The weekend has landed! And all that exists are pubs, clubs, dodgems & candyfloss. Wait. What? Dodgems & candyfloss?! Well, yes, actually. Because we’re off for a jolly to the seaside. It’s not a weekend away from the dancefloor, mind. Because Bugged Out have that covered too. And they’re bringing a heavyweight line-up consisting of Jackmaster, Skream, Richy Ahmed and a whole lot more!
Growing up in the South East it was a rite of passage as young teens experiencing our first taste of freedom to make the pilgrimage to Dreamland. Later on, in adolescence, we discovered the region’s scattering of underground music venues, as our extracurricular interests shifted from seeking-out daylight thrills to nocturnal ones. So Bugged Out bringing their famed party to Margate’s newly redeveloped seafront theme park really feels like we’re coming full circle.
Bugged Out are no strangers to throwing parties in oddball locations, of course. Their legendary January weekenders have previously been held at both Bognor Regis & Southport. Though recent news that Butlins intend on making their programming more “family friendly” has put 2017’s event on temporary hold. As disappointing as this is, it only serves to make the one-dayer at Dreamland all the more appealing.
It’s lunchtime when we arrive. But already the local Wetherspoons is filled with festival-clad boys and girls loading up on cheap drinks. Margate has undergone considerable regeneration in recent years through government-funding and various projects. Evidently there is still a lot more to be done. But the fact that Bugged Out chose here as the location for one of their most ambitious parties to date underlines the potential in the town. A change in fortunes so to speak. We down a few drinks and soak up the atmosphere. But before long the music is calling.
A short walk and we approach the sightsore of brown brickwork which marks Dreamland’s entrance. At the top “Welcome to Margate” is daubed in neon paint. We like it. Just through the entrance and already we can hear the beat. Passing arcades our pace quickens. It’s barely 4pm, but already Dreamland is poppin’. Solardo have had a meteoric 2016. At the turn of the year few people had heard of the duo, but as we approach the end of the summer they are hot property after a slew of slick releases. The Roller Disco (not an actual roller disco on this occasion) is rocking. Solardo aren’t taking warm-up duties lightly! New Hot Creations jam ‘Tribesmen’ get an airing. On the dancefloor a tremendous energy is bubbling!
We decide to check-out what Dreamland has to offer. It has been a decade and a half since we last set foot here. Since the re-opening in 2015, the theme park has been dogged with stories of financial insecurity. The familiar sight of the heritage Scenic Railway rollercoaster still takes centre pride of place. Alas, it is not running. We jump on the carousel before staggering around the mirror maze. Then we buy some piping hot, sugar-coated ring donuts. When in Rome…
When you cross the diversity of Bugged Out’s loyal (and often flamboyant) following with the kind of eccentricity often found in coastal towns it was a given we were going to see some weird and wonderful sights: a girl dressed as a mermaid is pushed past in a shopping trolley. OH WE DO LIKE TO BE BESIDES THE SEAAAAAAAAA! It’s almost time for a 99 flake!
We debate giving the helter-skelter a go. But we’re getting carried away with ourselves, because the real action is unfolding inside! Groove Armada are now centre stage. Whilst many of their contemporaries are now sitting firmly in the mainstream camp, the production duo of Andy Cato & Tom Findlay have not just maintained their credibility, they’ve excelled. Chances are even your grandparents would recognise one or more of their radio hits (even if they couldn’t tell you who they were by). But despite their success, they are still producing outrageously good underground music. Like the true pros that they are, they turn the Roller Disco into house hedonism! Their ‘save fabric’ t-shirts show support to the London institution they have played so many times. Virtually their entire set is upfront, with just an added seasoning of nostalgia. And it’s perfect.
How’d you follow that? With The Martinez Brothers of course! Another partnership whose stars have shone bright in 2016. A chair materializes in the middle of the dancefloor. And goes largely ignored. Mainly because the DC10 regulars have the party in full swing. Special props here goes to the lighting technician who breaks down all kinds of stereotype by absolutely havin’ it to an explosive Martinez Bros drop. The Bronx natives blast out Pele & Shawnecy’s ‘Better For My Brain’ and then move it on into harder territory. Novelty-sized cuddly toys – no doubt won from the grab machines – are frequently seen used as dancefloor props, and, in a number of cases, as a dance partner! Observing the domed ceiling of the Roller Disco, take away the production and the bright lights, it almost gives the aura of another piece of UK musical heritage: northern soul. Just when we think it can’t get any better, Skream jumps on with his ol’ Magnetic Man partner in crime Artwork, and we get some more B2B magic.
As novel as the backdrop is, it provides little more than a distraction from the real talking point – and undoubtedly Bugged Out in Dreamland’s biggest triumph – and that’s the quality of the music! Gimmicks aside, the line-up is truly remarkable. And the music showcased is amongst the freshest we’ve heard at an event all year. The reasonably modest turn-out can be attributed to misfortunate. Just a mile down the road at Quex Park, Chase N Status-headlined Southbeats Festival is raging. Inevitably it has split the crowd. Elsewhere along the coast MK is hosting an Area10 party on Hasting’s Pier. South East ravers certainly got their pick of spoils this weekend! We only wish we could have attended them all. We’re sure we’re not alone.
The organisers promise that the event will return bigger and better in 2017. And whilst there are certainly areas which require attention, all of the ingredients are present to make future editions one of the most interesting dates in the UK calendar. It’s unique. It’s fun. It’s so bloody British! As we leave the venue we take one last look at Margate. Memories of childhood come flooding back. It looks tired. Perhaps even tacky? But so full of charm and character. We catch a whiff of fish & chips emanating from a nearby takeaway, and take in a deep lungful of crisp sea air. Arrr! Nostalgia. It does that to you.