There was a real buzz about Bloc festival this year. The line-up was fantastic; a peerless blend of some of electronic music's biggest names (with a couple of hip hop legends thrown in for good measure), it appeared concise, well thought out and lovingly crafted. Hosted by the people behind Glastonbury's Shangri-la and now in its sixth year, it seemed that if you were to bank on one festival getting it right this summer it would have been this one.
Unfortunately, and for reasons that at this stage remain largely unclear, it was pretty much an unmitigated disaster from start to (premature) finish. Arriving at the festival early, it soon became abundantly clear that something just wasn't right about the site. It looked stunning, yes, but its horseshoe design was patently not suitable for an event like this. At least one third of it was not in use and it quickly became apparent that there was simply not enough space in any of the arenas to accommodate that many people. The express queues were ok, but those with normal tickets were left trying desperately to get into any of the four main stages for hours at a time.
And they were the (lucky?) ones who got in. Scores of people were left outside and were denied entry on the grounds that the festival had become dangerously overcrowded, with reports of people rushing the security personnel and entering the festival without having to show their tickets. While it is hard at this stage to point the finger as to why this happened, rumours continue to circulate of oversold tickets and malfunctioning barcode systems.
The MS Stubnitz, the old German fishing vessel that was marketed as the centerpiece of the festival, appeared treacherously full even by the late afternoon. The artists seemed to realise that something was up fairly quickly, Jackmaster at one point simply tweeting "this boat is too small", though reports indicated that the situation inside the boat was manageable compared to what was going on outside.
Despite all this, there was some great music. Nicolas Jaar captivated a highly receptive audience with his unique brand of slowed-down house, Digital Mystikz brought pure vibes as usual and even the real MF DOOM showed up. However, only a select few got to witness these moments, as entry to the arenas was bottlenecked into one small entrance for each. The exits were equally as bad, with one security team member often desperately trying to stem hordes of people from going in the wrong way. By the time it was announced to the people queuing outside that Snoop Dogg wasn't going to perform (I'm told those inside had to wait half an hour) and that the whole place was being evacuated, it was absolute chaos.
The overall feeling is one of crushing disappointment. This really did look like it would be an excellent event, put on by people with years of professional experience. For it to have failed so badly is a letdown for all involved, not least those who dedicated time and effort into organising the festival – you have to feel for them. However, there are some serious questions to be answered about what happened and it is perhaps more important to empathise with those who spent money and travelled (many from overseas) to attend what they thought would be a world-class festival. Sadly, despite glorious weather, a cool looking venue and an incredible line-up, Bloc was anything but.
You can read Bloc's statement here.
Words: Jet Vevers
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