Bugged Out have become an ubiquitous name in British clubland; having been running the rave for 20 years now, they always succeed in securing the most well-respected names in the business and drawing in huge crowds to some of the best clubs and festivals in the UK. They held their first weekend festival back in 2001 and it’s been going strong ever since.
With Europe awash with festivals right now, Bugged Out Weekender sets itself apart from the rest with a somewhat unusual slot on the calendar: the weekend before Blue Monday in January. But how can you hold a festival in the notoriously horrific weather of England in January? By hiring out an entire Butlins holiday resort, that’s how. The lineups are massive every year, so Guestlist took a trip to the sunny shores of Bognor Regis for one big weekend.
This year’s Weekender took place from the 16th – 18th January in the glamorous setting of Butlins Bognor Regis. In terms of practicality, it was ideal – less than 2 hours from London, and hotel rooms/apartments for all; definitely no camping in the cold!
It was a bit weird wondering around the abandoned fairground rides and family entertainment centres in the dark, icy rain, and in a less than sober state, but it was January to be fair - I’m sure Butlins is much more uplifting in full swing on a hot sunny Bognor day. Nevertheless, the Bugged Out team certainly delivered on the laser, lighting and atmosphere front, although some sound systems seemed to be better than others depending on the room – I guess a family entertainment centre built in the 60s wasn’t exactly designed for Funktion One floor vibration! Still, it was refreshing to have no problems with the bars or toilet situations, and the dancefloors were the right kind of packed all night.
BOW actually had a pretty mixed crowd – I was pleasantly surprised to find myself among a number of silver-haired, groovy glasses-wearing men and middle-aged ladies in fluorescent tights and trilby hats cutting shapes.
Needless to say, the standard huarache and hotpants crowd were in attendance as well as the bearded, black-clad chinstrokers who've become an ubiquitous presence of the London underground music events scene of late.
Despite this being January, I got a sense that this might be THE event of the year for a lot of the attendees, many of whom had probably made a journey from the neighbouring regional towns and villages across the south of England. It’s easy to forget how spoilt we are in London in terms of music events like this, and although these guys were a bit louder, you couldn’t help but get swept up in their infectious lack of pretensions.
There was also a fairy light starfish costume.
Perhaps it goes without saying given the line-up, but the music on the Saturday night was devastatingly great; these are all acts at the top of their game right now, and there wasn’t a dull set in sight.
We began the night with man of the moment Tiga, who played from 11pm until 1am in the main room. I did not leave my front and centre spot on the dancefloor for the two full hours: Tiga’s set was simultaneously quirky, sexy and catchy; an inimitable electro, techno and house blend that filled the initially quiet room within minutes. The visual “suck my decks” flashed on and off as strangers all hugged, made out and leapt up and down to an extended mix of Bugatti – he could’ve looped it for about an hour and I don’t think anyone would have even noticed or cared.
Tiga would’ve been a hard act for anyone to follow – so lucky it was only one of the most influential and well-loved UK dance acts of all time, The Chemical Brothers. Everyone from across the holiday camp flooded into the main room as the instantly recognisable chords ofDo It Again fired up alongside the iconic Chemical Brothers logo flashing behind the decks.
We spent a good hour bouncing along, swept up in an almost religious level of collective hysteria – but by 2am, I’d had 3 hours of vigorously dancing to electro in exactly the same spot without a break. It was time for some light relief in the form of MJ Cole in the smaller, sticky-carpeted Escape room. Unpretentious old-school UK garage sounds provided the ideal antidote to the earlier intensity of the evening, Sincere and Crazy Love being amongst the obvious highlights, as well as an old teenage favourite, Dave Spoon’s remix of Dizzee Rascal classic Flex (Fun fact: Dave Spoon is better known these days as Shadow Child).
Feeling revived, we rushed back to the main room in time for the end of the Chemical Brothers, just in time for the full-on, reach-for-the-lasers euphoria of Star Guitar and Swoon.
As the Chemical Brothers came to a close at 3am, it was time to explore more of Butlins Bognor Regis. Feeling pretty tired by this point, we headed to the Reds room – hosted by one of my favourite London club promoters The Hydra – to check out the ever-unpredictable, always-quality enigma that is Four Tet.
There’s just something about Kieran Hebden’s unassuming, slightly geeky, yet quietly confident manner that makes him undeniably likeable in a world where DJs are treated like rockstars. I’ve always found Four Tet to be a master of crowd judgement and this night was no exception – it was a relatively mainstream, regional yet varied crowd, and he duly delivered a set with maximum danceability yet enough twists and turns to entertain the more discerning members of the crowd.
Despite struggling with a less-than ideal sound set-up that was sending reverb all over the place, we were treated to glimmers of characteristically Four Tet experimentation with off-beat rhythms, dissonance and genre-bending. At one point there was a good two minutes of an acapella jazz skit – that I vaguely remembered being an accompaniment to sit-ups as a child in dance school – which he then suddenly dropped a floor-shaking bassline onto out of nowhere, causing the crowd to completely freak out. This curveball was followed by rave anthems, Motown, and eventually Kaytranada’s stunningly uplifting remix of Teedra Moses’ Be Your Girl. Fantastic.
At 4am, sensing the night was no longer young, I quickly rushed back over to the main room to catch the end of Ten Walls‘ 1 hour set, which he closed with Walking With Elephants, a tune that has become strangely widespread recently, yet nevertheless proved its power in the right setting – the crowd went completely mad for it.
Next up on the main stage was Simian Mobile Disco, whose recent XOYO residency has cemented their status as a quality DJ duo who know how to control a dancefloor. After the full-blown mania of Walking With Elephants, the pair sensed it was time to bring the vibe down into a deeper, darker, tech-ier place for the late-night crew.
Bugged Out Weekender was a slightly surreal, yet brilliant experience – everything a music festival should be.