‘Butlins Bognor Regis’ aren’t three words one would usually associate with the term ‘rave’. Especially in a January as dark as it is dank. Bugged Out! substituted the ’d’ of detox with a fat ‘R’ and compiled a fierce line up to attract us to the nether regions of the south coast. Bang Face and Bloc may have already stuck grinning acid-faced flags in these seaside clubbing territories but Bugged Out!’s outing was a welcome addition to the fold.
We travelled to Bognor on the Friday evening on a journey full of the soul searching sentiments Conrad’s Marlowe must have experienced when travelling to the Heart of Darkness in the Congo. Bognor in 2012 and the jungle of Africa in the early 19th century both represent unmapped territories of geography and mind. And, as Marlowe does when confronting the rogue ivory trader Kurtz, there were moments, particularly when I locked myself out of the chalet on Saturday morning and had to hide in the local Spar for warmth, that I was forced to examine my very soul. No offence to any Bognor residents but the town seemed like the sort where hope goes to die. Or at least drink itself to death in the local Wetherspoons. Which, in many ways, is part of its charm.
So, when you get to Bognor what are you greeted with? Apart from a few club kids loitering around the windswept station, we were hard pressed to find any evidence of an actual rave taking place. And even when we reached the holiday resort, there weren’t many signs of the debauchery you’d expect when walking into Fabric or the Warehouse Project – instead you’re greeted with an amusement arcade stuffed with Time Crisis and driving games. Plus as many grabbers and two pence machines as you can shake a stick at – to our crew this was life in the fast lane.
The apartments were also far better than your average – equipped with flat screen tellies, DVD players and a dish washer, this was a far classier stay than ones we’d previously enjoyed/endured at the likes of Camber Sands or Great Yarmouth. Our gaff proved to be the perfect stomping ground for a beery, warm-up session before heading into the ‘arena’.
Split across three rave caves, the line up was a blend of classic Bugged Out! players both old and new – so the big moments were as large and as lairy as you’d expect. Joy Orbison was the first hype man we caught on Friday night in the wooden bar known as Jaks. He rolled out an hour’s worth of housey bumpers in the medium sized sweat box, which proved to be a tantalising appetiser to kick start our dance. At the stroke of midnight, Fake Blood smashed our aural cherry in the bigger Reds arena and demonstrated that it is possible to play stadium-sized electro in 2012 without losing any edge or looking like a total dick. We lost our shit big-time during his set but Diplo pushed the feeling even harder – dropping DJ Medhi’s ‘Signature’ on what would have been the sadly passed French super star’s birthday was a massive moment – he took the Reds room apart before leaving the final bulldozing duties to the 2 Bears – whose march to the mainstream is almost unstoppable as the rolling, dancey tackle they proffered.
After waking up bleary of both eye and brain on Saturday, we were confined to the chalet with the only movement that of mooching to Spar and of lifting Stella can to mouth. Burger King’s menu proved to be a low point but the rest of the aural menu was much more mouthwatering – Riton dismantled Reds with Azealia Banks’ 212 being the first tune to greet us as we staggered in. It proved to be one of the big tunes of the weekend. Perennial Bugged Out! man Erol Alkan opened with some slow, stop-start tech which saw us seek refuge in the amusement arcades. We were back to see him close with the whole nine minute remix of Connan Mockasin’s ‘Dolphin Love’ before Inner City showed that live percussion does not live and die with MPeople’s Shovel – ‘Big Fun’, ‘Pennies From Heaven’ and ‘Good Life’ sounded as fresh and as life-affirming as the first time.
At this stage, the crowd of Dalston trendies, townie dancers, PR girls and dressed up ravers seemed to begin to veer towards mass disintegration – my inner engine overheated to a ridiculously high degree while the guy in front of us dressed as Jimmy Saville totally lost the use of his legs and marbles. While the madness unfurled, 2 Many Djs did their darnested to prove the tackle they wielded in 2006 still has relevancy – which was as surprisingly enjoyable. The climax of our eve came during the Numbers / Night Slugs take over – Jackmaster led the night to dawn with an eclectic party set featuring Zorba the Greek, Etta James, French Fries and Kanye West and Jigga‘s ‘Niggas In Paris’. We ended up collapsed in a heap back at ours trying to watch ‘Bridesmaids’ while blocking the sun out with a pair of curtains which kept threatening to leap off their rail and walk out the door.
Sunday we ventured to the beach and the local Hatter’s Inn but apart from buying a wobbly willy, the best bits were purely musical. Rob Da Bank, Ivan Smagghe and Andrew Weatherall showed those still left standing that Sunday is a as good a day as any to rave hard. We scraped ourselves up for one last boogie – and the music was suitably large for one last dose of pure hedonism. Resembling a pair of neckerchief wearing pirates, the sartorial elegance of the latter pair was matched only by their astute choice of tune. Featuring new bombs from the likes of Apiento, Craig Bratley as well as acid house classics like ‘Energy Flash’, their set proved to be the jewel in the crown of a dazzling swansong. It meant the early wake up call from a Butlins cleaner was even more painful than anticipated.
Bognor was an experience and a half. Although at times it felt like the crowd of Boglins could have been bigger, and it was missing the communal feel of Bang Face or Bloc due to the opulence of the chalets – but fingers crossed the Bugged Out! crew will host this bash again. The only real downside of holding a rave in January is that you’re struggling to find summat to look forward to, to guide one through the darkness of the aftermath – If only Marlowe had been on hand. He at least had a map…
Jim Ottewill – the most intrepid of scribes – braved the Bugged Out! Weekender.
You can find out more about all things Bugged Out over at their official website.