Alt BLOC 2012

We talk to a few of the promoters who turned a disastrous Bloc festival into impromptu all-nighters across London

Music Incoming
Rhythm Factory, Whitechapel. Photos from Oscillate
Rhythm Factory, Whitechapel. Photos from Oscillate Wildly

When thousands of ravers were turned away unexpectedly at the gates of the newly opened London Pleasure Gardens on Friday night for Bloc 2012, what ensued in the next 36 hours was completely unprecedented for everyone in the electronic music community across the UK in London this weekend.

One of the UK's most impressive electronic music festivals, having retained a reputation for the best programs and impeccable line-ups over the past five years, had reached a capacity far beyond its control at the new site in Docklands, East London. Late on Friday night, the promoters and the Metropolitan police were forced to shut down the festival and evacuate those on the premises as overcrowding had reached an unsafe and intolerable level, where queues for the stages including the MS Stubnitz, an 80-metre former fishing vessel, were unmanageable.

It was incredible to see all of this unfold on Twitter and through other social media networks. London proved just how much love and drive the city has for electronic music and the artists who were here just wanted to play. Everyone was totally up for it and despite the rain, more queues I think that all the alt Bloc parties that went down that evening had amazing atmospheres throughout

However, in face of the unsettling circumstances as the weekend-long festival was cut short only hours into the first day of opening, those dozens of promoters, artists, DJs and thousands of electronic music fans involved got together in the remaining hours and put on heaving parties across London for those turned away who had paid up to £125 a ticket.

In East London, promoters Streets Of Beige and Oscillate Wildly herded the Hyperdub crew at Whitechapel's Rhythm Factory including label boss Kode9, Scratcha DVA, Ikonika, Cooly G, LV, Ill Blu, Night Slugs' Bok Bok, plus headliner Flying Lotus - who then also ran over to play XOYO in Shoreditch that same night joined on stage by The Weeknd, as well as Oneman, Darkstar, Factory Floor, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Blanck Mass. Elsewhere, Tempo Clash brought together Slugabed, Blue Daisy, Kidkanevil, and My Panda Shall Fly in Bethnal Green.

Further south, the Peckham contingent had the Bussey Building raving with Plex with mind-blowingly intense techno sets from heavyweights Surgeon, Objekt, Perc and Truss, whilst Jacques Greene, Martyn, Actress, Fort Romeau and Ango at Peckham Palais down the road were also at full capacity despite the pouring rain.

Some of the promoters behind the alt-Bloc parties, including Plex and Streets of Beige, speak to us about their efforts in turning Saturday night into an inspiring example of how a music community can come together in the face of adversity and still create something positive.

Dazed Digital: At what point did you realise Saturday night wasn't going to run and how well informed were you by Bloc about the situation?
James Tec - Plex:
I think I realised at about 12:30-01:00am that there was no chance at all of Saturday happening. Bloc didn't need to tell me that, it was simply obvious to me and most of the friends I was with. The whole situation was well out of hand by then, security had lost control and clearly in just over 12 hours there was not a chance of the festival opening on the second day at 2pm...

We contacted as many artists as we could as quickly as possible - those who were supposed to playing on our stage and others who weren't. Many didn't end up flying over that day as they had heard what happened on Friday. So many people responded but as we only had six hours to play with we took the decision to put on acts that were due to play in the Dome at Bloc for us that day. My phone didn't stop ringing all through Saturday, it was a pretty mad situation to be in after less than three hours sleep.

DD: Did you have a lot of hope for the alt-Bloc parties would do and what were the crowd like?

James Tec: Yes, absolutely. It was incredible to see all of this unfold on Twitter and through other social media networks. London proved just how much love and drive the city has for electronic music and the artists who were here just wanted to play. Everyone was totally up for it and despite the rain, more queues I think that all the alt Bloc parties that went down that evening had amazing atmospheres throughout. People wanted to party and that is exactly what happened.

DD: What was the greatest moment of Saturday night/Sunday morning for you?

