Bugged Out Weekender

Butlin's, Bognor Regis
17 January

It is both completely logical and a singularly mad tradition: filling out-of-season seaside resorts with thousands of ravers and entertaining them with a strict diet of dance music and amusement arcades. But along with its Butlins brethren Bloc, the Bugged Out Weekender has carved out a hilarious, hedonistic niche of its own, as well as serving a reminder that an indoor festival without trench foot or a two mile hike to pitch the nylon coffin in which you’ll sleep for the next three nights actually has a lot going for it.

The line-up was seriously strong across the weekend. Among Maya Jane Cole’s all-female roster on Friday the standout act was J Phlip, playing a set of upmarket house music fizzing with energy, bounce and swing. Axel Boman and Leon Vynehall got things moving nicely in the smallest of the festival’s three venues, but the real draw was Todd Terje’s perfectly pitched live set in the cavernous main room. Beginning with the gorgeous rippling melodies of Snooze 4 Love (still probably Terje’s strongest tune), his set survived a powercut, provided the inevitable mass sing/bounce-along with Inspector Norse, and smothered the whole night in a blanket of dappled disco stardust.

Kicking off Saturday with a pool party hosted by Mike Skinner was as daft as it sounds, with watery ravers leaping around to ‘classics’ like R Kelly’s Ignition while launching over-sized inflatables at each other’s heads. Saturday’s line-up was particularly huge – as well as a DJ set from the Chemical Brothers in the main room, the Hydra hosted Four Tet, Ben UFO, Jackmaster and Optimo.

This wasn’t ever likely to be a dull evening of entertainment, but each set raised the bar: Jackmaster playing (as ever) irresistibly danceable and fluid house and techno; Ben UFO and Four Tet shifting the emphasis subtly with every track. The final hour was a four-way back-to-back, with Optimo leading the way as the tunes descended joyously into a kind of wedding-set chaos. Good times.

Sunday was all about two things. Firstly, a very strange round of mini-golf at 9am with Jackmaster, Skream, Simian Mobile Disco and a trail of confused-looking leftovers from the night before; and secondly, Erol Alkan’s Phantasy acts who impressively rounded off the weekend. As well as a peak-time set from Erol, his young upstarts Ghost Culture and Daniel Avery both put in impressive stints on the decks, with perhaps the only disappointment being that Ghost Culture didn’t get to showcase his hotly-tipped live act. Avery’s penchant for kicking off sets with a solid chunk of ambient/electronic/shoegaze material is rapidly becoming a trademark of both his radio shows and DJ sets, confidently resetting the dance floor before cranking out punchy, austere but grimly melodic techno.

Logistically, these seasoned promoters got everything right: no queues, no over-bearing security and just the right mix of bookings. The venue’s infrastructure – giant carpeted spaces with bars at either end – is perfect for partying. Bugged Out at Butlins is exactly the way the otherwise woeful second weekend of the year should be spent: hoisting a swaggering two fingers up to ‘dry January’.

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