Organisers of the Bloc festival have announced a new series of 10 parties, taking place in London from March through July.
The series will begin on Saturday, March 9th, at a "new studio venue" in East London. It comes some nine months after Bloc 2012 was shut down hours into its opening night. The fallout from the festival saw the operating company of Bloc, Baselogic Productions, enter voluntary administration on July 10th, with London Pleasure Gardens, the home of the ill-fated event, also entering administration shortly after. Bloc organisers have also made a public statement in response to those unable to receive refunds last year.
The new series of events sees Bloc trading under the same name. The first party will headlined by Juan Atkins' Model 500 outfit. It then continues with another nine parties taking place through to June 1st, when the series concludes with a showcase headlined by veteran electro act Man Parrish. Other acts confirmed to play include Omar-S, Shackleton, Egyptian Lover, I-F, Green Velvet, Marshall Jefferson and Surgeon, with a L.I.E.S. showcase featuring label boss Ron Morelli also scheduled.
RA contacted Bloc founders Alex Benson and George Hull on the subject of their new events series and the fallout from last year's festival.
Can you tell us about the new Bloc series and what it will involve?
It's a really simple proposition—just a series of ten shows in a new studio venue featuring a selection of artists that we love. Some have played for us many times before, others are completely fresh, but they all represent something which has inspired Bloc in some way.
How did you come across the venue?
It was all about the timing, really. When the festival went down and everything went to shit, in all honesty we didn't really know what to do with ourselves, or Bloc. It was around this time that we discovered that this building was becoming available—although its quite basic, there is something special about it. We've spent a few months doing it up ourselves (with a lot of help from some mates—thanks chaps), which has been quite cathartic after last summer. We're really happy with how it's turned out so far, it makes a huge difference to us to be able to control everything about the venue and its management.
Tell us the about the artists involved.
We started off thinking about some classic Bloc-defining artists and took it from there. Juan Atkins, who played at Bloc '08 and then headlined the main stage with the Model 500 band at 2010, Green Velvet who closed the main stage after Aphex in our first year at Butlins, then, of course, Surgeon, who I don't believe has ever missed a Bloc. Stingray, Omar S, Shackleton, Appleblim, I-F and Egyptian Lover (unforgettable scenes of him holding his 808 above his head on the main stage in '09 foremost in our minds) are all firm personal favourites who we booked without a second's hesitation.
Of course there's also something new—we've got the first ever full L.I.E.S showcase in the UK just because we think its the first label to come out in a while that's doing things properly. It sounds like classic Bunker stuff, amazing. And then there's a couple of guys that we always wanted to feature but never quite pulled it off—Marshall Jefferson playing strictly jacking Trax Chicago house under his Hercules alias (with support from Joe Hart and the Bodyhammer crew) and Man Parrish, a true originator coming over from New York to spin classic electro and disco. For support, we're inviting back all of our residents who have played for us over the years to play alongside their own heroes—although they don't know it just yet.
Was there a temptation to start the series under a different name?
No, there really wasn't. We've been doing this for ten years now. Putting on parties in strange places, then clubs, then a festival. Thanks to the support of our crew and the loyalty of our crowd, it evolved an identity of its own which went way beyond the people who started it—that's the spirit we want to keep going. If it isn't called Bloc, it won't be Bloc. So many people have put so much energy into it for so long, that to just abandon it doesn't seem right.
When did you decide to return to the promotion/party game with this series of shows?
It was when we saw this new place. After the cancellation we had a lot on our plate, but as we gradually unravelled everything, it become clear to us that there was nothing stopping us from getting back to work. We threw around lots of ideas but nothing really stuck. After an indecisive and confusing few months this venue became available and we steadily started to rebuild—literally.
There still seems to be quite a lot of anger around from people who were unable to get refunds for last year's Bloc festival. Do you have any response to those people who have been unable to secure their money back?
It's totally, totally understandable that people are angry and we feel terrible about it. Like we said in our statement back in September, we're so sorry that everyone was let down. As soon as we were able, we published that detailed and lengthy statement, with clear instructions on how to apply for a refund. The vast majority of ticket-holders have now been refunded via this method. As was reported last week, there are still ongoing legal proceedings that relate to the whole affair—with the best will in the world we cannot go into any more detail than we already have. We know that it's frustrating to get answers like that, and it's frustrating to give them, but that's the situation as it stands.
Could you see yourselves getting back into the festival game?
We are focused on the task in hand, so first we are going to deliver this series to the standard people had previously come to expect from us. Everything has to be perfect. As for a festival... Yes, if we had the right venue and the right partners, we'd go for it. It's like snakes and ladders, where we've just landed on the biggest fucking snake in the whole game, but of course we'd love to get back up and finish what we've started.