James Tec: I would say seeing about 600+ extremely happy people dancing like it was the last rave they may ever be attending. So many different nationalities... Irish, Italian, Maltese, Spanish, German, Dutch, American - it was mad. The sense of unity was so strong, I couldn't stop smiling all night. It was very special for myself and Luke Handsfree (Plex cohort) to see what we had managed to pull out of the bag last minute.

DD: What do you expect will happen to Bloc?

James Tec: I expect they will re-group, deal with the current situation and come back stronger than ever. I know the guys well, they are dedicated, hardworking individuals that when faced with extreme adversity will only strive to overcome it and make Bloc Weekend even better in the coming years. People are angry at them but until the full story is known I think showing support is the best way forward, this was the worst thing that could've happened to them and I know that they were utterly devastated by what went down on Friday.

It's worth remembering they have put on five extremely successful festivals in years gone by, which were enjoyed by thousands of people. They are not 'grab the money and run' kind of people and they love the music as much as we all do, they will get through this for sure.

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Dazed Digital: Did you have a lot of hope for the alt-Bloc parties would do and what were the crowd like?
Jimmy Asquith - Streets of Beige:
With thousands of extra underground music lovers in London, and the power of social media, there was always going to be a huge response. It was just making sure that there was something for people to go to and I'm glad other promoters stuck their neck out so that as many people could carry on partying as possible. The crowd was incredible, it felt like for a lot of these people this was their party of the year and it was almost like travelling back in time to the peak of rave in the 90s. Everyone was incredibly friendly and just up for a good time. In the middle of running around sorting things I managed to have a brief chat with a guy from Liverpool who told us that he'd been distraught after the festival was cancelled but that this saved his weekend. It was very touching and really compounded the reason for getting this all together.

DD: What do you expect will happen to Bloc?
Streets of Beige:
I think it would be inappropriate to comment at this point in time. Obviously there will be various investigations into what went wrong and at some point there will be some clear answers. The main point should be that this is learned from and that people look forward to ensuring that something like this doesn't repeat itself in the future. It's also very important that people don't lose faith in London promoters on both a club and festival level. There are a lot of very dedicated, hardworking and organised people running strong electronic music events in the capital and I'm sure that we'll see some big things pulled off in the next 12 months that will rapidly restore people's confidence.

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Dazed Digital: How difficult was it to get the artists down?
Russell Smith - Oscillate Wildly:
Getting artists up for it was relatively easy, but at the end of the day the credit mainly has to go to Kode9 and Bok Bok who got in touch with most of the other artists for us, it's not like have Flying Lotus' number. I also need to point out that all the artists played for free because I don't think most people realise this.

DD: What was the crowd response like for the party?
Oscillate Wildly:
In the taxi to the venue I got a tweet from a friend with a photo of the queue. I was completely shocked, we thought people would turn up but I wasn't expecting hundreds waiting before the doors were even open. I guess that's the power of social media. On the whole the crowd were amazing, was one of the greatest nights of my life. It went completely insane when Flying Lotus and The Weeknd turned up and LV still had a 100 people in the venue at 7am. A couple of people seemed to think we had something to do with Bloc and we had some complaints/abuse from people who couldn't get in saying it was a joke but we on the whole it was pure vibes from everyone and it just felt like everyone was letting it all out and coming together at the same time.

DD: What do you expect will happen to Bloc?
Oscillate Wildly:
I don't want to say too much until we have the full facts. I don't know the guys personally but as far as I know they are good people and there is so much stuff floating around at the moment which for I know for a fact is 100% bullshit.

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Dazed Digital: How difficult was it to get the artists down?
Samuel Strang - LOOPY at XOYO:
Not at all, it was fucking sensational. I echo what a lot of those other promoters have said, particularly with regards to the attitude of the acts performing. Everyone came with the right spirit and seemed cool with the chaos. A particularly special nod has to go to Stephen Christian and Dec Allen, who were instrumental. Along with all the XOYO staff.

DD: What was the greatest moment of Saturday night/Sunday morning for you?
LOOPY:
Venus Williams getting low to Oneman.

DD: What do you expect will happen to Bloc?
LOOPY:
I dunno - no point speculating. They've been an institution the last few years, so it's a pity to see.

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