-legendary "CoCo" to jump up D&B and a smattering of UKG classics.
Having dried ourselves off and sunk into the first Whopper of the day, washed down by heavy hitting punch cocktails, it was time to ruminate on one of the most interesting elements of any festival: the crowd. The sense of communality that fills even the biggest of big tops at an event of this kind is undeniable. We've all blown off work, school, or life, to be here, to spend three days in a stupor, three nights of a sustained and steady 4/4 kick soundtracking everything from dancing to having a piss to buying pancakes. Friendships quickly form and immediately dissolve at the end of each cigarette, dance partners are swapped during breakdowns, love affairs drift apart faster than finger tip swipes.
The average age of a Bugged Out attendee appeared to be about 19. Given that the parties have been going on for longer than most of the Stone Island wearing Shuffle crew have been alive, the weekend acted as a living testament to the current big room boom amongst the youth of today. There was something heartening about seeing people lose their shit to records that some of us view as rinsed relics for the first time; the faux-weariness of late adolescence was momentarily replaced by the kind of incandescent joy that only the Juan Atkins remix of "Big Fun" can provide.
Our brief exploration of the interplay between youth, intoxicating substances, and very loud music was interrupted by the desire to actually experience those things. So we hotfooted it to that ever appealing big tent for another night of electronic excursions courtesy of some of the world's finest DJs. The joy of the multistage festival experience is that it allows one to act as a curator of sorts. If you weren't up for Tiga's punchy electro then you could have swung through and witnessed Jackmaster in full flow, or caught Artwork dropping boogie and disco. You are ceded an element of control. If a DJ isn't doing it for you then you've got the option to bugger off and leave the Palace crew shuffling away merrily in attempt to seek musical solace elsewhere.
After Saturday night ended with a b2b between Optimo, Jackmaster, Ben UFO and Four Tet all taking it in turns to keep things going, bed seemed like a dream. Another bonus feature of the BOW experience: you're never that far from your duvet. Though when we spotted Jackmaster later that day it was apparent that he, and a good 80% of the attendees, weren't yet to nestle themselves under the covers for a solid sleep and half-awake Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives marathons.
Bugged Out favourite Fatboy Slim was Sunday afternoon's special pool party guest and even if he wasn't quite as magical as we'd been he still made quite a splash. Our competition winner, Aaron Joll, kicked off the nocturnal session with a top set on the main stage. Tears of pride fell down our by now sallow faces as we made our way to the final night's finest act: the legendary Kerri Chandler, giving us a four hour masterclass in house neo-classicism. Chandler's big room set was a perfect encapsulation of the weekend: stone cold classics rubbed shoulders with unknown gems while fresh faced clubbers shared foot space with men and women who've been there since the beginning.
As we trundled out of Bognor Regis in dribs and drabs on Monday morning we felt battered, bruised, but more importantly, as if we'd experienced something that made those hungover Sundays and dark Mondays worth it. Let's go to Butlins every weekend.
Follow Josh on Twitter: @bain3z